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Whether walking or running, most of us take the ability to move freely for granted.
But if you lose that ability due to injury or illness, it can be devastating.
In some cases, it can force a person to abandon their lifelong home for a nursing facility.
Thankfully, developments in mobility scooter technology within the past decade have improved life for these people.
In many cases, the injured/ill person can continue living independently with the help of a mobility scooter.
Glance at the mobility scooter market, and you’ll see a plethora of models with numerous accessories and functions.
With so many choices, finding the right mobility scooter can be a daunting process.
At BestReviews, we’ve developed a shopping guide that can help you understand your options.
Additionally, we’ve identified the top five best mobility scooters on today’s market.
Our product matrix, above, provides key information to help you distinguish between products.
We don’t accept free manufacturer samples. Instead, we research items and compile product data, giving you a clear understanding of your choices.
Please continue reading this shopping guide to learn how to find the best mobility scooter for your needs.
Several types of mobility scooters exist, each with its own strengths and weakness.
A folding scooter is designed for portability. Simply remove the battery pack and collapse the scooter down to a smaller size for carrying. If you seek a simple, ready-to-go scooter, you may appreciate this design.
Potential buyers should realize that folding models don’t fare well on rough terrain.
Also noteworthy is the fact that a folding scooter’s maximum speed is usually limited to four miles per hour.
If you’re worried about the operator driving the scooter too fast, look for one with a speed limiter option.
The full-sized scooter is the most common scooter design. Some have a maximum weight capacity of 400+ pounds. Maximum speed ranges from four to 12 miles per hour. Some models offer a travel range of 30 miles on a single battery charge.
A full-sized scooter is the most comfortable type of scooter, offering high-backed seats. Owners feel comfortable navigating rough terrain outdoors in these.
If you seek a full-sized scooter for indoor use, look for a unit with a small turning radius.
You’ll need a lift on your vehicle in order to transport a full-sized scooter to a location away from home.
A heavy-duty scooter is designed for specific circumstances. Such units have the highest weight capacity among mobility scooters — up to 500 pounds.
They offer the largest seating areas, too, which can enhance the user’s comfort.
What’s more, you can expect a heavy-duty mobility scooter to perform well on surfaces that aren’t smooth.
Mobility scooters have a weight limit, so select one that fits the driver. And if children might want to occasionally ride along on the scooter, select a higher weight limit than is needed.
Portability is the name of the game with a travel scooter, as the unit breaks down for transportation. The individual pieces usually weigh less than 30 pounds. However, a travel scooter doesn’t perform well on rough terrain, and its speed shouldn’t exceed five miles per hour.
A three-wheeled scooter offers the driver a bit more maneuverability than a four-wheeled design. Furthermore, it should fit through tighter spaces better than its four-wheeled counterparts. But taller people may have a tough time riding a three-wheeler, as it has a narrow foot rest area.
Note: All of the aforementioned scooter types are available with three wheels, too.
Three-wheeled scooters are great for transporting, but they don’t have much room for a foot rest.
A four-wheeled scooter provides more stability for the rider than a three-wheeled option. Because of its wider foot rest area, it can also be more comfortable to ride.
Note: Of the previously mentioned scooter types, only folding scooters are difficult to find in a four-wheeled design.
If you’re going to pay for the mobility scooter yourself, your costs will probably fall somewhere within the following price ranges:
Travel scooter prices run from about $600 to $1,500.
Full-sized scooters range from about $1,000 to $3,000.
Folding scooters cost somewhere between $1,500 and $2,500.
Heavy-duty scooter prices run from about $1,500 to $3,000.
Note: If you want a three-wheeled design instead of a four-wheeled design, you can usually shave anywhere from $100 to $400 off the price.
Some insurance companies (including Medicare, at times) will offset the cost of a mobility scooter.
If your health insurance (including Medicare) covers a mobility scooter, you may receive one for free. However, your insurance company may limit the type of scooter you can receive for free.
In another possible scenario, your insurance would cover part of the cost of the scooter. In this case, you would pay the balance out of your own pocket.
Some mobility scooter providers handle the insurance submission process for you. Other times, you may have to pay for the scooter yourself and receive reimbursement from your insurance company later.
Some people choose to keep two mobility scooters on hand: a smaller scooter for indoor use and a larger one for outdoor use.
Here are some additional costs you may incur with a mobility scooter:
It’s easier for the driver to carry items with a basket attached to the unit. This frees up the hands for driving.
You may need an extra battery for your scooter. Batteries can cost $100 or more. If you plan to use the scooter continuously throughout the day, bear in mind that the battery may need to be recharged. Keeping a second charged battery on hand gives you the ability to continue riding while the other battery charges.
A mobility scooter runs on battery power, so you can expect ongoing expenses associated with charging the battery. It might not cost much on a daily basis to charge the battery, but it can add up over a year.
A mobility scooter’s battery can usually be charged somewhere between 300 and 400 times before it must be replaced. That means you may need to buy a new battery roughly every year.
You may need to purchase new tires from time to time. Units that run solely indoors will have a longer tire life than units ridden on rough terrain.
If you choose a full-sized or heavy-duty scooter, you may need to purchase a lift for your vehicle. The reason: larger scooters don’t break apart or fold down to a smaller size for transport.
There also are maintenance costs to consider. The unit may need a tune-up or repair from time to time. Maintenance costs will probably be higher if the technician visits your home (as opposed to you bringing the scooter to the technician’s shop).
Note: Some mobility scooter companies offer a basic warranty that covers some of these additional costs. Others offer an extended warranty to cover all problems. If you’re concerned about maintenance costs, an extended warranty could grant you peace of mind.
Be prepared to incur some ongoing costs with a mobility scooter. A scooter needs maintenance just like any other vehicle.
Pay attention to customer reviews to learn about the safety features of various scooter models. The design must be stable enough to protect the rider from tipping, for example. If a certain product has a reputation for tipping, we recommend against it.
Other safety features you may wish to select with your scooter include the following:
If you plan to use the scooter outdoors, you need tires with good tread. You wouldn’t want to lose traction on a wet sidewalk due to poor tire tread, as you could subsequently lose control of the scooter.
Some scooters include a hand-operated emergency brake on the steering mechanism. This brake works in a similar manner to a bicycle hand brake and provides an immediate stop.
An adjustable seat on a mobility scooter can allow you to reach items more comfortably.
A unit with four wheels feels sturdier and and less likely to tip than a three-wheeled unit. However, what you gain in sturdiness, you lose in portability.
Those who plan to use the scooter outdoors at night will want headlights. After all, you wouldn’t want to crash the scooter into an unseen object. A headlight, coupled with reflectors, enables other motorists to see you, too.
A mirror attached to the scooter allows the driver to view the area behind him/her before backing up. This is a must-have safety feature for drivers who have a hard time twisting their neck and torso.
If the person operating the mobility scooter is frail, you may want a speed limiter. Even if the mobility scooter can operate at a speed of 10 mph, for example, the limiter could cap the speed at five mph. This prevents the operator from driving at a faster speed than he or she can safely handle.
Q. What does “turning radius” mean in a mobility scooter?
A. The turning radius is the measurement of the minimum amount of space needed to turn the unit 180 degrees. A unit with a small turning radius renders good maneuverability. You’ll see this measurement listed in the specifications for the mobility scooter. But the number can be a little confusing, as some turning radius measurements require you to back up during the process. Some allow you to perform a complete U-turn within the measurement number.
If you need a tighter turning radius than you can find in a mobility scooter, consider a power wheelchair.
Q. What are some nice extra features I may want with my mobility scooter?
A. A Delta tiller is a steering mechanism available on some mobility scooters. It allows you to reposition the steering handle so you can use it as comfortably as possible. For example, someone who is shorter may want their steering mechanism positioned closer to the seat.
Another nice feature is a seat that can lift the rider a foot or two. This allows the rider to reach items on a shelf without having to step off the scooter. A swivel seat can make it easier for the operator to reach items, too.
If you plan to use your mobility scooter outdoors at night, you’d be wise to get one with headlights. Some scooters have lighting that enables other motorists to see the scooter driver, too.
Q. How can I use a mobility scooter in a home with stairs?
A. Many companies that sell mobility scooters also sell stairlifts. Some stairlifts only have a single chair, meaning you would not be able to take the scooter upstairs. Others involve a platform lift; you drive the scooter onto the platform so it can be transported upstairs. Just be sure you can secure your scooter safely onto the platform, locking it in place so it doesn’t roll off.