Choosing the correct motorised wheelchair is often a difficult and complex decision. Let’s be honest, this is an expensive purchase. One that you won’t be making again in the near future.
So you want to be sure that you make the correct decision the first time.
Most motorised wheelchairs come in 1 of 3 platforms depending on the location of the drive wheel: Rear, Mid or Front wheel drive.
Each type of wheelchair has its own characteristics and perform differently both indoors and outdoors. It is important that you choose the platform that best suits your individual needs.
Generally speaking, the Front and Mid-wheel drive wheelchairs are more manoeuvrable indoors than the Rear-wheel models
Mid Wheel Drive
Mid-wheel drives are regarded as having the smallest turning radius but this doesn’t necessarily make them the most manoeuvrable. There are other factors to consider.
The drive wheel is directly under the user so this can cause more vibrations that the user may feel.
They have 6 wheels on the ground which can make them more stable than the Rear and Front drives. So consider this platform if you are adding extra hardware and heavy accessories like ventilators.
The knee angles cannot be as tight as a Front-wheel drive, so the overall chair length is generally longer than a Front-wheel drive and this can reduce manoeuvrability indoors.
Front Wheel Drive
They have only 4 wheels on the ground with the drive wheel hitting obstacles first, rather than the swivel castors. This makes them inherently very good at outdoor mobility or rougher terrain environments. Also due to no swivel castor in the front, the footrest angle can be tighter than the other models. With the footrest closer to the wheelchair, you can achieve smaller overall chair widths allowing for better indoor manoeuvrability.
Lower seat heights can usually be achieved with Front wheel drive which is often necessary for accessibility under desks or in vehicles.
Some users feel an undesirable “fishtail effect” when driving at high speeds but some manufacturers offer a specialised modules and adaptations which can dampen this effect.
Rear Wheel Drive
The general conception is that Rear-wheel Drive offers the best outdoor mobility. But a Front or Mid- wheel drive may offer you better solutions in this respect depending on your personal preferences.
This configuration is best known for the highest top speeds and performing very well at those high speeds. The Rear-wheel drive bases track very straight which is optimal for long distance driving. The main disadvantage of this platform is the much larger turning radius and decrease in indoor manoeuvrability.
Most of the economical motorised wheelchair models are available in this platform only.