Scooters Vs. Electric Wheelchairs: Which is Right for You?
Wheeled mobility devices are incredibly useful. They enable people to easily move from one place to another without exerting any effort. And, to provide even more benefit to users, this popular mobility device comes in two popular forms: mobility scooters, and electric wheelchairs.
If you’re interested in buying one of these devices, you’re probably asking yourself: “What’s the difference between a mobility scooter and an electric wheelchair?” Want to find out?
To help you decide which is best for you, here’s a rundown of the major differences between the two most popular mobility devices:
Although they may look similar from a quick glance, one of the biggest differences between a scooter and a wheelchair is the way their directional movement is controlled. Power scooters feature manual control, while electric wheelchairs are electronically controlled.
Scooter users use two hands to grip the device’s handlebars (also known as the tiller) to manually steer the front wheel or wheels, depending whether it has three or four wheels. Conversely, power wheelchair users operate their device using an electronic input. This input can be controlled by hand using a left- or right-mounted joystick, or it can be customized for foot, mouth, or eye control.
These two different control options offer different advantages for each type of mobility device. Scooter handlebars are straightforward to use and are easier to learn; additionally, they offer a “sporty” feeling similar to driving a vehicle. On the other hand, electric wheelchairs do not require two hands to operate (allowing for no-handed operation), and can be piloted by anyone regardless of physical condition.
Another big distinction between scooter and electric wheelchairs is that the former is limited to outdoor use and, at the very least, large indoor spaces. This is because of the difference in maneuverability between these two devices.
Due to their handlebar control, power scooters have limited maneuverability that makes it difficult to turn around in the opposite direction. Contrarily, electric wheelchairs are powered by two motors that independently operate its left and right wheels; this means that this mobility device is capable of spinning 90 degrees or even 360 degrees in place, and is ideal for indoor use.
3. User Practicality
Electric scooters are very accommodating when it comes to providing storage space. The handlebars serve as an ideal place to hang a basket within arm’s reach, and is a feature commonly seen in large stores that provide scooter use for easier shopping.
However, handlebars become a detriment when it comes to user accessibility. As important as they are for steering, handlebars become a hindrance when the device is not in operation. Wheelchair users are not blocked or limited by anything in front of them, meaning users can have easy front and side interactions. Compared to an electric mobility scooter, wheelchairs allow users to sit directly at the edge of a table without any interference.
4. User Comfort
Electric wheelchairs edge out their peers in this category. These devices are often built with a reclining option; this is often upgraded to a “tilt-in-space” feature that reclines the entire seating frame for a more ergonomic fit. Not only that, electric wheelchairs are built to accommodate special seating cushions and custom backrests that include different pressure redistributing cushions. In this way, these devices allow users to sit them all day in comfort.
Although they’re not meant to be continuously used all day, electric power scooters remain convenient to use when it comes to users getting in and out. Many of these devices offer a swivel seat and fold-back armrests that allow users to easily get out and stand up, thereby fulfilling this device’s purpose as a temporary mobility aid for people with non-debilitating mobility challenges.
5. Driving Features
Due to its limitations indoors, mobility scooters are better suited than electric wheelchairs to meet the needs of long-distance outdoor travel. Unlike power wheelchairs, these devices are usually equipped with headlights and turning lights. Some electric scooters are equipped with larger wheels to provide a more comfortable ride over bumpy terrain. What’s more, these devices are usually equipped with a motor key, thereby drawing it closer in comparison to a car.
Despite their advantages, electric wheelchairs are not suited for the open road. By having extra motors that require more battery power, electric wheelchairs are often heavier than their mobility counterparts; this makes them unwieldy to load into vehicles, and adds to their cost. As well, these devices usually have a low ground clearance and are unsuitable for rugged terrain.
Here’s a side-by-side comparison:
- Handlebars for manual steering; easy to learn
- Limited maneuverability; limited to outside use
- Front basket makes chores like shopping easy
- Swivelling seats make getting in and out easy
- Car-like features for a smoother & safer driving experience
- Accommodates temporary use for non-debilitating mobility challenges
- Electronic input allows for no-hands control
- High maneuverability; ideal for indoor use
- High accessibility for front-facing interactions
- Reclining and cushion options allow for all-day use
- Heavy & higher avg cost provides safe use for any kind of user
- Ideal for all-day use for debilitating mobility challenges
As seen by this rundown, each of these mobility devices have their own advantages. Be sure to properly assess your needs to find out which one is right for you!