This mobility scooter buying guide will help if you are thinking of buying a mobility scooter, this guide gives you a brief introduction to mobility scooters, including a summary of the different classes of scooters and their pros and cons. It looks at some of the rules and regulations for users, including legal requirements, an outline of operating controls, and of course, a guide to choosing the right mobility scooter for you. It offers a useful introduction to some of the factors you will need to consider while deciding which vehicle is right for you. With links to more detailed articles on the different sections.
Different mobility Scooter types
From a legal standpoint, powered wheelchairs and mobility scooters fall into two categories, class 2 and class 3 (class 1 refers to non-powered wheelchairs in case you are wondering).
The simple difference is that class 2 vehicles may not be used on the road (other than for crossing the road, or if there is no pavement available) while class 3 types are road legal. In addition, class 2 scooters may be lightweight and foldable to allow for carrying in the boot of a car.
Class 2 – Mobility Scooter
A classic wheelchair layout, but powered, and capable of up to 4mph, these can be foldable lightweights or more heavy-duty types. The choice between wheelchair and scooter is partly personal preference. Powered wheelchairs can be steered with small movements and only one hand, making them ideal for users who also have limited upper body mobility.
Light-weight class 2 scooters, typically around 25kg, fold up completely and can be wheeled along like a suitcase. They have a shorter range and less power than heavier models. These are ideal for those who need to use a scooter only some of the time, but who also travel long distances by car or public transport. Also, useful if you need to store your scooter in the house.
These are heavier than the folding models, typically around 50kg and usually, have a longer range and more power. Some can be dismantled into several components for fitting into a car boot. These are more suited to users who don’t travel often by car but don’t need to drive on the roads, for example, those who can do all their shopping locally.
Class 3 vehicles are intended for road use and as such must also be registered and meet specific legal requirements. They generally have more power and range than class 2 vehicles and can reach speeds of 8mph, with a 4mph limiter setting for use on pavements. Because these are heavier, they can’t be easily transported, although a few are designed to be dismantled, their longer range and road-going capability make them almost as an alternative to a car.
Rules for mobility scooter users
No mobility scooter buying guide would be complete without a summary of the rules and regulations as this may affect your final buying choice. As already mentioned there are two distinct classes of powered vehicles. Class 2 is restricted to 4mph and for pavement use, while class 3 is a road going vehicle with a top speed of 8mph. The latter is also fitted with indicators, lights and a horn, just like a car, and these must be maintained and properly working whenever the vehicle is used on the roads. They must also be registered with the DVLA although they are currently zero-rated for road tax.
Class 2 vehicles may only be used on roads when they are unable to use the pavement. Although a driving license is not a requirement, when used on roads, users of both types must obey all the same rules that cars do, including obeying one-way signs and similar restrictions and exercise caution and consideration for other road users. Mobility scooters must never be used on motorways, and there are additional requirements for certain A-roads.
When used on pavements, the maximum speed of 4mph applies, but you should also slow down for pedestrians, particularly where the pavement is narrow or obstructed. It is wise to wear reflective clothing to make it easier for drivers to see you, particularly at night.
When negotiating large or complex junctions it may be safer to revert to the pavement until negotiated safely. Parking restrictions apply to both classes. Although insurance is not a legal requirement it is strongly advised to have at least third-party insurance in place. There are full details of the legal requirements on the government website.
The Motability scheme
Anyone reading a buying guide to mobility scooters may want to be aware of the ‘Motability’ scheme and find out if they are eligible. The Motability scheme allows people to use mobility allowance payments to lease a scooter or powered chair. You must be in receipt of a qualifying mobility allowance, such as higher rate mobility component of DLA or PIP, or the equivalent war pensioners or armed forces payments. One big advantage of this scheme is that it is all inclusive of things like insurance and servicing, while still leaving you free to choose the right scooter for your needs.
Find out if you qualify for the Motability scheme with the Eligibility Checker
How do mobility scooter controls work?
The controls vary across different makes and types. Usually, you will have a tiller with handlebars for steering, on the centre of this will be a facia with the other controls. Starting is either by key or switch, depending on the model. Speed is usually controlled by a dial. Class 3 scooters must also have a speed limiter switch for when used on pavements. There will be a button for the horn and additional controls for indicators and lights where fitted. Manufacturers aim to make everything as easy to use and intuitive as possible, but it is a good idea to check you can reach and use all the controls before making your buying choice.
There are many factors to consider when choosing which model is right for you. This buying guide gives a brief outline of the main ones. Some users may well need to consider the maximum carrying capacity of their chosen scooter. All scooters have a specified maximum user weight with lighter models, particularly folding scooters usually having the lowest carrying capacity. The range is also dependent on the user’s weight and if you live in a very hilly area then power may be a consideration.
You will want to consider whether you need portability, e.g. for loading the scooter into the boot of a car, or for taking it on flights, or whether you need a heavier vehicle with a longer range and more power. If you do choose a foldable or dismantlable scooter, make sure that you, or someone with you, will be able to lift it into the car boot. Think about where you will store your scooter, and where you will charge the battery.
Another factor worth considering is the comfort. Heavier models will have more padded seats with better adjustment. Air filled tyres and suspension can give a smoother ride, especially important for users with back problems. These may also affect ride height and the ability to climb awkward kerbs or negotiate uneven surfaces. As well as reading the specifications, it is a good idea to test out models either by visiting the showroom or by taking advantage of a home demonstration. There is nothing quite so useful when buying a mobility scooter than sitting in the seat and operating the controls for real.