Ask Sarah: How do I choose an appropriate scooter?

power scooter

CHOOSING THE RIGHT MOBILITY DEVICE

A mobility device can allow you so much freedom but is an investment that should be made wisely.  All the possible options on the market can be overwhelming and you want to ensure you take some time to research them carefully and really ascertain you’re getting the equipment that makes the most sense for you.  First, you will need to determine whether a power mobility scooter or a power wheelchair will serve your needs best.  Some important things to consider in determining this are your lifestyle, physical limitations, and what you plan to use the device for.

What is the difference between a power mobility scooter and a power wheelchair?

Many people do not know the difference between a power mobility scooter and a power wheelchair.  Hopefully this article will provide you with some insight on this.  One of the biggest differences in these devices is the way it is controlled.  A scooter is operated with a tiller mechanism and requires adequate strength and dexterity of both hands to maneuver it safely; whereas a power wheelchair is controlled with one hand through a joystick and has many more options available.  A power wheelchair is also easier to maneuver in tight spaces such as hallways and bathrooms due to having a much tighter turning radius.

Is a scooter right for me?

If you have any concerns with trunk control, balance, skin breakdown, swelling in your legs, inadequate use of both hands or any other limitations requiring adaptations, a power wheelchair may be the better option for you as it can be customized to meet your needs much better.  Special seating systems with positioning pads, skin protection cushions as well as elevating leg rests are among some of the options that are not available on mobility scooters but can be added to a power wheelchair.

Furthermore, if you intend to use the device inside your home, a power wheelchair may be the better choice due to the ability to make tighter turns.  However, if you have an open floor plan with wide doorways, a scooter may work as well.

If you simply need something to assist you in walking but have good body control and enough room to maneuver it, you may be a good candidate for a mobility scooter.

SOME IMPORTANT QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER IN CHOOSING THE APPROPRIATE SCOOTER

What do you intend to use the equipment for?

If you anticipate using the scooter inside your home and/or when you are out running errands, shopping, or traveling, a compact scooter may be your best option.  These are often called “travel scooters” and have many nice features including the ability to be taken apart very quickly and easily for transporting in your vehicle.  Most models are available in a 3-wheel or 4-wheel version.

If you do not plan to transport your scooter but rather intend to use it out in the yard or on uneven terrain, you may benefit from a larger scooter with bigger tires and more ground clearance.  The larger scooters usually do not come apart as nicely and are harder to transport unless you have some type of vehicle lift or trailer to load them.

Three-wheel versus 4-wheel scooters:

Generally 3-wheel models are the lightest and most compact, offering the best maneuverability.  They typically have a tighter turning radius than the 4-wheel model and make navigating in crowds, stores and your home easier.  The 3-wheel version offers more leg room for the rider allowing them to stretch out their legs.  Comfort level may be one of the biggest influences in opting for the 3-wheel version.

A 4-wheel scooter may offer a little more stability but still can be tipped over if not careful on uneven terrain.  The turning radius isn’t quite as sharp but isn’t a factor in wide open areas.  Because of the fender covering the tires, the 4-wheel models don’t offer as much leg room which may be a big determining factor, especially for someone with long legs.

If you need your scooter to get around inside your home, your top priority should be ensuring you have enough room to make turns and get down narrow hallways or into bathrooms.  In this case, a smaller 3-wheel scooter with a shorter wheel base may be your best option but you may need to consider going to a power wheelchair as your turning radius will be much better.  Of course this will depend on the layout of your home.

What size scooter will I need?

Prior to making your model selection, you will need to establish the maximum weight of the user as well as any additional items that will need to be carried on the device such as oxygen tanks.  You should select a model with a weight capacity equal to or greater than the anticipated load.  If you are close to the weight capacity, you may wish to consider the next weight capacity range.  Try to be as accurate as possible with this as overloading a scooter may affect the overall performance especially on inclines and may possibly void the manufacturer’s warranty.  This may narrow your selection down some.

Scooters are available in many different sizes with varying weight capacities.  Your body build will likely play a factor in which piece of equipment is most comfortable for you.  If at all possible, we suggest you physically sit on the scooter to ensure it fits you well.  Some things to pay attention to are comfort of the seat and that the seat width provides adequate room for you as well as the overall size of the scooter feels good to you.  On many models the armrests can be adjusted in or out to your desired position.   We find that often times petite individuals feel more comfortable on a smaller device whereas a tall person may desire more leg room offered by a larger one, but this varies with each individual.

What size tires and how much ground clearance do I need?

If you intend to use your scooter in your yard or on uneven terrain, you will want to consider the size of the tires as well as the amount of ground clearance the scooter has.  In this type of application, larger tires and more ground clearance will give you the best performance.  Many times you will need to consider a larger scooter to get the ground clearance and tire size you desire.

If you plan to mainly use your scooter on flat paved surfaces, a smaller tire with less ground clearance will perform well for you and oftentimes will be less costly.  Again, the smaller varieties usually transport much easier than the larger versions.

How far can I travel on my scooter?

A common question is how far a scooter can travel on a single battery charge.  This will depend on the scooter itself, the size of the batteries, the age of the batteries, the weight load being carried as well as the terrain being traveled.  Check with your dealer on the average operating range for the particular scooter model you are considering.  Typically larger batteries will allow further range of travel and will perform better on steep inclines.

What are some features I should consider for my scooter?

Lights:  Many scooters have lights in front as well as in the rear.  These are helpful if you plan to ride your scooter in poorly lit areas.  They typically are not bright enough for you to see well enough at night but rather helps others see you better.

Shocks:  Some models are equipped with a suspension system.  These scooters provide a much smoother ride especially on uneven surfaces.

Battery size:  Scooters with larger batteries typically have more power and can travel greater distances on a single battery charge.

Tires:  Pneumatic tires will periodically need air added, whereas solid rubber tires are pretty much maintenance free.  Tire size is important when traveling on uneven terrain and unpaved surfaces.

Transportability:  Many “travel scooters” break down into several pieces making them easier to handle as well as fit into your vehicle.  This is an important feature if you plan to load/unload your scooter often and have limited space to store it in your vehicle.

Accessories Available:  Options for your scooter will vary from model to model but may include things such as oxygen holder, crutch holder, walker holder, rear basket, front, basket, safety flags, power elevating seat, cell phone holder, cup holder as well as many others.

How will I store and transport the scooter?

If you will carry your mobility scooter in your vehicle, you need to consider how much space you’ll need and the strength required to assemble and dis-assemble it.  Large-sized scooters usually cannot be disassembled and require a vehicle lift or ramp to transport.  New Visions Medical Equipment is certified in installing vehicles lifts as well as a provider of ramps.  Some of our customers have multiple scooters and other mobility devices to get them around.  This is ideal if you can afford it.

Where do I buy a scooter and what brand is best?

There are many different scooters on the market and some manufacturers are better than others.  One critical thing to consider when purchasing a scooter is if there are parts readily available for it and where I can get them.  Many scooter companies come and go and it is very difficult to obtain parts for scooters from the ones that are no longer in business.

Many individuals consider purchasing equipment online.  Oftentimes this is not the best plan as you have no one to service the scooter after the sale.  This is a big problem for many and is a very important factor to consider.  We suggest you buy from a reputable dealer and manufacturer that has been in business for a period of time.  New Visions Medical Equipment keeps a variety of scooters in stock for you to try as well as services every piece of equipment we sell.

Who will service the scooter? 

This should be a big factor in determining where to purchase your scooter.  We often get calls from individuals who cannot find anyone to service their equipment after the sale.  New Visions Medical Equipment stands behind all manufacturer’s warranties and services everything we sell.  Part availability is a huge concern for many scooter models so you will want to carefully consider what you are buying and ensure this will not be a problem for you.

What are my options if I am not able to load my scooter myself to transport it?

For someone unable to physically load their scooter by themselves, the best option is probably a power operated vehicle lift as a ramp is not very user friendly for this type of individual and can sometimes take just as much as effort as loading the scooter itself, especially if it is a ‘travel scooter”.  However, for the right individual, a ramp is an option and is usually quite a bit less expensive.

How do I choose a vehicle lift for my scooter?

Just like scooter models, there are different types of lifts on the market to help with loading your scooter so you can transport it.  These are a great purchase for someone not physically able to assemble and dis-assemble a scooter but who still wishes to maintain their independence.  You will need to ensure the lift you are considering is compatible with your vehicle as well as the scooter you plan to transport.  Many power operated lifts are made for specific vehicles in addition to specific scooters and are not a one-size-fits-all item.

Vehicle lifts that are power operated are very easy to use and make transporting so much simpler.  Before selecting a lift, you will need to determine the make, model and year of the vehicle you wish the lift to be installed with as well as the make and model of the scooter.  You will also need to decide if you will haul your scooter inside your vehicle or behind your vehicle.  When hauling a scooter on the outside of your vehicle, you will need some way to keep it dry as scooters do not hold up well when exposed to any type of moisture, perhaps a scooter cover.  Once you have established this information, your lift choices will be narrowed down significantly.

Where can I get a power operated vehicle lift installed for my scooter?

 New Visions Medical Equipment is certified in installing vehicle lifts and can accommodate most people’s needs and wishes.

If you need any further help choosing a power mobility scooter, power wheelchair, or vehicle lift, visit us at: 

New Visions Medical Equipment, Inc.

4108 State Route 118

Coldwater, OH  45828

419-678-4979

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