Practical Guide to Understanding Manual Wheelchair Weights

I’m going to make a bold prediction. Your lightweight manual wheelchair is approximately 5 lbs HEAVIER than what is posted in the manufacturer’s published weight in its brochures. Here is a quick experiment you can do with the help of an able bodied person. Have them weigh themselves and record the weight.

Next have them weigh themselves WITH the wheelchair. Subtract the two weights and you get the ACTUAL weight of the wheelchair. Now look at the manufacturer’s weight for the lightweight wheelchair. I guarantee that the manufacturer’s stated weight is at least 5 lbs heavier than the ACTUAL weight you arrived at earlier!

How can that be? How can they get away with this discrepancy?

Wheelchair Performance

Wheelchair weights are essential for functionality, promoting, and financial backing – any of which could cause a manufacturer to announce the smallest number feasible. From a performance point of view, a lighter chair is easier to move and carry around compared to a heavier one.

From an advertising and marketing perspective, lighter is much better, and if manufacturer A can tout lower weight on its chair compared to manufacturer B’s, they’ll unquestionably win over users with promotional ads.

And, from a financial backing standpoint, a manufacturer has to fit a chair’s weight within financing categories if it wants to be successful on the mainstream market. Therefore, for all these kinds of motives, advertising the lightest permissible weight is beneficial to manufacturers.

Advertised Weight

Just how do manufactures get away with advertising weights apparently clearly below those of the actual equipment moving around in the real world?

The answer is creative configuration. You see, most wheelchair users require an 18″-wide seat, leg rests, armrests, and brakes, HOWEVER manufacturers DO NOT include these weighs in their final products.

Leg rests are never included in published weights and are approx 5lbs on average. This is how your chair can weigh as much as 5 lbs heavier than the published specifications.  For some model chairs the weight deductions can even be more! Armrests and brakes are sometimes deducted accounting for an additional 5lbs.

Sometimes even the mag wheels which are more common nowadays compared with the spoke wheels can account for another 2 lbs of extra weight.

Conservative Weight Classes

Are the manufacturers crossing an ethical boundary with these misleading weights?

On one hand NO because they are publishing the “technical” specs according to governmental funding procedures. On the next hand, when the customer ends up with a chair that is up to 10 lbs heavier than the advertised weight it can leave a bad taste in the customers mouth.

Even though there are other important factors other than weight for a lightweight wheelchair, it is the fact that jumps out the most and if a manufacturer can get away with “technically” posting the lowest possible weight, they will.

Overall Weight

To make it fair, ALL numbers should be published, that is weight WITH and WITHOUT leg rests and any other weights that might add to the overall weight of the chair. Let the customer make a fully informed decision.

The only TRUE way to get the real weight of a chair is to give it a test ride with all the needed components. Take it for a spin and lift it yourself if you are in a position to do so. Now you know the “tricks” they use, you will be a better-informed customer and make the decision that is best for you.