Choosing the right mobility scooter
Discover the different types of mobility scooter and choose the right one for you. This guide explains each type, including those built for particular terrains, and the top mobility scooter considerations to bear in mind.
Mobility scooters: finding the right one for you
A mobility scooter is a medical device as well as a lifestyle choice. It's important to get the right one for you - for example, with a tiller and controls you can operate if you have arthritic fingers. Otherwise you could waste money or buy a scooter that isn't the safest or most comfortable.
Take advice from a mobility shop or by contacting an occupational therapist before you make a final decision on what to buy.
Although the local authority is unlikely to provide you with a mobility scooter, the occupational therapist can make recommendations about any equipment and/or adaptations you need.
Mobility scooters for the pavement
Scooters you can use to travel on pavements and in shopping areas are called Class 2 scooters. If you live near a high street and you can get to your destinations by avoiding roads, this may be a good choice.
Class 2 scooters are smaller, lighter and often cheaper than those designed for the road, and can have three, four or, in some cases, five wheels.
Although some models are capable of much faster speeds, they should be driven at 4mph on pavements – and some models may also allow you to cap the speed level to this legal limit.
Folding boot scooters
These are small mobility scooters, also for use on pavements only, that can be folded or taken apart for transporting. They are sometimes referred to as 'boot' scooters.
If you can drive or have access to a car and you're looking for something to take you short distances, perhaps to go shopping in a town centre or for a day out with your family, a boot scooter can be a good choice.
There are two types: folding and dismantling. Folding scooters allow you to reduce them to a compact shape and wheel them, like a wheelie case. This makes them particularly convenient for air travel.
Dismantling scooters are made up of four or five sections that have to be taken apart for travel or put together before they can be used.
Despite their portability, all models tend to be heavy to lift, so if you're likely to need help lifting yours in and out of a car, buy a car hoist or arrange for someone else to do it for you.
Folding versus dismantling mobility scooters
Weight is a particular issue with folding scooters, as you normally have to lift them as one piece. Removing the battery and armrests would reduce their weight by a couple of kilograms, but they will remain heavy to lift. Our testing has found that the disadvantage of their weight can outweigh the benefits of easy folding and unfolding.
We also found that lightweight scooters can be less comfortable to ride, as they're not as good at absorbing the bumps in the road. Lighter folding scooters can feel more flimsy and less secure than dismantling scooters.
In contrast, dismantling scooters allow you to lift each component separately. However, you do need to reassemble dismantling models before riding them, which you may find inconvenient.
Boot scooters are less powerful than those that can be driven on the road (see below), which makes them better suited to short journeys (normally of less than 10 miles). They are light and manoeuvrable, and can be used indoors, but their smaller, less-padded seats often mean they're not as comfortable as larger models. Their wheels may also struggle with shallow kerbs.
Mobility scooters for the road
Mobility scooters for the road are Class 3 vehicles. They are larger and heavier than their Class 2 cousins. You can drive them on any roads except motorways or dual carriageways that have a speed limit of 50mph or above. The maximum speed at which you can drive your scooter on a road is 8mph (it's 4mph for pavements).
Being more powerful, with bigger batteries, means they are suited to longer journeys (up to 25 miles) and can cope better with hills.
They have front and rear lights, indicators, hazard lights, a rear-view mirror, brakes and a horn. They tend to provide a more comfortable ride than some of the smaller scooters.
Choosing a mobility scooter: top five things to consider
- The types of journeys you plan to make
- The types of terrain you’ll cover
- Your storage facilities
- Your body weight and size
- Your budget
Types of journeys and terrains
When you're trying to decide on the type of mobility scooter you want, think about the sorts of journeys you're likely to make in it.
- Will they be short, everyday journeys on mainly smooth terrain, such as trips to the local supermarket or to visit a nearby friend or relative? If so, a Class 2 mobility scooter will probably be right for you.
- Will you mainly be using the scooter for days out with (perhaps able-bodied) friends or family? If so, a Class 2 boot scooter that can be easily taken apart or folded and transported by car is likely to suit you.
- Do you want to make longer journeys, perhaps to visit a neighbouring town, or do you live in a particularly hilly area? A Class 3 scooter that you can take on the road might make more sense.
Storing your mobility scooter
You should think about where you’ll keep your scooter when it’s not in use. If you can charge its battery separately, do you have somewhere dry and secure to keep it? If not, have you got room in your hallway or living areas to accommodate it?
If you need to bring the scooter inside, you’ll need to think about whether you'll be able to get it in and out through doorways, and find a model that can fit through the space available. Scooters that allow you to reduce the width of armrests or fold the tiller down may be more practical.
Medium- and large-sized models are hefty items that normally need to be stored outside your home – ideally in a garage or shed with a mains plug, so that the battery can be charged overnight. You may need to consider building ramps over steps to allow access.
Portable scooters and some of the smaller models can be dismantled or folded for storage and transporting, although you're unlikely to want to do this every time you use the scooter.
Get the mobility scooter weight right
Some of the smaller and lighter models have a maximum weight capacity – around 15-20 stone (100-130kg) for portable models.
It’s important that you buy a mobility scooter suitable for your weight, because if you’re too heavy for the scooter it might become unstable.
If you buy a scooter with a recommended weight capacity of lower than your actual weight, you will also invalidate the warranty.
Once you've decided on the type you want, the next considerations will tend to be price, distance range and appearance.