It’s difficult to decipher wheelchair costing due to multiple reasons, the main one being that each chair is built from scratch for the user’s specific needs.
Between the different components and manufacturing processes, the prices vary greatly, and it can feel overwhelming.
The truth is, wheelchair costing is based not on ideology, opinion, or emotion, but straightforward economics. In this post, we break down the dollars!
How Much Does a Wheelchair Cost? An Overview
Wheelchairs cost a heck of a lot. It’s a tale as old as time, one that has first-time shoppers scratching their heads and gripping their wallets rather tightly.
On average, a manual wheelchair meant for everyday use can cost anywhere between $500 to $2,000, while the cost of an electric wheelchair ranges between $1,500 and $30,000.
Yes, you read that right. Some powerchairs cost as much as a car.
Of course, several factors influence the price of a wheelchair. Depending on the disability or conditions of the user, specialized, custom technology might be required, increasing the price significantly.
It includes outfitting a chair with a tilt, recline, articulating power leg rests, specialty seating, sip-n-puff controls, or a ventilator package.
However, these types of modifications only represent a tiny fraction of the mobility market, so go ahead and breathe easy!
To answer the question “how much does a wheelchair cost”, we need to examine the economics, which is coming up next.
Understanding the Economics of Wheelchair Pricing
First and foremost, let’s discuss the term “economics of scale.” This refers to the idea that the more an item is produced, the less each product costs to produce.
A perfect example is mass-production, where products are much less expensive than hand-crafted products.
The same logic can be applied to the wheelchair market. This is a very limited economy of scale, with a much smaller demand. Plus, the majority of wheelchairs are custom built depending on the needs of each consumer.
This fact alone is why wheelchairs are so expensive. Think about it this way, it’s normal for households to have one or multiple televisions, but it’s rare for a household to have a wheelchair. It’s just not common, and therefore makes it a rare and pricey commodity.
And as we mentioned already, most chairs are built from scratch to meet the health needs of individuals. A wheelchair order form lists numerous options to add to your chair, and they aren’t for fun- these are necessities that enable people with disabilities to live as comfortably as possible.
In some situations, an order form may not even have the special equipment a person needs, so that goes into a whole other realm of innovation. Also, that costs some serious dough.
The Impact of High Development Costs
Besides complex manufacturing, the development process can also be taxing on the ol’ pocketbook.
Wheelchairs are high-quality medical devices that go through the incredibly stringent design and testing phases to ensure the user is able to move around and accomplish typical everyday tasks with ease.
It’s a time-consuming, complex development process requiring every component of the chair to work in seamless harmony with the rest of the unit.
Even the simple rubber push handle grip is well- not so simple.
An impeccable handle grip must be designed with accurate dimensions and texture, using hypoallergenic materials verified as a flame retardant.
The grip then enters the testing phase to prove it cannot be pulled off the chair, melt, or freeze and pretty much stays true to form no matter where in the world the wheelchair ends up or what it is exposed to.
Finally, every step of the development and testing process is meticulously documented to comply with government medical device regulations.
And this is just one teeny-tiny example! Every component goes through a rigorous process that requires ample time and money, hence the high price once the chair goes to market.
After manufacturing comes the supply chain costs, which is a whole other ballgame. It’s not like wheelchairs are carted off in the back of trucks and stocked on your local store’s shelves.
Wheelchairs are unique products in that they require special handling and services provided by trained personnel.
- Clinical assessment
- Ordering process
- Insurance funding submission process
- The fitting process
- A follow-up process
As you can imagine, this takes quite a load of time to complete. For skilled mobility professionals, that can mean 30-40 hours for just one chair.
Time is money, and when it comes to a high-quality wheelchair distributed by an ethical manufacturer, the development process is robust to guarantee excellence, therefore affecting the final cost paid by the consumer.
Low-Quality Wheelchairs Sold at Expensive Rates
When understanding how much wheelchairs cost, it’s important to note that in every dark, dusty corner of all industries, there lurks the scammers and unethical providers who skimp on quality to make a fast buck off the backs of unsuspecting consumers.
Therefore, not all economic explanations can be applied to every situation and price. You might read posts on wheelchair forums complaining of low-quality chairs, and unfortunately, it happens.
It’s disheartening and sometimes illegal- but it is possible to pay an outrageous price and receive a sub-standard wheelchair.
What we’re trying to stress here is expensive prices are normal, but this should reflect the serious manufacturing and distribution processes that legitimate chairs must go through to meet government-regulated standards.
That’s why it’s always imperative to do your research, talk to providers, and learn the market before making any decisions. If you’re going to pay the price, you want to feel confident about the quality.
Final Thoughts on Wheelchair Costing
Why do wheelchairs cost so much? With wheelchair costing, it’s all about the economics, baby.
To the unknowing eye, it might look like a chair with wheels, but in all actuality, these are low-volume, highly customized medical devices that are distributed through a labor-intensive supply chain.
Remember, these processes aren’t put in place to suck you dry. These chairs are works of technological genius meant to give wheelchair users something priceless- freedom.
Resources & References:
- Wheelchairs and Other Assistive Devices, transportation.gov
- Healthcare Fraud in Focus: Durable Medical Equipment, acfe.com
- Wheelchair Market Size, Industry Analysis Report 2021-2028, grandviewresearch.com