Folding vs non-folding wheelchairs: what’s best for you?

Author: Nicholas Sutedja   Date Posted:24 March 2022 

Folding vs non-folding wheelchairs: what’s best for you? main image Folding vs non-folding wheelchairs: what’s best for you? image

Whether you’re new to wheelchairs, or simply looking for a new wheelchair, you might be wondering which is right for you. There are lots of different options available on the market — powered wheelchairs, manual wheelchairs, folding wheelchairs, non-folding wheelchairs, mobility scooters and gophers… the list goes on! (Check out our article here that compares Power Wheelchairs vs Mobility Scooters)

When it comes to folding vs non-folding wheelchairs, there are a few elements you’ll need to consider. For example, you will need to think about your travel requirements, how often you travel, whether the chair will fit into your car, whether a friend or carer will be pushing the chair, and so on. 

We want to help make the decision simpler. In this article, we compare folding and non-folding wheelchairs so you have a better understanding of what you’re buying and how it benefits you.

Comparing folding and non-folding wheelchairs

Folding Vs Non-Folding Wheelchairs

When comparing folding and non-folding wheelchairs, it’s important to understand how they differ on a base level. Folding wheelchairs have an “X” frame that folds from side to side and when fully folded, they stand quite tall. Despite being referred to as “non-folding”, non-folding wheelchairs can still have components that can be collapsed or disassembled for storage or transportation. It’s just not quite as well as a folding wheelchair. Rather than folding tall and narrow, non-folding wheelchairs fold into more of a box that takes up more room in storage or while travelling. 

When collapsed, folding wheelchairs are easier to store away when not in use and some will fit comfortably into a car boot. This makes them a better option for those who like to travel, or only those who only use their wheelchair sporadically. Typically, the features of folding power wheelchairs benefit caregivers rather than the user as their folding nature can make seating and controls less comfortable to the person in the chair. 

Non-folding wheelchairs, however, are more solid compared to folding wheelchairs. They are typically heavier but can travel further due to larger capacity batteries. Folding wheelchairs also tend to flex when the user propels the chair — as the frame flexes, part of the effort the user puts into propelling the wheelchair is actually exerted on flexing the frame.

This is not a problem with a non-folding wheelchair. With less moving parts, the lifespan of non-folding wheelchairs tends to be longer. When it comes to user comfort, non-folding wheelchairs typically have an advantage with better seating options and wheel positions.

Who is best suited to a folding wheelchair?

Generally speaking, folding wheelchairs are best suited to those who love to travel and need a flexible wheelchair that can fold down easily. Almost all folding wheelchairs can easily fit into the backseat or boot of a regular car, and they are very easy to fold away on trains and other forms of public transport (where necessary).

Folding wheelchairs can also be a great second wheelchair if you normally use a non-folding power wheelchair, or mobility scooter. When your usual wheelchair isn’t convenient, you can bring your folding wheelchair out of storage to give you more flexibility while travelling, or even just completing everyday tasks. 

Here are some recommendations based on the folding wheelchairs we have in stock: 

  • Glide Series 4 — This wheelchair features a durable, versatile and lightweight aluminium frame. Its unique folding mechanism has superior strength and forms the core of its modular frame.
  • Jovy Carbon Wheelchair — Weighing at only 15kg without the batteries (25kg with batteries) the Jovy features a simple one catch folding mechanism. It is the lightest folding power wheelchair in our range.
  • Karma Ergo Lite Deluxe Self Propelling Wheelchair — With swing-away arms and footrests, extra cushioning to promote pressure relief and weighing just 10.3kg, this wheelchair is perfect for travelling.

Who is best suited to a non-folding wheelchair?

If you’re not so worried about travelling and have a good amount of arm strength to propel yourself forward, then a non-folding wheelchair will serve you well.

Non-folding wheelchairs are much sturdier and more responsive than lightweight wheelchairs, making them a good all-rounder for everyday use. Because they don’t have a large folding mechanism and lots of moving parts, non-folding wheelchairs are actually quite light and durable.

Because non-folding wheelchairs are quite rigid and designed for everyday use, you’ll find that non-folding wheelchairs use higher performance materials than folding ones. Often, non-folding wheelchairs are made of high-grade aluminium and sometimes carbon fibre and titanium. 

Here are some recommendations based on the non-folding wheelchairs we have in stock: 

  • Pride Jazzy 623 — Designed for the most active user, this wheelchair features 4-pole motors, mid-wheel 6 drive design and ATX suspension.
  • Pride R40 Fusion —  This rear-wheel-drive wheelchair delivers aggressive, terrain-gripping torque and an innovative, compact design that makes it highly manoeuvrable in tight spaces.
  • Cougar 10 with Power Tilt — This impressive power wheelchair provides smooth operation with its mid-wheel drive and powerful motors. It's ideal for both inside and outside use and can travel long distances between charges.

Find the right wheelchair for your needs at Active Mobility Systems

Still feeling a little unsure about the right wheelchair for you? A good place to start is by talking to your occupational therapist about your requirements, abilities and the right mobility aids to help you gain or maintain your independence. Then, get in touch with Active Mobility Systems! We work with occupational therapists on a regular basis and we can help find you a wheelchair that gives you confidence, independence and everyday comfort. 

We have a wide range of folding and non-folding wheelchairs in stock at all times — shop online or book an appointment to visit our showroom and see your new wheelchair in person. Our team would be more than happy to pair you with a wheelchair that you can rely on each and every day.