It’s an unfortunate fact of life that as we get older our bodies can start to let us down. In many cases it is a simple matter of wear and tear: arthritis, for instance, can be caused by the vertebra in our spines wearing down with the years of use.
It can come to the point where the pain is so great that walking is simply no longer an option. It is at this stage that many of us will consider buying a mobility scooter in order to maintain as much of our independence as possible.
There are many different types of mobility scooters, and they can range in price from around £400 to over £5,000. It is important to consider exactly what you want to use your scooter for in order to enable you to look around and find the best for your purposes. Do you want it just to pop down to the shops? Do you want to be able to take the dog for a walk in the park? What sort of range do you need?
While mentioning range there are a couple of points to consider. There are three main types of battery – lead acid, gel cell, and AGM. Many batteries will need replacing after 12 – 18 months so you need to take that into consideration when thinking about your budget. Lead acid batteries are the cheapest and last the longest, but need the most maintenance. They need topping up regularly.
Gel cell batteries are more expensive but cannot be spilled and need no maintenance. They can even be taken on aircraft. AGM batteries are the most expensive and use the latest technology. Again, they cannot be spilled and need no maintenance.
Battery prices vary considerably, and can range between £30 and £140, depending on type.
The manufacturers will state the range of the batteries, but it is wise to take this with a pinch of salt if you don’t want to get stuck. Variables include your weight, the weight of shopping, whether you have to go up hills, the age of the battery, and even the weather. A wise precaution is to work on a distance of half the stated range. There will be a dial on the control panel of the scooter showing the battery power.
Of course, you will need somewhere to charge the battery, which can be done without removing it from the scooter, and remember that it will add to the electricity bill.
Small scooters can go on the pavement (maximum speed 4 mph) and some can be dismantled and put in the boot of your car. It is also possible to take some small scooters on public transport so you should discuss this with the seller if you might want to do so. Larger scooters can use the roads and tend to have a greater range, the maximum speed being 8 mph on the road but still 4 mph on the pavement.
You need to ensure that the seat is comfortable for you, that you have enough leg room, and that the controls are easy to use. Furthermore, you need to take into account the wheel size – larger is better if you have to mount kerbs.
Take A Test Drive
In the same way that you wouldn’t buy a car without first taking a test drive, this also applies to buying a mobility scooter. You should shop around and try out some different models rather than buying the first one you see. Prices also vary – in some instances quite considerably. For these reasons buying online is not a good idea, unless you know exactly what you want. You might find it cheaper online, but you may also have to assemble the scooter when it is delivered. If you are eligible for Motability you can pay for your scooter using your mobility payments.
If you are going to use your scooter on the roads remember the speed limit of 8 mph and also remember that the Highway Code applies in just the same way as it does to anyone else. You should also get insurance so that you are covered against 3rd party claims if you should have an accident (you could hit a pedestrian, for instance) and also that you are covered in the case of theft.
Your scooter will need regular servicing in the same way as a car, but every 12 – 18 months should be sufficient. In fact, some insurance policies insist that the scooter is serviced every 12 months in order for cover to be maintained. Servicing prices vary, but in general seem to be between £60 and £90.