Travel involving wheelchairs is a pretty common theme as I feel strongly that a parent’s inability to walk should not stop you from traveling together. Previous posts on the topic include:
- Overcoming a Parent’s Reluctance to Use a Wheelchair
- Don’t Let a Wheelchair Hold You Back
- Wheelchair-friendly cities (Las Vegas, Washington DC, Boston and Chicago)
- Electric Wheelchair Rentals
In all my posts up to this point, I’ve recommended renting a wheelchair once you arrive at your destination.
However, for our upcoming family vacation to Yellowstone National Park in September, I’m mulling over buying vs renting a wheelchair because we need a rugged model that can take trekking through the outdoors. Most rentals available from a hotel are standard models designed to transport guests within the property.
In addition to the Yellowstone vacation, I’ve also been offered a media trip on a river cruise along the Danube River and almost all the cities where we would stop have a lot of cobblestones to navigate. Interestingly, the river cruise company doesn’t offer wheelchairs for rent so we would need to purchase one for that trip anyway.
Sooo, all signs are pointing to purchasing a wheelchair!
Before beginning my investigation into buying a wheelchair, I had the following goals in mind:
- I wanted to find something for a couple hundred bucks.
- I hoped to find one wheelchair to handle both terrains – cobblestones and “Yellowstones” (couldn’t resist).
I then added the following requirements to wheelchairs under consideration:
- Collapsible (for buses, cars, planes, trains and cruise ships)
- Stable on uneven terrains (rocky trails, cobblestones, uneven sidewalks, etc.)
- Lightweight (but sturdy) so I can lift it by myself
- Meets safety standards
- Comfortable for Mom for long periods of time
Equipped with these goals, off to the internet I went for some hardcore research. The first thing I discovered is there are a lot of wheelchairs out there to choose from. In addition, I discovered a that a standard wheelchair is not the same as a transport chair (no surprise there) but both differ from a travel wheelchair:
The standard wheelchair, while some are both collapsible and lightweight, they may not withstand the rigors of rough terrains, and can become uncomfortable for the rider over long periods of time.
An electric wheelchair, having found this online I can see that they are perfect for everyday use as you don’t need to push it so the user has more independence. There are wheelchairs for all terrains which is good for what we’re wanting to do. Although, it may run out of battery on the trip and it is bulkier to push around.
A transport chair, while these are also collapsible and lightweight, they are meant for short distances, e.g. to and from the doctor or maybe to the grocery store.
A travel wheelchair is built to handle a variety of terrains and to be a comfortable and safe experience for longer distances for both the rider (Mom) and operator (me), as well as all the mobility accessories you can buy for it. It is collapsible, and can be more or less lightweight depending on the bells and whistles you add.
After my preliminary research, a travel wheelchair is what I need.
Next I went after potential retailers to purchase the wheelchair. My research came up with several options here too:
- Just Walkers — This is a budget friendly alternative, but their transport chairs do not appear to be durable enough for cobblestones.
- Troy Technologies – More expensive, but seem to have more choices and to be more durable. They are the manufacturer, offer their products through dealers, and they ship worldwide. Cobblestone-sturdy versions starts at $669. Extra-sturdy all-terrain wheels (11”) are available on some models.
- U.S. Medical Supplies — This reseller represents many brands. Their Karman Healthcare Travel chair at time of writing started at $349.
- 1800wheelchair.com — This reseller also represents many brands including Troy and Karman Healthcare as noted above.
- Rollz Motion — Their wheelchair transforms so that it is both a walker and a wheelchair in one product. However, I can’t find a retailer in the US yet. Need to do a bit more digging on this option as it does look pretty cool.
Shipping policies vary so I’ll add that to the list of items to note from each company (I’m creating an Excel spreadsheet to compare all the options).
Another thing I found out is that chairs have different size seats, are made of different materials and have multiple color choices as well. Yes, a bit overwhelming. One thing’s for sure, my goal of purchasing a wheelchair for a couple hundred dollars is a PIPE DREAM. From my early research, I’m guessing the starting price is around $800 and only going up.
With all these options, my next move is to do in-person reconnaissance with mom. My brother Eric is going to Indianapolis next week to visit Mom so I’m going to have him check out a local medical supply place and test out options. My hope is to combine Eric’s on-site information with my online research and hopefully have all the information I need to make a decision.
If you’ve purchased a wheelchair, I would love to hear your suggestions or experience with brands, chairs, or anything else you would like to pass on! We always learn so much from our readers. Onward (and hopefully upward)!