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What Is The Difference Between A Transport Chair And A Wheelchair ?

A transport chair is a light mobility device specially made to be pushed only from behind. A wheelchair on the other hand, can either be propelled forward by its user or pushed from behind by a caregiver or stranger – the large wheels that comes with the wheelchair makes it possible to be propelled forward while the user sits on it.  

Transport chairs and wheelchairs are usually grouped together when discussed. Nevertheless, there are some major differences between these two chairs that most individuals do not know yet. Both have almost the same designs and help in making life easier and better for those who need support from a mobility device. Research has shown that up to 30% of people in the world today use one of these chairs for support.  

One clear difference between a transport chair and a wheelchair is the size of their back wheels. In wheelchairs like the Medline K4 Lightweight, its rear wheels are much larger as it provides more independent mobility and allows the users to move themselves even without asking for help from a  caregiver or stranger. For those people who rely entirely on wheelchairs to meet their mobility needs, being able to move yourself from one place to another is the key to greater independence. 

Nevertheless, when it comes to transport chairs, the front smaller wheels makes the chair move more easily when it isn’t in use. For instance, it is a lot easier for a caregiver or a friend to pick up a transport chair and put it in a vehicle’s trunk.

Another key difference between a transport chair and a wheelchair is their weight differences. A standard wheelchairs typically weigh from 30 to 38 pounds while you will find that a transport chair is much lighter, weighing just 10 pounds or more. The weight difference between these two chairs make them move differently when and when not in use. A good example is the Electric Wheelchair and the Medline’s Ultralight Transport Chair. This particular transport chair is the lightest on the market as at today; it weighs just 15 pounds and this makes it very easy to fold up and easy to store and travel with.  

Both the transport chair and wheelchair are great options for providing a high level of convenience and mobility for both users and their caregivers.  Knowing the little differences between these two chairs and knowing what the caregiver and user want will play a huge role in helping one decide whether to purchase one or both chairs.  

The Key Differences Between A Transport Chair And A Wheelchair

The brief discussion above is enough as far as it goes, however, there are still some other crucial differences between transport chairs and wheelchairs which we are going to discuss in this section.   Let us begin by providing a broader answer to the earlier asked question “what is the difference between a transport chair and a wheelchair?”

Transport chairs are designed with two crucial things in mind. First, just like its name apply, it makes transportation easy. That implies that they are lighter and smaller than any regular wheelchair. They have a much smaller foldable footprint which makes it easy to fit them into the trunk of a car. And because they are light, they are so much easier to maneuver when compared to wheelchairs.

Don’t be deceived by their light weights. You can find as many different designs and sizes of transport chairs as you can find wheelchairs, including chairs like the pediatric and bariatric transport chairs. We shall look at the next set of differences by comparing their various features and components. 

Wheel Size Differences

The transport chair can be easily distinguished from a regular wheelchair by looking at the wheels of both chairs. Transport chairs have very little rear wheels that are almost impossible to reach by its user when sitting on it (and as a matter of fact, generally, the rear and front wheels of a transport chair seem to be of the same size). When it comes to a standard wheelchair, this matters a lot as gripping the rear wheel is the only way a user may propel the chair forward. Regular wheelchairs can be distinguished from a transport chair just by looking at it, thanks to their oversized rear wheels.

Braking Differences

Another important difference is tied to the fact that many (but not all) transport chairs are designed with brakes located at the handles on the back side of the chair, allowing the person  pushing it to use the brakes easily and when necessary. Generally, chairs that come with hand brakes navigate steep slopes more easily. However, the wheelchair is better when used for outdoor purposes.  

Handling Differences

In general, the transport chairs with their small wheels are less able to go through rough places. In other words, it doesn’t do well when used for outdoor motives. On the other hand, a standard wheelchair is specifically designed for outdoor purposes. However, with this in mind, the availability of handbrakes in most transport chair models does mean that they’re reasonably well suited to go through slopes, as long as the surface is flat (like a very hard packed earth or pavement).

Comfort Level

Neither transport chairs or wheelchairs were made with comfort in mind, but among these two wheeled chairs, the wheelchair is more comfortable, and thus, best suited for longer-duration sitting. Transport chairs on the other hand, are great for short trips with a duration of an hour or two. But more than this, it is going to get very uncomfortable, whereas a wheelchair with recline function and an extra padding function could provide a reasonable amount of comfort to its user, even if the person sitting on it were in it for half a day.  


In general, unlike transport chairs, standard wheelchairs has more to offer when it comes to adjustability and tuning. The ability to adjust a wheelchair allows the user to set the chair the way he or she wants for a better comfort level and convenience.  Although there are certain transport chairs that can be adjusted, both most designs can’t be adjusted. Unlike wheelchairs, most transport chairs can not be adjusted and this reduces the comfort level of both its user and caregiver. 


A very small number of transport chairs are made in a way that allows you to make a few adjustments and even transform them into rollators. We haven’t seen any wheelchair that can be transformed into rollators.  

With this in mind, few standard wheelchairs are designed with interchangeable rear wheels which allows them to be transformed into transport chairs within a very short period of time. 


As you must have learned, there are actually many differences between a transport chair and a wheelchair. In terms of which product is best for you, you can make some further research to know more about their different features and advantages. However, the best way to know which is best for you is by reading online reviews and feedbacks on both products. Also, you can seek advice from your doctor to know which is best for you. 

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