For those in need of mobility assistance, it can be easy to confuse an electric wheelchair with a mobility scooter. To the untrained eye, they look and sound similar, and they operate in a similar way. But when considering what mobility device is right for you, it’s important to understand that there are significant differences between the two.
Pride® Mobility has long been proud to offer multiple options in both categories, and we’re here to help you and your physician make the most informed decision so that you can be on your way to living your best.
Though both power wheelchairs and mobility scooters share the same function – helping people who require some level of assistance get from one place to another – they’re not interchangeable. Some people will be better suited to using an electric wheelchair, while others will benefit more from a scooter.
Power wheelchairs are preferred by individuals who struggle to remain on their feet for long periods of time or suffer from debilitating conditions that reduce mobility in their upper body, arms, and legs. Users rely on this device to be their main method of transportation, as they have extensive accessibility needs. The world-renowned Jazzy® line of Pride® products is strictly comprised of power chairs, including the Jazzy® EVO 614, the Jazzy® Carbon, and the Jazzy® 600 ES.
Mobility scooters are preferred by those who may be experiencing pain and are looking for some assistance in getting around. While a scooter provides valuable help, users of this type of product typically are not relying on the scooter to be their main source of transportation. Think of it as a “simpler” version of an electric wheelchair. The Pride® lineup of mobility scooters includes the i-Go™, the Zero Turn 10 4-Wheel, and the Go-Go® Endurance Li.
When simply looking at the products, the most obvious difference is how the devices are operated by the user. Electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters are controlled and driven in different ways.
Power wheelchairs are operated and controlled with the use of a joystick, located on either the right or left armrest. This can be operated with one hand, so it’s best suited for those users who lack the strength to propel a manual wheelchair, and those who don’t have full upper body control.
Mobility scooters are operated with the use of a “tiller” that contains handlebars. Therefore, users must have enough upper body strength to “steer” the scooter with their hands and arms and the ability to hold their arms out for long periods of time.
Whereas all mobility scooters either have three or four wheels, electric wheelchairs will typically have four to six wheels. On a wheelchair, you’ll notice two large drive wheels. Depending on where these are located, the chair will utilize a rear-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, or mid-wheel drive system. These are supported by smaller wheels called casters, for added stability.
Power wheelchairs come with foot platforms that can be adjusted for height and can flip up when not in use. Mobility scooters have fixed leg support, but other adjustments can be made to increase leg room and comfort, including seat sliders and tiller adjustments. As a rule of thumb, three-wheel scooters offer more legroom due to the central position of the single wheel in the front.
Padded, captain’s style seating is standard on electric wheelchairs and additional seating options may be available, depending on the model. They’re more spacious and contain larger seats and armrests. Mobility scooters typically have vinyl seating that can be adjusted or may be able to swivel.
While both power wheelchairs and mobility scooters can be operated indoors and outdoors to various degrees, your preference may depend on where you will be primarily using the product.
Because electric wheelchair users typically spend a significant amount of time in their chair, the product is designed to be convenient for indoor use. These wheelchairs have a smaller turning radius in order to navigate tight hallways, bathrooms, kitchens, and other common areas within a home. They also allow you to pull up closely to tables and other surfaces.
Mobility scooters, on the other hand, have a larger turning radius are not typically used to maneuver through tight spaces. Therefore, they’re not as convenient for home use, though they can be used indoors in larger areas.
However, these products are designed to be more rugged, which allows for outdoor use in a variety of environments. They’re also common for travel since many break down into several pieces for storage or transportation. And since users of mobility scooters don’t rely on them as their main method of transportation, they’re popular as a means of getting around outdoors either around the neighborhood, down the block, or while on vacation.
In summary, electric wheelchairs are more suited for indoor use, while mobility scooters are more suited for outdoor use, though both can be used in various environments, depending on the surroundings.
A DME (Durable Medical Equipment) provider will guide you to what product will suit you best by doing a home assessment evaluation to make sure you choose the correct mobility device.
Medicare or Medicaid may cover a portion of the cost of a mobility device classified as durable medical equipment (DME) if it’s deemed to be medically necessary for use inside of a home. This requires a face-to-face examination with a physician to determine the medical needs of a potential user.
Typically, Medicare or private insurance will only provide coverage for those users that require assistance with activities of daily living around the house. So, for users whose physicians prescribe an electric wheelchair, insurance is likely to cover some of the cost.
Because mobility scooters are geared more toward outdoor use and for those who are otherwise mobile and able to perform functions of daily living inside the home, they’re unlikely to be covered by Medicare or private insurance.
Which is right for you?
Electric wheelchairs are preferred by those who struggle with everyday mobility and require assistance in performing the functions of daily living. The joystick control is also engineered for those who may lack upper body strength. They are the user’s main method of transportation.
Mobility scooters are better suited for those who may be fine getting around the house and living comfortably without assistance but may struggle with walking long distances. They’re not the user’s main method of transportation but can provide help in navigating outdoor environments.
Ultimately, the best way to get started is to schedule an examination with your physician, who can help you determine the mobility device that’s right for you. Pride® Mobility is proud to partner with mobility dealers all across the country, whose experts can also help guide you in the right direction for products that are more specifically suited to your needs.
To find a dealer near you, and to view our diverse lineup of power wheelchairs and mobility scooters, visit www.pridemobility.com today!