A Quick Guide to Buying a Scooter
What is a Mobility Scooter?
A mobility scooter is an electric powered mobility aid, similar to a power wheelchair, but configured like a motor-scooter.
A mobility scooter is generally composed of a seat over two rear wheels, a platform for the feet, and a tiller (handlebars) in front for steering the scooter.
Do I Need a Mobility Scooter?
Mobility scooters are a great option for people with some mobility, who may have difficulty walking short distances. These scooters can provide independence to run errands and reliably get you where you need to go daily.
Keep in mind, operating a mobility scooter will require enough balance and strength to control the handlebars with two hands for extended periods of time.
If you think you might be uncomfortable or unable to sit upright with your arms outstretched for extended periods of time, you might consider a power wheelchair.
How to Choose a Mobility Scooter
Firstly, there are four general categories of mobility scooters:
Travel scooters are lightweight and easily portable. They can be folded up or broken down into several pieces for easy transport. With a smaller frame, these scooters are suited to users under 5’10”; 250 lbs. Travel scooters are ideal for smooth and even terrain.
Full-sized scooters are larger than travel scooters, designed for more frequent use. Although they are heavier and bulkier than a travel scooter, most will disassemble if needed. These scooters have more features and power than a travel scooter, go a bit faster, will last longer on a charge, and have a wide range of standard features and optional upgrades.
Heavy-duty scooters have more power and greater durability than full-sized scooters. Their higher weight capacities and wider seats make them ideal for larger users. With better speeds, higher incline ratings and better range-per-charge, heavy-duty scooters are ideal for use outdoors. They are unsuitable for travelling as they are heavy and hard to disassemble.
All-Terrain Scooters offer the best suspension, ground clearance, and speed options, making them ideal for outdoor exploring and rough terrain. These are large scooters, unsuited for use inside the home. Most do not disassemble, meaning they are not easily transported.
3 Wheel vs. 4 Wheel Scooters
Most scooter models come in both 3-wheel and 4-wheel versions. The number of wheels has little effect on weight capacity, speed, or battery range.
3-wheel scooters have a smaller turning radius, meaning they require less space to make a full turn. These scooters are suitable for indoor use.
4-wheel scooters tend to have more power and stability, making them better at climbing hills. This type of scooter is better for outdoor use.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Scooter
- Weight Capacity
Consider not just your own body weight, but the weight of any cargo and accessories the scooter will be carrying. Most smaller scooters have a weight capacity of 300 lbs. If you need your scooter to carry more than 250 lbs, consider getting a larger, more durable scooter. Exceeding the weight capacity puts stress on a scooter and will decrease its performance and shorten its life.
- Where you’ll be using it
Indoor use: the most important considerations will be small dimensions and maneuverability. A 3-wheel scooter is ideal for indoor use, as its smaller turning radius makes it easier to navigate tight spaces.
Tip: If you plan on using a scooter inside your home, measure the space to make sure the scooter will be able to make the turns comfortably. The space needed to make a full 180oturn is the turning radius multiplied by two. A scooter with a turning radius of 40” will need 80” to turn all the way around. If you don’t have room in your house for a mobility scooter, consider a power wheelchair, which can make turns in much less space.
Outdoor use: your most important considerations will be grade-climbing abilities, speed and stability. A 4-wheel scooter is the best option for outdoor use.
Most scooters do well on smooth surfaces like sidewalks and in shopping malls, but if you are planning to use your scooter on uneven terrain, such as for camping, you may need a more heavy-duty outdoor scooter.
If you are planning on transporting your scooter in your car or van, you will want a scooter that folds or disassembles. Consider the size of the biggest piece and whether it will fit in your car. Consider its weight and whether you or your companion will be able to lift it. As an alternative, you can get a scooter lift or ramp, which will lift your scooter into your vehicle in one piece.
If you are planning on being in your scooter for long periods of time, having a well-padded seat will be a priority. Travel scooters have limited padding, while heavy-duty scooters offer much more comfortable seats. Many seats also swivel sideways, making it easier to get in and out, while others have arms that can be swiveled back for this purpose. Some arms can be adjusted in width, a useful feature for accommodating winter coats etc.
Make sure you can sit comfortably in the scooter. Your feet should be flat on the floor with your knees bent at a 90o angle, and you should be able to reach the tiller without curving your back.
How far will you need the scooter to go before you charge the battery? Battery life ranges from 10-30 miles depending on the model of the scooter, and can be found on each scooter’s product page. Be aware that these are maximums, and mileage will vary depending on the weight the scooter is carrying, its speed, the terrain, etc. Generally, the bigger the scooter, the better the battery life.
Tires are either pneumatic (air-filled) or solid. Pneumatic tires offer a smoother ride, but solid tires eliminate the possibility of getting a flat. If you want to use your scooter on rough terrain, look for tires with a good tread.
Good suspension is important for those with back and neck concerns. Suspension is normally a feature of full-sized or outdoor scooters, most smaller scooters have little to no suspension.
There are two types of tillers (handlebars):
- Standard handles are straight, like bicycle handlebars, and use thumb levers to control forward motion.
- Delta tiller handles wrap around, allowing you to rest your wrists on the handle. Delta tillers cause less strain on the hands and wrists, and are therefore a better option for those with limited hand strength or dexterity.
The tiller stem can be adjusted forward and backward to suit the user. If you have a limited ability to grip, avoid getting a scooter that uses knobs for this adjustment.
Scooters come with an assortment of standard and optional features, like headlights, cane holders, weather covers and rear baskets. Make sure the features you want are compatible with the scooter you choose. Also remember to include these items when thinking about the scooter’s weight capacity.
Each scooter specifications, including weight capacity, dimensions, and speed, can be found on its information page, while even more detailed information can be found on the product sheet.
If you still need help finding the scooter that’s right for you, feel free to contact us.