In a Nutshell:

A good, well-designed chair, ideally suited for indoor use. Karman LT-980 Ultra Lightweight Wheelchair is recommended for anyone whose 6’ or shorter looking for a cost-effective, mostly indoor use wheelchair.

Customization options
Ease of Use
Comfort
Performance

Overall Rating

4.1/5

Benefits

  • Good post-sales support
  • No learning curve
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Includes some extras

Drawbacks

  • More expensive than K4
  • Not as durable or long-lasting
  • No handbrakes on rear handles
Karman LT-980 Ultra Lightweight Wheelchair
4.1

Recommended For: Anyone who's 6’ or shorter looking for a cost-effective, mostly indoor use wheelchair.

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Are you 6’ tall or shorter?

Do you suffer from a mobility issue that requires a light—to moderate-duty wheelchair?

Do you have a short-duration mobility issue that requires a simple, convenient, functional chair to get you over the rough patch?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, then you will be intrigued by our Karman LT-980 Ultra Lightweight Wheelchair review.

This chair wasn’t designed for sustained, long-term use. But if your needs are occasional, then it is an excellent model to consider. It’s a good chair but falls short of greatness, and it has its limitations, but do not worry. We’ll cover its good points, weak points, and everything in between so you’ll have all the information you need before making a final purchasing decision.

If that sounds good to you, let’s take a closer look!

Key Features to Consider

An image of Karman LT-980 in burgundy color

The first thing you’ll notice about the Karman LT-980 is its purely functional design. Although the chair is offered in three colors (black, burgundy, or silver), and the “premium” color options do improve its aesthetic somewhat, this chair isn’t going to win any beauty contests. Then again, it wasn’t meant to.

It’s functional and reasonably well-built, which most people are after in a light-to-a-moderate-duty wheelchair.

Karman is one of the major players in the industry, and the company is known for building solid products, which you can read more about in our Karman wheelchair reviews. This one is no exception; although it was designed to be lightweight, it’s not as solidly built as some of the company’s other offerings.

Nonetheless, the quality is exceptional, and the company is known for its world-class post-sales support, so even if there’s a problem with it at some point, contacting the company and solving your problem should pose no challenge.

Chair Specifications

Here are the chair’s specs:

  • Seat Width: 18”
  • Seat Depth: 16”
  • Seat to Floor Height: 20”
  • Chair Weight: 24 pounds
  • Max Supported Weight: 250 pounds
  • Unfolded Dimensions (ready for use): 30” x 26” x 39”
  • Folded Dimensions (ready for transport): 30” x 12.5” x 39”

The LT-980’s light weight makes it an ideal traveling wheelchair, and you won’t have any special difficulties fitting it into almost any available trunk space. All hatchbacks and SUVs should be fine, and of course, it’s a snap to heft it into the bed of any truck you might own. However, you’ll want to be sure you find some means of securing it so it won’t slide around and get scuffed during transport.

Adjustability & Comfort

There’s not much to say on this front because aside from the color (you can order the chair in either black, silver, or burgundy), all of its primary features are set. They are what they are, and the chair offers only limited adjustments, so you’ll want to pay close attention to the specs to ensure you’ll fit comfortably into it.

The only adjustability option here is the ability to adjust the height of the footrests. However, even at maximum extension, if you’re much over six feet tall, you’ll likely struggle to fit comfortably into it.

An image of folded Karman Ultra-Lightweight LT-980 in burgundy color

Also note that if you want the Karman Ultra-Lightweight LT-980 Wheelchair in color other than black, you’ll pay a premium.

While not really an “adjustability option,” it’s worth mentioning that the braking mechanism is very conveniently located for the person sitting in the chair. It’s on the left-hand side and within easy reach. Pull up on the lever to lock the wheels in place, and you’re all set.

We do wish that the LT-980 had incorporated handbrakes at the back of the chair so that an assistant pushing it could activate them if needed. But adding this feature would have increased the cost of the device, so we understand why they were left off and can’t really take points off for the absence of handbrakes.

At the start, we said this should be considered a light-to-moderate-duty chair when it comes to comfort. It’s not outright uncomfortable, but finding a more comfortable model wouldn’t take much. It’s also a simple matter to fix, as an extra cushion for the seat or seat back is a trivial expense. But even then, spending more than 4-5 hours daily in the chair will likely get increasingly uncomfortable.

On-Board Storage & Extras

There are only three “extras” to talk about in this section.

First, the safety belt, which is always a nice addition. Some models don’t offer it standard, but it’s important enough that you’ll probably want one anyway, which means, in those cases, having to buy one from a third-party vendor and install it yourself. Its inclusion here gives you one less detail to worry over.

An image showing storage pocket of Karman Ultralight Compact Wheelchair

Second, the storage pouch. It’s located on the back of the seat, which isn’t great, but that’s where most onboard storage is offered, when it’s offered at all. As such, we can’t take points away from the LT-980 for putting it there, but as we constantly point out, the person sitting in the chair has to have help getting to whatever’s in the pouch or get up from the chair to access it.

What’s even more disappointing on this front is that it is possible to include a small storage basket under the seat of this model. Sure, it takes a bit of applied creativity, but it can be done. Having storage under the seat is much more convenient for the person sitting in the chair, which is why we prefer it.

Third are the heel loops that provide additional foot support. It’s a small thing, plus there are much better solutions. However, it has the advantage of being cost-effective, which is good.

Note that although anti-tipping struts are unavailable on the base chair, the company offers them as an optional add-on. You can buy them separately after using the chair and decide you need them or add them when you purchase.

About Average on Outdoor Terrains

We keep comparing the Karman Ultralight Compact Wheelchair to Medline’s K4 Basic, and here, we have to give the nod ever so slightly to the LT-980. We’ll be quick to point out that neither of these chairs is great when handling outdoor terrains, but in our view, the LT-980 is slightly better, even with its tiny 6” front casters.

A side image of Karman LT-980 Ultra Lightweight Wheelchair in burgundy color

The rear wheels are 22” in diameter and have more tread, making it slightly more capable in that regard (part of the problem, too, is that the K4 gets in its own way when it comes to outdoor terrains because it’s somewhat heavier).

Having said that, though, if you plan on spending significant periods enjoying the great outdoors, neither of these models will be your first choice. Still, if you only go out occasionally, the LT-980 will serve you marginally better than the K4.

The one thing this chair isn’t great at handling is slopes. The seat is designed to be similar to that of a straight-backed chair, and if you’re traveling down a hill, you may tend to slide forward and ultimately out of the seat altogether.

Of course, the built-in safety belt helps in this regard. Still, it would be even more helpful if the LT-980 incorporated angled seating into the design and included handbrakes at the rear of the chair that could be activated by an assistant.

Both handle indoor surfaces well, although the LT-980 suffers from the same problem that the K4 does when you lower its front wheels – if you have plush, pile carpet, it may struggle. Otherwise, indoor surfaces are a breeze.

Comes Almost Fully Assembled

Another advantage that the LT-980 has over the K4 Basic is that while the K4 has some parts that have to be attached when you get the wheelchair, the LT-980 comes pretty much ready to go out of the box. Just slide the footrests into position, and you’re all set.

No Learning Curve

Since the chair offers only basic functionality, there’s no learning curve. Snap the footrests into position in a couple of minutes, and you’re ready to ride. There is nothing to learn beyond getting comfortable with the chair’s handling.

Pros & Cons of the Karman Ultralight Compact Wheelchair

An image of Karman LT-980 in black color

This is a good chair, but it falls short of being a great chair. In our view, the biggest strengths of the LT-980 are as follows:

  • Offered by a great company with world-class post-sales support.
  • There is nothing to learn in terms of mastering it, and very little assembly is required, making it quick and convenient to use.
  • Light enough to make it easy to transport.
  • Comes with some useful extras like a seatbelt and a modestly-sized storage pouch.

On the flip side, it’s more expensive than the K4, which is, on the whole, a more capable chair (although heavier and somewhat less capable on outdoor terrains). And it’s just not as durable or long-lasting as the K4. It’s good quality construction, but if you plan to use the chair on a daily basis for several hours of the day, it won’t hold up as well over the long haul as some other models.

As with the K4, we dearly wish this model included handbrakes on the rear handles, but that would increase the cost, so we grudgingly understand the decision to leave them off.

Final Thoughts on Karman LT-980 Ultra Lightweight Wheelchair Review 

We like the Karman LT-980 Ultralight Wheelchair but don’t love it. It’s a solid choice for someone who’s six feet tall or shorter and looking for a light to moderate-duty, mostly indoor-use wheelchair. If your needs extend beyond that or you’re very tall, then there’s almost certainly a better “fit” for you elsewhere in the marketplace.

We’d recommend it to anyone who fits the description above and to anyone who has a relatively short-term mobility issue. Still, we urge potential buyers to look closely at the feature set to ensure it’ll do everything you need.

Recommended Reading

Medline K4 Basic Lightweight Wheelchair Review

We analyzed the Medline K4 Basic wheelchair: basic yet surprisingly feature-rich, endorsed for unbeatable value.

Drive Medical Cruiser X4 Wheelchair Review

Our evaluation focuses on the Drive Medical Cruiser X4 Wheelchair, a highly customizable, budget-friendly option.


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References & Resources