Buying a mobility scooter can be more confusing than buying a car. There are so many different models and configurations available on the market today. Even when you have decided on a model there are optional extras and customizations available when ordering most models. We will clear up the confusion and help you get the perfect mobility scooter.
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Electric Mobility Scooter or a Power Wheelchair
The first question is whether you need an electric mobility scooter or a power wheelchair. In the following cases a power wheelchair is the best option:
- For someone that cannot walk.
- If they do not have the use of both hands and can control a steering mechanism.
- There might be a physical size limitation for a user when going about their normal routine that works better with a power wheelchair. This might be living in a building where the elevator is not deep enough to accommodate a longer mobility scooter. The same might be true for the wheelchair lift on a public bus. Some buses can only accommodate a shorter wheelchair and not a scooter.
If however you can walk a short distance and have use of both hands then an electric mobility scooter might be your best option.
Different Types of Mobility Scooters
Electric mobility scooters come in different shapes and sizes. There are three and four-wheel designs. The sizes range from small foldable travel scooters to large full-sized scooters.
Three versus Four Wheels
Generally, electric mobility scooters that are mainly designed for indoor use are designed with a three-wheel configuration. Some three-wheel designs actually have two front wheels, but when they are close together they function like one front wheel. A true 4-wheel mobility scooter design will have front and back wheels that are spaced at the corners and in line front to back. When connecting the wheels with imaginary lines a four-wheeled scooter will form a rectangle and a three-wheeled design will form more of a triangle even if it has double front wheels.
Three-wheeled mobility scooters work best indoors because their turning circle is the smallest. In cramped indoor spaces, a four-wheeled layout often cannot make the corners or turns to navigate the space. A very small turn radius is needed for indoor use. Even office buildings and shops can have tight right-angled corners where only a three-wheeled scooter will be able to make the turn. Three-wheeled models are designed for indoor use so they forego speed for size and weight. They are usually smaller, lighter, slower, and struggle over rougher terrain.
Four-wheeled electric mobility scooters are generally designed for outdoor use. Four-wheeled designs are generally more stable (or perceived to be more stable) and also faster for outdoor use. The wheel configuration does not have much to do with speed, but because four-wheeled scooters are designed for outdoor use they are generally designed to be more stable, faster, and usually able to get over rougher terrain easier.
Travel and Foldable Scooters
Travel and foldable electric mobility scooters are designed to be lightweight and easy to transport. They will fit in the boot of your car and some are designed to be compliant with airline regulations.
Foldable mobility scooters have a folding seat and console design. They fold relatively flat and are lightweight. They will have to be lifted as a unit when loading them into a car boot though. Some travel scooters can also disassemble for loading. This way the weight of each part can be kept low for easier lifting.
Full-sized electric mobility scooters are faster and more stable and in order to achieve this, they are also heavier than other scooters. If you will be using the scooter from your home and for longer outdoor drives then these are ideal. The wheels will be larger giving you better ground clearance to help you navigate through rougher terrain.
Full-sized mobility scooters usually have larger seats with a higher back and often headrests. Some full-sized scooters also have turn signals, headlights, and rearview mirrors for use on public roads.
What to Look For
In conclusion, we will recap what you need to look for in a mobility scooter. First, decide between four and three wheels based on outdoor versus indoor use. If you need to travel with the scooter or fit it in a car boot then go for a travel scooter or foldable scooter. After that look at accessories like a basket, lights, rearview mirrors, armrests, swivel seats, headrests, handlebar layout, battery size, and a keyed ignition.