Electric wheelchairs have revolutionized the lives of many seniors with limited mobility and those living with disabilities, giving them more independence and freedom to move around.
However, the cost of an electric wheelchair can be a real bummer, as this life-changing technology can be pretty pricey.
A power wheelchair can cost anywhere between $1,000 for a more basic lightweight folding chair, to as much as $6,000 for a more heavy-duty power wheelchair.
In this article, we’ll explore the different factors that affect the cost of electric wheelchairs, the types of electric wheelchairs available, and some tips and hacks for how you can save money when purchasing a wheelchair.
Why Are Electric Wheelchairs So Darn Expensive?
The price of electric wheelchairs can be off-putting for those on a budget, and it’s important to understand why they cost so much.
First and foremost, electric wheelchairs are medical devices, and therefore subject to a number of regulatory requirements that add to the overall cost. Companies spend a lot of money on research and development to ensure that their products are up to safety standards, which accounts for part of the cost.
Another factor is the quality of materials used in power wheelchairs; manufacturers use high-quality materials, along with highly specialized technology with complex parts, including multiple motors and batteries. This, too, can contribute to the cost of electric wheelchairs.
How Much Do Power Wheelchairs Cost? It Depends on The Type
The cost of an electric wheelchair can vary widely depending on the model and feature set. There are different types of electric wheelchairs, including basic models, mid-range models, and high-end models.
Portable Power Wheelchair (Basic Model)
Basic models are the most affordable type of motorized wheelchair, and they usually come with minimal add-ons. You can expect the standard options like self-propelled movement, speed control, and basic cushioning.
Basic models tend to be those that are lightweight electric wheelchairs designed for portability.
Some can even be folded up, with the ability to pack your portable power wheelchair into the trunk of a car for easy transport — some can even fly as checked baggage on an airplane.
This type of motorized wheelchair is best for those who will just be using it occasionally.
How Much Do They Cost? A basic lightweight power wheelchair typically costs between $1,000 and $3,000.
Who Are They Best For? Basic electric wheelchairs are ideal for those who need a wheelchair only occasionally and don’t require fancy add-ons or long-range use. Folding models also serve as great portable power wheelchairs for those who just need a powered wheelchair in certain locations when out and about.
Full Size Power Wheelchairs (Mid-Range Model)
Mid-range full size electric wheelchairs are sturdier and larger, with a bigger seat and bigger batteries for more regular, long-term use. These wheelchairs are designed for heavy duty use, making them ideal if you plan on using the wheelchair regularly.
They usually come with a joystick or other control options, enabling you to adjust speed and direction easily.
In addition to being more customizable, they are typically sturdier and have a longer lifespan than the basic models.
How Much Do They Cost? Mid-range power wheelchairs typically cost between $2,000 and $4,000.
Who Are They Best For? These wheelchairs are ideal for users who plant to use them primarily for indoor use over thin carpet and flooring. Some light outdoor use is also suitable, so long as the surface is smooth — like pavement. They generally have a weight capacity of 250 to 300 lbs.
Heavy Duty Power Wheelchairs (High-End Model)
Heavy-duty power wheelchairs are the most expensive type of electric wheelchair and are designed with more robust frames to withstand larger users and to navigate rougher terrain.
These wheelchairs typically come with bigger motors and larger batteries for a much longer range, allowing users to travel greater distances without needing to recharge. They also usually have a higher top speed as well as improved maneuverability due to the option to use front-wheel, mid-wheel, or rear-wheel drive.
Heavy-duty power wheelchairs also have the highest number of features and customization options, with bells and whistles such as:
- Adjustable backrests, armrests, and seat height
- Adjustable speed settings
- Wide range of movement
- Durable tires that can handle rough terrain
- Improved cushioning and premium padding
- Power tilt and recline
- Powered leg rests
How Much Do They Cost? Heavy-duty models generally cost anywhere from $4,000 to $6,000.
Who Are They Best For? Heavy-duty power wheelchairs are great for those who will be using the motorized wheelchair more frequently, over longer distances, and on rougher terrain. They’re the most comfortable option out there and are essential for larger users, as they usually have a weight capacity of up to 500 lbs. Keep in mind that since they are bigger and bulkier, they are not ideal for tight spaces.
Add-Ons That Can Affect the Power Wheelchair Cost
On top of the cost of the power wheelchair itself, there are some additional items that can add to the total cost.
- Specialized cushioning
- Longer-lasting battery for extended battery life
- Added weight capacity
- Added tilt or tilt-in-place modifications
- Carrying basket or storage area
- More powerful motor
- Hefiter, larger wheels
- Wheelchair color or style design
- Switching out a keypad or joystick for a chin or foot control
Services and Other Charges Related to Power Wheelchairs
When purchasing an electric wheelchair, it is important to factor in the cost of services and other related charges.
These may include:
- Delivery and setup fees. Since many electric wheelchairs can be quite heavy, don’t be surprised to find a hefty delivery fee as well as an installation fee.
- Warranty. Most electric wheelchairs come with a manufacturer’s warranty, but you may also want to consider paying for an extended warranty with additional coverage.
- Maintenance and repair costs. These costs will vary depending on the type of power wheelchair and how often it is used, but you may need to budget for regular maintenance checks as well as any repairs that are needed.
- Battery replacements. While you may use your wheelchair for many years without needing major electrical work, there’s a decent chance you’ll need to replace the battery at some point. Wheelchair batteries don’t come cheap ($100 – $300), so it’s best to factor in this cost when budgeting.
- Ramp installations. You may need get a portable wheelchair ramp or have a permanent ramp installed in order to get your wheelchair in and out of your home easily, so don’t forget to factor in that cost. Luckily, portable semi-permanent portable wheelchair ramps can be significantly more affordable than permanent structures.
- Wheelchair lifts. If you plan on using the power wheelchair at various locations that need to be reached by car, you’ll need a wheelchair lift for your vehicle as well.
Discounts and Money-Saving Tips for Power Wheelchairs
Credit and Payment Plans
If you’re unable to pay in full for your power wheelchair, keep in mind that some companies offer credit and payment options to help spread the cost of the purchase over a longer period of time.
Instead of paying a huge lump sum, you may be able to use a payment plan to pay smaller amounts each month, making it much easier to afford your wheelchair.
Medicare Government Funding and Insurance Coverage
In the United States, Medicare Part B will cover some of the cost of power wheelchairs, so long as you meet certain eligibility requirements showing that you need the electric wheelchair to perform “mobility-related activities of daily living” (MRADLs) in your home.
In order to get the power wheelchair covered by Medicare, you need to show that you have a medical need for a power wheelchair, where a manual wheelchair or mobility scooter is not sufficient.
Medicare will opt to cover you for a manual wheelchair or mobility scooter over a power wheelchair, as power wheelchairs are much more expensive.
With Medicare, you’ll need to make sure you consult with Medicare-approved physicians and use a mobility equipment supplier that is approved by Medicare.
Private Insurance Can Cover Power Wheelchairs Too
If you have a private health plan, private insurers may cover as much as 50-80% of the cost of a powered wheelchair, so long as it’s medically required.
They may even cover some portion of servicing and maintenance, as it’s cheaper for the insurance provider to pay for your wheelchair’s repairs, rather than replacing the entire device.
If you’re approved, you’ll be able to choose a model from your insurer’s list.
If you’re not sure if you really will use an electric wheelchair, or you’re not sure which model is the right for you, some companies offer rent-to-buy options.
With this option, you can rent and test out a power wheelchair for a period of time before deciding whether or not to purchase down the line. If you decide to purchase the wheelchair, a portion of the rental fee you’ve paid may be able to go towards the full price of buying the wheelchair.
Electric wheelchairs can be expensive, but there’s no denying they can have a huge impact on the user’s life and mobility. Be sure to consider the full cost of a power wheelchair (including delivery, maintenance, add-ons, and ramps) before making a decision, and consult with a Medicare representative if you’re hoping to get them to cover some of the costs.
Ultimately, electric wheelchairs have the potential to drastically improve the quality of life for those with limited mobility. With the right planning and research, you can make sure to get a wheelchair that’s well within your budget.
FAQs About How Much Do Electric Wheelchairs Cost?
How much does a lightweight portable electric wheelchair cost?
A basic portable electric wheelchair can cost anywhere between $1,000 and $3,000.
How much does a mid-range electric wheelchair cost?
A mid-range electric wheelchair can cost anywhere between $2,000 and $4,000.
How much does a heavy-duty electric wheelchair cost?
A heavy-duty high-end electric wheelchair can cost anywhere between $4,000 and $6,000.
Is it possible to rent an electric wheelchair?
Yes, it is possible to rent an electric wheelchair from many companies. The cost of renting an electric wheelchair can vary depending on the rental period, type of wheelchair, and location.
Are power wheelchairs covered by Medicare?
In some cases, Medicare may cover part or all of the cost of a power wheelchair. You’ll need to meet certain eligibility requirements and show that you need a power wheelchair for medical reasons. Sonsult with Medicare-approved physicians before being approved to purchase from a Medicare-approved wheelchair provider.
Are there any other costs associated with electric wheelchairs?
Yes, in addition to the cost of the wheelchair itself, there are many other costs associated with electric wheelchairs, such as delivery, maintenance, battery replacements, as well as add-ons such as ramps or lifts, and more. It’s important to factor all of these costs into your budget.
What is the lifespan of an electric wheelchair?
The lifespan of an electric wheelchair depends on the type and model, but it can range anywhere from 3-5 years. It’s important to factor in maintenance and repairs over that time frame as well.
Can you return a power wheelchair?
Yes, some retailers may allow you to return a power wheelchair within a certain time frame, as long as it is undamaged and unused. Be sure to check the store’s return policy or warranty before buying.