man pushing a wheelchair

What’s the Best Manual Wheelchair? Our 5 Picks

Unlike their motorized counterparts, manual wheelchairs must be propelled by you – the user – or a companion. Many people prefer manual to electric wheelchairs for both temporary and long-term use. On reason is there’s no need to worry about drained batteries or dead motors. Also, because they have only a few working parts, manual wheelchairs tend to be more durable and reliable than motorized chairs.

With that said, not all manual chairs are made with the quality and safety you’d expect.

What’s the best wheelchair? We share our five picks.

ModelWeight CapacityWeightMore Information
Drive Medical Blue Streak
Drive Medical Blue Streak
up to 250 pounds41.2 pounds
buy now from Amazon
McKesson Standard Wheelchair
Drive Medical Fly Lite
up to 350 pounds40 pounds
buy now from Amazon
Drive Medical Viper Plus

Drive Medical Viper Plus
up to 300 pounds32 pounds
buy now from Amazon
Drive Medical Cruiser III

Drive Medical Cruiser III
up to 350 pounds36 pounds
buy now from Amazon
Medline Lightweight

Medline Lightweight wheelchair
up to 350 pounds36 pounds
buy now from Amazon

1. Drive Medical Blue Streak Wheelchair

Drive Medical Blue Streak Wheelchair with Flip Back Desk Arms
Drive Medical Blue Streak Wheelchair

Drive Medical’s Blue Streak is one of the best wheelchair models under $120. It may not come with all of the bells and whistles of higher-end wheelchairs, but it has everything you need to get around quickly, safely and comfortably.

Three sizes are available:

  • 16”
  • 18”
  • 20”

Swing-away footrests make it easy to get in and out of the chair, and the open 20” x 26” seat gives you plenty of room. Detachable desk arms give you customizable support, and the nylon seat is easy to clean.

The durable tires have a push-to-lock feature for added safety. Drive Medical also includes a calf strap as well as a storage pocket for convenience.

The design of this model is both user- and caregiver-friendly, which makes this a versatile wheelchair.

The two sides of the chair push together for easy portability and storage. Weighing just 41.2 pounds, this wheelchair is lightweight, foldable and can easily be taken wherever you go.

The only real complaint with this model is that the seat is rather thin. You may want to buy some wheelchair cushions if you plan to use this chair for long periods of time. Otherwise, it’s easy to operate, it’s sturdy, and it’s easy to operate.

If you’re on a tighter budget and need a durable, portable, sturdy wheelchair, Drive Medical’s Blue Streak is a great option.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Multiple size options
  • Push-to-lock feature for safety
  • Can be self-propelled
  • Folds up for easy storage and portability
  • Detachable desk arms and swing-away footrests

Cons

  • Thin seat (you may need a wheelchair cushion for comfort)

Click here to see pricing and availability for the Blue Streak on Amazon

2. McKesson Standard Wheelchair

McKesson Standard Wheelchair
McKesson Standard Wheelchair

McKesson’s standard wheelchair features a classic design with swing-away footrests, a 20” seat and a 350-lb weight limit.

The carbon steel frame adds to the durability of this chair, and the embossed vinyl upholstery is both aesthetically appealing and easy to clean.

The urethane tires are mounted onto composite wheels for a smoother ride over most surfaces. The 8” casters at the front of the chair are also adjustable in three positions.

Push-to-lock wheel brakes add to the safety of this chair, and the dual axle allows for easy transition to hemi-level seat height. The padded desk arms are also easy to remove and are positioned to fit comfortably at a desk or table.

The McKesson standard wheelchair is a great option for anyone who wants a comfortable seat, durable frame and a higher weight capacity.

Pros

  • High weight limit
  • Comfortable seat
  • Sleek and durable frame
  • Smooth ride over most surfaces
  • Push-to-lock wheel brakes
  • Padded, removable desk arms
  • Dual axle

Cons

  • No information on whether this model folds up

Click here for more information about the McKesson Wheelchair

3. Drive Medical Viper Plus

Drive Medical Viper Plus GT Wheelchair
Drive Medical Viper Plus GT Wheelchair

Drive Medical’s Viper Plus wheelchair is ultra-light (32 lbs.) and portable thanks to its aluminum frame. Heavy-gauge nylon upholstery adds comfort and durability. It’s also easy to clean, and includes hook-and-loop fastener straps.

The Viper Plus has seat rail extensions as well as extendable upholstery. This allows you to adjust the seat to your liking:

  • Seat depth can be adjusted from 16” to 18.”
  • Back height can be adjusted from 17” to 19” in 1” increments.
  • Back angle can be adjusted from 5-degrees to 20-degrees.

The dual axle allows for a wide range of seat-to-floor height options, and the over-center cross brace eliminates the need to have seat guides.

The Viper Plus has quick-release, 24” Mag-style wheels with precision wheel bearings for added durability and reliability. Urethane tires and caster wheels at the rear of the chair allow for a smoother ride and better performance.

For even more customization, the Viper Plus offers adjustable caster forks with three height adjustments. The swing-away footrests are adjustable as is the anti-tipper and the push-to-lock wheel locks.

With a maximum user weight of 300 lbs., the Viper Plus can accommodate most users with ease. And the customization features make this model ideal for people who want a truly custom fit.

Pros

  • Multiple adjustable features for a custom fit
  • Swing-away footrests and flip-up armrests
  • Dual axle
  • Comfortable, breathable nylon upholstery
  • Foldable for easy portability

Cons

  • No information on whether the wheelchair folds up for storage

Click here for more information about the Drive Medical Viper Wheelchair

4. Drive Medical Cruiser III

Drive Medical Cruiser III lightweight wheelchair
Drive Medical Cruiser III Lightweight Wheelchair

The Cruiser III from Drive Medical features a foldable carbon steel frame with a silver vein finish for a sleek look. Weighing less than 36 lbs., this chair is easy to take with you on the go.

This model comes in three sizes and styles:

  • 16,” 18,” and 20”
  • Flip Back Removable Adjustable Height Desk Arms/Elevating Leg Rests, Flip Back Removable Adjustable Height Desk Arms/Swing Away Leg Rests, and Flip Back Removable Full Arms/Swing away Footrests

We’re going to discuss the 20” chair with the flip back removable arms and swing-away footrests.

This model has built-in seat rail extensions as well as extendable upholstery that allows you to adjust the seat depth from 16” to 18.” The padded armrests add comfort, but can also be removed for convenience. The dual axle design allows for easy transition to hemi-level.

The Mag-style wheels are maintenance-free, and the 8” casters at the front of the chair can be adjusted in three positions. Sealed wheel bearings at the front and rear allow for added durability, and the push-to-lock wheel locks add to the safety of the chair.

The design of the frame eliminates the need for seat guides, and also allows for customized back inserts and accessories.

The Cruiser III is easy to fold up for storage or portability, and its durable design makes it a great option for most users. It’s difficult to find any information on weight limits, but many users say that it can support at least 300 lbs.

Pros

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Multiple style and size options
  • Adjustable features
  • Dual axle
  • Folds up for easy storage and portability

Cons

  • No reliable information on the wheelchair’s weight limit

Click here for more information on the Drive Medical Cruiser III

5. Medline Lightweight and User-Friendly Wheelchair

Medline Lightweight and User-Friendly Wheelchair
Medline Lightweight and User-Friendly Wheelchair

Medline’s lightweight wheelchair features comfortable (and easy to clean) nylon upholstery and a generous 18” wide seat. The chair is lightweight and has a 300 lb. weight capacity.

Removable, flip-back desk arms make it easy to sit at tables and desks, and to transfer to other seats. Elevating leg rests help alleviate pressure, prevent swelling and also improve the comfort of this chair – especially during long trips. The backrest and armrest are both adjustable for customized support and comfort.

The maintenance-free Mag-style wheels are smooth rolling and flat-free. An arm drive attachment allows for easy, independent movement. Medline’s chair also folds up easily for transport and storage.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable and easy to clean
  • Elevating leg rests
  • Maintenance-free wheels
  • Foldable for easy storage
  • High weight limit

Cons

  • Not many adjustable features

Click here for more information on the Medline Lightweight Wheelchair

These five manual wheelchairs are durable, easy to use and comfortable to sit in. Most are foldable for easy transport and portability. Many also have adjustable features that allow for a more customized fit. These models come in varying price ranges and options to suit your needs and your budget.

Best Transport Wheelchairs For Ease of Travel

If you are looking for a wheelchair that is easy to fold up and move around, then a manual one like the some of the ones above aren’t what you are looking for. There are plenty of lightweight or transport wheelchairs that are much easier to lug around with you while you are on the go. We have reviewed a few that we recommend here: TOP 3 LIGHTWEIGHT WHEELCHAIRS – LIGHT AND AFFORDABLE

About the author

Tim Brewer

Tim is a professional caregiver who has helped hundreds of seniors gain back their freedom and independence. He has been actively helping the senior community for 20+ years.

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