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How to buy the best stairlift

Buying and installing a stairlift

By Joanna Pearl

Article 3 of 5

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Buying and installing a stairlift

Discover the average price you should expect to pay for a stairlift and how you may be able to get financial help buying one.

If an occupational therapist (OT) has assessed your needs and recommended a stairlift, you'll then need to find out how much one for your home will cost. This will involve a feasibility study by a stairlift company.

To find out about recommended stairlift companies near your home, consult your OT, or an expert from a equipment demonstration centre or disabled living centre, who will be able to give you some options. 

Alternatively, visit the Disabled Living Foundation’s (DLF) Living Made Easy website, which has details of stairlift models from national stairlift manufacturers and suppliers, many of whom are members of the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA). 

The latter can be reassuring, as it means that the company has to follow a code of practice set by the BHTA and the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

Avoid the hard-sell and higher prices. Find out which firms have been voted the best and worst stairlift brands in our independent customer survey, and the companies rated best places to buy a stairlift.

Stairlift prices

Our 2018 survey of stairlift owners revealed that the average price paid for a new stairlift was £3,369.

Although stairlifts are fairly expensive items, the cost of buying and installing one has remained stable for years. 

  • A simple straight stairlift can be bought for around £2,000.
  • Prices can jump to as much as £6,000, or more, if you have curved or especially long stairs, or need additional features.

Our 2018 survey of stairlift owners revealed that the average price paid for a new stairlift was £3,369. The average price paid for a new straight stairlift was £2,679 and £4,248 for a curved stairlift.

Prices and quality vary between manufacturers and by type of stairlift, though: our stairlift brand reviews contain average prices for brand new and second-hand Acorn, Handicare and Stannah stairlifts.

As a general rule, every corner in your staircase will double the initial price. If you have a staircase formed of two straight flights of stairs with a landing area in between, it may be cheaper to buy two straight stairlifts instead of one curved one. You would need to be mobile enough to move from one lift to the other, though.

Because curved stairlifts are made to measure, a deposit is normally required. This isn't usually necessary for straight stairlifts. 

Getting a quote for a stairlift

For a stairlift company to be able to give you an accurate quote, its surveyor will need to visit your home to carry out a feasibility study. This should be free of charge and seeks to determine, among other things, whether your stairs are wide enough for the stairlift you want, and, if you want a seated stairlift, wide enough to allow room for your knees when seated.

The sales visit is your chance to find out about the different models of stairlift. But it's not just about your staircase, the assessor needs to find out about you too.

This will allow them to identify the features that will suit your individual needs, so ask lots of questions to make sure you're getting the right stairlift for you.

Acorn and Age UK (selling Handicare stairlifts) told us that they can generally come out for a visit on the same day that you call, whereas Stannah says that it typically comes out within three days, but would aim to get to you the same or next day if needed.

It's a good idea to get quotes from two or three different companies, including one manufacturer and one supplier, so you can compare prices and make an informed decision. 

Get the best from your visit

If possible, try to arrange for your occupational therapist (OT) to be present during the feasibility study. If this isn't possible, you should at least make sure that your OT has given you clear written instructions about which stairlift features are important for you – for instance, whether you need one that is seated or a standing and, if seated, whether it needs to be height adjustable.

Once the study has been completed, the company representative will give you a written quote either there and then, or in the following days.

What's included in your stairlift quote?

Make sure the quotes you're getting are like for like. Think about the following:

  • Is installation included?
  • Does it include any extra work needed, such as installing an extra power point or carpentry work?
  • Check there are no hidden extras that will have to be paid for later.
  • What is included in the warranty - for example, a service, replacement parts or repairs? 
  • What aftercare is available? Will the stairlift be maintained by engineers directly employed by the company? Will they be on call and able to visit whenever needed, day or night?

VAT exemption for stairlifts

If you are registered disabled or have a chronic health condition, you can claim VAT exemption when buying a stairlift.

If you are registered disabled or have a chronic health condition, you can claim VAT exemption when buying a stairlift. Visit the HMRC website for further details.

Make sure you're clear about whether the quote you're getting includes VAT, so you can compare quotes between companies.

Stairlift running costs

Stairlifts are economical items to run, with many manufacturers claiming that they cost a lot less in electricity charges than using a kettle.

Stairlift maintenance

Stairlifts should be inspected by a qualified stairlift engineer every six months, and serviced annually – especially as most people with stairlifts are dependent on them to give them access to the whole house.

Your stairlift should come with a minimum one-year warranty. Most stairlift companies also offer a 24-hour no-fees call-out service for the first year, which covers any spare parts that might be needed.

After the first year, you'll need to either renew your warranty, or pay an engineer by the hour for any required servicing.

Most stairlift companies offer extended warranties or maintenance contracts when you purchase a stairlift. Not all of these cover the battery, however.

Find out how much call-outs and repairs tend to cost for different brands in our guide to the best stairlift brands.

Finding the best stairlift company

A company should not put any pressure on you to purchase one of its stairlifts. Be especially wary of companies with pushy salespeople, or of those that flaunt ‘special offers’. Our stairlift brand reviews shows which brands represent the best value for money, quality, reliability and more - and the ones which avoid using pressure selling tactics.

Where you buy from is important, too. For more on why where you buy from matters, and what you should expect from your home visit visit our guide to the best places to buy stairlifts

Installing a stairlift

Stairlifts can normally be installed in less than a day. And as most stairlift rails fit to the stairs rather than the wall, no structural alterations to your home should be needed. 

Buying a second-hand stairlift

The average cost of a second-hand stairlift is £1,990, compared with £3,369 for a brand new one.

Many manufacturers and suppliers sell reconditioned stairlifts, which can be much cheaper than new ones. These are usually straight stairlifts that have been removed from one property and can be fixed to another staircase in a different home. Made-to-measure curved staircases are not normally available second-hand.

If you're considering a second-hand stairlift ask the same sort of questions as you would for a second-hand car. For example, the stairlift's service history, who has serviced it and the length of any warranty included.

Handicare and Stannah told us that only approved or authorised dealers should be selling reconditioned stairlifts: do check, as if you buy a reconditioned stairlift elsewhere, it won't come with assurances such as a one-year warranty, guarantee and a full service history.

When we surveyed stairlift owners in 2018, we found that the average price paid for a second-hand stairlift is £1,990, compared with £3,369 for a brand new one.

Hiring a stairlift

Hiring a stairlift might be a better option if you know you will only need it for a set period of time, such as recovering from an accident or operation. Some suppliers have a minimum term for stairlift hire, often around three months.

Installation costs when hiring (which normally also includes removal at the end) range from £350 to more than £1,000, while monthly rental fees range from £10 for a straight stairlift from a local supplier to as much as £150 a month for a complicated curved stairlift from a national manufacturer.

Financial assistance for stairlifts

It's worth looking into whether you might be eligible for a stairlift from the council.

If you need to buy a stairlift because you have a chronic illness or other form of disability and intend to live in your current property for the next five years, you may be eligible for a disabled facilities grant to help with the cost.

Social services or your local environmental heath department may be able to offer grants of up to £25,000 to eligible people. They also sometimes offer low-cost loans. However, your income and savings have to be assessed first, and referrals from an OT are normally required.

To find out more, see our guide to getting a stairlift from the council

You can also visit our Later Life Care website for a guide to financing home alterations.