Powerchairs and scooters - what's the difference?

Written by
Helen West

There are more mobility devices on the market than ever before, which is great news for those who need a little extra help getting around.

Yet with so many options, it can be difficult to know how to choose the right mobility aid for you.

Powerchairs and scooters are both designed to help individuals with reduced mobility get from A to B, but there are some key differences between the two.

Read on to find out more about powerchairs and scooters, and learn which is best suited to your needs.

What are powerchairs?

Power Chairs are also known as power wheelchairs or electric wheelchairs. These battery-powered chairs are usually used by individuals with fairly serious mobility issues, who need help moving about most or all of the time.

Image of a Middletons powerchair


Many powerchairs are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, but unlike scooters, powerchairs are specially designed for ease of use inside. Powerchairs have individual motors on each wheel, which creates a tighter turning circle. This makes them easy to manoeuvre, even in tight or narrow spaces. They also offer more stability than scooters, and are a great way to regain your independence within your own home.

Powerchairs are also incredible easy to control, even for those with very limited mobility. They are operated using a joystick rather than handlebars. Joysticks are more sensitive, can be operated with one hand, and do not require as much strength to use as the handlebars on a scooter. Designed to be compact, powerchairs allow you to control everything without having to strain or sit forward in an uncomfortable position.

Image of a Middletons powerchair

What about scooters?

Scooters are usually used by people who are still relatively mobile and can get around independently, but find walking for long periods of time difficult.

Image of Middletons Chase electric road mobility scooter

There are many different types, including clever folding scooters designed for transport and larger road scooters with a higher top speed. They also come in a range of different sizes so there really is a scooter for everyone. You can find out more about the different categories of scooter here.

Mobility scooters tend to be really easy to use. They are directed using handlebars, which are more straightforward than joysticks. However, they do require some degree of upper arm strength and balance to operate.

Close up image of handlebars on a Middletons Chase electric road mobility scooter

Scooter also have wider turning circles than powerchairs. They are less suited for indoor use as they can be more difficult to manoeuvre in tight spaces, but they can tackle a wide variety of different terrains that you may struggle with on foot.

What’s the verdict?

A powerchair or mobility scooter could help you reclaim your independence and move around without relying on another person. Powerchairs are best suited to individuals with more limited mobility and who need assistance within the home as well as outdoors. Scooters are ideal for people who can still move around independently, but find walking for long periods of time a challenge.

If you would like more advice on how to choose a product to suit your needs, why not give us a call or pop in and see us in one of our showrooms? Our friendly staff are always happy to offer advice and help you choose the scooter or powerchair that best suits your needs.

Read more: Things to consider before buying a mobility scooter

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