How to Choose the Best Bariatric Wheelchair: a Review

a manual bariatric wheelchair

a manual bariatric wheelchair

No two people are the same. In the world of wheelchairs, it means that users come in different build and sizes. While general wheelchairs are built for average-size users, some users need bigger size wheelchairs that can withstand more load. Fortunately, there’s the Bariatric Wheelchair product line specially made to accommodate the needs of these particular group of user.

What Should You Know About Bariatric Wheelchairs?

Bariatric is the term used to describe the branch of medicine that deals with the causes, prevention, and treatment of obesity. A bariatric patient is one who weighs over 350 lbs (159 kg) or with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30+.

Bariatric wheelchairs, also known as heavy duty wheelchairs or extra wide wheelchairs, are the variations of wheelchairs that are bigger and stronger compared to the general wheelchairs.

Before you buy a new heavy duty chair, make sure that you know the dimensions and needs you have. If you are not sure, read the following tips. If not, you can skip directly to the reviews below.

Weight Capacity

Bariatric wheelchairs, also known as heavy duty wheelchairs or extra wide wheelchairs, are the variations of wheelchairs that are bigger and stronger compared to the general wheelchairs. These large wheelchairs usually come with weight capacities of up to 700 lbs and seat sizes up to 30 inches.

They are robust enough to accommodate almost any user. Most standard wheelchairs are usually designed to support the maximum 250 lb (113 kg) of weight on average. When you choose between different model, be sure to verify the weight capacity first.

A good rule of thumb is to choose a model, that supports at least 20 lbs more than you weigh. Why? Because there are days, where you might be wearing heavy clothing. Or you might carry objects on your knees or on attached to your chair. Maybe your weight fluctuates and you might have some extra pounds in a few months?
Besides, it is always good to leave a margin of error, just in case.

Lightweight But Sturdy Construction

Similar to the other lightweight chairs, the heavy duty wheelchair models are foldable and feature armrests and swing-away footrests. The difference lies in the constructions, especially in the materials used. Regular lightweight wheelchairs often use aluminum or titanium alloy as the main materials while bariatric wheelchairs often use stronger steel.

Seat Dimensions

Seat Width

Bariatric seats can go in many sizes, usually between 18 – 30 inches. You should aim for a seat that leaves you one or two inches of free space on the left and on the right side of  your body. Remember, that you need wiggle room for:

  • winter clothes
  • pressure relief movements
  • extra space for transfer in and out of the chair

Seat Depth

The seat must be comfortably adapted to your body. Consider these points when deciding about the seat depth you require:

  • The surface of the seat must comfortably hold your behind
  • The front of the seat should not touch the underside of your knees. Count one or two extra inches of space between them.
TIP: You can aim for a larger seat and buy a larger cushion to fill the space. A cushion is a great idea to increase your comfort, regardless of the wheelchair type and size you choose.

Seat Height

If you are not sure about the optimal seat height for you, you can easily measure it. Put your foot on the ground and ask someone to measure the distance from the underside of your knee to the backside of your heel.


The choice of the correct height of the backrest is crucial to your comfort and health. The right backrest provides full support to the top of your back. It should be high enough to touch your mid-shoulder blade.

Why is the backrest so important?

  • It makes it comfortable move your shoulders.
  • By providing a correct position and support for your back it prevents back pains.
  • The chance of developing pressure sores decreases.


If you are not new to using a wheelchair, you surely know the optimal armrest options for you. Two aspects to consider are:

  • a sufficient gap between your forearm and your seat
  • the correct, comfortable angle between them

Why are the right armrests so important? They will give you a place to relieve your arms when you get tired. Comfortable armrests help to avoid or relieve pain in the neck and the thorax.


Heavy Duty Manual Wheelchairs

As the name suggested, this wheelchair category includes all the bariatric wheelchairs that are not powered by a motor and rely on a companion or the patient’s own effort to move around. Several examples of such wheelchairs now follow.

 BCW 600 Heavy Duty Wheelchair

  • This wheelchair comes with extra high weight capacity with desk-length or full-length adjustable height removable armrests and baked urethane finish.
  • It supports the weight capacity of 600 lbs. – 1000 lbs! And the product itself weighs 65 pounds. The seat width is 20” – 30″.

 Karman BT10 Bariatric Wheelchair

  • This chair is foldable, which makes it easy for storage.
  • The bracing bar provides additional strength and also assists the attendant in positioning the wheelchair.
  • It also comes with fully detached and flip-back armrests.
  • It can support weight up to 550 lbs.
  • The product itself weighs 63 lbs – 76 lbs with the seat width of 22” – 30”.

 Invacare 9000 XDT Manual Wheelchair


  • This one has three seat-to-floor height adjustments to accommodate patients with different height.
  • It comes with full-length or desk-length fixed or adjustable height removable armrests and no flex wheels.
  • It can handle weight up to 350 lbs.
  • The chair weighs 37 lbs and the seat width is 18” – 24”.


 Heavy Duty Power Wheelchair

For those who are unable to move the vehicle by themselves or prefer to use the motor-powered wheelchair, they can opt for these alternatives.

 Drive Wildcat 450 Heavy Duty Folding Power Wheelchair

  • This product is foldable (by disconnecting and removing the battery first) and comes with the lightweight frame for easy portability.
  • The armrests are padded, adjustable, and removable.
  • It also comes with adjustable length controller mount, swing-away footrests with calf strap, and a positioning belt.
  • The padded back upholstery with a storage pouch and cushioned seat, and general foam seat cushion guarantee comfortable seating.

Other supported features are:

  • programmable controller
  • an easy freewheel operation.
  • For safety reason, the flat-free, non-marking tires come with wheel lock and anti-tip wheels.

 Pride Jazzy 614 HD Bariatric Power Chair

    • This heavy duty power chair comes with center wheel drive and 14” drive wheels.
    • The maximum weight capacity is 450 lbs. The dual enhanced in-line motors guarantee a greater efficiency, torque, range, and performance.
    • Another performance enhancement comes from the active-tram® ATX suspension that will improve its maneuverability across varied terrain.
    • The Jazzy 614 HD is easy to service as it features easy rear access to the battery and requires no tool to remove the shroud.
    • Other than that, it has extra large seating of 24” W x 24” D and comes with a depth adjustable foot platform.


    The Jazzy is popular for its ease of use:

Heavy Duty Mobility Scooter or Heavy Duty Scooter

There are times when a wheelchair couldn’t fit the patient’s need. For those times, another option that the bariatric patient has regarding the mobility is a heavy duty mobility scooter. Scooters don’t exactly fall into wheelchair category, but they are similar in the sense that they help individual users moving places.

 Amigo Heavy Duty Scooter

  • As a mobility solution for larger-framed individuals, Amigo Heavy Duty Scooter is built using a solid steel frame and extended platform. As a result, users will get the unique combination of comfort and durability.
  • It uses rear wheel drive complimented with black rear safety bumper with stability wheels.
  • To give users the maximal steering comfort, the scooter has infinitely adjustable handle, 360-degree rotation, adjustable/removable flip-up arms, and wide seat with an extended seat lock.

 Drive Maverick Heavy Duty Scooter

Click on the image to go to Amazon

  • This ground-breaking, head-turning scooter from Drive Medical proves that mobility scooter can come in style. The appearance takes the nuance from the classic look of a motorcycle cruiser.
  • It also delivers the best-in-class performance.
  • The unit can go up to 9.5 mph, and the battery can take users up to 30 miles on a single charge.
  • It features a Sport Style Captain’s Seat available in 20” or 22” seat widths, can swivel, supports reclining backrest and height adjustable headrest.
  • The padded armrest has an easy turn cylinder for angle adjustment.
  • The tires are 19.5” air-filled and low-profile. It uses motorcycle-inspired suspension for smooth outdoor-ride quality.
  • Other features worth mentioning are the hazard lightturn signalsrear view mirror, and positioning belt.

Check out the Maverick:

 E-Wheels 38 Heavy Duty Mobility Scooter

  • Those who need more speed and more reach can opt for this model. E-Wheels 38 Heavy Duty Mobility Scooter offers up to 15 mph speed and 43-mile range on a single charge.
  • It can withstand rider weight up to 500 lbs.
  • Other noteworthy features are electromagnetic brakes, tubeless tires, LED lights, decorative aluminum wheels, and an anti-theft alarm system.

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