The development of motorized mobility scooters for adults benefits those adults as well as those who care for them. These scooters can extend the passenger’s independence, allowing them to get about the home, office or neighborhood on their own. Simultaneously, a caregiver, not having to provide transportation, will be freed up to use their time for other pursuits.
There is a lot of variety when it comes to mobility scooters as regards size and ideal use. They vary from the most compact and lightest scooters that can be folded for easy transport (travel scooters) to the biggest and burliest, used for off-road excursions. Any of these styles come in 3- or 4-wheel styles, but that extra wheel can make a good deal of difference.
What is a 4-Wheel Mobility Scooter?
First, let's examine the difference between a 3-wheel and 4-wheel mobility scooter. It isn’t necessarily that four wheels are superior to three. It depends on the passenger’s height and weight, their driving ability, and the surface involved.
Generally, 3-wheel scooters are recommended for indoor use. The majority of mobility scooters sold are 3-wheeled. As a rule, these scooters have a tighter turning radius which makes negotiating your way in a house, a store, any public building, or on a smooth sidewalk or other walkways much smoother.
Three-wheelers may also have an edge when it comes to entering or exiting a sidewalk because the passenger only must guide one front wheel going down from or up onto the curb, versus two front wheels.
However, the broader front wheelbase and wider chassis frame on a 4-wheel scooter can benefit taller and/or heavier persons by evenly distributing their weight over the front and rear sections of the machine. This lessens the chances of the rider suffering a jolt when negotiating a curb, for instance, or – in an extreme case – having the scooter tip over.
The potential for tipping is present with any type of scooter, regardless of its size, weight or number of wheels. This is why so many scooters, regardless of size, have little “anti-tip” wheels placed above the tires and attached to the front and back of the scooter. These additional little wheels only come into play when one is trying to negotiate a curb or some other uneven surface.
If you find a scooter you like that doesn’t have anti-tip wheels, you should ask a salesperson if they can be added. The number of accessories available for scooters is impressive. The ways to improve your ride, secure your scooter, make yourself more visible, or make the scooter even more attractive are worth looking into.
What's the Best Mobility Scooter?
There is no “one-size-fits-all” for mobility scooters
There are sleek little 4-wheelers that ads claim corner as well as some 3-wheelers. Then again, there are 4-wheel drive models substantial enough to seat two people, side by side. The best choice comes down to the physical and mental capabilities of the passenger and the terrain they need to cover.
Know that all airlines are legally compelled to allow the shipping of mobility scooters, though each airline has its list of acceptable models and how they, and their batteries, must be prepared for a flight.
When selecting a scooter, don’t be swayed by looks. The passenger should aim for a balance between stability and maneuverability. This can be difficult to achieve since the more stable the machine is, the less maneuverable it is. Again, the skill of the driver should be factored in; being too aggressive or careless will eventually lead to an accident.
How Do I Know Which Scooter Is Right For Me?
First, you can ask your doctor to explain to you why you need a scooter and how much the doctor recommends you use it, and where – in the home, when shopping, or around the yard, etc. You can also ask them what qualities you, personally, need in a scooter.
If your doctor doesn’t have all the answers, either talking to a nurse or doctor who works regularly with people who use scooters could help. Of course, a store that sells, rents, or services scooters should have trained personnel to help you get a grasp of not only what’s available but what will benefit you the most.
Once you have at least some idea of what you’re looking for, go online to search for articles about or reviews of any scooter you’re interested in. Granted, reviews are not always genuine; they may be fabricated, one way or another, by the manufacturer. But if you read enough of them, you’ll soon be weeding out those that seem “too good to be true,” like thinly veiled sales pitches.
Reading genuine customer reviews results in a sense of what scooters are about, what features characterize different types of scooters, and what to expect from a scooter. Developing a realistic sense of what you’re looking for will make the search more manageable instead of stressful.
Talk to people who already have scooters. If you don’t know any, arrange to visit an assisted living community or nursing home. Stop riders on the streets, sidewalks or in stores and ask what they think of their scooter. Would they recommend it – or perhaps some other brand or model?
When it comes to visiting a store that sells scooters, there are fewer of them nowadays, thanks to the ease of buying online. If there is one near you, though, go in and talk to a salesperson. Explain your situation, be armed with a list of questions from your research and ask them. Then have fun – look at the scooters they have on hand. Take a test spin!
It is important not to automatically buy the cheapest machine. Even an inexpensive model costs a lot of money, and if it isn’t a good fit or easy to maintain, then you’re back to square one.
Things to keep in mind when buying a scooter
What To Look For In A Mobility Scooter
There are several things to keep in mind when selecting any scooter. Here are some things to think about.
- The passenger needs to be involved as much as possible in the selection process. What features or accessories does the future passenger want, and what would it benefit them to have?
- Be sure the passenger has the information they need to be able to handle the scooter. (If no manual comes with the scooter, you can probably download it from the manufacturer website.)
- Is this machine suitable for the passenger’s height and weight?
- Return policy – How long do you have to decide if this scooter works for you?
- Support – How easily can you access tech support and is it reliable? How good is customer service overall?
- Warranty – There will be more than one warranty for a scooter. How long does each last? What exactly is covered? Consider purchasing an extended warranty.
- Insurance – No matter how many locks or alarms you have on your scooter, a basic – and inexpensive – form of added security is a good, old-fashioned insurance policy.
- Storage space for the scooter – Know where you’re going to store your scooter. Some scooters fold up or easily dismantle, but not all. If it will have to be stored outside, get a protective cover and superior security features. A cover is the best way to protect the scooter and its computerized parts from dust, moisture and other debris.
- Transporting issues – If the scooter needs to be transported, do you have the right car, van or truck? Will the scooter fit inside the vehicle? Will you need to alter the van, say, with an added exterior rack? Is a vehicle lift needed?
It might seem a great idea to buy online, but it’s always wise to visit a local store to compare models, get information, and have a hands-on experience. Even after you decide what you want, saving money by buying online may not be as beneficial as buying locally if that means you’ll have local support should anything go wrong.
How Much Will a 4-Wheel Scooter Cost?
Prices can range from around $750 for a small, lightweight 4-wheel travel scooter to $4,500 or more for a heavier machine that is still not regarded as an off-road vehicle.
While some manufacturers are quite generous with accessories (cupholders, storage units, organizers, and such), the number of accessories can seriously impact cost. The sturdier the scooter is and the more weight it can carry also impacts the price.
Keep in mind that certain items may need to be replaced during the life of the scooter. The most frequently replaced items are batteries, armrests, the joystick/tiller, and tires.
Can I Lower the Cost of a Mobility Scooter?
There don’t seem to be organizations in the US that provide free scooters or help with financial assistance. You can donate an old scooter or wheelchair, though, to The Wheelchair Foundation. Once refurbished they then distribute them around the world to those – usually children – who are most in need.
Should you donate a scooter, keep the receipt and write it off on your taxes.
Though it's not common, if you meet the Medicare requirements and are on Medicare Part B, you may be covered for up to 80 percent of the cost of your scooter, once you’ve paid your deductible. Batteries may also be covered. Even if you don’t qualify for this, since motorized mobility scooters are termed by Medicare as “medically assistive,” you can deduct at least part of the cost on your taxes (Schedule A, Itemized Deductions).
To be eligible for a tax deduction, though, the scooter must be prescribed by your doctor. To back up your claim, be sure to keep all paperwork relating to correspondence with your doctor about the scooter as well as any records associated with the purchase of the scooter.
If you’re paying out of pocket, buy from whomever you like. But if Medicare is involved, you must purchase only from a supplier approved by Medicare. To access their list of approved vendors in your area for what they term “power-operated vehicles,” visit the Medicare.gov website.
When it comes to saving money, it pays to visit the manufacturer’s website before purchasing. There may be discounts or other special offers posted there. Even if you don’t see any deals, call to talk to a sales representative and ask about discounts; sometimes it’s up to the customer to ask and the representative will then be free to explain what deals are on offer.
If you already have a scooter, ask if you can trade it in to get a discount on the new one. Also consider buying a refurbished scooter. If you trust the seller, this could be a real bargain.
Finding the “perfect” scooter may not be easy, even if such a thing exists, but there are many options out there. The selection process doesn’t need to be overwhelming. It’s all about the person who will be using it: why do they need it? What is their condition physically? Mentally? Where are they going to use this scooter? Basic questions like these help to put this search into context.
Before buying any scooter – even if you can afford to without a doctor’s permission – do talk to your doctor. Depending on your health issues, you may be advised to skip the scooter and focus on making lifestyle changes. It could be that using a walker, e.g., would be more beneficial for you. The point is that, in certain circumstances, a scooter may in fact worsen your situation and shorten your life.
To make the selection process easier, The Senior List has numerous articles about different aspects of motorized mobility scooters of all types and how to use them. The reader comments are also very much worth reading, as people share their own experiences and raise important, practical points.
The bottom line is, don’t just buy the cheapest scooter or the first one you look at. This scooter is meant to improve the quality of life for the passenger, so it needs to be a good fit, to be durable, and to be a pleasure to drive. Confidence on the passenger’s part will contribute majorly towards a safe and secure experience and a greater sense of empowerment.