Mobility scooters are battery-powered scooters used by those who have difficulty walking. They come in many shapes and sizes. If you are lucky enough to have about £1,000 in the bank, then you can go out and get yourself a mobility scooter (whether you actually need it or not).
The first thing to remember is that you are probably going to have to compromise. If you're on the large side, then it is going to be highly unlikely that you will be able to use a lightweight scooter that can fit into the boot of a small car. If you want a lightweight scooter, then you're also going to have to realise that you won't be able to travel miles and miles on it before it needs recharging. With the large scooters, don't expect to be able to transport them in a car or store them snugly in your hallway. But if you follow these guidelines, you are more likely to find a mobility scooter that you can enjoy for years to come.
Step One – Size and Weight
How tall or heavy are you? Every scooter has a maximum load that can be carried, and this can be found in the manufacturer's booklet. This should only be taken as a guideline, however. Even if you weigh less than the maximum load, you may find a larger scooter more comfortable. If you are tall, using a smaller scooter can be very uncomfortable and may even cause damage to the knees, so a larger model is much more suitable.
Most scooters are available in either three-wheeled or four-wheeled models. These both have their advantages and drawbacks. Many people find that three-wheeled scooters are easier to handle and steer, but the four-wheeled variety is much more stable. For the heavier types among us, a four-wheeled machine is much more preferable. Also, unless you plan to use your scooter only in shopping malls or on completely flat, kerb-free ground, you would be much better off avoiding a three-wheeled scooter. Whichever type you choose, be careful about mounting kerbs. Always approach them head-on, not at an angle, as this can cause the scooter to tip over when one side is raised higher than the other. This is much more likely with a three-wheeled scooter, but it applies to all of them.
Step Two – Storage
Where can you store the machine? These things take up space. Be realistic about where you can conceivably store the machine without it getting in the way of your day-to-day activities. If you have limited space to store the scooter, then you might have to consider a small fold-up scooter - so you need to consider the limitations of the lightweight scooters in regards to range and comfort. Don't forget that you may need ramps into your property if you are storing it indoors. Don't think that you can lift it over whatever step lies in your way. You'll do your back in, as these things can be heavy.
Almost all scooters break into smaller parts for easier storage. At least, that's what it says in the brochure! The weight of some of the parts means that for many people this simply won't be an option. The smallest ones virtually fold flat and can be stored in a broom cupboard. Most of the weight in these ones lies in the battery pack and the chair. Make sure you check whether you can remove and re-attach these parts with ease before you buy.
When considering storage, also think about the importance of regular charging. Will you have access to a mains supply for charging the batteries? As well as reducing the distance you can travel, failure to charge enough can limit the lifespan of the batteries - and they are expensive. You don't want to have to keep replacing them more than you need to.
Step Three – Transportation
Do you need to transport the scooter in a car? Think seriously about this. If you think it might be a good idea, or will only be doing it once or twice a year, then don't bother at all. Get a medium or large scooter. If you will be transporting it on a regular basis, then make sure you test the scooter out beforehand. There are many lightweight scooters on the market and they all fold up or break down in different ways. Make sure you can do this easily. If you have a large car and can fit a medium or small scooter in there easily, then don't forget that you may require ramps to get the scooter into the vehicle. After putting the scooter in the car, remember that there also needs to be enough space remaining to put the ramps in, too!
Step Four – Buying
There is nothing better then road testing the machine first. This can save you from ending up with a mobility scooter which is uncomfortable and useless. For this reason, you should avoid buying one from the many catalogue stores or brochures that come in magazines and newspapers, unless you have a way of trying it out first. Naturally, it also depends on your bank balance. Depending on how big and powerful the scooter is, they can range in price from around £700 upwards. The sky is really the limit, with larger models retailing for more than the price of a family car!
It's also very common to be able to find used scooters for sale. Look in 'For Sale' columns in your local newspaper, or disability magazines such as Able. It's also worthwhile speaking to local charities for the disabled or the elderly. They will often know about members or people in the area who are trying to sell scooters they no longer need.
Test it thoroughly, making sure you can take the removable parts off for storage if you need to. Check the controls for ease of use and make sure you will actually be able to drive it! If you follow these guidelines, then you are more likely to find a mobility scooter that you can enjoy for years to come.
The legal bit...
The following are guidelines, and shouldn't be considered as a definitive statement of the law. They also refer only to regulations as they stand in the UK.
Sometimes people can be unsure about the rules about where scooters can be used. Should they be used on footpaths, or on the road? For the purposes of UK law, 'invalid carriages' (as they are archaically known) are divided into three categories.
- Class 1 consists of manually propelled, non-powered wheelchairs.
- Class 2 consists of powered wheelchairs and scooters which are intended for use on footpaths. They must be capable of speeds no greater than 4 mph (around 6 km/hour), and weigh no more than 113.4kg (not including the weight of the user or any load).
- Class 3 vehicles are the highest legal category, weighing more than 113.4kg and with a speed of up to 8 mph (c 12 kilometres per hour). When used on the pavement they must have a device capable of restricting the speed to a maximum of 4 mph. When used on the road, they may go no faster than eight miles per hour/12 km per hour, and the same rules about lights, indicators and horns apply to them as all other road vehicles.
No mobility scooter may be used on a motorway. They should not be used on dual carriageways where the speed limit exceeds 50 mph (80 km/h), but if they are, they must be fitted with a flashing amber beacon.
Insurance is not obligatory, but it might be wise to get insurance coverage if you're thinking of buying one.