How to buy the best stairlift
Buying and installing a stairlift
By Joanna Pearl
Article 3 of 5
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 needed.
If an occupational therapist (OT) has assessed your needs and recommended a stairlift, the next step is to find out how much one 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).
Although stairlifts are expensive items, the cost of buying and installing one has remained fairly stable for years.
- A simple, straight stairlift can be bought for around £2,000.
- Prices can jump to as much as £7,000 or more if you have curved or especially long stairs, or need additional features.
Our 2020 survey of stairlift owners revealed that the average price paid for a new stairlift was £3,284. The average price paid for a new straight stairlift was £2,845; this increases to an average £4,217 for a curved stairlift.
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, though.
Prices and quality vary between manufacturers and by type of stairlift. In our stairlift brand reviews, we've included average prices for brand new and second-hand Acorn, Handicare and Stannah stairlifts, as well as smaller brands such as Bespoke, MediTek and Thyssenkrup.
Where to see stairlifts before you buy
If you want to see a range of stairlifts, there are a few options.
Some companies have showrooms at which you can see and try different models.
Alternatively, you could find your nearest equipment demonstration centre. These are dedicated places where you can try out mobility aids in a non-sales environment, which can feel more relaxed. There are a number across the UK, and you can find a list on the Disabled Living Foundation's Living Made Easy website.
You could also ask your local council which brands it uses. If you have an occupational therapist, ask them or contact the occupational therapy department of your local council.
If you know someone who owns a stairlift, ask to try theirs, and talk to them about the pros and cons. There's nothing like sitting on a stairlift and giving it a go for seeing whether it might suit you.
But remember that your requirements may be very different – for example, if theirs is a straight stairlift, it's likely to have been simpler and cheaper to install than a bespoke option for curved stairs.
What to consider before getting your stairlift quotes
Be sure that a stairlift is the right option for you and your needs, both now and in the foreseeable future: head to our guide to should you get a stairlift?
Ask whether the company is a member of the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA). This means it will have signed up to its code of practice, which includes ethical selling.
All stairlifts must be CE-marked and comply with British Standard BS5776.
Getting a quote for a stairlift
For a stairlift company to be able to give you an accurate quote, a surveyor will usually need to visit your home to carry out a feasibility study. This should be free of charge.
They'll determine, among other things, whether your stairs are wide enough for the stairlift you want, and, for seated stairlifts, wide enough to allow room for your knees when seated.
The visit is your chance to find out about the different models of stairlift the company offers. But it's not just about your staircase, the assessor will need to find out about you too.
This will allow them to identify the features that will suit your individual needs.
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 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 to expect:
The salesperson should thoroughly assess your needs, including:
• Whether you'll be able to safely get on and off a seated stairlift, and whether you’ll be able to use the control button and the footrest
• If the stairlift will have a retractable seatbelt, that you have the strength and finger movement to secure it
• The dimensions of your stairs. Whether they are wide enough to accommodate a stairlift and whether there are there bends that necessitate a curved staircase, or obstructions that will mean the stairlift need to automatically fold back
• If any extra home-improvement work, such as an extra plug point, is needed.
Larger companies may have computer software to show you what your customised stairlift will look like on your own stairs.
Questions to ask at your stairlift consultation
• Am I physically able to get on and off the stairlift (taking into account any disabilities), and travel on it comfortably and safely?
• What type of stairlift would best meet my needs? For example, if I have arthritic knees, will I be comfortable travelling seated or do I need a perching or standing stairlift?
• Is the suggested stairlift suitable for someone of my height and weight (for example, is the seat deep enough to comfortably accommodate long legs)?
• Can I safely use features such as the controls and seatbelt, or do I need adaptations (for example, a joystick because I can't keep the control button pressed down)?
• Can my staircase accommodate the cheapest straight stairlift or will I need a more expensive curved/ bespoke option?
• How will the stairlift work in my home environment? For example, will the track need to get around a doorway or radiator at the bottom of the stairs?
• Are my stairs wide enough for both the stairlift and for others in the house to safely use the stairs, if needed?
• After-sales service – how does the the company deal with breakdowns, including response times? How much will be charged for call-outs, such as annual servicing (usually recommended by manufacturers) and repairs?
• Does the company have a ‘buy back’ policy’ (and if so, how does it compare to those of other companies)?
You can also find out more about what the big brands offer in our guide to the best stairlift brands.
A quote should include:
• The cost of the stairlift
• Cost of any bespoke options, such as choice of seat upholstery
• Installation costs.
Check with the salesperson if you’re eligible for a VAT exemption because of disability.
A good company will be able to give you information on the length of the stairlift’s warranty, too. Most have a one-year minimum warranty, but some offer two-year and extended warranties.
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, 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?
Stairlift installation: how long does it take?
Stairlifts from brands such as Acorn and Stannah can take between one and 14 days to be installed. Council or housing association installation is likely to take longer.
We asked the bigger manufacturers how long you can expect to wait for your stairlift to be installed. Acorn said that an assessment visit is generally scheduled the same day, then it's around one to five working days until installation.
Stannah said that an assessment visit generally takes up to two days to arrange, and it's three to 10 days until a straight stairlift is installed, or 10 to 14 days for a curved one.
Age UK said that an assessment visit usually happens the same or the next day as requested, with two to five days to install a straight stairlift, or seven to 14 days for a curved one.
This is likely to be significantly quicker than council or housing association installation.
If you think you might be eligible for financial assistance towards a stairlift, check out our guidance on council-provided stairlifts and financing home alterations.
VAT exemption for stairlifts
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. Many manufacturers claim that they cost much less, in terms of electricity charges, than using a kettle.
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; some companies offer two years. 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.
Head to our guide to where to buy your stairlift, as rated by stairlift owners.
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
You can save some money by buying a second-hand stairlift. The average cost of a second-hand stairlift is £2,802, compared with £3,284 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.
The average cost of a second-hand stairlift is £2,802, compared with £3,284 for a brand new one.
When we surveyed stairlift owners in 2020, we found that the average price paid for a second-hand stairlift is £2,802, compared with £3,501 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 if you're 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 provided or funded by 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 disabled facilities grants of up to £30,000 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 guide to financing home alterations.