Powered vs Manual All Terrain Wheelchairs. Which is best for me?
by Ryan Grassley | May 03, 2020
This article will help you decide which type of all terrain wheelchair is best for you. A wheelchair powered by batteries or gasoline and controlled with a steering wheel or joystick. Or a manual wheelchair that you can push with your own arms or that is pushed by a caretaker.
Choosing an all terrain wheelchair may feel like an overwhelming challenge. There are many options and factors that will affect your decision. You will need to do some research to help you decide how much you should spend. Think about the types of activities you want to do with your wheelchair, where you want to be able to go, how you’re going to transport it, where you’re going to store it when not in use.
Table of Contents
- What is your budget?
- What is your ability level?
- How will you transport your all terrain wheelchair?
- Where will you store your all terrain wheelchair?
- Where do you want to go?
What is your budget?
Prices can vary widely depending on your choice of all terrain wheelchair. Powered off road wheelchairs can cost in the range of $12,000 to $20,000. These types of wheelchair can be tracked or have wheels. They are normally powered by batteries and electric motors, but there is at least one model that is powered by gasoline.
Manual wheelchairs sell in the range of $1000 to $10,000. There are manual wheelchairs designed for hiking, floating in the water. There are some that use levers so that you can push yourself, and others that are pushed by a caretaker.
What is your ability level?
There is a right wheelchair for everyone, but there isn’t one wheelchair that is right for everyone. Because of the wide range of disabilities today the market has introduced a wide range of solutions.
My friend Sam has cerebral palsy and is unable to control his hands to operate a powered wheelchair. I’m sure he would love to drive around in a “tank treaded” mobility device crushing everything in his path. I’m sure he would be laughing maniacally while he did it. Unfortunately he just can’t. The best thing for Sam is a manual wheelchair and a friend who likes to go on adventures with him.
The best thing for you might be a wheelchair like the GRIT Freedom Chair, or Mountain Trike that uses levers to give you more power when pushing yourself. Or it could be a beastly wheelchair with tank treads.
Your ability level will play a big role in what type of wheelchair you choose. So be honest with yourself about it and use it to help you narrow down your search for the perfect wheelchair.
How will you transport your all terrain wheelchair?
Both powered and manual all terrain wheelchairs are larger and heavier than your standard wheelchair. Before purchasing a wheelchair designed to take you anywhere you need to be sure you have a way to take that wheelchair to the destination you want to explore.
Most manual wheelchairs weigh between 40 and 60 pounds, and can be folded or taken apart and fit into the trunk of a car or back of an SUV. Lightweight and small enough to easily travel with.
Powered off road wheelchairs are HEAVY. Electric motors, batteries, tank treads really add up. These mobility devices weigh between 400 and 600 pounds! This needs to be taken into account when deciding between powered and manual.
If you want to explore anywhere other than your backyard you’re going to need a way to transport the wheelchair. This means a pickup truck with ramps you can drive the wheelchair into. Some people don’t like this because it can be a little scary driving up the ramps into the truck.
Another option is a low riding trailer. Certainly easier and safer than trying to drive up ramps into a truck. But unless you already own these items you’re now looking at purchasing an off road wheelchair for $12,000 – $20,000 and then having to purchase a truck and trailer to move it to the place you want to enjoy.
Where will you store your all terrain wheelchair?
Because off road wheelchairs are larger than their on road counterparts you need to think about where you are going to store it when not in use. Do you have room in your apartment? In your house? Is there space in your garage?
Powered all terrain wheelchairs take up a large footprint. Action Trackchair has several different models that vary slightly in size but on average are around 55 inches long, and 40 inches wide (they do have one narrow model at 29.5”).
TracFab’s gasoline powered model is 36” wide and 61” long. It also has a roll cage going over the rider which makes it 61” tall.
Where do you want to go?
What kind of terrain do you want to travel over? Do you want to play in the water at the beach? Do you want to shoot a deer and throw the carcass over the back and take it back to camp? Do you have a goal to visit every National Park in the United States? Do you want to hike every trail in your area?
If you live near the beach there are many manual off road wheelchairs that are specifically designed for the beach. They are made from corrosion resistant materials, and even float in the water.
Are you a hunter? Manufacturers of tracked wheelchairs offer accessories that allow you to steady your rifle as you take aim and have platforms designed to carry your harvest back to camp.
National Parks have many great hiking trails. There are even some parks that provide all terrain wheelchairs for their visitors. Unfortunately not all of them understand how important it is to offer this type of accommodation. Having your own manual wheelchair at a National Park will allow you to access more places as powered off road devices may take a special permit or not be allowed at all.
All terrain wheelchairs are a fantastic way for people to explore the great outdoors. They open up a huge percentage of planet earth that a standard on road wheelchair could never visit.
The health benefits of spending time outside in the sun, exploring green areas shouldn’t be ignored. Use our All Terrain Wheelchair Research center. Find the best wheelchair for you and make nature wheelchair accessible.
Further reading: https://spinalcord.org/tag/all-terrain-wheelchairs/