Choosing a mobility scooter for the first time can be a confusing experience. No doubt you’re excited to get out and about and making the most of the freedom this vehicle offers, but there are so many different makes and models to filter through and to find the perfect scooter for your individual needs, you really need to know what you’re looking for.
With any life-changing investment, it’s wise to do your research before making a decision and you should choose the right mobility scooter to suit your lifestyle, size and day-to-day needs. Make the decision as simple as possible with our guide to finding your next scooter.
As Martyn Sibley, whose own experience of living with Spinal Muscular Atrophy lead him create the disability lifestyle publication, Disability Horizons, as well as the book Everything is Possible about his global adventures travelling with a disability, says: “With the right equipment everything truly is possible. Don’t let your physical limitations stop you from living a happy life.”
Finding a mobility scooter to suit your lifestyle
Health & safety
Firstly, you should consider what role the role of a mobility scooter might play in your daily life and whether you can operate this equipment physically. If you have strength and dexterity in both hands and are able to sit up for an extended period of time, you will likely find that a scooter is a good option for you.
You should also think about the kind of controls that you might need in order to operate the scooter. Generally, mobility vehicles are designed with ease of use in mind, so while the controls could take a little getting used to, you should pick up what button does what in no time. If you have limited movement in your hands or a condition such as arthritis, choosing the right mobility scooter might mean selecting one with ergonomic handles or steering that is easy to grip and hold on to for the course of your journey.
Think about your size, if you’re tall you’ll likely be thankful for the extra leg room whereas if you’re of a smaller build, a scooter that’s too big could make you feel less secure when you’re driving it.
Weight is also a key factor in picking the right equipment for your needs and can also help to narrow down the options on offer. Say, for instance, you are likely to be adding more weight by loading the vehicle with any other medical apparatus or items you want to carry with you, then you should choose a scooter that can handle this additional capacity. Make sure you allow for this extra weight as overloading a scooter with a lower capacity could affect the performance of your scooter. If you’re expecting to be able to carry shopping home, for example, it is worth looking at scooters with built in storage or a front or rear basket for this purpose.
Safety is also paramount and if this is your first mobility scooter experience, you should read up on what’s important to know before you set off. Martyn Sibley reminds us that we “have a responsibility to others alongside their right to independence. Be careful to other people when riding from A to B.”
In terms of safety proofing your scooter, make sure it facilitates driving on roads if you intend to do so. You can check that the lights are appropriate, that the scooter itself is solid and that it has at least one wing mirror – a requirement when driving a road legal scooter.
There are several models and ranges when it comes to mobility scooters, all designed with different purposes in mind, so you need to decide how you plan to use your scooter in daily life.
You may only need a mobility scooter for running errands, visiting people a short distance away or getting into town. In that case, a lightweight travel scooter that folds down could suit your needs. The folding mobility scooters from Monarch have the added feature of batteries that are approved for travel on most airlines so if you’re likely to travel further on holidays, this style may be a good choice. If you think you’re likely to be using your scooter on the road, a model with a robust build and all the necessary safety is essential. Scooters adapted for roads will usually be larger and have tyres suited for potentially uneven surfaces on pavements and roads.
For those who like to travel further from home, or might enjoy a day trip with their family, a folding mobility scooter can be packed away conveniently and stored in the boot of a car.
Today, mobility scooters come in a variety of styles and it’s also worth remembering that there are also scooters that can be adapted and customised to suit their new owner’s needs. Ask the sales assistant for advice on this if you have any special requirements.
“Although design and speed are great; comfort and support are the best features to consider,” explains Martyn Sibley.
You’ll want to get the most out of your scooter, as it helps you to lead a more independent lifestyle and enables you to move around freely. Naturally, comfort is going to be important if you plan to spend time using the scooter and you should think about this when you make your decision.
Test out the scooters in the showroom you visit and consider whether they support you safely and aid your comfort. Generally, scooters will have adjustable seats and most will have a way of tilting the seat to suit you but you’ll find the larger and more complex the scooter, the more options for adapting it to your comfort level you’ll have. Also look into the amount of suspension you might need, particularly if you plan to drive it on bumpy or uneven roads. You should also plan how to get on and off the scooter, as this could be a challenge in itself with restricted mobility and therefore a scooter with a rotating seat might be the way to go.
“Choosing the correct model to suit the consumer’s lifestyle is important,” says Steve Perry from the British Healthcare Trades Association. They suggest identifying your needs and what you want to achieve, which should help you determine which type of mobility scooter would best suit this list.
Below they have broken down the types of scooter you’re likely to come across into three groups:
1). Car transportable that folds/breaks down into smaller sections for loading into a vehicle. These models tend to have smaller batteries as you are transporting them and need to be able to lift. But also reduces their range.
2). Medium range Class 2 (4 mph) pavement scooters tend to have larger batteries and are used away from home around the local community. Normally not folding, but can be sometimes carried in a car or MPV by using ramps to load.
3). Large range Class 3 (4/8mph) pavement and road use scooters are mainly for the user who wants to travel longer distances and go on the road. They may live in a rural area where there may be no pavements or could be an ex-driver who wants the ability to go further and faster.
Choosing your mobility scooter
Once you have considered the right mobility scooter for your needs, you can get further advice and guidance by approaching a mobility equipment specialist.
When getting out yourself is a struggle, Monarch Mobility is happy to bring the presentation to you with a free home demonstration so you can see the scooters for yourself. Those who are simply replacing a well-loved model in need of replacement can browse the extensive product range online to find something similar to the one they’re used to.
Before you drive off, however, you will need to ensure that you have insurance to cover any accidents, injury or breakdowns. You might also want to consider any additional items you may need to take proper care of your new mobility scooter. The British Healthcare Trades Association suggests that: “They will need an electric socket for recharging overnight. If purely outside they can buy all weather storage covers to keep the scooter dry. These tend to be a loose fitting cover. There also a secure storage unit that can be wired to the property for charging.”
When it comes to making that all important purchase, you may be entitled to some form of financial support. If you receive the War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement or the Higher Rate Mobility Allowance, you could exchange this for a scooter or powered wheelchair at Monarch. Find out more about Monarch’s partnership with Motability and how it could help you purchase your mobility scooter.
Image Credit: David Anstiss (geograph.org)