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How to buy the best stairlift

Should you get a stairlift?

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Should you get a stairlift?

Find out whether a stair-lift is the best option for you and why, in some cases, it may be better to wait before you buy.

A stairlift is a mechanical device for lifting people (and sometimes wheelchairs) up and down staircases. Motorised domestic stairlifts are relatively straightforward devices, though they become more complicated if you have a curved or unusually shaped staircase.

Contrary to popular perception, stairlift tracks normally (though not in all circumstances) fit to the treads of the stairs, not to the wall next to the staircase.

Most stairlifts run on rechargeable batteries, which recharge automatically, but some are mains-powered. Main brands include Stannah, Acorn and Handicare.

Find out which firms have been voted the best stair-lift brands in our independent customer survey.

A stairlift is a mechanical device for lifting people (and sometimes wheelchairs) up and down staircases.
Good for you if: You struggle with stairs – maybe because of a medical condition, hip replacement or pain – and want to keep using your whole house.
Think twice if: You’re not sure if you’ll be able to get on and off or use the controls, whether it would be better to keep using your joints, or whether one would accommodate your weight or suit your stairs.

Joanna Pearl,
Principal Health Researcher

Who are stairlifts for?

Stairlifts are designed for people with limited mobility who struggle to walk up and down staircases – for instance, people with conditions such as multiple sclerosis and arthritis, and those who have had hip replacements, as well as those who have significantly reduced strength and flexibility simply from old age or following an operation.

If your home is on more than one floor, stairlifts can enable you to have continued access to the whole property and retain your independence.

An occupational therapist (OT) can initially assess whether a stairlift would be suitable for your wants and needs. And if it is a case of when, not whether, then an OT can tell you when it is the right time to get one. You can make an appointment with an OT through the NHS, or via the College of Occupational Therapists.

Visit Which? Elderly Care for more on getting an occupational therapy assessment.

Reasons why a stairlift may not be suitable

Many people who invest in a stairlift regret not getting one sooner. However, they are not right for every condition or lifestyle, and it is better to find this out before wasting money and time on having one installed. Also, some staircases may not be able to accommodate them.

We have the information you need on different types of stairlifts and what will suit your stairs. The prices can vary considerably – between curved and straight stairlifts, for example.

Personal restrictions on stairlift suitability

If you still have a fair degree of mobility and do not experience pain when climbing the stairs, it may be best to wait before getting a stairlift – in some cases, people’s joints degenerate faster if they are not used regularly. 

If you are very overweight, you might be limited in your choice, or may not be able to get one at all. Most have maximum weight capacities, which normally range from 20 to 30 stone.

Stannah straight stairlifts can accommodate people of up to just over 21 stone, and curved stairlifts up to 25 stone. Acorn straight stairlifts suit people of up to 20 stone, and curved machines up to 25 stone.

To use a stairlift, you normally need to have a certain degree of mobility to enable you to get on and off the seat. You also need to have enough dexterity to be able to use the controls and the footrest.

Again, an OT can help you decide whether one might be suitable.

Structural restrictions on stairlift suitability

Though most staircases can be fitted with a stairlift, occasionally it is not possible due to the narrow width of the staircase.

In such cases, it may be better to consider rearranging your house so that you spend most of your time on one floor.

Stairlifts are also expensive, normally costing between £2,000 and £7,000 (or more) when bought new. Find out how much the people we surveyed paid for Acorn, Handicare and Stannah stairlifts.

If this is a concern for you, visit Which? Elderly Care to read about financial assistance for home alternations.