Disability equipment, for less!

Choosing a Scooter

Jeremy Clarkson on one of three Mobility Scooters created for Top Gear and now in Beaulieu Motor Museum (Full Size)


A while back, I was wandering around a mobilty trade fair and wondering that so many companies were trading mobility scooters and buggies. Although I wasn't looking and didn't need one for myself, I found the choice of types and brands bewildering. My next thought was how so many businesses could be competing and profitably trading scooters. Things may have changed - certainly there seem to be more Chinese and Korean players in the game now which have brought prices down.- but when I asked around, the answer I was given was due to the mark up on each new one sold. This may be right or wrong, I don't know. It seems logical and I have yet to find another answer to satisfy my logic.

This is relevant because 1) it also means that if you want to trade in your preloved scooter then you'll likely be offered a derisory amount (why would a dealer pay more for your used mobility buggy than they can get them new?) and 2) it shows that buying a second hand buggy to solve your mobility needs might be a very sensible move. It also suggests that selling mobility scooters second hand is the best route forward provided you can reassure your potential buyers of it's reliability and battery state.

So, IF you decide to go down this route, what do you need to know about?

  • What TYPE of mobility scooter is suitable for you?
  • What are the possible PITFALLS of buying used and how can you reassure yourself of these issues?
  • Where can you get more INFORMATION on disability scooters to inform your decision and enure that you get the right type?

There is actually a tonne of information out there and it really is worth doing your homework so you don't end up with a sccoter you can't use - like buying a big, powerful one that you can't take on a train, etc...

Sccoters come in different Class Categories: Class 2 and Class 3 and slightly different rules apply. Know your facts: have a read of the HMRC's "Mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs on theroad - some guidance for users" document. 

If you are researching the internet on scooters, remember there are plenty of mobility scooter forums where you can read what other users have to say, or register and ask questions yourself.


Are there any special rules which affect mobility scooter users on the road?

Yes, the Highway Code has some rules for mobility scooter users which you must know. They are Rules for users of powered wheelchairs and mobility scooters (36 to 46).


What Are The Different Mobility Scooters (or so-called invalid carriages) Available? 

Dismantling and Folding a Boot or Travel Mobility Scooter into a car (Full Size)

Boot or Travel Scooters are lightweight and will usually dismantle into three or four sections to fit into the boot of a car. You'll find these lightweight scooters with three or four wheels - three wheelers are more manoeuvreable in tight spaces but inherently less stable than the four wheelers. 

Pros: They'll also be easier to transport on trains and airplanes. They are handy if you don't have much storage space or need to travel with them. They are also suitable for tight spaces because they are smaller, so if you only intend to use one to get you round a supermarket, this might do the trick nicely. 

Cons: However, the lightweight construction means that they are likely to have a lower weight capacity and will have a smaller battery meaning a shorter range. The ride is also likely to be less comfortable because there will be less shock absorption built into them. 

a three wheeler class two mobility scooter. (Full Size)

Class 2 will not dismantle but are smaller and still relatively lightweight. Depending on size, they may be suitable for indoor and outdoor use. 

Pros: They will be easier to store, cost less and have simpler controls, than the larger class 3 scooters. They do not need vehicle tax or registration and there is no license required to ride them - although regulations do apply, as per the HMRC document. Some will be possible to take on buses (depending on size). 

Cons: They cannot be riden on the road and have a maximum speed of 4 mph. They will also have a shorter range than their big brothers as their batteries will be smaller.

class 3 mobility scooter (Full Size)

Tramper Mobility Scooters are designed with greater X-country capability (Full Size)

(Sorry, couldn't resist this wonderful photo of a class 3 scooter! Not necessarily sensible use to maintain a long and hassle free vehicle life...)

Class 3 scooters can be ridden on roads (not dual carriageways or motorways) upto a maximum speed of 8mph. They must also have a 4mph restriction for when riding off the road (e.g. on pavements, shopping centres, activity parks, etc..) 

Pros: these are bigger and more comfortable scooters which will take you further on each charge. They will likely have more features like anti tip, comfortable seating, road packs (mirrors, indicators, lights, horn, etc..) controls. They'll have tougher tyres giving you much more freedom where you can take them. The chassis and frame have more reinforcement meaning they'll have a greater weight limit. 

Cons: Also, they need to be registered with DVLA and have a minimum age limit of 14 years. They will require a ramp to get them into transport and you will need a much bigger vehicle or trailer to take them with you. And they're require much more space to store them.


Which Scooter Is Right For Me?


Special Mention - Looking for something a little more X-country?

  • Tramper Scooters - The tramper is designed to get you off road, fishing, on the beach, walking, field sports, rambling and as an electric vehicle has quiet operation, unlike Quad bikes, which are excellent in other circumstances for certain people. Trampers are more likely to be more welcome on footpaths, though will struggle with styles and locked gates!
 A Tramper Mobility Scooter is a mobility scooter with greater off road capability (Full Size)
  • The Terrain Hopper is billed by the manufacturers as "an exciting electrically powered off road wheelchair and scooter with distinctive looks and extreme off-road capabilities. Designed to tackle deep mud, dry sand, snow, undergrowth, rocks and loose surfaces and with ground clearance of 250mm."
the terrain hopper is an off road mobility scooter which can handle deep mud, dry sand, snow, undergrowth, rocks and loose surfaces (Full Size)


What happens if the Scooter I buy breaks down?
 

image from The Telegraph of a mobility scooter breakdown (Full Size)


If you plan for the worst, then should your mobility scooter break down, you'll already know where to turn. Before you buy, get in touch with local service providers to see if they offer servicing and repairs on all mobility scooters and what are the associated costs and timings.

Examples of scooter servicing and repair companies (please note: these do not constitute recommendations as we haven't used them ourselves):

If it's not starting, this video runs through a simple check list you can try before telephoning for help, which will invariably cost.



What Can Go Wrong With A Scooter?

1. Battery:

Batteries detoriate with time and use, so you'll notice that your scooter will either go slower or lose its charge more quickly as time passes. If you are buying second hand then it's worth knowing about and asking about battery life, care and replacement. If you're not comfortable using a volt meter then I'd suggest either you find someone you can trust who can trouble shoot for you, rather than have a dealer / service provider quote a huge amount for something which may be trifling or look up the potential costs for a new battery for the model you are intending to buy so that you have an idea of what ongoing costs you may be in for. A website like Mobility Pit Stop* (*this does not constitute a recommendation.) will give you much more information on costs and background on the subject. 

There is a lot of information available on caring for batteries and how to charge correctly. The main thing to note here is that not all batteries are the same and you should know what type of battery you have - or want to buy as a replacement. Separating myth from fact will stop you worrying and get you into good charging and storage habits.

If you suspect the battery is the cause of a problem, then you should try trouble-shooting before paying for a new battery, as the probelm could be the battery, charger or motor / electrics.

2. Motor:

The electric motors are pretty simple and long lasting on mobility scooters and treated carefully tend not to cause issues, unless abused. Generally, problems occur when it's been driven through excessive water (like puddles), around gritty and dusty areas (which can get into the moving parts) or dropped and bumped. As with cars, if you don't know the provenance of the scooter you are buying, then taking it for a test drive first is essential. 

3. Tyres:

Tyres are a consumable and will need replacing at some stage. Tyres can either be:

  • Solid which are durable but which may wear and pit depending on what surfaces the scooter is driven on. They are heavier and will give a harder ride, especisally when they start to deteriorate. The advantage of them is that they cannot puncture.
  • Pneumatic tyres give a much more comfortable ride as the air cushions the scooter. They can puncture, but are often cheaper and easier to replace.
  • In Filled tyres give a comfortable ride and tend to last for a long time. However, when they get older, the rubber can start to split and the filling will come out, making the unusable.


Useful Tips (Full Size)


User Tips:

  • Our Number #1 User Tip: TRY BEFORE YOU BUY!!!!
  • Keeping your tyres inflated to the correct pressure will conserve your battery range by up to 50%
  • Without battery charge you won't go anywhere, so take the time to understand how best to care for your battery life. TGA have a useful page on Battery Life.
  • Keeping your scooter clean will lessen the chances of dust and grit getting into working parts in the motor and ensure that you have a long and hassle free use from it.
  • Avoid leaving the scooter out to get wet. If it has to live outdoors then get a cover to protect from the worst of the wet.
  • Stability - remember that the stability of any scooter will depend on its size and the user weight and dimensions. You should make time for a test drive before committing to purchase one.
  • Climbing kerbs - generally you should aim to use drop kerbs and ramps where available. All scooters should be able to mount a small threshold of upto about 1 inch. Bigger scooters may be able to mount bigger obstacles depending on its size and power. Each scooter should be supplied with instructions stating its capabilities and if you have any doubt, then ask the retailer or manufacturer. When mounting kerbs or overcoming obstacles, take them straight on at 90 degree angle. You'll need to balance between going fast enough to have enough momentum to get over the obstacle and not too fast that either you cannot stop once over or that if the vehicle stops abruptly, you don't go flying!
  • Storage - think about where you can securely store your scooter as this may affect which type it's sensible to buy.
  • Getting on & off - consider your mobility when choosing. Some scooters have a swivel seat which makes getting on and off much easier.
  • Driving comfort - the stick that holds the controls and steering is called the TILLER. On some models, this is adjustable to make driving more comfortable for the user.
  • Braking - most scooters have electro-magnetic brakes which are always on until you push the wig-wag (driving controls), so a runaway situation won't happen. However, be aware that some larger scooters may have traditional brakes. This shouldn't scare you, but is something to consider when choosing a scooter that is suitable to your mobility and dexterity requirements.

The brighter side of mobility scootering (Full Size)


If you are looking to buy a new scooter, why not head over to Complete Care Shop to see what they can do for you. With a dedicated customer care team and a huge range at discounted prices, they should be able to help.

More Information & FAQs:

  • RICA is a disability consumer comparison and information charity. They have a number of pages on mobility scooters including Choosing a Mobility Scooter and RICA Mobiliy User Survey Results which provide additional user information before making a purchase decision. 
  • Which? has a whole section on mobility scooters. So if you want a little extra advice, research and information read through their pages. Please note some pages are for subscribers only, though they do an initial trial offer of £1.
  • Disabled Motoring Charity have certain information pages. 
  • Forum of Mobiliy Centres offer advice and training on driving mobility scooters for anyone requiring help or confidence.
  • Various manufacturers produce sections of their website or minisites to offer information and articles about all aspects of scootering:
    • Quingo 
    • TGA 
    • [please do send in links if you think your page, or one you like, should be mentioned here]

Further Reading:

Non-disabled use of and racing mobility scooters is becoming an increasing problem (Full Size)

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