Buying a stairlift can be life changing. It can make the difference between being able to use your own bedroom and bathroom, and enjoy your whole house and having to make do with exclusively living downstairs.
But there are potential pitfalls along the way. The prices aren’t as clear cut as they might seem and there are some selling tactics you should be aware of. Read on for six key things to remember to ensure you make an informed and pressure-free choice.
Or, see how customers rate stairlift companies in our guide to the best stairlift brands.
1. The biggest brands aren’t necessarily the best
In our latest survey, 888 people answered detailed questions about their stairlift so we could determine the best and worst brands.
As well as big brands Acorn, Handicare (also sold by Age UK) and Stannah, we included three smaller companies in our survey for the first time. At least one of them is giving the big companies a run for their money, coming out triumphant with a top score.
The best stairlift brand in our survey got 80%, compared with 67% for the worst.
We also saw a difference of three to the maximum five stars between companies for areas including value for money, ease of use, quality and reliability.
2. Stairlift prices vary a lot
There’s no denying that stairlifts are costly: 14% of the people in our survey paid more than £5,000 for their new stairlift, with an average price of £3,501.
A stairlift for a simple, straight staircase could cost from £2,000, but if you’ve got a curved or particularly long staircase, prices can run as high as £7,000 or more.
As a general rule, every corner in your staircase will double the initial price.
We’ve found that the price paid does differ between brands. The average cost for a new stairlift from the cheapest brand in our survey was £3,035, compared with an average £3,733 at the most expensive company.
You might find you can save money with a second-hand chairlift. You’ll find a breakdown of new and second-hand prices for each brand in our guides to Acorn stairlifts, Handicare stairlifts and Stannah stairlifts.
Read more: Expert advice on buying and installing your stairlift
3. You’ll pay more than the upfront price
The cost of a stairlift isn’t just what you pay when you buy it. When you ask for a quote, go into detail about what aftercare is included.
It’s worth remembering that your contract is with the retailer, not the brand itself.
You might simply buy a Stannah stairlift direct from Stannah, in which case Stannah will provide your after care.
If you don’t buy directly from a manufacturer, it can be more difficult to navigate.
For example, you could buy a Handicare stairlift through Handicare’s sister company Companion or through Age UK, both of which exclusively sell Handicare. Or you could buy one through a company that sells a number of different brands.
What you’ll get in terms of a warranty and after-care support differs depending on the retailer.
This could be significant: companies may well offer different response times and callout charges if your stairlift breaks down.
The bigger retailers tend to offer one or two years’ warranty as part of the sale of new stairlifts. Of those buying new stairlifts with a warranty, 64% of stairlift-owners had at least one free service included (23% included more than one free services), 48% had repairs included and 39% included replacement parts.
Repairs can be pricey. Of those who paid for repairs and adjustments to their stairlift, the average cost was £224 for the visit and £211 for servicing.
Read more: Which? Later Life Care advice on home adaptations
4. Some companies will pressure you to buy
A worrying 44% customers reported feeling pressurised when buying their stairlift.
The level of pressure experienced varied across companies. A huge 74% of Age UK customers felt some pressure and 16% said they felt ‘a lot of pressure’. This is significantly higher than other retailers.
It’s worth noting, however, that 70% of these customers still believed that they received a good deal.
Only 15% of people who bought from an independent or authorised dealer said they felt pressure was applied.
The British Healthcare Trades Association sets clear guidance on what it calls ‘inappropriate selling techniques’. These include tactics such as ‘a high initial price followed by the offer of a discount (often followed by a telephone call to the ‘manager’)’ and ‘a discount on the condition that the consumer agrees to the sale that day’.
There are some things you can do to prepare for a home visit so you’ll know the right questions to ask and can easily see through dodgy tactics. For example, it can be useful to have a friend or family member present and – for more complex situations – you might want an occupational therapist to be there.
Find more tips in our guide to dodgy stairlift sales practices to avoid.
5. Haggling can be fruitful or off-putting
If you’re someone who likes haggling, you may well enjoy knocking down the asking price and bagging a bargain. But – as the industry body says – prices should be upfront, available in promotional material, and shared with you early in the sale visit.
If you don’t feel comfortable negotiating, choose your company carefully.
Some 32% of the stairlift-owners in our survey who bought a new stairlift negotiated a price reduction. A quarter had additional features or services thrown in.
But success varied across brands and 44% of those who tried to haggle with Acorn negotiated price reductions.
Some 60% of those who tried to haggle with Stannah said the price stayed the same, and 31% said extra features or services were included. Stannah says that it does not allow price negotiation: what you’re quoted is the final price.
6. Don’t count on making money if you sell your stairlift
Three in 10 (29%) people we surveyed investigated buy-back options for when their stairlift was no longer needed.
Some 46% of them were satisfied with the buy-back cost received, but four in 10 (38%) were dissatisfied.
Manufacturers told us to temper our expectations, as the product drops sharply in value as soon as it’s sold, much like cars. Stannah, for example, said that buy back could be as little as 5 to 10% of the original value.
When you’re buying, do ask specifically about the resale value. Bear in mind that this will depend on factors such as the age of the stairlift, its condition and any stipulations, such as having the stairlift regularly serviced by the company.
One person told us: ‘They emphasised the buy-back service, but made no mention that this would really just be scrap value for the metal.’
But another said that their company had been upfront: ‘They explained everything, including the buy-back price which is basically for the chair alone.’
And a third person commented: ‘I recall being told that there was a minimum buy-back figure, but when mum passed away, no such offer was available. In fact, they wanted me to pay them to remove the stairlift. Not impressed.’