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Transport Chair Vs Wheelchair: What Is the difference?

Transport Chair Vs Wheelchair: What Is the difference?
Sailaxmi Chennuru

Nearly 6.8 million Americans depend on mobility aids like wheelchairs and transport chairs. These mobility devices are often used by older adults and those dealing with debilitating health conditions like arthritis, stroke, and spinal problems, to name a few. For first-time users, choosing between a wheelchair and a transport chair can be overwhelming because they both look similar and perform similar functions. However, both are distinct types and have many key differences.

What is a Wheelchair?

A wheelchair is a mobility device designed for people who cannot walk or have difficulty walking unassisted. For those with adequate upper body strength, a self-propelled wheelchair can be a great way to lead an independent and active life. Wheelchairs can be used easily indoors and out and provide a long-term mobility solution.

Types of Wheelchairs 

When shopping for a wheelchair, a good thing to know is that there are many different types available. They are designed with different features to fit specific needs. Think about what will be most important for you or your loved one when deciding which is best. Different types of wheelchairs include - 

What is a transport chair?

Transport chairs are typically lightweight, compact, and foldable. Unlike wheelchairs, they are not self-propelled and must be pushed by a companion or a caregiver. Transport chairs are often used for short distances, such as moving patients in the hospital, or for vacations, outings, and other outdoor activities.

A transport wheelchair is an ideal mobility aid when

  • Physical or cognitive limitations prevent maneuvering a standard wheelchair. Temporary mobility assistance is required for a short period after surgery or illness.
  • Occasional mobility assistance is needed.
  • Maneuvering through narrow doors and hallways.

Transport Chair Vs. Wheelchair

Both wheelchairs and transport chairs can help individuals with mobility issues live a more active and fulfilling lifestyle. But the big question is which one will best meet your needs. Let’s take a look at the differences.

1. Wheel size

One of the most noticeable differences between the two is wheel size. A manual wheelchair has four wheels; two large rear wheels and two small front wheels. The rear wheels range between 18 to 24 inches and are fitted with a rotating handrail that allows the users to propel themselves forward and steer. 

Transport chairs have four small wheels which are more or less similar in size. The rear wheels range between 8 and 12 inches that cannot be reached by the user and need someone to push the chair from behind to move. Smaller wheels allow for greater maneuverability. Both wheelchairs and transport chairs are available in indoor and outdoor models.

2. Propulsion 

Another big difference between wheelchairs and transport chairs is the ability to self-propel. Wheelchairs are designed for self-propulsion, which allows independence. They also have handlebars at the back of the chair, which enable a caregiver to push the wheelchair.

HPFY’s choice: Invacare IVC 9000 SL Lightweight Wheelchair is affordable and durable and can be used manually by the patient or caregiver.

Invacare IVC 9000 SL Lightweight Wheelchair



3. Weight 

Standard wheelchairs are made of durable steel and weigh more than transport wheelchairs, usually between 20 and 60 pounds.

Transport chairs weigh between 15 and 20 pounds making them easy to be pushed from behind another person. 

HPFY’s choice: Drive Fly-Lite Transport Chair has a lightweight yet strong aluminum frame and weighs only 16.2 lbs without footrests, making it easy to fold up and ideal for travel and storage.

Drive Fly-Lite Aluminum Transport Chair



4. Braking system 

A standard wheelchair has brakes at the top of each rear wheel and locks easily by pushing down on them. 

There are also brakes on the handles at the back of the chair for caregivers to easily apply when needed and when maneuvering slopes or uneven terrains. Some models also offer foot-controlled brakes. 

5. Accessories 

Standard wheelchairs have the option of attaching a wide array of accessories such as cup holders, tray tables, storage pouches, phone holders, and attachments for oxygen tanks.

Transport chairs are meant for short-term use and usually are not equipped with accessories.

6. Wheelchair dimensions

The total width of a standard wheelchair is between  25 to 36 inches. Transport chairs are narrower. Their smaller wheels allow them to move smoothly through tight spaces.

7. Comfort 

Since standard wheelchairs are meant for long-term use, they have various options to optimize user comfort. They have much more comfortable seats, footrests, and padded handles.

Transport chairs are designed for travel rather than comfort. They are lightweight and compact to easily fold and fit into the backseat or trunk of a car. Transport wheelchairs do not come with as many options as standard wheelchairs. The seat and the backrest are made of fabric and do not have padding. Therefore, transport chairs are not ideal for long-term use.

The table below summarizes the differences between wheelchairs and transport chairs.

Transport Chair
Short-term or for short trips
Heavy-duty construction for durability and stability
Lightweight and compact design for travel and easy storage
Self-propelling or with help
Requires help from another person to push the chair from behind
Many varieties of narrow and wide models
Narrow chairs that fit in most doorways
Two small front wheels and two larger rear wheels fitted with rotating handrails
Four small wheels
Trays, cup holders, storage bags, oxygen attachments, etc.
Limited choice of accessories, narrower frames for easy maneuverability
Ergonomic backrest, padded seats, and handles
Fabric seat and padded handles, not recommended for all-day use
Outdoor use
Wider choice of models suitable for all terrains
Smooth and paved outdoor surfaces, better for indoor use


Both wheelchairs and transport chairs offer much-needed mobility and convenience for those with reduced mobility and their caregivers. Knowing the differences between the two can help you to make better buying decisions.

Health Products For You carries a vast selection of high-quality wheelchairs and transport chairs from top manufacturers. We also have a huge collection of accessories, like wheelchair cushions, for enhanced user comfort. Explore our catalog and choose the right mobility aids that best serve your needs.


Disclaimer: All content found on our website, including images, videos, infographics, and text were created solely for informational purposes. Our reviewed content should never be used for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment of any medical conditions. Content shared on our websites is not meant to be used as a substitute for advice from a certified medical professional. Reliance on the information provided on our website as a basis for patient treatment is solely at your own risk. We urge all our customers to always consult a physician or a certified medical professional before trying or using a new medical product.

HPFY Sailaxmi Chennuru

Sailaxmi Chennuru

Sailaxmi Chennuru, has been a Health Products For You contributor since 2017. A business management graduate, the study of anatomy has always been of interest to her.

After working as a medical transcriptionist for several years, she developed a keen interest ...

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