Should I buy a mobility scooter?
When you have limited mobility, a scooter can provide a cheap and simple way of getting out and about, but there are are some downsides you need to know about. Mobility scooters aren't right for everyone and we've heard about too many gathering dust in garages.
Below, we talk you through the different types and who they're suitable for. Once you know what you need, we've lab-tested the ever-popular 'boot' scooters (which will fit in the boot of your car) so you can buy with confidence.
What is a mobility scooter?
A mobility scooter looks a bit like a golf buggy, but functions more like a cross between a motorised wheelchair and a motor scooter. However, they travel much more slowly than motor scooters, with maximum speeds of 8mph for road scooters (the speed limit is 4mph on pavements).
Although there are different types available, all mobility scooters have bike-style steering (a ‘tiller’) to direct the wheels, large padded upright seats and simple controls. They are powered by batteries.
Who is a mobility scooter suitable for?
Mobility scooters are ideal if you have limited mobility but still want to be able to easily visit friends and family nearby.
If you would otherwise have to rely on others to do your shopping or get around town, they can bring increased freedom and independence.
Mobility scooters are particularly useful if your mobility is limited by conditions such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis or obesity.
Specifically, they are designed for adults who:
- need help with mobility
- tire or experience pain after walking short distances
- are able-bodied enough not to need a wheelchair.
Who is a mobility scooter not suitable for?
If you can no longer drive a car due to sight, hearing or perceptual awareness difficulties, a mobility scooter is not for you, as you still need these senses to drive a scooter safely.
Mobility scooters are not suitable for long journeys out of town due to their limited speed, and the fact that the rechargeable batteries are only able to power the scooter for a few hours at a time.
They are also not generally for use at home, although some small portable models do give you that option.
Mobility scooters: pros and cons
Pros of using a mobility scooter
- They provide you with independence if you have difficulty walking.
- They are generally cheaper than electric wheelchairs.
- They are simple to operate, and you don’t need a driving licence to drive one.
- They require less upper-body strength than manual wheelchairs.
- Some scooters can fit into the boot of a car, making them easy to transport.
- You can use scooters in most public and private spaces, depending on their size.
Cons of using a mobility scooter
- Although cheaper than electric wheelchairs, mobility scooters can still be expensive and are not normally available on the NHS.
- The batteries usually need to be recharged every day – especially if you live in a hilly area and use the scooter each day.
- If you can walk unassisted, using a scooter might deter you from walking and eventually reduce your mobility even more.
- Mobility scooters are generally ‘off-the-peg’ and lack the bespoke features of an electric wheelchair, such as engineered seats.
- Scooters can be difficult to store, often requiring outdoor space if you can't remove the battery to charge it indoors.
- Many mobility scooters are designed for outdoor use, with most models not suitable for use around the home.
- Some mobility scooters struggle with hills and kerbs.
If you're not sure whether a mobility scooter is right for you, you may prefer to get tailored advice from a registered health professional such as an occupational therapist (OT). To find an independent OT in your area, contact the College of Occupational Therapists. An hour’s appointment will normally be enough.