How to Start a Wheelchair Business

wheelchair business

Thinking of building a wheelchair business? Selling wheelchairs is a profitable market in the United States and around the world. With an aging population in Western nations, there’s a growing demand for assisted mobile medical devices.

That covers everything from conventional wheelchairs to electric wheelchairs and even mobility scooters. But it’s more than just older people – people with mobility issues or disabilities also rely on these devices to get around.

In this guide, you’ll find:

Know About the Wheelchair Market

The wheelchair market is a profitable industry at present. According to Grand View Research, the global wheelchair market size was valued at $4.8 billion in 2022 and is expected to keep growing. Its estimated compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is 7.2% between 2023 and 2030.

The United States and other Western nations comprise a big chunk of the global market size. Why? Well, due to better healthcare and an aging population, there is a growing number of elderly people and an increasing number of people with spinal cord industries. Together, these communities fuel the burgeoning wheelchair market.

Wheelchair businesses also benefit from current market dynamics. China is a major manufacturing nation capable of producing several different kinds of products for wheelchair users at a lower cost than comparable manufacturers. Nor is there any compromise in quality. Wheelchair users have relied on these products for years without any issues.

Learn more in the XSTO Electric Wheelchair Market Report 2024.

What Conditions Do You Need for Starting Wheelchair Business?

Prior to starting your wheelchair business, you should have the necessary financial resources to kickstart operations. This includes funds for manufacturing or sourcing wheelchairs, marketing, distribution, and overhead costs.

In addition, obtaining local certifications is critical to running the business legally. Depending on your location, you’ll need a medical device production and sales license from the local health department or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA has stringent regulations surrounding the importation, production, and sales of medical devices. You must submit detailed product information, declared manufacturer, declared importer information, and more to comply with the law.

Moreover, these certifications involve rigorous inspections and adherence to quality and safety standards. After all, customers will rely on these wheelchairs for mobility. Any problems can cause harm to users, who are often elderly and frail.

What are the Most Prominent Wheelchair Companies?

Globally, hundreds of companies manufacture and sell wheelchairs. Some of the most prominent include:

  • Karman Healthcare is a renowned manufacturer of mobility aids, including wheelchairs and scooters. Focused on innovation and quality, the company has made greater strides in manual and powered wheelchairs. Their products are known for their durability, comfort, and ergonomic design.
  • Invacare is a global leader in the manufacture and distribution of home and long-term care medical products. Specializing in mobility solutions, the global giant sells a comprehensive range of wheelchairs, including manual, powered, and specialized models. In particular, their TDX series and Pronto series are lauded for their superior design and functionality.
  • Sunrise Medical is another prominent provider of wheelchairs, seating and positioning systems, and mobility aids. Located in the UK, its main emphasis is on manual wheelchairs. However, its newer powerchairs cater to all ages and are praised for their quality and performance.
  • Pride Mobility is a leading store for mobility products and lift chairs. Its product selection includes power wheelchairs, scooters, foldable wheelchairs, and lift chairs. The trusted company stocks globally recognized brands such as Jazzy Power Chairs and Go Chairs.
  • XSTO Mobility is a newer player in the mobility industry, gaining recognition for its innovative approach to wheelchair design and manufacturing. Specializing in powered wheelchairs, XSTO is at the cutting edge of technological innovation. Its chairs use high-quality materials and advanced designs to enhance mobility and improve user experience. Increasingly a popular choice among consumers, the brand’s wheelchairs are known for their innovative features, sleek design, and affordability.

What Kind of Wheelchair Will You Sell?

The biggest question is, what kind of wheelchair business do you want to be? With a large consumer market, the diversity of wheelchair designs and types continues to increase. Broadly speaking, there are three wheelchair types:

1. Manual Wheelchair

Manual wheelchairs are the standard form of mobility aid. Made from lightweight materials, they’re designed to be pushed by the user as their primary mode of transport. You’ll also find these wheelchairs in hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical settings.

Such chairs are commonly used by people with mobility impairments, including those with spinal cord injuries, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and amputations.

Basic models start from a few hundred dollars, while more advanced and customizable models can range from $1,000 to $3,000 or more.

2. Powered Wheelchairs

Powered wheelchairs are primarily used by individuals with mobility impairments who have limited or no ability to propel themselves manually. (Usually, due to insufficient upper body strength.) Much more advanced than manual models, these chairs come with an array of innovative and specialized features.

Popular among the elderly demographic and people with long-term mobility issues. Prices can vary widely based on factors such as battery capacity, terrain capability, driving range, and customization options. Costs range from $2,000 at the lower end to over $10,000 or more for high-end models with advanced features.

Providing comprehensive after-sales service, including maintenance and repair services, can also enhance customer loyalty and generate recurring revenue.

3. Standing Wheelchairs

Standing wheelchairs are less common than other varieties. These models are primarily used by individuals with mobility impairments who benefit from being able to stand upright. Examples include people with multiple sclerosis, spinal cord issues, and other types of paralysis.

Due to their specialized nature, prices can range from $5,000 to $20,000 or more, depending on features such as standing mechanism, recline options, and customization features.

Opening a standing wheelchair business is a niche enterprise. However, the high costs can outweigh the lower number of sales. Targeting specialized healthcare facilities, rehabilitation centers, and other disability centers provides one potential avenue for sales.

Sell at a Physical Store or Online Store

The next decision is where you’re going to start your wheelchair business. The main options are either a brick-and-mortar store or an online business.

Physical Store

Operating a physical store allows for face-to-face interactions with customers. You can provide personalized assistance and guidance – even visiting the person’s home to provide a highly customized wheelchair. You have full control over the customer experience and brand representation.

You’ll also want to build local connections. Partnering with established medical suppliers or rehabilitation centers can provide a steady stream of customers and boosts brand exposure.

The obvious downside is the limited customer base. Selling niche products, like standing wheelchairs, may be difficult without the nationwide (or even global) reach that online stores provide.

Online Store

The other option for a wheelchair business is to go online. Platforms such as Amazon provide access to a vast customer base of millions of people. While you cannot provide a high level of personalization, Amazon’s fulfillment services reduce your overheads and provide hassle-free order processing and shipping.

Nor are you bound to Amazon. Numerous other smaller online retailers sell wheelchairs to customers, presenting another avenue for sales. On the other hand, setting up your own e-commerce website gives you full control over branding, product presentation, and customer experience. You can customize the website to reflect your brand identity and offer additional services such as product customization, warranty registration, and customer support.

How to Import Wheelchairs from China

Sourcing your products is a major undertaking for a fledgling wheelchair business. China is the most logical option. Compared to other regions, such as Europe or the USA, China excels in terms of price, quality, and cost-effective production.

Moreover, as a new wheelchair business, you want to tap into an existing supply chain. Chinese manufacturers have well-established logistics networks and efficient supply chain management to ensure timely delivery and reduce lead times. Plus, with lower production costs and wider product diversity, your wheelchair business can save costs while catering to customer’s specific needs and preferences.

Wheelchair suppliers in China are concentrated in key regions known for manufacturing excellence. These include:

  • Zhejiang: Known for medical equipment, competitive prices, and diverse products.
  • Guangdong: Innovation center for advanced designs and customization options.
  • Hebei: Major hub for manual wheelchairs, as well as durable and affordable models.

Before your wheelchair business partners with a Chinese supplier, consider the following factors:

  • Quality Assurance: Check the supplier’s track record, request samples, and verify manufacturing quality.
  • Communication and Transparency: Establish clear channels, transparent pricing, and terms for smooth collaboration.
  • Certifications and Compliance: Ensure supplier meets safety standards and regulations.

Final Thoughts

Let’s recap:

  • Starting a wheelchair business is a lucrative opportunity due to the growing demand for aging populations.
  • Before you can begin, you should secure the necessary funds and certifications to operate legally.
  • There are three main types of wheelchair businesses: manual wheelchairs, powered wheelchairs, and standing wheelchairs. These types of wheelchairs cater to different demographics and price points.
  • Your wheelchair business can operate either through a physical store, online, or both. Physical stores can partner with local suppliers, while online stores can access Amazon’s millions of customers.
  • China is by far the best option for manufacturing and importing wheelchairs. It’s more affordable, customizable, and competitive than other options.

Are you ready to launch your wheelchair business? Reflect on the guidance in this article and consider what kind of business you want to be. The best part? Helping people with mobility issues regain their independence and enjoy a higher quality of life.

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