Scooter Buying Guide
The mobility scooter has been one of the greatest developments in mobility equipment in recent years. It has quite simply revolutionised life for many people, who as result have regained their independence. There are many things to take into consideration when choosing a mobility scooter - not just the colour!
This guide will hopefully equip you with the knowledge to help you make an informed choice of the scooter which is most likely to to match your needs and circumstances.
You don’t need to have a driving license or pass a medical examination to use a scooter and indeed many people turn to using scooters when they lose their license due to old age or ill health.
However, we recommend that if you have any concerns about your ability to drive a scooter, particularly visual impairments, you should seek medical advice before considering purchasing a scooter.
Different Scooter Classes
Highway regulations define 3 types of ‘invalid carriages’.
Manual wheelchairs (ie without an electric motor)
Powered wheelchairs and scooters for pavement use with a maximum speed of 4mph
Powered wheelchairs and scooters for use on the highway with a maximum speed of 8mph
Class 2 Scooters - Pavement Scooters
All pavement scooters are classified as Class 2 vehicles in the above definitions and can be used on all pavements and footpaths. You can also use pedestrian and zebra crossings to get across the road but you are not permitted to travel along the road, except where there isn't a pavement.
The bonus of a Class 2 scooter over a larger Class 3 is primarily the space required to store the scooter. A large number of Class 2 mobility scooters are considered 'portable' due to their ability to be dismantled with ease for transportation.
Class 2, or portable scooters are perfect for those who require the use of a scooter on long days out and aren't aiming to spend every day doing long journeys.
Class 3 Scooters - Road Legal Scooters
There are a number of specific features that a scooter must have to be classified as a Class 3 vehicle.
Headlights, rear lights and indicators
Rear view mirror
Emergency hand brakes
Class 3 vehicles can travel up to 8mph but must have a way to limit the speed to 4mph when travelling on the pavement. This is normally done via a switch to enable travel at 4mph.
Class 3 scooters traditionally offer a larger distance range (it can travel a longer distance on a full charge) and higher maximum weight limit. They also tend to be larger and more durable than Class 2 scooters due to the speed they can travel.
The good news is that a Class 3 vehicle is not legally designed as a motor vehicle and, therefore, is not subject to road tax and it is not required to have an MOT. There isn't a requirement to have any insurance but we would highly recommend that you take out insurance.
There are some legal restrictions on scooters. The first being that they cannot be driven by an able bodied person except for reason of repair or maintenance. The other restrictions relate to where you can use your scooter.
You must not drive your scooter on motorways, cycle lanes or in bus lanes. Whilst not a legal requirement, it is not advisable to drive a scooter on unrestricted dual carriageways (i.e those with a speed limit of over 50mph). If you do need to go on a dual carriageway, you must use an amber flashing light.
Things to Consider
When and where while you use your scooter?
This is the most important question to ask yourself. You probably have a good idea of where you intend to use your scooter if you are thinking about buying one.
Some of the most common scenarios are:
Independent journey to the shops
Visiting friends and family
Taking the scooter with you on holidays or day trips
Do you need the scooter to be portable?
The key question to consider is whether you need the scooter to be portable. Scooters by their nature are heavy pieces of equipment that include large batteries, motors and axles. Portable scooters are designed to be smaller and with lightweight components. They also dismantle so that lifting the scooter in to the boot of a car becomes more manageable.
However, because portable scooters are designed with weight in mind, they are often less comfortable than larger non-portable scooters. For example, the seats tend to have less padding and be in a fixed position. In addition, portable scooters are smaller and have a lower ride height which makes it more difficult to navigate kerbs and rough terrain. Therefore, if you do not need to have a portable scooter then you will be probably better off with a mid-size or road legal scooter.
Matching your Scooter to Your Needs
You need to ensure that the features on your chosen scooter will match any specific requirements you may have. These features should be considered relative to your particular circumstances. A good example would be if you experience back problems, you should probably consider a scooter with suspension.
One of the most important factors tends to be the overall weight of the users. This is an important consideration when looking at scooters. As you would expect, the larger the scooter, the greater the maximum weight that it can carry. Each scooter carries a maximum weight limit for the user.
Checking that you are within the specified maximum weight is important as you will invalidate the warranty and greatly shorten the life of the scooter’s motor. If you feel that your weight may fluctuate you should err on the side of caution and choose a scooter that gives you the flexibility should you put on weight.
Matching your Scooter to Your Environment
You need to consider where you’ll be driving your scooter. If you have a lot of kerbs to negotiate and there aren’t many dropped kerbs, then you need to go for a scooter with a reasonable ride height. This will enable you to climb kerbs where this is necessary. If you live in an area which is very hilly you need to factor in the impact that will have on the scooters speed and range. Most manufacturers specify a maximum gradient which the scooter can cope with at the maximum user weight setting. This must not be exceeded. If you are constantly going up and down hills, this will reduce the range you can get from the batteries between charges. Obviously larger scooters will be able to cope with steeper hills.
The other aspect to your environment is where you intend to store the scooter. Ideally, you need to have a secure and waterproof place which is close to a power point to charge the scooter’s batteries. Obviously, a garage is perfect. Where you don’t have any outside storage, you may need to consider bringing the scooter in to your home. In order to do this you need to think about whether you will need ramps to get over the door threshold and the maximum width of scooter which will fit through the door. You should also consider the space available to store the scooter inside and whether this is going to cause an obstruction (eg if you needed to evacuate your home in the dark).
It is possible to leave portable scooters in the boot of the car and just take the battery pack inside for charging. This may be the best option if you have acute storage problems.
If you have outside space but no permanent shelter, it is possible to use a shed or to purchase a foldover cover. However, you must bear in mind the requirement for a power supply and the size of the scooter. There are a range of specialist scooter stores available which are made from metal and provide high levels of security. However, the cost of installing a shed and a power supply should be carefully considered before making your purchase – don’t leave it to the day your new scooter is delivered!
Scooters come with either 3 or 4 wheels. Some of the 4 wheeled versions have the front two wheels very close together, so the drive experience is similar to that of a 3 wheeled scooter.
Whilst the number of wheels does not affect the scooters performance, it does have a bearing on the manoeuvrability. 3 wheel scooters have a much tighter turning circle and can be easier to drive in tight confines (e.g. a supermarket). 4 wheel scooter will require a wider turning circle and may require you to reverse more to turn within a certain space.
The number of wheels can also affect the stability of the scooter especially when turning sharp corners or manouevering on inclines. However, 3 wheel scooters are safe and stable under normal conditions and if driven with care.
Most scooters are driven using a finger or thumb control on the handlebars. The lever is generally called a ‘wig-wag’.
The majority of wig-wags are operated with your thumb. However, wig-wags on larger scooters with a greater range are designed to be pulled back with your fingers. Some luxury scooters combine both finger and thumb controls.
It is standard to have the forward control paddle on the right hand side and the reverse control paddle on the left. However, this can usually be reversed if you are left handed or have restricted use of either hand.
Scooters are operated using a key ignition. Once the key is removed, it is not possible to drive the scooter. However, it is possible to disengage the parking brake easily and therefore you should secure the scooter with a lock before leaving it unattended outside a shop.
All scooter keys are generally supplied in pairs just incase you should lose one. However should you require replacement keys, these can be requested and ordered from your local showroom.
The ‘tiller’ is basically the front part of the scooter which includes the handlebars and the controls to start and drive the scooter. On most scooters the tiller angle is adjustable which allows you to bring the controls closer to you. This adjustment may be a specific number of slots (ie 4 or 5 different angles) or a more flexible teeth mechanism which gives you a wide choice of angles.
Larger, more expensive scooters have a gas strut making it very easy to alter the tiller. Some of the more basic, portable scooters may not have the facility to adjust the angle. This may be very uncomfortable if the tiller is too far away from you and you have to reach forward whilst driving.
The seat is one of the more important aspects as it is key that you are seated comfortably and with a correct posture. Seat features, designs and comfort levels can vary greatly between models. The basic seat will comprise a padded base and back rest and will normally have width adjustable armrests.
The larger scooters will have what is called a ‘Captain’s Seat’ which are bigger, and more adjustable and have a head rest. Most scooter seats swivel through 90°, 180° or 360° to enable you to get on and off more easily. The arms normally flip up as well to allow a sideways transfer if needed.
The main seat adjustments available are as follows:
This feature is generally available on all new scooters and can easily be adjusted.
Forward slider is usually only available on mid size and upwards and can increase the amount of leg room available to the user.
Seat Back Angle
This feature is usually only available on Captain's seats.
Headrest Height & Angle
This feature is usually only available on Captain's seats.
All scooters are battery powered vehicles using two 12 volt rechargeable batteries. The size of the batteries is directly proportional to the range and weight limit of the scooter.
The differing power output from a battery is measured in Ampere hours (Ah) and, generally, the larger and heavier the batteries, the greater the output capacity. Small portable scooters will typically have two 12Ah batteries whilst Luxury Class 3 scooters may have batteries as large as 74Ah.
While scooter batteries may appear difficult to install, they are in fact relatively simple. In most cases the wires are colour coded and are attached using a simple nut a bolt. We can provide the batteries for installation by yourself, however should you choose to install yourself we will be unable to offer the batteries at the VAT exempt price.
The brakes on a scooter are electro-magnetic and are permanently on until you push the wig-wag to drive the scooter. The brake is attached to and acts upon the scooter’s motor and not on the wheels as would be the case on a car for example. As soon as you let go of the wig-wag the brake is applied and the scooter slows and stops.
All scooters have a free-wheel lever which disengages the motor and hence the brake. This allows you to push the scooter manually where you need to. However, you must ensure that the motor drive is reconnected before getting on the scooter as without brakes the scooter can very easily roll away with you.
Some of the larger scooters feature an emergency brake which is similar to a brake on a bicycle with a handlebar mounted lever. This acts on the rear wheels to slow the scooter and is intended to be used should the electro-magnetic brakes fail. However, failure of the brake is very rare and the majority of scooters are fitted with fail safe systems which cut power to the scooter and apply the brake in the event of any problems.
Walking Stick/Crutch Holder
These are normally mounted to a universal socket behind the seat and consist of one or two upright tubes. On some of the smaller scooters, clips can be mounted underneath the arm pads to carry the stick horizontally underneath the arms.
There are shopping bags that attach to the seat and incorporate walking stick holders. These bags can even be personalised with a design or wording of your choice for additional cost.
These are handy for keeping the dust and rain off your scooter will you are not using it. The basic covers will have elasticated bottom edges and be a universal fit. More expensive covers tend to be more closely matched to the size of the scooter and have tightening belts so that the cover is a tighter fit.
You can also get a hybrid scooter cover / scooter store where the cover has a rigid frame and will stand up to being left out in more difficult weather conditions. These shelters also have security features so that you can keep your scooter safe.
These are rigid frames that fit on to most scooters and provide complete protection from the rain for you and the scooter. They require a reasonable amount of fitting to the scooter and are generally left on during the winter months. It is now possible to get a folding canopy which will retract when not required.
The only caution against canopies is that they should not be used in very high winds as the scooter can be difficult to control.
Some people find that the normal basket at the front of the scooter is not sufficient to carry their shopping. There are a range of additional bags that you can buy which are attached to the back of the seat.
However, you should be wary of placing too much weight at the back of the scooter as the risk of the front wheels lifting off the ground increases causing difficulties steering.
You are not legally required to have insurance for your scooter but it is highly recommended.
The type of risks that the insurance will cover includes:
- Third party liability (eg bumping a parked car, driving over someones toes!)
- Theft of the scooter
- Accidental damage to the scooter
- Out of all these risks, being covered for third party liability is by far the most important. Even a small accident could result in a potential cost running to many thousands of pounds.
We offer a range of insurance policies providing full inclusive cover. Contact you local showroom for more information on policies available.
Taking your scooter on public transport is very important for users who do not drive their own car or live with someone who does. We have put together, below, a breakdown of the current restrictions on a number of South East public transportation providers.
If you are unsure about any of the restrictions and how they relate to you or your scooter/powerchair please contact the company you plan on travelling with prior to your journey.
Arriva accept Class 2 scooters under the same CPT code as MetroBus. The restrictions are also the same with a maximum length of 1000mm, width of 600mm and turning circle of 1200mm. An assessment and permit is also required to travel on Arriva services. You can contact the Arriva team to arrange an assessment on 0344 800 4411.
Brighton & Hove Buses
Brighton & Hove Buses accept some class 2 scooters on all services assuming the restrictions are adhered to. Acceptable scooters must measure smaller than 1000mm in length by 600mm in width and have a turning circle smaller than 1200mm.
To guarantee your acceptance onto a Brighton & Hove bus, they offer a home-visit assessment from one of their dedicated accessibility officers. Please note that due to UK regulations only one wheelchair or scooter is allowed to be carried in the designated space on board.
Compass Travel accept some smaller class 2 mobility scooters but do not provide explicit guidelines on size. It is highly recommended to contact Compass Travel before you journey to discuss your scooter with them to avoid being turned away on the day.
Gatwick Express accept mobility scooters on a number of their services. The majority of Gatwick Express services are provided by the new Class 387/2 'Electrostar' trains and accept Class 2 scooters on these services with sizes up to 1200mm in length and 700mm in width.
Please note that a small number of Gatwick Express services use Class 442 trains which lower the maximum scooter size to 950mm in length and 500mm in width. If you are unsure on the type of train you will be travelling on we recommend you contact the station or Gatwick Express prior to your journey.
MetroBus accept mobility scooters on their buses after an assessment has been carried out on the scooter itself and the users ability to control said scooter. The criteria covers the length of the scooter (must be under 1000mm long), the width of the scooter (must be under 600mm) and the turning circle of the scooter (must be under 1200mm).
Once the assessment has been carried out the user will be issued a credit card sized photographic 'permit for travel' which will allow the user to travel freely and easily on all Metrobus buses. For more information about the card and how to arrange an assessment please visit the Metrobus website here.
South Eastern Rail
South Eastern do not provide any explicit guidelines for mobility scooters and their services. We highly recommend contacting the station of South Eastern themselves prior to your journey to confirm you will be able to travel with your scooter on the day or your choice.
South West Train
South West Trains do accept Class 2 mobility scooters on their services but they do require completion of a Scooter Card form prior to travel. For more details and to download the form visit their website here.
Southern Rail accepts any mobility scooter type which can fit on the platform to train ramps, and can manoeuvre safely inside the trains. The exception to this is the class 442 services where only folding mobility scooters can be accepted due to the single doors on the carriages.
The sizing suggestions for all other services are scooters with length up to 1200mm and a width of up to 700mm wide. PLEASE NOTE: As well that the ramps used to transfer from platform to train have maximum weight limit of 55 stone (350kg).
Stagecoach accept Class 2 mobility scooters on their fleet with a maximum length of 1000mm, width of 600mm and turning circle of 1200mm. Unfortunately any scooters over the length of 1000mm with have to be declined due to the fact it will be unable to manoeuvre successfully on a low floor Dennis Dart. If you are unsure as to the length or turning circle of your scooter please consult your instruction manual which is supplied with your scooter.
Thameslink accept mobility scooters on all services providing they fall below 1200mm in length and 700mm wide. The overall weight, including passenger, must be below 55stone (300kg) to allow safe use of the platform to train ramps.
The batteries are the lifeblood of your scooter and need to be looked after to perform to their potential. All scooter batteries are 12V DC rechargeable maintenance free batteries. They will either be sealed lead acid or gel based and do not require any topping up.
To get the best out of your batteries you need to follow a strict charging regime. You should always charge the scooter for between 8 and 10 hours at a time. The charging process goes through cycles and this period is required to go through all the charging cycles. Do not put the battery on charge for just a couple of hours.
You should recharge the battery after each time you have used the scooter. In this context used means travelled at least a couple of miles. You should not recharge the scooter if you have only travelled a short distance. If there is a level indicator, do not charge if there is 80% or more charge in the batteries.
If you don’t use the scooter at all, the batteries will gradually loose their charge. This will accelerate during the colder months of the year and you should charge the batteries at least every fortnight during cold weather. The batteries will decay if they are left in a discharged state.
Sealed lead acid batteries will normally last for 2 / 3 years with normal use. Gel based batteries will last up to 5 years with normal use provided you follow a good charging regime. Replacement batteries are readily available and cost between £30 and £200 each depending on the size.
All scooters are sold with a charger. Always follow your scooter manufacturer’s manual on how to use the charger.
You should plug the charger into the scooter charging point before plugging it into the mains. All chargers have an automatic cut-off which shuts off the charge when the batteries are full.
Chargers are replaceable and are generally generic to the battery size of your scooter.
Most manufacturers recommend that you have your scooter serviced annually and it is often a requirement for insurance cover.
A service should cost between £55 and £80 depending on the size and complexity of the scooter. They can generally be undertaken at your premises, but there are times when it may be necessary to be completed at a workshop should extra work be required.
Below you will find some of the most frequently asked questions about mobility scooters.
How fast do mobility scooters go? Mobility scooters are available in a range of speed options from 4mph up to 8mph. Larger scooters tend to have a top speed of 8mph with the ability to limit this to 4mph when riding on the pavement. It is important to check the specifications of scooters when purchasing to make sure you choose the right one for your needs.
Are mobility scooters allowed on cruises? Every cruise operator has different policies when it comes to mobility scooters. We highly recommend you check with your chosen operator before booking to confirm their policy and whether they allow scooters as certain ships only allow a limited amount per voyage.
Are mobility scooters allowed on main roads? Class 3 mobility scooters are allowed to travel on main roads. These scooters have a top speed of 8mph and must have working lights, indicators and a horn to be legally allowed to travel on main roads.
Are mobility scooters allowed on trains, planes and buses? Much like cruises, all operators have their own policies on mobility scooters. The 'Public Transport' section of this guide covers a number of public transport operators and their policies, however all operators will list their details on their websites or be able to offer information over the phone. If you wish to transport your mobility scooter via airplane we highly recommend you contact your chosen airline prior to booking to confirm their requirements and policy.
Do I need to insure my mobility scooter? It is not a legal requirement to have insurance for your scooter when travelling on the road or pavement, however we do highly recommend it.
Are mobility scooters allowed on the pavement? Mobility scooters are allowed to travel on the pavement as long as they are limited to 4mph. Larger, road legal scooters have the ability to restrict their top speed and switch to pavement mode when required, while smaller scooters generally have a top speed of 4mph.
We hope that this Mobility Scooter Buying Guide has been helpful in providing you with information on how to choose the right mobility scooter for your needs. Discover our full range of Mobility Scooters here.