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The Best Lightweight Folding Wheelchair – Reviews and Buying Guide

best lightweight folding wheelchair

If and when the time comes for a mobility device, the last thing you want is a heavy, clunky wheelchair that is hard to push and travel with. Wheelchairs come in a shapes and sizes... and weights! There are many factors that affect the weight of a wheelchair. Some of these you can control but many you cannot. As someone who works with wheelchairs every day, I put together this buying guide of the best lightweight folding wheelchair reviews. After reading these reviews and comparisons, choosing the best lightweight wheelchair for you will be easy!

NOTE:  For the purpose of this guide, I am reviewing manual wheelchairs - the ones that you push by yourself. For lightweight folding electric wheelchair reviews, I have a separate article you will want to read.

What Makes a Wheelchair Heavy?

lady needs a lightweight folding wheelchair
  1. Material - The type of metal that a wheelchair is made from is a major part of the heaviness of a wheelchair. Most wheelchairs are made from steel and aluminum. Wheelchair manufacturers use different grades of these materials to make a lighter weight wheelchair. For example, they test different diameter tubes and thicknesses for wheelchairs. It all gets very complicated sometimes. Aluminum chairs tend to make wheelchairs that are lighter in weight. Sometimes though, making a chair lighter sacrifices some of the strength.
  2. Size - The size of a wheelchair makes a big difference in the weight. (It even affects the comfort too!) Most standard wheelchairs come in one of 3 widths: 16", 18" or 20". As a general rule, a 20" wide wheelchair will weigh more than an 18". So, an 18" wide wheelchair will also weigh more than a 16". Basically, the wider the wheelchair, more metal is needed to make it. To get the best lightweight wheelchair, measure across the hips of the user while seated on a firm surface like a dining room chair. Get the smallest width wheelchair that fits that hip measurement.
  3. Wheels - the size and type of wheels also help make up the weight of a wheelchair. For most standard wheelchairs, the buyer will not get a choice of wheel. You are kind of at the mercy of the manufacturer. In general, spoke wheels are lighter than mag wheels although recent improvements to composite plastics have narrowed that gap.
  4. Leg rests - the weight of the leg rests also matters if you are looking for a lightweight chair. Especially if you need the chair to be lighter for pushing it. However, most leg rests on wheelchairs are removable and are taken off when it comes time to lift them. Elevating leg rests are the heaviest style because they have more parts and support more weight. Many wheelchair manufacturers have switched over to plastic footplates which reduces the weight of their chairs.
  5. Cross brace - the cross brace is the x-shaped support piece under the wheelchair seat. This is the piece that moves when the wheelchair folds. It is the major support structure for the whole wheelchair. So, it is usually the heaviest part. Heavy duty and bariatric chairs use often use 2 of these which explains why they are heavier duty chairs.
  6. Arms - The style of arms also affects the weight of a wheelchair. Some arms have 2 or even 3 support posts which all add weight to the chair. Arms are another piece that is sometimes removable. Taking them off when lifting the chair will make it easier to lift. Some people even take them off while using a wheelchair too. It just depends if the user needs the arms to rest on or to help support their upper body.
  7. Upholstery - the type of upholstery on a wheelchair affects the overall weight of the wheelchair but to a lesser extent. We are probably talking a difference of ounces here. But, in general, nylon upholstery is lighter (an more durable!) than vinyl upholstery.
  8. Accessories - this may sound like common sense but people forget about this. Adding accessories adds weight to the wheelchair! Add-ons like oxygen tank holders and maybe even cupholders are important. However, I had a lady call me one time and said she couldn't push her chair because it was too heavy. When I went to her home to help her out, I found she had a backpack on each back cane that was full plus a purse hanging from the arm.

With most standard wheelchairs, the manufacturer makes most of these decisions. The best lightweight folding wheelchairs are ones that weigh less than 30 lbs with all accessories.

CAUTION! Be very careful when you read weight statistics for wheelchairs. Some wheelchair manufacturers play games with this number. Always read the fine print of the wheelchair specification used to determine the weight. I have seen weights reported that did not include any arms or footrests. Sometimes, the weight reported is a size of wheelchair that most people would not actually use, like a 14" wide chair.

scales for heavy weights

How to Buy a Wheelchair

Is buying a wheelchair is a new experience for you? Not really sure where to start? Jump over to my Definitive Buying Guide on How to Buy a Wheelchair Online. This article explains how to measure for a chair and what all of these terms and options mean.

​Lightweight Folding Wheelchair Comparison Chart

GOOD

BETTER

BEST

Honorable Mentions

drive medical lightweight folding wheelchair
karman healthcare lightweight folding manual wheelchair
karman healthcare lightweight folding wheelchair
medline ultra lightweight folding wheelchair
drive medical lightweight folding transport wheelchair

Brand / Model

Drive Medical Cruiser III

Karman 802-DY

Karman
LT-980

Medline Ultralight

Drive Medical ATC-19

Widths

16", 18", 20"

16" or 18"

18"

19"

19"

Weight (18" no legrests)

36 lbs

30 lbs

24 lbs

15 lbs

19 lb

Folded Width

12"

12"

12"

10"

9"

Weight Limit

300 lbs

250 lb

250 lb

300 lbs

300 lbs

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Lightweight Folding Wheelchair Reviews

Good: Drive Medical Cruiser III Folding Lightweight Wheelchair

drive medical lightweight folding manual wheelchair

My Rating:

Important features:

  • Weighs between 36 and 40 lbs depending on size and options
  • Self-propelled wheelchair or can be pushed by caregiver
  • Folds easily into a 12" wide package
  • Tool-free leg rest adjustments
  • Fully Assembled
  • Color: Black
  • 300 lb weight capacity
  • Check Price and Availability at:  Walmart or Amazon

For a budget option, the Drive Medical Cruiser III offers a lot. It is one of the lightest weight folding wheelchairs in the $100 price category. For example, an 18" wide chair weighs only 36 lb (without footrests). Available seat widths are 16", 18" and 20" to accommodate a wide range of users. Other options are your choice of footrests: standard swing away or elevating style. The chair folds with or without the footrests being removed and is only 12 " wide when folded. This makes it easy to take with you and will fit in most vehicle trunks.


Better: Karman Healthcare 802 Series Lightweight Folding Wheelchairs

Karman lightweight folding wheelchair

My Rating:

Important features:

  • Weighs around 30 lbs depending on size and configuration
  • Wheelchair can be propelled by user or caregiver
  • Folds up into a narrow 12" footprint
  • Arms flip back, back folds down, and leg rests are detachable
  • Color: Black
  • Weight Capacity: 300 lbs
  • Check Price and Availability at: Walmart or Amazon

The Karman 802 series is one of the more lightweight options - especially in the sub $200 wheelchair market. Like most of the wheelchairs, I have reviewed here, it folds up easily in a neat, clean package that is easy to load. It will also fit in nearly any trunk or vehicle. Reviews of the product are mixed on the internet. However, I have seen, touched, and felt this wheelchair in person and it seems to be solidly built. But, it isn't for everyone. It has a weight capacity of 250 lbs and really should only be used by the average sized person under 225 lbs.


Best: Karman LT-980 Ultra Lightweight Folding Wheelchairs

karman lt-980 ultra lightweight folding wheelchair

My Rating:

Important features:

  • Weighs only 24 lb without footrests / 27 lb with footrests
  • ​Can be self-propelled or pushed by caregiver
  • Only available in 18" W x 16" D
  • Arms flip back, back folds down, and leg rests are swing away and detachable
  • Elevating leg rests are available
  • Adjustable seat to floor height
  • Colors: Black, Burgundy, or Silver 
  • Weight Capacity 250 lbs
  • Check Price and Availability at: Walmart or Amazon

At a weight of only 24 lbs, this chair is the best lightweight folding wheelchair for people who have difficulty propelling a chair or loading one into a car. It folds into a tight, neat package - even the back folds down to make it smaller. Easily fits into most car trunks. The seat to floor height is even adjustable for someone who needs to push a chair with their feet or for shorter people who have trouble getting in and out of a wheelchair. It comes in several color choices and is also available with elevating legrests. A drawback to this chair though is that it is only available in 18" W X 16" D seat size. While this will fit the majority of users, heavier or taller people may not fit in it very well.


A Few Honorable Mentions Worth Considering

Medline Ultralight Folding Transport Chair -  only 15 lbs

Medline ultra lightweight folding transport wheelchair

My Rating:

Important features:

  • Weighs just 15 lbs!
  • Cannot be self-propelled. Must be pushed by caregivers
  • Swingaway legrests
  • Easily folds into a small package 
  • Includes a cupholder and seatbelt
  • Colors: Black, Blue, Silver, Red
  • Weight Capacity 300 lbs
  • Check Price and Availability at: Walmart or Amazon 

If you need a super lightweight folding wheelchair for getting back and forth to doctor or shopping trips, this is the one. It is extremely light weight at only 15 lbs. It folds up into a an easy to transport package - even the back folds down and the leg rests flip back for east storage. Medline even included a cup holder and seatbelt which are extras on most chairs. Keep in mind, though, this is a transport chair which means the user must be pushed. It has small wheels only - no big wheel in the back for the user to self-propel. Also, because of the small wheels, it will not do very well on rough terrain like gravel driveways or yards that are not smooth.


Drive Medical Aluminum Transport Chair

drive medical lightweight folding transport wheelchair

My Rating:

Important features:

  • Weighs 19 lb
  • Folds up easily and simple to transport
  • Back folds down 
  • Includes lightweight upholstery and seatbelt
  • Colors: Red, Blue, Black, Silver
  • Weight Capacity: 300 lbs
  • Check Price and Availability at: Walmart or Amazon

This lightweight transport wheelchair from Drive Medical is a great choice for the budget shoppers. You can usually buy one for $100.00 or less. With a total weight of 19 lbs and an easy folding mechanism, you will be able to take it about anywhere. Note that Drive makes several models of transport chairs so if you want a lightweight version, choose one made from aluminum rather than steel.


Frequently Asked Questions

Which wheelchairs are the lightest?

How much do lightweight wheelchairs weigh?

What are lightweight wheelchairs made of?


Finding the Best Lightweight Folding Wheelchair

I really hope this article has helped you find the best lightweight folding wheelchair for you and your needs. If you have any questions or other suggestions, please leave them in the comment section below and I'll get right back to you!

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