Mobility scooters are becoming increasingly popular across Australia as they offer a safe and affordable way for people to regain their independence if they struggle to walk for long distances.
First-timers often bring their family into the purchase decision making process while some rely entirely on their children or younger family members to do the research and choosing for them.
Have you found yourself in this position? You want to get the safest, easiest to use, most manoeuvrable, comfortable vehicle in your price range, right? Read on…
Turn Confusion Into Knowledge
Buying a mobility scooter can be an overwhelming experience, made even more confusing when it’s your parent or another family member who needs the equipment.
While few insurance companies offer mobility equipment insurance, there are many different types of mobility scooters on the market. It’s important that you choose one that suits both your loved one’s lifestyle and physical needs.
Mobility scooters are therapeutic devices so there’s a lot more to consider than just looks and cost. Below are a few important points to think about.
Scooters come in a range of sizes and it’s important to choose one that suits the driver’s unique body.
For example, make sure they can reach the scooter’s controls comfortably and the seat is high enough, so their legs don’t obstruct the controls. Three-wheel mobility scooters often offer more leg room than four-wheel models and are easier to get into and out of if the driver has trouble bending.
In some models the seat, arm rests and steering controls can also be adjusted to suit height.
Every scooter has a specific weight it can safely carry on flat, level ground. Even small hills can impact how its motor functions. For example, a scooter that can carry 112kg on flat land may only be able to safely carry 80kg up a 10 per cent incline (such as a wheelchair ramp).
Carrying weights that are too heavy can damage the motor, reduce battery life, or even stop the driver from being able to get to the places they want to go – so make sure weight limits are discussed with the supplier.
One of the biggest pre-purchase considerations for a mobility scooter is the environment that the driver will need to navigate.
If usage will be mostly indoors then a small, manoeuvrable mobility vehicle might be best, so corridors, aisles and elevators can be easily accessed.
Conversely, mobility scooters designed for outdoor use are generally larger and heavier because they’re designed to cope with terrain like hills, bumpy surfaces and small puddles. If this is the more likely choice then you’ll need to take battery life into serious consideration.
You don’t want your family member to find themselves unable to move in the middle of a quiet, low-traffic area. Keeping the battery well-charged and never letting it completely run down will help increase its life and improve the user experience.
If in doubt, choose a model with slightly more battery power than your relative thinks they’ll need and that way their lifestyle won’t be limited by how long the battery lasts.
There are a range of foldable or portable scooters available that can be easily lifted and transported in a car or other vehicle. They’re designed to be easily dismantled and some even come with their own carry bag.
As portable scooters are usually smaller than other scooters, they may not be suitable for taller people, cannot carry as much weight, and their battery life can be shorter.
Larger scooters can safely be transported in wheelchair accessible vehicles, including accessible taxis with a four-point tie down system. Ask the scooter supplier to install anchor points in the vehicle if the scooter needs to be transported regularly.
A mobility scooter can last many years, and you want to make sure your loved one gets the most out of their purchase. To do that, it’s important to consider their needs both today and in the future.
Before buying a mobility scooter, you both need to think about how their medical condition and lifestyle might change over the next five or so years. Discussion points include:
- Are you likely to gain or lose weight?
- Will you need to start carrying heavy equipment like oxygen bottles?
- Is your mobility, eyesight or cognitive function likely to improve, deteriorate or stay the same?
- Are you planning to move house?
- Are you likely to have lifestyle changes such as starting university, getting a new job or retiring?
- Will you want to take your scooter with you on holiday?
If you will be the one relied upon to assemble, store and/or maintain the scooter, it’s important you understand how it works. When you’re out and about researching scooters be sure to ask plenty of questions and ensure your purchase comes with an instruction manual.
Further, if you’re a carer for your family member then you’re often in a position to notice changes in their condition before their doctor does. Make sure you take the scooter into consideration when things change so it continues to cater to their needs.
Fully Investigate Second-hand and Online Options
There are a wide range of second-hand mobility scooters available on the market, providing a cost-effective alternative to new models. Vendors range from mainstream mobility equipment dealers who sell refurbished models to individuals selling a scooter they no longer need. So too are there many choices from overseas distributors.
Here five key considerations:
- Is the scooter compliant with Australian Standards If your scooter doesn’t conform it may be illegal and/or dangerous to use here
- Is the seller a reputable source?
- What is the warranty situation?
- Are there any hidden costs?
- Will you need to assemble it yourself?
If you’re thinking about buying a scooter from overseas, also check the electrical outlets and wattage that it uses.
Mobility Scooter Insurance
Did you know you can protect your relative’s scootering experience via mobility equipment insurance? Just as car owners take out comprehensive car insurance, so too do scooter owners with comprehensive mobility scooter insurance.
Although, thankfully, 95 per cent of trips on a scooter involve no injury or damage that still leaves a 5 per cent likelihood. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
From as little as $17.50 per month, your family member can rest easy knowing their mode of transport is covered for situations such as accidental loss and damage, personal items that get lost, stolen or damaged while using the scooter and costs incurred to get them/their scooter home following an accident.
A test drive will be vital to making sure your loved one’s new mode of freedom fits their needs. That way you can test out its comfort, fit and so on.
Need further guidance? That’s understandable; it’s a big decision. The Blue Badge Insurance Mobility Scooter Guide will provide you with much more information on how to help your beloved make the most suitable decision for their circumstances.