If you're getting ready to invest in your first electric wheelchair, it's important that you understand how the location of the drive wheels will affect the handling of the chair. This information will help you evaluate each of the options available to you in order to choose the best one for your lifestyle and needs.

Rear-Mounted Drive Wheels

Traditional electric wheelchairs have rear-mounted drive wheels. The rear-wheel drive is stable for most purposes, though you might risk tipping backward if you are rolling the chair up a steep incline. Also, these chairs are the ones that gave electric wheelchairs their reputation for having such a wide turning radius. They do have the largest turning radius of the wheelchair options. This is because the distance between the center of the drive wheel and the furthest point of the wheelchair (which would be the very front) is what represents the turning radius. Therefore, the further the distance between the drive wheels and the furthest edge of the chair, the larger the turning radius.

Center-Mounted Drive Wheels

Center-mounted drive wheels are just how they sound – they're secured to the center of the chair. This essentially places them directly beneath your body. You'll have the same general distance between the front of the chair and the drive wheels as you'll have between the rear of the chair and the drive wheels. This gives you a very short turning radius, which makes it easier to maneuver in tighter areas.

It's important to remember, though, that the center-mount drive wheels will actually limit the amount of power that the chair can build up, and it increases your risk of getting stuck on an obstruction in your path because there's no power to the front or rear wheels, which would need to get over the item.

Front-Mounted Drive Wheels

Wheelchairs with front-mounted drive wheels feature the wheels in the very front of the chair. This is ideal if you're going to be traveling over ground that's uneven or you'll be going up steep inclines. The front-mounted chairs also have a larger turning radius than the center-mounted varieties, so you'll have to be able to see behind you clearly in order to turn.

Understanding these different options will help you to narrow down which chair is the best fit for your situation. Consider the choices carefully, because a wheelchair investment is typically anticipated to be a long-term purchase. Get the right one the first time with these tips and the help of a handicapped equipment supply specialist, such as Alaska Mobility.