What are the different types of manual wheelchair and which is right for me?

There are three different types of manual wheelchair and for some it's not clear which would be best for you. On a basic level there are active wheelchairs and passive wheelchairs. An active wheelchair means that you push the wheels yourself and a passive wheelchair simply means it is pushed by an attendant. The other type of wheelchair that we refer to is the 'standard' wheelchair, that is the type of wheelchair you are given by a hospital or one that is intended to be used occasionally.

Standard wheelchairs

This type of wheelchair is ideal for those only needing to use it for a couple hours a day and is the cheapest, typically costing a few hundred pounds. These are the heaviest and most awkward to push.

This is ideal for those with a temporary need to use a wheelchair, such as recovery after an injury, or those who aren't as bothered about using it as often so the inconvenience of the weight and quality isn't enough of an issue to justify spending more.

Passive wheelchairs

These wheelchairs are for those who will need to use their chair most of the day. These are much better suited to match your postural needs, so will lead to a lot less aches and pains when in them for hours. These wheelchairs are also lighter and made of better quality materials so are more durable and easier to push.

These typically cost between £500 to £2000 £3000 and are ideal for those in long term care and are unable to self propel.

Active wheelchairs

These wheelchairs are for those who will be using their chair for most of the day and typically are younger or used to being more active. These wheelchairs are primarily focused on reducing energy needed to self propel, meaning they are made of lightweight but strong materials -  such as aluminium, titanium or carbon fibre - and incorporate features intended towards maximising propulsion.

These are ideal for those seeking a chair that has been suited to their body shape and needs and those desiring to remain active and maybe even partake in wheelchair sports. In order to use these you will need to have full range of movement in your arms and a strong upper body and core. In practice this often means those who are younger and have suffered a spinal cord injury or other health condition has less of an effect on their upper body. These chairs can cost between £1000 to over £5000, but most fall in the range of £2000/3000.


If you're unsure about which option is ideal for you or are just looking for where to go from here, we always recommend seeking professional advice. Feel free to give us a call with any questions

01572 755204



Joe Johnson-Copas