In a Nutshell:
The Drive Medical Bariatric Transport Chair is a great chair, offered by one of the giants in the industry. Easy to use, versatile, and easy to transport. Exactly what you want in a high-quality transport chair. Recommended for Heavier people who have mobility issues, regardless of age.
Ease of Use
Are you a heavier person with a mobility issue? Have you been struggling to find a top-quality, rugged and durable transport chair that’s a good “fit” for you?
We understand. It can be a daunting challenge. The tradeoff is, the more weight a chair can support, the heavier it is, which works against a transport chair’s primary function, which is, of course, to be light enough to be effortlessly moved from one place to the next.
If it’s something you’ve been struggling with, we’ve got you covered, and you’re going to love our in-depth review of Drive Medical’s Bariatric Transport chair.
Drive Medical is one of the giants in the mobility industry. They make great products, and this model is no exception. While it’s not (entirely) a perfect transport chair, it comes pretty close, which is why it won top honors as the best bariatric transport chair in our roundup review.
In the sections that follow, we’ll outline everything this fantastic model can do, and highlight its very few shortcomings so you’ll have all the information you need to make an informed purchasing decision. Anxious to have a closer look? Let’s get right to it then!
An Overview of DriveMedical Bariatric Transport Chair
The first thing you’ll notice about Drive Medical’s Bariatric Transport Chair is that it’s a big, burly design that practically radiates stability and ruggedness. It’s not an especially attractive chair (although its sporty red color does add a dash of flair), but then, transport chairs are rarely designed with aesthetics at the forefront of the design team’s minds. It looks like what it is. It’s got a job to do, and it’s really, really good at it.
As a bariatric model, it’s wider than the average transport chair, but here, the designers took care not to get too carried away. It’s still trim enough to fit through a standard doorway, although you’ll want to make sure you’ve got your arms tucked inside the armrests when going through doors, as there’s no room to spare!
Here are the relevant stats on the model:
As you can see, with a seat width of 22” and capable of supporting an impressive 450 pounds, this model goes far above and beyond the capacity of most of the other transport chairs on the market today.
A couple of interesting things to note here. First, this model features full-length arms. That sets it apart, because most of the transport chairs on the market today have shorter, desk-length arms. We prefer full-length because the longer arms are more convenient to people with limited mobility in that it provides a larger surface they can hold onto when being transferred to and from the chair.
Also, this model features impressively sized 12” rear wheels, paired with 8” front wheels. We’ll have more to say about this in a later section, but for now, we’ll just make mention of the fact that the bigger rear wheels make it easier for this model to traverse a wider variety of terrains, which is an excellent thing!
As all transport chairs do, this one collapses down into a reasonably small footprint, which is good, but there’s a catch. Because it was designed to hold more user weight, it’s a bit heavier than most other transport chairs you’ll find on the market. Even so, with a total weight of just 36 pounds, it shouldn’t present too big a challenge when it comes to loading and unloading into a vehicle’s trunk or other storage space.
It’s also worth mentioning here that unlike most other transport chairs, when you fold this one up, you can use the push bar as a convenient handle, and the chair will still roll when it’s folded for transport. That’s a nice touch that makes it even easier to maneuver, load, and unload.
Finally, where most transport chairs feature handles at the back which allows an assistant to push it, this model does things a bit differently. In the place of the standard handles, Drive Medical has placed an aluminum bar that spans the entire width of the seat back.
It’s a small change, but you’d be amazed at the difference it makes. With pre-positioned handles, the assistant MUST place his or her hands in a set position to provide locomotion. The bar gives the assistant much more flexibility, allowing him or her to maintain a more natural stance which means the assistant can provide support for longer, without getting fatigued.
Adjustability & Comfort
Note that we’re reviewing the 22” configuration of this chair, but at the point of sale, you can order it with either an 18” or a 20” seat if those would work better for you. In addition to that, the chair’s footrests can be adjusted to taste, and the chair has anti-tipping struts you can use if and as needed, which rounds out the adjustments on offer in this model.
The footrests also swing away, which enables the caregiver to push the transport chair right up next to a dining or other table. That’s good news because it means that the person sitting in the chair can enjoy a family dinner at home or out at a restaurant without having to be transferred from the transport chair to the dining chair.
Where comfort is concerned, we’ll start by saying that in the overwhelming majority of cases, transport chairs aren’t designed with comfort foremost in mind. They’re designed for relatively short-duration sitting, about 1-3 hours at a stretch. More than that, and it’s going to start getting increasingly uncomfortable.
The base model chair is about average on the comfort front, but of course, it’s very easy to buy an after-market seat cushion or extra cushioning for the seat back if you’d like to make it a bit cozier.
No matter how many extra cushions you add though, the one thing you can’t fix or adjust is the fact that neither the seat nor the seat back is angled, which means it feels like you’re sitting in a simple, straight-backed chair. That’s fine for short-term sitting, but if you plan on being in the chair for more than a few hours, then with padding or not, it’s going to start to get uncomfortable.
The addition of an angled seat would have another advantage, beyond simple comfort.
It would make it easier for patients and caregivers to navigate sloping outdoor terrains because an angled seat (like a car’s bucket seat) would place the sitter more firmly in the chair and make it less likely to slip out or down when going downhill. Indeed, the included safety belt helps in this regard, but in combination with an angled seat, it would be even better.
On-Board Storage & Extras
In our view, this is where Drive Medical’s Bariatric Transport Chair truly shines. There are a few different things to talk about here, but the first and most significant is to once again draw your attention to that fantastic full-length bar that sits along the back of the chair.
This allows the caregiver maximum flexibility in terms of where to grip to do the pushing. It’s such a simple thing, but it really makes a tremendous difference and is probably our favorite aspect of this model. There’s also a handbrake located on one end of the bar, which gives the caregiver fine-grained control over speed and breaking, which we regard as outstanding.
In addition to that, the DriveMedical Lightweight Bariatric wheelchair comes with a built-in safety belt for added patient security when the chair is in motion, and it contains a handy storage pouch located on the back of the seat and a small mesh pouch for holding a water bottle or other small items.
While all those things are solid feature additions, our one complaint is about the water bottle pouch. It’s just a shade too small, and you’ll find that many water bottles won’t quite fit. It’s easy enough to buy a bigger after-market version, but it would be such an easy thing for the company to fix, we were a bit disappointed. Nonetheless, where extras are concerned, this model has more to offer than almost any other comparably priced transport chair we’ve seen.
We should also mention that although most companies that offer onboard storage put the pouch on the back of the seat, we’ve found a few models that provide a storage pouch or basket under the seat, and we do prefer this approach. After all, the person sitting in the chair has to get up to access whatever’s in the pouch. They could access a basket under the seat without getting up, which is why we regard that approach as the superior solution.
Sadly, the Drive Medical 22 Bariatric Aluminum transport chair opted for the “behind the seat” approach. That’s what most companies do, so we didn’t take points off for it, but in a perfect world, we’d prefer to see the storage under the seat.
Capable of Handling a Variety of Terrains
At the start, we mentioned that we liked the 12” rear wheels. The reason is transport chairs that sport rear wheels that are larger than their front wheels have an easier time navigating uneven terrains. This makes them much better able to handle outdoor terrains.
If you plan on mostly using the chair indoors, it won’t matter much to you, but the first time you take it outside, you’re going to love those big 12” wheels!
No Learning Curve & (Almost) Ready to Roll Out of the Box
The DriveMedical Lightweight Bariatric wheelchair is almost ready to use right out of the box. About the only thing you have to do is attach the footrests, and you’re ready to go! Because of that, there’s no learning curve to speak of. It may take you a couple of minutes to adjust the footrests to your liking and tighten the safety belt; it would be hard to describe that as a “learning curve.”
Pros & Cons of the Drive Medical Bariatric Wheelchair
We love almost everything about this chair, and we think our review to this point reflects that. It offers a surprising number of advancements, enhancements, and extras, and most of them are well considered and well-implemented.
That said, there are a couple of small things we’d like to see changed. These are, in no particular order:
We’ll be quick to add that none of these are deal breakers. They’re just little finishing touches we’d like to see that would make a great chair even better.
Drive Medical Bariatric Transport Chair Review Conclusion
The Drive Medical Bariatric Transport chair is well-designed and ruggedly built. It gets almost everything right, and we regard this chair’s few negatives as relatively minor points. With that in mind, we’d recommend this model without hesitation to anyone who’s looking for a chair that supports heavier users. It’s utterly fantastic, and you won’t be disappointed.
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