Affordability
Durability
Maneuverability
Brand Reliability*
Usability

Summary

The VIP 515 is, hands down, the best reclining wheelchair Karman makes.
Recommended For: Anyone in the market for a reclining wheelchair. If you can afford it. And if you don’t weigh more than 250 pounds.

4.4

*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.

Do you have a mobility issue that sees you spending at least a portion of each day in a wheelchair? Are you in the market for a reclining wheelchair?

How about a reclining wheelchair that’s light enough to be convenient when traveling?

If you’re interested in reclining wheelchairs, you already know that finding a good one that’s also lightweight is a bit like searching for Bigfoot or a unicorn. You hear lots of stories, but when you start investigating them, you can never seem to find any definitive proof that they exist.

If you’ve felt that particular frustration, then you’re going to love this Karman VIP 515 review. Spoiler alert: They exist, and this chair fits that bill. It’s an amazing reclining wheelchair, and it’s astonishingly light, to boot.

Are you intrigued? If so, read on. In the following sections, we’ll give you full details on this model, the good, the bad, and the ugly, so you’ll have all the information you need to decide for yourself if this is the unicorn you’ve been chasing.

An Overview of the Karman Healthcare VIP 515 Reclining Wheelchair

The first thing you’ll notice about the 515 when you initially see it is that it’s not a huge chair as reclining wheelchairs go. And it’s pretty sharp-looking, too.

It would be overselling it to say that the chair is gorgeous; we’ve actually never seen a gorgeous wheelchair (talk about a unicorn!). It is surprisingly pleasing to the eye, and in the world of wheelchairs, that’s pretty good. The silver and black used in the chair’s construction and upholstery present a nice contrast. It’s handsome. Understated.

The Karman Healthcare VIP 515 with one armrest flipped-up

We like it, and we think you will too.

Before we talk about anything beyond aesthetics in this section of our Karman VIP 515 review, let’s take just a moment to review the core stats of this model. Here they are:

  • Overall Product Dimensions: 26” (W) x 44” (D) x 54” (H)
  • Seat Dimensions: 18” (W) x 17” (D)
  • Chair Weight: 38 pounds
  • Maximum Supported Weight: 250 pounds

Most of these numbers are good, and many of them are about what you’d expect from a reclining wheelchair.

They’re taller than other wheelchairs as a function of what they do and what they’re for, but note the width of this model. It’s narrow enough to fit through a standard-width doorway with relative ease.

That’s a good thing, but do watch your knuckles as there’s not a lot of room to spare!

The  Karma VIP 515 wheelchair with reclined seat and elevated leg rests

Another interesting statistic here is that the length (depth) of the chair doesn’t really change all that much when it is reclined. Most reclining wheelchairs get significantly longer when you recline back in them. We’ll have more to say about that in the next section. For the moment, it’s enough to simply draw your attention to it.

The seat dimensions are pretty standard. Note that the company doesn’t offer any options on this front. What you see is what you get, so be sure to measure yourself before committing to the purchase of this chair to make sure it’ll be a comfortable fit.

The two big items to talk about here, though, are the chair weight and the maximum supported weight.

The Karman Healthcare VIP 515 weighs in at just 38 pounds, which is ridiculously light for a chair of this type. Most of the reclining wheelchairs on the market weigh something close to double that, so how did Karman pull off this magic trick?

The answer lies in the construction of the frame of the wheelchair. It’s tubed aircraft aluminum, which means it’s incredibly strong and surprisingly light, and that works very much in your favor.

Unfortunately, this approach has a downside. That downside takes the form of the modest maximum supported user weight.

Most of the chairs on the market today support 300 pounds or more. This model, and in fact, a fair number of Karman’s other chairs, falls well short of that mark.

Naturally, if you weigh 250 pounds or less, this isn’t an issue at all. If you happen to weigh more, though, then no matter how impressed you are with this model, it’s just not going to work for you.

Make no mistake, with a 250-pound supported weight limit; the chair is still useful for some 80-85% of the market. If this model supported up to 300-pounds, that number would rise to 95%, which makes the 515 a somewhat narrowly targeted chair. It just isn’t a viable option for a significant segment of the market, and that’s too bad because it is amazing. In the next section, we’ll talk about exactly why that is.

Adjustability and Comfort

There are a total of three adjustable features to talk about here. First, the Karman Healthcare VIP-515-tp-16 wheelchair is a Hemi-height chair, so you can adjust the seat height from its default position at 20” from the ground to as low as 17.5” if you wish.

The VIP 515 Reclining wheelchair facing to the right side with its seat in a recline position

At that height, most users can propel themselves with their feet if they wish.

Second, the leg rests are length-adjustable. Put that together with the tweaks you can make to the seat height, and you’ve actually got quite a bit of play in the chair that allows you to tweak it for more comfortable seating and riding experience.

The third thing to mention here is, of course, the recline function itself.

If you’ve ever purchased a recliner or a massage chair for your home, you’ve probably noticed that some of them come with “wall-hugging” technology that allows them to pivot on their base when they recline.

Chairs without this feature usually require 2-3 feet of clearance between the seatback and whatever wall they’re placed near, while chairs with this feature usually require six inches or less.

This is the reason why the 515 doesn’t get substantially longer when you recline back in it. It is designed with the same kind of technology that allows it to pivot on its base as it reclines, which means it takes up relatively less room. That can be super convenient, especially if you live in a smaller home or apartment or are traveling in an RV or similar. 

Note too that the leg rests are elevating, so they come back with you when you recline in the chair.

Unfortunately, this feature isn’t as good as it could be because the leg rests use a calf strap for leg support rather than calf pads, which are more comfortable. It’s not the end of the world, but definitely, something to bear in mind.

The Karman Healthcare VIP 515 facing to the right

Speaking of comfort, this chair wins high marks in that regard. It comes with padding for both the seat and the seatback as a standard feature! That’s incredibly rare in the wheelchair world. 

Most companies don’t offer any padding at all, and while there’s not a ton of it, we were pleased to see it on offer. Depending on how much time you plan on spending in the chair, you may not need to invest in any additional padding at all!

Everyone is different in this regard, but we estimate that the existing padding is sufficient to be comfortable if you only spend 1-4 hours at a time in the chair. More than that, and you’ll probably want to invest in additional padding.

Note too that the chair comes with a built-in headrest pillow for an even more comfortable experience.

We have to say, Karman really impressed us on this front. All that, and padded armrests too? What’s not to like?

Extras and Options

The big thing to talk about here is the fact that the Karma VIP 515 tilt in space wheelchair comes with anti-tippers as a standard feature.

The Karman Healthcare VIP 515 facing half-way to the right

Honestly, we wish they were standard on every wheelchair sold. However, the rest of the industry doesn’t share that view, so it’s hit or miss. Given the function of this chair, though, it’s no great surprise to find them offered on the base model. Reclining back without anti-tippers would be a dangerous undertaking indeed!

In addition to that, Karman sells a number of accessories that fit this chair, so you’ve got lots of different customization options, including:

  • An IV Pole
  • An Oxygen Tank holder
  • A backrest-mounted storage bag
  • A collapsing drink holder
  • And a multi-purpose safety belt

While there aren’t a ton of options here, between these and the extras and add-ons you can find via third-party vendors, you’ve got all sorts of possibilities where customization and personalization are concerned. We find that as a very good thing indeed.

Portability & Ease of Use

There’s nothing to be done about the height of the VIP 515 reclining wheelchair, but when folded down, it presents a profile that’s just 14.6” wide. It’s still probably too big to fit in the available trunk space of most sedans. If you have an RV, truck, full-sized SUV, or van, you should have no problem finding a temporary home for it.

Folded Karman Healthcare VIP 515

Remember that this chair only weighs 38 pounds, so it’s not difficult to haul it out of storage than it would be if you were dealing with any other wheelchair. In fact, it’s even possible to take this one on a plane with you. Note, however, that every airline’s policies are different where that’s concerned, so be sure to call the company you’re flying with to double-check.

Pros & Cons of Karma VIP 515 Wheelchair

Honestly, we like almost everything about this chair. It’s good-looking, highly adjustable, and has tons of extras and options available, which give you all sorts of ways you can truly make it your own. It is also the lightest reclining wheelchair we’ve ever seen, which is fantastic.

That said, there are three drawbacks you need to keep firmly in mind where this model is concerned:

  • It doesn’t support much weight. As long as you’re 250 pounds or less in the weight department, this is a great option. More than that, this one is a non-starter. That’s going to be a deal-breaker for a lot of people.
  • It’s a pricey chair. That fact will put it out of reach of many people who love it and want one.
  • And this last one isn’t as critical as the other two, but we feel that the use of a simple calf strap rather than calf pads needlessly detracts from the design and just isn’t as comfortable. In our view, that’s like sticking a lawnmower engine in a Dodge Viper. Who would do that? 

The last point isn’t a huge deal, but if you’re planning to spend significant amounts of time in the chair, don’t be surprised if you wind up really wishing it had some padding and better support for your legs!

Karman VIP 515 Review Conclusion

This is one of the best reclining wheelchairs on the market today. As mentioned in the previous section of our Karman VIP 515 review, it’s narrowly targeted to a fairly specific segment of the market, and yes, it’s a pricey chair. Normally, those things are enough to warrant a provisional recommendation from us, but it’s such a strong design we can’t help but give it a full-throated endorsement. We recommend it.


Official Manufacturer Support

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