Standard Wheelchair Vs Transport Wheelchair

Written by Liliane
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What is the difference between a wheelchair and a transport wheelchair?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions by people looking for mobility aids.

From a glance, the two mobility chairs look similar, but a closer look points to big differences that make one chair ideal for one situation and not another.

Read on to learn more about these differences to choose the right option for your new wheelchair.

Standard Wheelchair Vs Transport Wheelchair

Wheelchairs and transport chairs are widely used by people who have mobility issues which makes choosing one over the other quite challenging.

This begs the question; what is the difference between a transport wheelchair and a regular wheelchair?

To determine which mobility device would fit your needs, we need to look at what makes them different from one another.

#1 Functionality

When it comes to the difference between a wheelchair and a transport wheelchair, it’s all about functionality.

To begin with, as the name implies, a transport wheelchair is made for transport needs. These mobility devices are designed to be pushed from behind by a second person.

A standard wheelchair, on the other hand, is designed to be self-propelled by the user without needing a second person to push.

#2 Weight

Weight is another huge difference between the two.

Standard wheelchairs often weigh between 32 to 38 pounds while transport wheelchairs will be 10 pounds lighter than that.

The weight difference makes it easy for transport chairs to be pushed from behind by another person.

Besides being light, transport wheelchairs are also foldable to make them easy to travel with. Some models are even narrow to maneuver easily through tight spaces and narrow doors.

Check: Best Foldable Wheelchair for Travel

#3 Wheels

big wheels of standard wheelchair

One of the most noticeable differences between the traditional wheelchair and transport chair is the size of the wheels.

A standard manual wheelchair comes with four wheels; two large rear wheels and two smaller front ones. The rear wheels are fitted with rotating handrails so that you can better propel yourself.

On a transport wheelchair, the four wheels are all small and the rear ones don’t swivel as is the case with a standard wheelchair.

Unlike the rear wheels of a traditional wheelchair, the rear wheels on a transport wheelchair are not easy to reach when you are sitting on the chair.

On a standard wheelchair, being able to reach the rear larger wheels is of utmost importance when it comes to propelling yourself forward.

#4 Accessories

hospital staff pushing a senior in a transport wheelchair

Since transport chairs are designed for people with mobility issues to travel in when on trains or buses, they come with a wide array of accessories.

For instance, they feature things like cup holders, cushions, bags, trays, and even oxygen attachments. Standard wheelchairs, on the other hand, don’t come equipped with such accessories.

#5 Braking System

transport wheelchair brake

Both the standard wheelchair and transport chair are designed for mobility and to give the wheelchair user as much independence as possible. This is really apparent in the braking system.

For standard wheelchairs, featured is a push-lock mechanism that allows the chair to lock in place so that the person can safely enter and exit the chair when they need to.

Transport chairs, on the other hand, have brakes located on the handles at the back of the chair.

The person pushing the chair can apply the brakes with ease when needed and when maneuvering steep slopes and uneven terrain.

#6 Comfort

couple having a good time in their wheelchairs

Standard wheelchairs are designed for long-term use. As such, these mobility devices will have backrests, footrests, armrests, and much more comfortable seats.

Transport chairs on the other hand are designed for travel rather than comfort.

They don’t come with as many options when it comes to the seat widths. The sitting area features a basic fabric for the seat and the backrest.

They are therefore not ideal for an individual who has sitting needs.

Rather, they have a compact size and design and are light in weight so that they can fold easily into the trunk of the car which makes them the lesser bulkier option.

Which is Better: Standard Wheelchair or Transport Wheelchair?

two wheelchairs: what is the difference between a wheelchair and a transport wheelchair

If you have limited mobility, choosing the right mobility device can make all the difference.

Both standard manual wheelchairs and transport chairs are designed for convenience and mobility. So, how do you choose between the two wheelchair options?

Understanding the key differences between the wheelchair and transport chair should help in the decision to choose one over the other. But first, there are some questions that you should ask yourself first.

Is the situation permanent or temporary?

One of the biggest differences between a transport chair and standard wheelchair is that wheelchairs are designed so that the user can propel him or herself without needing any assistance.

Transport chairs feature smaller wheels which means that a caregiver or another person has to push them. What difference does this make?

If your situation is permanent whereby you are probably paralyzed, then a wheelchair makes more sense since it is designed for comfort and to be sat on for longer periods of time.

Transport chairs are built for transport and aren’t needed for longer periods and therefore ideal for people whose situations are more temporary and only need to get around for short periods.

How often do you have to use the chair?

If you have a lot of doctor appointments to go to, then a transport chair would be the better option.

On the other hand, if you are always at home, a wheelchair offers that level of independence that you require.

Difference Between a Wheelchair and a Transport Wheelchair FAQs

What to consider when choosing between the two?

When you are choosing between the two chairs, it all comes down to the functionality. If you have limited mobility, a wheelchair makes more sense since it allows you to maneuver around with ease. If you need a chair to move from one area to another, the lightweight nature of transport chairs will come in handy.

What type of wheelchair is easiest to use?

It depends on the situation and how you are using the chair. A wheelchair is easy to use for instance because it is designed for comfort and self-propelling. A transport chair is also easy to use since it is light in weight but needs someone to push from behind.


So that covers in detail the question; what is the difference between a wheelchair and a transport wheelchair?

Both chairs offer the much-needed mobility and convenience that people with limited mobility need. Whether to choose a wheelchair or a transport chair depends on why you need the chair in the first place.


  • Cowan, Rachel E., Mark S. Nash, Jennifer L. Collinger, Alicia M. Koontz, and Michael L. Boninger. 2009. “Impact of Surface Type, Wheelchair Weight, and Axle Position on Wheelchair Propulsion by Novice Older Adults.” Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 90 (7): 1076–83. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apmr.2008.10.034.
  • “Ten Things You Need to Know When Buying a Transport Wheelchair.” Wheelchair & Mobile Scooter Info | 1800wheelchair.com |, 12 Jan. 2016, www.1800wheelchair.com/news/ten-things-transport-wheelchair. Accessed 13 May 2021.‌
standard wheelchair vs transport wheelchair

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About Author

Lilian Wamaitha is a passionate writer and avid cyclist with over 4 years of experience in blogging. As a lifelong learner, she is driven by her curiosity to discover and learn new things. This curiosity and passion eventually sparked a love for the senior writing niche. She has written countless articles to help seniors find their footing in this world through healthy and holistic living. She’s passionate about seeing the seniors in society live a more fulfilling life to the end. Follow her on LINKEDIN. Read her LATEST POSTS. Learn more about her HERE.

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