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Wheelchair vs Transport Chair: Main Differences & How To Know Which Type Suits Your Needs

empty whelchair in front of a white wall in a living room

Last Updated: May 14, 2024

Ambulation devices have various types and models and they’re very much available almost all around the globe.


The hard part is choosing the right one for your loved one despite all the choices. Don’t be nervous, we got your back. We’ve made a wheelchair vs transport chair comparison and contrasting below to help you on your journey.

From there we’ve tackled the important components as well as how to choose between the two.

Keep reading and allow us to assist you!

Main Differences Between Transport Chair Vs Wheelchair

man in suit sitting in a wheelchair

The main differences between a transport chair vs a wheelchair are:

  • Wheelchairs can be propelled independently by the user or by an able-bodied person, whereas transport chairs can only be propelled with the assistance of another person.
  • Transport chairs are slim, lightweight, compact, and suitable for traveling, whereas wheelchairs are often bulky, heavy-duty, and made to last. 
  • Wheelchairs have a minimum capacity of 300 pounds and an overall weight of 32-40 pounds, whereas transport chairs can only carry no more than 250 pounds and can be as light as 10 pounds. 

A Transport Wheelchair Vs A Standard Wheelchair

Mode Of Maneuvering And Propelling

For starters, both of these devices consist of similar designs that aid and support disabled people in terms of mobility.

A wheelchair is a well-known and common piece of equipment that was made for those who have well-functioning upper limbs.

It can either be propelled and maneuvered by the user through the rotating handrails using the best padded wheelchair gloves or another person by pushing it around.

On the other hand, a transport chair is used for people who cannot propel themselves; someone who needs assistance from an able-bodied person.

This is why the only way to move it around is to push the handles on the back of the seat.

Weight And Capacity

Wheelchairs are made for prolonged heavy-duty use. This is why they are constructed of reinforced materials that give them a capacity of 300 pounds or more. Their overall weight ranges from 32 to 40 pounds depending on their type.

Because of their compact and slim construction, the capacities of transport chairs can only be 250 pounds max. They have a surprising 10-25 pound overall weight range depending on the materials they’re made of.

Dimensions And Construction


Both of these devices have reinforced steel or aluminum frames. Wheelchairs are, of course, more durable and heavy-duty.

Transport chairs are known to be more compact compared to wheelchairs.

Not only are they lighter, slimmer, and easier to move around but they are also foldable which is a characteristic that not every wheelchair possesses.

Sometimes, even people who have fully functioning upper limbs use transport chairs instead when traveling. This is because its construction allows them to access public transportations and pass through steep and narrow aisles with ease.

However, wheelchairs tend to be more comfortable and convenient to use.

They come in different types, sizes, colors, designs, and accessories to suit the user in the best way possible.

body and frame of a wheelchair


As mentioned earlier, transport chairs are smaller and more compact, which is why while regular wheelchairs have a seat size of 16 x 18-19 inches, transport chair seats are only 16 x 17 inches.

The regular wheelchair has a seat size of around 16 x 19 inches.

Both pieces of equipment make use of nylon or vinyl upholstery, but wheelchairs are more suitable for longer-duration sitting with their thick padding even on the arm and backrests.


The main difference between a wheelchair and a transport chair is found in their wheels.

Let’s start with the size of the back wheels. Wheelchairs obviously have much bigger back wheels that range from 12 to 26 inches as the rotating handrails are attached to them.

On the other hand, the back wheels of transfer chairs are often the same size as the front wheels (8 inches) but can sometimes be slightly bigger depending on the model.

When it comes to swiveling wheels, both transport chairs and wheelchairs have front wheels that swivel and back wheels that don’t.


The brakes of transport chairs are found on the handles behind the chair for easy access to the person that’s maneuvering and moving it around.

Wheelchairs stop on their own, considering the fact that they won’t move unless you use the rotating handrails. But for safety, they also have a push-lock mechanism on their wheels.

Choosing Between A Transport Chair Or A Wheelchair

Both of these mobility devices were made for different however slightly similar purposes. The right choice will have to depend on your loved one’s condition, environment, and needs.

If your loved one has fully functioning upper limbs, needs to stay active and move independently, and stays in a sitting position for a longer span of time, top rated wheelchairs would be ideal.

However, if their upper limbs aren’t functioning well, or even if they are but the user requires assistance in getting into vehicles for transportation and/or narrow pathways, then a transport chair would be a better option.

Here's detailed information about the use of a transport chair:

If you still can’t decide between a transport wheelchair vs a standard wheelchair, you can bring your loved one to the shop and have them try both chairs and answer these questions with you;

  • Which of them are more comfortable? 
  • Which is more convenient to use? 
  • Which is more appropriate for their physique? 
  • Which is has a construction that is suitable for the environment they’re in?

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Necessary To Buy Both?

People who have trouble choosing between a wheelchair vs a transport chair often end up purchasing both devices.

Buying both pieces of equipment not only rids you the trouble of choosing but also bearing with a single device. It also allows you to switch between one another depending on which of them are more suitable for certain situations.

However, you don’t always need to have both of these chairs, especially if you’re on a tight budget. One of the two will be more suitable for your loved one, you just have to figure out which one.

What Type Of Wheelchair Do Airlines Allow?

Transfer chairs and almost all types of wheelchairs are allowed as long as they fit the specific dimensions the airline has provided.

Since airplanes have limited space, power and rigid frame wheelchairs will not be allowed onboard and will have to be stored underneath.

Closing Remarks

Ending up with the wrong equipment that is neither suitable nor helpful to your loved one can be tough. Just relax, and don’t expect the worst.

We hope that this guide has helped you compare and decide between the two. Always remember that it is best to make decisions like these with your loved one or whoever will be using the device.

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