With the advance of technology, people who are no longer able to walk due to age or an injury have more options available for them to continue moving. Whereas such people used to have to make do with canes, crutches and wheelchairs, they now have an option to use mechanized aids that require lesser physical exertion.
Brief background of the mobility scooter
Mobility scooters are an important tool especially for people who value their independence but are limited from moving by a physical condition or old age. It allows them not to be too reliant and become a burden on their family, friends or caregivers. Such tools are presented as a solution and are really seen as such by people who wish to continue to do their daily activities with minimal assistance.
Among the popular options available are mobility scooters, which are basically chairs that are equipped with electrical engines mounted on scooters. These tools are also called power operated vehicles and are favored by people with mobility problems and physically limited from using more traditional walking aids.
With the engine doing most of the work, users of mobility scooters can move around with as little effort as a press of a button on a control panel or turn of the handle bars.
As its name suggests, mobility scooters are designed to look like the normal scooters on the road crossed with a wheelchair. Most look like chairs on top of platforms with three to five wheels with handlebars in front for steering. These are fitted with electrical or gas engines, but most are powered by electricity. Some models can bear up to 500 pounds, but most have lower carrying capacity.
These are designed mostly for outdoor use rather than home use and are thus ideal for use to visit parks or do some shopping.
History of the mobility scooter
The website of personal transportation solutions from company Scootaround traces the first mobility scooter to as far back as the sixth century when a Spanish monarch with mobility problems was recorded to have designed a wheelchair.
It, however, added that the first modern mobility scooter and the precursor of the models available in the market today was patterned after one made in 1968 by a Michigan plumber named Alan Thieme who created a wheelchair powered by an electric motor for a relative with multiple sclerosis.
Today, mobility scooters have become a staple mobility aid due to its advantages to traditional ones. An August 2016 report by Research and Markets projected the global mobility scooter market to grow by over 3% annually until 2021 and be worth US $2.4 billion.
Research and Markets added that the market’s growth is driven by the desire to help maintain the quality of life of those who encounter challenges in mobility, including an aging global population. The report also noted that the growing acceptance to adopt cost-efficient and technology-based products and government subsidies for the elderly and disabled present numerous opportunities for mobility scooters.
Things to consider when purchasing
For those considering purchasing a mobility scooter for their own use or family members who are unable or have trouble walking, there are several things to consider. Safety is a top priority when purchasing such a machine.
Mobility scooters are originally conceptualized as walking aids and therefore users are still classified as pedestrians and so may be used where people walk. Users must bear in mind though that they are riding a vehicle and must be careful not to cause harm to themselves and other pedestrians.
Most models for pedestrian use only travel up 4 miles per hour, but in busy foot paths it is recommended to move much slower to avoid bumping into other people.
Users should also be mindful about the quality of the walkways as those with a lot of bumps, rough and even stretches due to poor maintenance or have steep slopes are sure to affect the ride. Care must be taken when using such sidewalks, with a low speed recommended to avoid tipping over.
If the mobility scooter is meant to be used on main roads, the considerations for safety changes. According to the website of American Mobility Scooters, there are mobility scooters allowed on the road. It said that those can reach speeds of 8 miles per hour or consider Class 3 electric scooters are marketed as highway worthy as these are also equipped with other features useful for road use.
The website, however, noted that those who bought such mobility scooters must familiarize themselves with local and municipal legislation to avoid being penalized, including whether you should carry with you a driver’s license.
In the United Kingdom, for example, mobility scooters may use highways but are barred from bus and motorcycle lanes, according to the government website. These are some of the guidelines that one should be mindful of.
While manufacturers may have included features that make such devices worthy for highways, some localities may still prefer to keep these off the roads, since the speeds these can reach could slow down traffic. The limited protection these devices offer to users may also make authorities wary in allowing mobility scooters on the road, which they have to share with much larger vehicles.
If the mobility scooter will be used for roads, it is highly recommended to use common safety devices such as helmets and knee and elbow pads for protection. These can help minimize the effects of any incidents one may encounter when using a mobility scooter on the road.
Another protection worth considering is insurance. Several insurance companies are willing to provide coverage for mechanized mobility aids, but the process of securing one could be tedious. One needs to secure an endorsement from a physician who must attest that the mobility scooter is being used due to a medical need and not for luxury.
On top of this, insurance companies will require submission of supporting documents related to the device. All in all, the wait could stretch up to several months and the premiums are high as insurance companies seek to maximize profit from the transaction.
Although going through this process is inconvenient, it remains highly recommended to protect the purchase from unforeseen developments that could damage the device and lessen its usefulness. By getting insurance, you will be able to save on having to shoulder the full cost of repairs of the mobility device.
The price of the device is another major consideration for the purchase. The basic ones go for as low as several hundreds of dollars, but those with more features can set one back by as much as a few thousands.
Most highly regarded manufacturers of mobility scooters
According to the website Mobility Scooters Direct, the five most highly recommended brands are Pride Mobility, Drive Medical, Golden Technologies, Afikim and Solax Mobility. It says that among these brands, Pride Mobility’s products have the highest quality.
The Pennsylvania-based Pride Mobility promises that customers can choose products designed to have indoor and outdoor versatility, easy portability, increased weight capacity and maximum speed and performance.
The company employs over a thousand people, has outlets all over the Unites States as well as subsidiaries in developed countries such as the United Kingdom, UK, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Italy, and New Zealand, where there is growing demand for mobility scooters from their ageing populations.
A report by market watcher Beige Market Intelligence said in a recent report that Pride Mobility has some of the most well-known brands available, with its focus on innovation to improve its portfolio and protect these gains through patenting among its strengths. Pride Mobility’s website features 15 models.
Among these, the company highlighted the Go-Go Folding Scooter which won the HME 2015 Innovative Product Award. It said that this model is ready for transport and easily folded, making it ideal for those looking to maintain an active lifestyle.
It performs well both indoors and outdoors as it can travel at a maximum speed of four miles per hour and can travel for 12.5 miles while providing its user a comfortable and convenient ride. Pride Mobility added that this scooter being foldable makes it easy to carry around and reduces the space needed for storage.
Mobility Scooters Direct, meanwhile, noted how Pride Mobility has a good reputation internationally due to their stylish and durable products. The company is also well regarded due to the post-sales service it offers with its warranties recognized worldwide.
Another highly touted mobility scooter manufacturer is Drive Medical. Founded in 2000, the New York-based manufacturer produces all sorts of mobility aid and self-help medical gadgets from mobility scooters to lift chairs.
Mobility Scooters Direct said that Drive Medical is one of the fastest growing distributors of aid products as the market has taken to its offerings. While its workforce is smaller than Pride Mobility, it also has a huge international presence aside from it being a strong contender in the United States market with offices in South and Central America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
Beige Market Intelligence said the company does not sell directly to end-users, but prefers to market its products to wholesalers. It added that it has a strong potential for growth as it has yet to enter several key markets for mobility scooters. According to Mobility Scooters Direct, among the most popular of Drive Medical’s models is the Phoenix HD 3.
According to the Drive Medical website, the Phoenix HD 3 is considered a heavy duty model with features that makes it suitable for indoor use as well. This model is compact and designed for easy assembly and disassembly, making it convenient to bring around when traveling.
Aside from these, Phoenix HD 3 has an adjustable seat and finger-activated throttle for those looking for comfort, safety and ease of use. It also has an easy to remove battery that can be charged separately from the unit.
Another highly regarded manufacturer of mobility scooters is Golden Technologies. Also based in Pennsylvania, this company, which was founded in the mid 80s, has one of the largest factories of lift chairs according to Beige Market Intelligence.
Although it has a big presence in the United States, it has a limited presence overseas and needs to work on strengthening its brand. Still, it has established a reputation for outstanding products. Among its line of mobility scooters, one of the most highly touted is the Avenger.
The Golden Technologies website describes this model as a heavy duty scooter that can function well even in the rugged outdoors, providing its users a comfortable ride over a variety of nature’s most challenging terrains. It added that the Avenger has a full lighting package and an extra roomy seat with an adjustable headrest. It can also carry up to 500 pounds and travel up to 18 miles before charging.
Final points to remember about mobility scooters
While the budget is always a consideration when purchasing any item, for mobility scooters the specific use of the tool is equally important. As stated above, there are a number of highly-regarded manufacturers who produce good quality mobility scooters. While they are competitors, a quick check of their website will show a common message when looking up what mobility scooter to buy: what will this be used for.
There are numerous models available in the market that caters to those with basic needs and those who look to use these for heavy-duty purposes. The choice of mobility scooter will ultimately depend on these factors. It is necessary to choose the right one for the right use to get the most out of the purchase or prevent getting a model that is overdesigned for what it is intended for.
Another important consideration is safety. No matter what mobility scooter a buyer ultimately chooses, he or she must bear in mind that safety is his or her responsibility. Even if the tool comes with advanced safety features, it will be of minimal help if the user himself or herself is not careful while using it.