The best Drive wheelchair

Many home medical supply companies can make critical adjustments to Drive Medical wheelchairs for maximum comfort. A poorly adjusted wheelchair can cause muscle strain and fatigue.
Many home medical supply companies can make critical adjustments to Drive Medical wheelchairs for maximum comfort. A poorly adjusted wheelchair can cause muscle strain and fatigue. (BestReviews)

Whether you need a self-propelled wheelchair during medical recovery or rehabilitation or suffer from mobility issues, electric wheelchairs can be a prohibitively expensive investment.

Drive Medical — a leader in the wheelchair and mobility aid industry — has models in every price range. Drive wheelchairs are especially praised for their lightweight but sturdy construction and their emphasis on user comfort and safety.


A typical Drive wheelchair has a generous weight capacity (at least 250 pounds), with many detachable elements for easier transportation and are designed to fold for storage. One of the best Drive wheelchairs on the market today is the Drive Medical K320DFA-ELR Cruiser III Lightweight Folding Wheelchair, a versatile self-propelled model that is surprisingly affordable and often provided as a top quality rental by medical supply stores.

What to know before you buy a Drive wheelchair

Types of wheelchairs

A patient’s level of mobility generally determines which type of wheelchair would be an ideal fit. Drive Medical manufactures wheelchairs in three categories that address different levels of mobility.


A basic transport wheelchair, for example, works well for users with a dedicated caregiver or the leg strength to walk the chair from location to location. A transport chair is usually the least expensive option and is exceptionally easy to transport and store.

A self-propelled manual wheelchair allows users to move independently by pushing an oversized rear wheel, while also allowing caregivers to push from behind if necessary. This is a good option if mobility is limited but upper body movement is not restricted. Self-propelled manual wheelchairs can be noticeably heavier than transport models, and transportation can be more challenging.

The final option is an electric wheelchair, which uses a battery-powered motor to propel the chair with the push of a toggle switch. This option provides mobility for patients with limited upper or lower body strength, but it is also the option with the greatest learning curve.

Dimensions and capacity

One important consideration when choosing a Drive wheelchair is the model’s dimensions. This includes the height of the seat, the width of the wheels and the length of the footrest. Whether it is a transport or self-propelled model, the wheelchair must be able to fit comfortably through doorways, and store easily in a car trunk or storage closet. Most Drive wheelchairs meet the standard clearance requirements, but users and caregivers should still measure potential pinch points to make sure the wheelchair will fit.


Most Drive wheelchairs also have weight limits, which is an important consideration when it comes to patient safety. This information should be available in the product description or packaging. Lightweight transportation or self-propelled wheelchairs often have a lower weight limit as a trade-off for easier handling or storage. A bariatric model is better suited for larger adult users.


Many Drive wheelchairs allow users to make adjustments for a customized fit, but this isn’t a universal feature. The height of the seat can be raised or lowered several inches for shorter or taller users. The handle length of a transport wheelchair can also be adjusted to meet the needs of a caregiver. Options such as leg rests and arm cushions can also be added or removed if necessary. A proper fit is essential if a user plans to use the chair for an extended period.

Drive wheelchair features 

Leg and arm rests

Some wheelchair-bound patients require additional leg or arm support while they recover. An optional leg rest uses a platform to elevate the leg off the ground during use. It also alleviates muscle strain when the leg is not fully supported. Arm rests also provide additional support for patients with casts or limited arm strength.


Many wheelchair users and caregivers strive to be as self-sufficient as possible when they are on the road. This means having the ability to carry and store essential items such as electronic devices, nourishment and personal hygiene products. Some Drive wheelchairs incorporate storage options into the original chair, while others offer add-ons such as beverage holders, mesh baskets and storage pockets.

Drive wheelchair cost 

Many Drive Medical self-propelled or transport wheelchairs are available as rentals from medical supply stores, but purchasing a wheelchair for longer term use also makes economic sense. A basic Drive wheelchair for transportation can cost as little as $130, while self-propelled models tend to fall in the $150-$300 range. The highest end Drive wheelchair models can cost as much as $450, but also feature the sturdiest construction and highest weight capacity.

Drive wheelchair FAQ

Should I consider buying a used Drive wheelchair?

A. Because a new higher-end wheelchair can be fairly expensive, there is always the temptation to purchase a used model to save money. However, you should first check with your health insurance provider to see if the cost of a new wheelchair is covered under your plan. Before investing in a used Drive wheelchair, you should inspect it thoroughly for any signs of metal fatigue, worn tires, loose braking mechanisms or worn upholstery.

My wife will require a wheelchair for eight weeks after her surgery. What kind of Drive wheelchair should I get for temporary use?

A. The answer depends on her level of mobility, but a folding transport wheelchair is a good economical choice if a caregiver will be providing the power during transportation. If she has the mobility and strength to propel herself, then a lightweight self-propelled model would work well.

Which Drive wheelchair should I get?

Best of the best Drive wheelchair

Drive Medical K320DFA-ELR Cruiser III Lightweight Folding Wheelchair: available at Amazon

Our take: For those who seek the same performance as high-end rental wheelchairs, the Cruiser III offers many of the same features at an affordable price point.

What we like: The chair incorporates a generous amount of cushioning and padding. A lightweight design makes this chair easy to transport and fold/unfold. There is a 350-pound weight limit. The dual axle allows for an adjustment to hemi-height and the carbon-steel frame allows for customized inserts.

What we dislike: Premature tire and wheel failure is the most common consumer complaint. The cushioned sections can develop splits and cracks.

Best bang for your buck Drive wheelchair

Drive Medical SSP118FA-SF Silver Sport 1 Folding Transport Wheelchair: available at Amazon

Our take: This folding transport wheelchair's affordable price point makes it appealing for caregivers and patients with limited incomes or without insurance coverage for a rental wheelchair.

What we like: The urethane tires and composite wheels reduce weight and improve durability. The nylon seat and backrest are breathable and easy to clean. The total weight of the chair is approximately 38 pounds. It works equally well as a self-propelled or transportation wheelchair.


What we dislike: The dimensions and weight capacity are smaller than promoted. There are some reports of unexpected wheel failure.


Honorable mention Drive wheelchair

Drive Medical Blue Streak Ultra-Lightweight Wheelchair: available at Amazon

Our take: If weight is a consideration, this 35-pound model is easy to fold and pack after transporting a patient to a vehicle.

What we like: The chair includes calf straps for improved security during transport. The desk arms are removable and the leg rests swing away easily. The 18-inch nylon seat is easy to clean, with a 250-pound weight capacity.

What we dislike: The soft plastic spokes can fail unexpectedly. The push handles are not adjustable for caregivers.

Michael Pollick is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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