Wheelchair – HELP!

I need a new wheelchair, and I need your help!

I have used a manual chair for many years, relying on friends and family to push me around. But the chair gets caught in pavement cracks, has trouble going over small bumps and curbs, and is generally rickety.

I need a chair that can handle bumps, rises, cracks, and rough terrain. I need a chair that can fold up and go in the car. And I would love an electric chair to give me some independence.

I’ve got a couple models in mind, but I need your help! Do you have any experience with one or more of these wheelchairs? Do you have another model that might fit my requirements? Help me out and drop a comment!

KD SmartChair

EZ Lite Cruiser

Whirlwind Rough Rider



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19 Responses to Wheelchair – HELP!

  1. Sally says:

    I have a Travelscoot, and it’s great for getting about, but not brilliant to sit in all day. So have somewhere else in mind for a wee rest, because the seat is not as supportive as a wheelchair. Also in some ways it is less restful as you have to decide how to tackle obstacles – but then it is also easier to predict the timing of bumps, and less frustrating as you know where you are headed next!

    It can tackle roughish ground well, but doesn’t like loose stones. It has no suspension so can feel bumpy after a while. The battery however is likely to last longer than you do!

    Happy for you to throw questions my way. I’ll pop up a photo on Facebook for you.

  2. Rebecca says:

    I don’t have experience with any of these wheelchairs, but I do have thoughts about them based upon my experience trying to increase my mobility.

    You will not have an easy time going anyplace with wheels that are narrow in the tread, except for relatively flat, smooth surfaces such as sidewalks, malls, or other well paved areas. If you want to go off road, for example onto grass or a trail through a park, you really need fat tires. None of the smaller scooters you’ve linked to have the kind of fat tires you will need.

    I can see the appeal of the Rough Rider, as it is capable of going over rough surfaces and some variations in grade. However, for movement, it depends upon the energy of the rider. I don’t know about you, but I barely have the energy to propel myself half a block on a completely flat surface, let alone up or down any hills or on rough terrain you may encounter. This is a real drawback for any non-motorized chair, and something you should carefully consider.

    You also need to ask whether you will have the energy to fold up and lift the chair into your car if you try to go out by yourself. You also need to consider the trajectory of your disease. If your trajectory is one of slow diminishment of capability, what you can do today may be different from what you can do a week or six months from now. Given the price on at least one of these scooters, your future ability is an important consideration.

    Have you looked at the price of a lift, and whether your car can accommodate one? You may be surprised at the actual cost. I’d also suggest that you visit a mobility store, and see if you can buy something used. There are lots of scooters out there that have been used by little old ladies who were very careful with them, and didn’t drive them very far. A small independent local store is likely to have some available, and may give you a better deal than one of the larger companies. In my experience, they are also more likely to find something that will actually meet your needs, rather than selling you the latest, newest model from a big manufacturer.

    I wound up buying a used scooter with three fat wheels. It can take me just about any place I want to go, and frankly, I find it fun to tear around on. I also like the ability to determine for myself which direction I am facing, rather than having to constantly ask someone pushing me to change my orientation–at a museum, for example. The only place I have not been able to go on my scooter is on a sandy beach. It also pooped out on me once, going up a wet grassy hillside in Nova Scotia, but it recovered after a few minutes’ rest and a push of the reset button.

    Of course, we had to get a new car and put a lift in it, but since we are getting older, and it was harder and harder for my DH to push me anyway, it seemed like the right time to bite the bullet. I don’t think either of us have regretted that decision.

    I wish you the best of luck in finding something that works for you. It’s a complicated decision, but one we’re forced to make by our disease.

    • Jennie Spotila says:

      These are all excellent points. With the manual I have now, I am completely dependent on my husband or whoever is with me. I cannot propel a manual very far at all. I’m too sick to drive a car, so I always have someone with me. But we’re all getting older, so lifting a chair into a car and pushing a chair will get harder for everybody. We cannot afford a vehicle with a lift, and I need a chair that I can travel with (on the extremely rare occasions that I travel). Your point about the wheels is well taken, and is one of the reasons we want to replace my old manual.

      I’ve rented big scooters a couple of times and love them! Such fun! But we do need something that can go in the trunk of a car.

      As with most things in life, there are tradeoffs. Thank you very much for your advice.

      • Rebecca says:

        I’ve also seen some carriers that attach to the back of the vehicle and aren’t motorized. That might be easier than hoisting it into the car.

  3. seesir says:

    Hooveround worked well for my brother; he went EVERYWHERE in it, but he had an accessible van. Good Luck.

  4. Kristy Vunesky says:

    I have a power wheelchair and I love the freedom it gives me. I can do most of what I want on my own with it except for loose gravel or rough terrain. My husband has a lift on the back of his car that was inexpensive comparatively and I have a lift in my van that I bought used at a local mobility dealer. If I’m feeling well enough to get out on my own I can operate the lift in my van on my own since it is motorized. I have trouble with the lift on my husband’s car even though it is motorized mostly because I have to do more bending with it so we use it only when he’s with me. Each person is different and your needs and abilities are the best guide for your purchase. I rarely can get out alone but when I can I want to and I want to be independent so a power wheelchair with a lift in a van was best for me. Even when I need help getting out I want the freedom of directing my own travel in stores etc. so the power wheelchair was the very best option for me. I do wish it had the ability to navigate more rough terrain as I used to be very outdoorsy before my illness. But most power wheelchairs will give you the ability to navigate city streets and sidewalks, stores, and even grass if it’s low pile and not wet. If you have insurance have you considered asking your physician to assist? My PCP sent me to a physiatrist who fitted me to the chair best suited to my needs and I was lucky enough to have insurance that covered it. They covered it only because I do need it for mobility inside my home at times (I have fallen several times and when I’m really sick I have ataxia and severe muscle weakness). Lifts usually aren’t covered. Not sure if this was helpful to you. I hope it was. Just my experience with my needs and limitations. Good luck to you. I enjoy your blog and all you do in advocacy for us with CFS/ME.

    • Jennie Spotila says:

      Thank you very much! I’m glad you enjoy the blog. Yes, freedom and independence are a big deal to me!!! My doc will assist but I don’t expect an electric chair to be covered because I don’t need it in the house. But finding the right model will be worth the budget stretch. I do hope to test drive some chairs locally, but several of the models I list are not distributed here and I would have to chance the return shipping and restocking fee.

      • Sue says:

        I have the older model travel scoot, which I purchased with the idea of walking a dog outside. Then I got sicker, and but like you, I don’t now go out very often on my own, and when I do, the travel scoot is a wonderful blessing because it fits right in the back of my Honda element. I go mostly indoors with it, and it certainly does get you lots of attention 🙂 if you have a right in the back of my Honda element. I go mostly indoors with it, and it certainly does get you lots of attention 🙂 if you have anymore questions about it, please feel free to let me know. There is a blog somewhere online by a woman named Elizabeth who has a travel scoot with just a wealth of information on it.

        • Sue says:

          Here is that blog I was talking about:


          I also forgot to mention that I bought it for outside but I have ended up using it inside way more than outside. I have gone through a couple periods where I have needed the travels scoot indoors and then have been able to wean myself off. I am in the weaning mode right now. Good luck with your pick, Jen. And let us know what you choose!

          • Jennie Spotila says:

            Thanks Sue, I will. I’ve compiled a spreadsheet out of desperation to keep all the models straight!

  5. Gregory Burge says:

    Hi Jennie,
    I have had a small power chair for 2 years now that is very similar to the first 2 chairs you listed. I bought it from a Chinese company called “Golden Motor” for about $2,350 including shipping. You can check it out on their web site http://www.goldenmotor.com, it is called the PW-8F20. 50lbs, folds up to fit in any car, the trunk or belt it into a seat.

    I thought a 10Ahr battery would not be enough so I got a spare, however I have never been able to run the battery down. This chair is great for travel. I have taken it to Florida, Seattle, San Fransisco and most of the time when I leave the house. The airlines love it.

    This chair is really exactly the same as the Easy Cruiser Light with the exception of the front casters. The casters that came with my chair were flimsy and I replaced them with casters from an old manual chair and 8″ wheels. Looks like that has been fixed in the Easy Cruiser light.

    I cannot push myself in a manual chair so I would not consider the Rough Rider. I researched the TravelScoot when I was looking for a travel chair and found a number 0f things I did not like about it. I only has one wheel that is driven and the drive setup is very like what you would see on a kid’s scooter. The batteries are extremely expensive and the thing does not appear to be stable or something that it would be comfortable to sit on for any length of time.

    Wheelchairs are always a compromise. In my experience if you need a wheelchair to use in your house, that cannot be the wheelchair you use for any kind of off-pavement

    Last fall my wife and I took a three week trip to the west coast. When I realized the travel chair would be my only chair for 3 weeks I decided to modify it – I widened the seat so I could use a ROHO cushion. 15.25″ is too narrow. This was pretty easy I just put spacers on the arms and replaced the sling seat with a plastic molded base that I got from ROHO.

    I noticed that the Easy Light vendor is selling used (returned) chairs for the same price as the standard model. Of the chairs you listed I would likely chose this – the 12″ wheels and motors are better than the 8″ wheels on the standard model and the seat is already wider.

    I hope this is helpful. If you have any questions you have my email, feel free. I would be happy to answer anything or I could send you photographs of my chair and share more of my experiences with it.

    I have been following your blog and kudos. I like it.

    I would recommend getting a power chair – it makes a huge difference for me.

    Wish you the best,


    • Jennie Spotila says:

      This is very helpful Greg! I especially appreciate your points about modifying chairs. I have never looked at them as hackable objects, but you are right that this could be a solution. I’ll look into the model you recommend. Thank you so much for this very helpful input!

  6. No, I can’t help you with this, Jennie. I hope you get a good response that is helpful. 🙂 Keeping my fingers crossed for you.

  7. Karin says:

    I have spent much time thinking about the issues you discussed. I ended up getting a Whirlwind wheelchair. I love it, almost without reservation. My husband has dubbed it our MAV for mobile all-terrain vehicle. I too was getting really tired of being dumped out of the wheelchair every time I leaned forward or we hit a crack. As a mechanical engineer I was really impressed with the thought that went into the Whirlwind. I have now had mine for almost a year.

    Good: It can go almost anywhere. We take in on unpaved trails, over the lawn in the park, etc. It is comfortable to sit in. My “pushers” tell me it is easier to push than my old one (cheap transfer chair). Since it is made for self propulsion, I can turn myself around or move short distances on my own if I want. If I HAVE to go long distances on my own, I will get up and push since it is easier than rolling it myself. I really like the idea that it is designed from standard parts, rather than needing to special order replacements.

    Bad: The air-filled tires do deflate and I have finally gotten into the habit of checking them before I leave for trips and take a small hand pump with me. This is not to say that they need pumping daily or anything like that, just something to be aware of. It is bigger and heavier than my previous chair. If we put it in the right way, we can get it in the back of our Prius, so it is not terrible, but trying to get it in a trunk with luggage can be a trick. My husband has no trouble getting it into the back of a car, my daughter (grown) manages it regularly, but it is more of a strain for her. Also since these are designed primarily for people who push themselves, the handles are lower than the ones on my transfer chair. This has been a little tough on the back of my taller helpers, but my 6’2″ son pushed me around San Francisco without any complaints except needing to wear the bicycle gloves he brought with him.

    vs motorized: We spent a lot of time looking at motorized scooters thinking that would give me more independence. In the end, we decided that something we could just toss in the back of any vehicle would be more practical for me. We travel quite often getting rental cars or using relative’s cars. I don’t know what we would do if we had a scooter requiring a lift. I also don’t go out much on my own. If I do, I limit it to quick trips I can do my own walking or stores with their own scooters. There are certainly times I would like to not have to rely on asking someone to push, but on balance am happy with the decision we made. Obviously this decision is really very personal depending on abilities and lifestyle.

    Hope this helps.

    • Jennie Spotila says:

      Super helpful, Karin!! Like you, I think it’s really important to have a chair that I can put in the back of multiple cars. I just had a conversation with my Dad where he suggested getting a scooter and a lift for the car. And I pointed out that I want a chair that I can take to go to ball games with him! So being restricted to one car is not an option. Having a chair that can’t go on the airlines is also not an option. I don’t travel much at all (actually, I can’t remember when I was last on a plane – 2011 maybe? or 2009?) but air travel is the time I need a chair the most.

      Thanks for giving me the pros and cons of the Whirlwind. My husband is 6’4″ so push bar height is important! This whole thing is overwhelming because there is so much to think about. I appreciate your detailed input!

  8. Libby Boone says:

    I think that if you are already used to a chair, go for a chair rather than a travelscoot. You cannot relax and lean back on that one, nor does it handle tough terrain. The good thing about travelscoot is its light weight and portability.

    A person can go insane trying to make these choices and comparisons. I did find the perfect power chair on youtube at one time. It elevates, reclines, and has a very tight turning radius.

    Only problem was, it costs somewhere in the range of $15,000 and is marketed mainly for paraplegics. I think that insurance companies might help pay for that kind of chair if you can prove paralysis or if you have a condition such as dwarfism.

    Thanks for starting this blog. We all need references to various options as our needs change over time.

    • Jennie Spotila says:

      Yikes, $15k! This whole process is a series of tradeoffs. It’s very frustrating.

  9. Halit Akarca says:

    I’m looking for a foldable electric wheelchair for my mom, and came across to your website. I’m thinking to buy KDsmartchair, and I wonder whether you’ve decided on which wheelchair you’d get. It’s not a small amount to spend, so I really want to find people who’re actually using that (or a similar) wheelchair.
    I hope you’ll find the best chair for your needs and have an easier life.

    • Jennie Spotila says:

      I have not made a decision yet, Halit. But I will post about whatever I decide. I hope you find the right chair for your Mom!

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