Man in electric wheelchair posing in a public park

Guide to choosing your powered wheelchair

Powered wheelchairs can improve your mobility and enable you to have more independence. This guide, written by powered wheelchair user Shona, will help you think about your individual needs so you can make a choice that is right for your lifestyle. 

Powered wheelchairs can be a great choice if you need help moving around, indoors or outside. They can give you more independence and control, as well as help you to go on longer trips. There are various types of powered wheelchairs available and these can be chosen to suit different lifestyles and needs. We’ve answered some of your most common questions to help understand the options.

How much range do I need? 

Every powered wheelchair comes with a range of mileage it can cover on a full charge. Smaller and lighter batteries will have a shorter travel distance compared to larger, heavier batteries. 

How much range you need will depend on your lifestyle. You must think about where you’ll be using your powered wheelchair, and how often. There are a few important things to consider:

  • Your job
  • Whether you drive a vehicle
  • Your social life
  • The environment you use your powered wheelchair in
  • How often you leave your home
  • If you need an easily transportable powered wheelchair

Foldable powered wheelchairs have become popular as they have lots of convenient benefits. For example, they can be easily transported in the boot of a standard-sized vehicle as they can usually fit into more confined spaces. However, it’s important to note that while a smaller battery may imply limited range when compared to a configurable powered wheelchair, this is not always the case. For instance, lightweight products with lithium batteries might be lighter because of their battery type, not their size. So, the range might stay the same.

If you drive a standard vehicle and do not need specialised seating, then a foldable powered wheelchair could be a good option for you. 

Where will I use my powered wheelchair?

One of the most important things to think about is the environment you’ll be using your powered wheelchair in. Where you live and if you need to use your powered wheelchair indoors will affect your decision.

In the countryside


If you live in the countryside, you may need a powered wheelchair with hard-wearing, larger wheels, and better suspension. This will help you handle rough terrain. A powered wheelchair with a longer range may also be useful if public transport links are not as strong where you live. 

Learn more about the importance of suspension and comfort on powered wheelchairs.

There are all-terrain powered wheelchairs available that can handle rough conditions. They generally have larger wheels and a much longer range. If you enjoy hiking and exploring the countryside they can allow you greater access to these activities. They are not suitable for everyday use though. 

In the city


If you live in a city with smooth pavements and good public transport, you will likely need less range and suspension. A small, manoeuvrable powered wheelchair would be the best option for use on buses, trains, and taxis. You may also rely on public transport more, meaning a small powered wheelchair might suit your needs best.

The environment you live in doesn’t just impact the type of powered wheelchair you choose. You also need to consider what type of wheels you choose, solid or air-filled. While air-filled tyres provide better suspension, they come with the drawback of potential punctures. In city environments, it can be common to experience challenges like glass on the pavements, meaning solid tyres could offer more reliability.


Your choice of powered wheelchair depends mostly on where you will be using it. You will need to think realistically about whether you’ll be using it mainly outdoors, indoors, or a combination of both.

If you will be using your powered wheelchair indoors most of the time, you will need to think about the space you are working with. Houses often have smaller turning spaces and narrow doorways, which you will need to consider. Before you choose your powered wheelchair, make sure you measure all your doorways inside your home to guarantee your powered wheelchair will allow you full access to your home

Shona’s experience of choosing a powered wheelchair

“Choosing a powered wheelchair can feel like a huge decision. I’ve chosen my own powered wheelchair several times in my life, and have learned a lot from each process. 

I’ve found it helpful to consider how my needs and condition may change in the future. This means that my powered wheelchair can change with me, and last longer. Configurable powered wheelchairs can change things like the seating setup without having to get a new wheelchair. I feel a lot more confident knowing my powered wheelchair can change with me. 

My powered wheelchair is an extension of myself, I use it every day. For me, it’s important that I like how my powered wheelchair looks. If you’re getting a made-to-measure powered wheelchair, you can often choose the colour. Choose a colour that suits your personality, but also think about whether in three years, you’ll still want a bright orange wheelchair.

I also recommend using social media and support forums, such as Scope’s online community. You can talk to others about their powered wheelchairs. The best people to tell you about how powered wheelchairs perform in everyday life are the people that use them every day. 

There are also events such as the Motability Scheme’s ‘The Big Event’ where you can try out a variety of powered wheelchairs and get expert advice. This event is free to attend and happens in various locations across the UK.” 

Can my height and weight affect which powered wheelchair is best for me?

All powered wheelchairs have a different weight limit, so it’s handy to know your weight when looking at all the options. There are heavy-duty powered wheelchairs available that have a higher weight limit. When searching for a powered wheelchair on the Motability Scheme website, you can search by weight capacity. 

If you are quite tall or short, then a configurable powered wheelchair could be a better option for you. Standard powered wheelchairs have a basic range of seating adjustments, whereas, a configurable powered wheelchair can be made to measure for you, providing the best fit and more options. 

Do I need a wheelchair that I can drive on the road?

In the UK, powered wheelchairs and mobility scooters are divided into class 2 or 3. Class 2 powered wheelchairs have a maximum speed of 4mph and less. They cannot be driven on roads.

Class 3 powered wheelchairs have a maximum speed of 8mph and can be driven on roads. You must register class 3 powered wheelchairs with the DVLA. You cannot drive in bus lanes, cycle lanes, or on the motorway. 

Most people will never need to drive their powered wheelchair on the road, however, if you live in a more rural area with fewer footpaths, you may want to consider a class 3 powered wheelchair. 

You can find further information about class 3 powered wheelchairs on the Government website.

What type of wheel drive is best for me: front, rear, or mid-wheel?

There are three types of wheel drive available for powered wheelchairs, and they all have pros and cons. You can use all of the information outlined below to help make the best choice for your lifestyle. 

Front-wheel drive

  • Allows you to get closer to tables and countertops 
  • Large front wheels offer a smooth ride outdoors
  • Can navigate tight corners
  • Larger turning radius
  • Less user-friendly for beginners
  • The best all-round option

Rear-wheel drive

  • Provides a comfortable drive
  • Largest turning circle of the three options
  • Stable at high speeds, but not when going uphill
  • The best for outdoor use

Mid-wheel drive

  • Smallest turning circle of the three options
  • Very user-friendly for beginners
  • Navigates small spaces very well
  • Less suspension, but increased stability 
  • The best for indoor use

If you are awarded the higher rate of the mobility part of PIP you can access the Motability Scheme. The Scheme provides flexible and hassle-free access to a brand-new powered wheelchair of your choice. You’ll be able to choose a powered wheelchair that comes with a worry-free full lease package that comes with the following:

  • Insurance
  • Servicing and maintenance
  • Breakdown assistance
  • Yearly tax, if you have a class 3 product
  • Tyre and battery replacements

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