Tracer IV is a well-designed, ruggedized, high weight capacity manual wheelchair that won’t win any beauty contests, but is incredibly functional.
Recommended For: Anyone weighing 350-450 pounds. If you’re struggling to find a wheelchair that can properly support you, this one belongs on your shortlist.
*Note regarding Brand Reliability: This metric is a measure of the strength and longevity of the brand, which by extension, is a measure of the level of support you can expect.
Are you a bigger, taller, heavier individual? Are you in search of a wheelchair sturdy enough to properly support you a frustrating one? If you answered yes to the questions above, and especially if you’re on a budget, then you’re going to love what you read here in our Invacare Tracer IV review.
Invacare is one of the bigger players in the mobility industry. The company is well-respected in the industry with decades of experience building high-quality wheelchairs generally offered at surprisingly modest prices. Invacare Tracer wheelchairs stand as excellent examples of their work.
The question is, though, whether or not the Tracer wheelchair is right for you.
By the time you reach the end of this review, you’ll be able to answer that question definitively. In the sections that follow, we’ll walk you through everything this model has to offer, and we won’t be bashful about describing its limitations. If that sounds good to you, let’s take a closer look!
An Overview of the Invacare Tracer 4 Heavy Duty Wheelchair
We’ll start this section of our Invacare Tracer IV review by saying that the model doesn’t make the best first impression. Few wheelchairs on the market today can be described as stylish or attractive. It’s clear by looking at Tracer 4 that the design team responsible for its creation spent most of their time and effort on function and paid little attention to form.
That’s not to say that it’s an ugly chair, but it certainly won’t win any beauty contests. It’s functional. It looks like it has a job to do, and it’s ready to be about it. The one nod to style that the chair’s designers saw fit to add were mag wheels. They look good on the black, silver, and grey chair, but by themselves, aren’t enough to make it a stylish model.
Before we can say much beyond simple aesthetics, it’s important to look more closely at the raw numbers that define the model. Here’s a quick overview:
- Overall Product Dimensions: 28.25” – 32.25” W x 35.875” H x 33.5” D (folds to just 13.25” W)
- Seat Dimensions: Available in the following configurations:
- 20” W x 18” D
- 22” W x 18” D
- 24” W x 18” D
- Seat to Floor Height: (Dual Axel, 17.5” or 19.5”)
- Wheel Size: 24” Rear, 8” casters
- Seatback Height: 16”
- Leg Rests: Swing away (with heel loops and composite footrests) – Elevating footrests with calf pads may be purchased separately)
- Armrests: Desk Length or Full Length available
- Chair Weight: 48 -52 pounds
- Maximum Supported Weight: 350 pounds (if the 24” seat width is selected, the maximum supported weight increases to 450 pounds)
These are categorically good numbers. The only caveat lies in the fact that if you opt for the widest seat option available in order to gain the increased supported weight limit, the chair will be slightly too wide to fit through a standard-width doorway.
This is not at all unexpected and is an unavoidable side effect of the design itself. Each time you increase the width of the seat, by definition, you increase the overall width of the chair itself. It simply can’t be helped. The good news is that people who need wider seats in order to properly support them are already well accustomed to dealing with the associated challenges and have likely already had their doorways widened to accommodate.
Note too that this is an incredibly customizable chair. If you decide you want one, you can choose not only the armrest style. If you’d prefer elevating, padded leg rests, you can order those separately as well.
That, paired with the fact that the base model of the Tracer wheelchair is delightfully inexpensive, is a powerful combination that’s very hard to beat.
Adjustability and Comfort
In our view, this is the strongest section of our Invacare Tracer 4 review as it showcases the best features of the chair. The sheer number of customization options at the point of sale that we talked about in the previous section has to be counted in the chair’s favor when it comes to adjustability.
It’s true that you have to think carefully about what you want from your wheelchair and how you plan to use it before making a purchase. If you take the time to do that, you can get a chair that works exactly how you want and need it to, and that’s awesome.
If you’re considering a wheelchair that will allow you to roll up to your computer desk to do some work or enjoy a family dinner without having to transfer out of the wheelchair and into some other type of chair, then desk-length arms are the best choice for you.
On the other hand, full-length arms will be a better fit if you don’t mind transferring from one chair to another to do work or take meals, and you want a chair that’s optimized for longer periods of sitting.
In a similar vein, the default leg rests are fine for many users. If you’re planning to spend extended periods in the chair each day, then elevated, padded leg rests are a good investment that will make the chair more comfortable. All that to say, there’s actually quite a lot to think about before you even press the purchase button!
Once you actually get the chair, you’ll be able to take advantage of the dual axel design, which allows you to set the seat height to either 17.5” or 19.5” depending on which provides the best and most comfortable fit for you.
In terms of comfort, the Invacare Tracer wheelchair doesn’t fare well. The chair does offer a nominal amount of padding beneath vinyl upholstery. There’s enough padding to make the chair reasonably comfortable for shorter seating periods. If you plan on using the chair for extended periods, though, both the modest padding and the company’s choice of upholstery will be problematic.
Vinyl is easy to clean and care for, but it’s just not a breathable material. The more time you spend in it, the hotter and sweatier you’re going to get.
The good news is that there’s an easy fix for both the padding and the upholstery issues. There are a vast number of seat and seatback pads sold by third-party vendors, so it’s easy to add padding to the chair to whatever comfort level you desire. Even better, most people will have the funds to do so since this is a modestly priced model. At the end of the day, then, the chair is as comfortable as you’d like it to be.
Extras and Options
This is another area of our Tracer IV review where this chair shines. At a glance, you wouldn’t think so since the base model has no extras on offer, but Invacare takes good care of its customers in another way.
Not only does the company offer a wide range of accessories for the chair, they even offer a variety of Invacare Tracer IV replacement parts.
The implications of this are enormous. The frame itself is covered by a five-year warranty, but all the other parts are only under warranty for thirteen months. The odds are good that something, somewhere, will break down before the frame itself is ready for retirement.
When that happens with most chairs, you have little choice but to retire the whole chair and buy something new. Here though, with so many Tracer 4 wheelchair parts available, it’s usually a simple matter to take the part off of the chair that’s broken, order a replacement, and get more life out of the chair as a whole.
That can save you a ton of money over time. It gets even better because although the frame is under a five-year warranty, with proper care and regular maintenance, it’s very likely you can get significantly more use out of it than that, which further increases its value.
So what kind of Tracer wheelchair parts can you order? Anything from anti-tippers to replacement arm and leg rests, safety belts, seat cushions, and the like. In addition to that, of course, there’s always the aftermarket, which offers virtually unlimited customization options.
The Tracer IV is a blank slate and priced attractively enough that you’ll have money left over to customize it to be exactly the chair you want and need it to be.
Portability & Ease of Use
While the previous two sections have put the Invacare heavy duty wheelchair’s strongest points on display, this section is a relatively weaker part of our review. Naturally, the bigger a chair gets, the less portable it becomes. With seat width options extending to 24” wide, this model can be a bit of a beast.
On the other hand, even with a reinforced frame, the Tracer IV is not impossibly heavy. Even in its largest configuration, it weighs in at less than sixty pounds (52, to be exact). When you also fold the chair for transport, it collapses down to just 13” wide, giving it a footprint small enough that it can be stowed in the trunk space of most mid-sized sedans.
Naturally, if you have a truck, van, or SUV, storage is even easier, though fifty-two pounds is nothing to sneeze at. Depending on how much upper body strength you have, you may need a bit of help loading and unloading it.
In terms of ease of use, the Tracer IV bariatric wheelchair fares better. Although it’s a bit bigger and weighs more, it works like every other manual wheelchair on the market today. So with a few minutes to get used to handling its larger size, you’ll be well on your way to mastering its use.
Pros & Cons of Tracer 4 Wheelchair
We like almost everything about the Invacare Tracer IV heavy duty/extra wide wheelchair. The few things you could quibble about, including its relative lack of padding and lack of built-in extras, are conscious design decisions to keep the price of the chair low.
This makes it a blank slate and leaves you plenty of money left over to customize and personalize the chair to your heart’s content.
While the base model may not be perfect for you, with a bit of tweaking and customizing, you can end up with exactly the chair you want. We especially love the modular approach the company has taken, which dramatically extends the chair’s useful life.
That’s exceptional design!
Invacare Tracer IV Review Conclusion
Having spent most of this Invacare Tracer IV review singing praises for the model, we’re going to end on a somewhat surprising note and only give the chair a provisional recommendation.
We love it, and if you decide to get one, we think you will too. Having said that, unless you weigh more than 300 pounds, you’ll probably find some other model you like better that either offers more of what you want right out the gate or looks better.
Our view is that Tracer IV is largely self-selecting. If you’re bigger, taller, or heavier, it’s the gold standard you should compare most other bariatric chairs against. If you’re not, it won’t be difficult to find a model that will work better for you. If you do get one of these, we think you’ll be impressed with it.
You May Also Want to Consider
There are more heavy-duty and bariatric wheelchairs on the market than you might first think. If this model isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, here are a few comparable alternatives to consider:
First, there’s the Everest and Jennings Traveler HD. This model is nominally less expensive, better looking, and supports slightly more weight (500 pounds vs. 450).
If you’re looking for something capable of supporting even more weight, you may want to consider the Invacare 9000. It supports an impressive 700 pounds of user weight. It should be noted, however, that this chair is dramatically more expensive than either the Tracer IV or the Traveler HD. You can find it here:
Finally, and moving in the opposite direction, there’s the Healthline Heavy Duty, found here:
We’ll be the first to admit that this chair isn’t much to look at, but it has the advantage of being even less expensive than the Tracer IV, while maintaining all its features and supporting the same amount of user weight. Any of these would serve you well.
References & Resources:
- Invacare, Official Brand Website.
- Wheelchairs and Seating Systems, clinicalgate.com.
- Wheelchair Cushion, Wikipedia.
- The Importance of Correct Wheelchair Seat Depth, United Spinal Association.
- Wheelchair Configuration For the Client’s Physical Attributes and Functionality, NSW.