Mobility scooters for newbies…

After the Pride Quantum 6000 powerchair fiasco, I have no desire to get involved with Route2Mobility ever again – the operation is a disgrace on so many levels. See the I bought a lemon… series of posts for the reasons why. I do, though, desperately need a mobility scooter.

I have, after months of hassle, secured a pension lump sum, out of which I’m buying a scooter, so I thought it might be a good time to share a few thoughts on the subject with my faithful readers and with anybody who has just bought, or is about to buy, their first scooter. This isn’t about which scooter to buy – I’ve no idea what’s best for you – just a few tips about what to look for, and how to get the best out of it once you have it.

The first thing I discovered is that if you have the cash, scooters can be a fraction of the price you’d be charged on the Motability scheme. even discounting the interest paid on the deal. I’ve written here before that scooters and powerchairs aren’t as good a deal on Motability (for which read Route2Mobility), as cars are. I hadn’t realised until now how bad the deals can be.

This was my first choice.

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It’s the Drive Medical Neo 8 (Class 3, 8mph, 20 miles), and at £959 is simply staggering value. Looks damn good, too.

However, I spotted just in time that it had a ground clearance of just 3” (as do many others, it’s not a fault), and, as I want to venture off-road occasionally, that won’t be enough.

I opted, instead, for the Sunrise Medical Sterling Diamond, a Class 3, 8mph machine, with 6” ground clearance and a claimed 24-mile range which, given its 50Ah batteries, I might be able to get reasonably close to (for which read about 15 – 18 miles). It comes only in black and silver, which looks cool or, at least, as cool as these things can look. This machine, by the way, was one of my original choices when I was trying to get a machine from Scoota Mart, Preston (again, see the Lemon posts). As with everything else I chose, they steered me away from it.

Click to view full size, Back to return.

Tip: many scooter makers claim incredible ranges from small batteries and, trust me, you’re just not going to get it, no matter how efficient the motor and electronics are. As a rule of thumb, anyone claiming 30 miles from 36Ah batteries is – well, let’s say being over-ambitious; lying is such an ugly word…

Look at the wheels, too, on my scooter. Large wheels, with tyres in proportion – like this, and on cars, bikes, and motorcycles – are more mechanically efficient, with less rolling resistance, than the tiny wheels and balloon tyres found on most scooters. The reason that most makers go with that combo is cost – a small alloy wheel and a fat tyre is cheaper (alloy costs more than rubber, both in material and manufacturing costs). Whether it’s actually a good thing doesn’t enter into it. Think about it, though; a fat tyre is going to pick up far more punctures, because it has a bigger footprint, than a skinny tyre, and it rolls less easily – far less easily if you don’t watch your tyre pressure. Ask a cyclist if you don’t believe me – a bike with skinny road tyres takes far less effort to pedal than a fat mountain bike tyre, all else being equal. Think about that when you’re shopping for a scooter.

The list price of my machine, exclusive of VAT, is £2,750 (almost every website I’ve looked at claims a different RRP; that’s the one shown on the siteI got it from), I’m paying £1,299, delivered and assembled.

I’ve calculated that, on Motability, it would cost me around £90 every 4 weeks for 3 years.

Having the cash, then, makes a hell of a difference, and you may want to see if you can get a bank loan (and I mean bank – avoid companies the promise loans to the unwaged, they’ll rip you off. OK, Motability covers you if things go wrong, though you do pay for it, but scooters are very simple beasts (well, mine is), and, anyway, they come with a 12-month warranty (if electronics are going to fail, they tend to do so quite quickly; mechanical problems are unlikely). Beyond that, you can buy extended warranties from many sources – shop around for the best deal, or check the yellow pages for where you can get it repaired locally. Get some sample quotations. Electronics, if they do fail, are not repairable and have to be replaced – get a ball-park price for that, too.

The Sterling Diamond is not a sophisticated machine, which is why I bought it. It has no fancy LCD displays, or computers, or anything else that might be a future cause of malfunction. It has plain, “old-fashioned” buttons and toggle switches, and a battery gauge. The most “sophisticated” control is the rheostat speed control knob. It has a minimum of stuff to go wrong. That’s so for many scooters, but some manufacturers can’t resist the urge to complicate matters. Nor does it have an excess of bodywork to get damaged (some manufacturers tend to lose sight of the fact that many scooters have to negotiate doorways rather a lot – bodywork or seat arms* than are wider than the wheels are bad news).

*I tend to remove the arms – you can’t use them while in motion anyway and, should you flip the scooter, through carelessness, one arm or the other will take out your ribs or a kidney. Without the arms, there’s a good chance you can either just step off, or roll clear (tip: if, somehow, a scooter begins to tip over, just lean the opposite way and it’ll come back if you’re quick enough).

7 thoughts on “Mobility scooters for newbies…

  1. Hi Ron,
    I wonder if you could give me some information about the Sterling Diamond you’ve posted about. I live in a very hilly village. Can it cope with the gradients? Also, how is it off road, ie on non- tarmac paths in a local park where I’d like to be able to exercise my dogs myself once more?
    Love your blog- common sense and very entertaining.
    Stay well,
    Gwen

    • Hi Gwen,

      Can’t see a problem with the Sterling. It copes with hills well enough, will touch 10mph on the flat occasionally, and I’m no lightweight (measured using satnav), and has excellent ground clearance. I haven’t actually used it off-road yet (it’s hardly stopped raining, and getting a good day to coincide with a dry one hasn’t worked out very well), but I plan on taking it to the local woods sooner or later. I really can’t see you having any difficulty in the park – it’s got plenty of power to cope with unsurfaced paths. It’ll be fine on grass too. I wouldn’t take a scooter to the beach though – if that’s a possibility – sand gets everywhere, and salt will trash the electrics. Apart from that – go for it.

      Bear in mind that hills shorten range, though, with any scooter.

      If you search for mobility scooter (top right), it’ll turn up a load more posts on the subject.

      Just one thing – and this applies on-road as well as off – do put sealant in the tyres! I’ve covered that somewhere, too.

      Another tip – don’t attache the dog’s lead to the scooter – it’ll impair your steering and, depending on the size of the dog, have you over if it pulls in the wrong direction. Pretty sure it’s illegal anyway. Talking of which, don’t forget to register it with the DVLA, and display your tax disc. The risk of being caught if you don’t is low, but it’s not zero. And if you’re involved in an accident, even if it’s not your fault, and you’re not taxed you’ll be the one in trouble (same penalties as driving an untaxed car). It costs nothing, and there’s a post about that, too, oddly enough.

      Apart from that – have fun.

      Ron.

  2. Thanks for such a well thought out reply, Ron. My dream machine is the TGA Supersport but it is way beyond my budget. I’m giving the Sterling some serious thought after reading your postings.
    One thought though, you said you hadn’t been out in the rain in yours. Is that because it isn’t recommended or because of personal situation? I live in Scotland where it rains most of the time so a scooter than couldn’t be used in the wet would be as useful as a chocolate teapot!

    Thanks,
    Gwen

    • I’ve not used mine in the rain because I can get a lift (and I’ve also been too ill to use it, but that’s changing), but I have used scooters and powerchairs in the most atrocious weather, without problems.

      One thing to bear in mind – on scooters, the electronics are hidden away under the bodywork, and will be fine no matter what the weather does. The controls are always the weak point – always, no matter what a manufacturer might claim. They can make a waterproof touch pad instead of buttons, but a switch, or a knob, can’t be trusted to be waterproof.

      What I’ve done in the past, and what I’ll be doing to mine shortly as I’ll have no lifts for a couple of weeks, is open up a clear freezer bag, so I have a sheet of clear plastic then, using plastic adhesive to match the scooter’s colour (the Sterling is black, so that’s easy), form a hood over the top of the tiller, so that knobs and switches, and the “ignition” lock, are shielded. I don’t use the speed control knob, so it doesn’t matter, but if you do, just leave a bit of slack, so you can turn itIt’s actually much easier, and looks a lot better, than it sounds. You can buy a ready made hood for the tiller – perfectly designed to keep out water – and to stop you using the forward and reverse controls! Pure genius.

      I’ve bought a waterproof seat cover – seats are never waterproof (the technology exists to mould a seat from polyurethane foam, like motorbike seats, so it won’t absorb water, but I’ve only ever had one like that, on a Sunrise Medical powerchair, the F55), and bought a set of bikers’ waterproofs with quilted overtrousers for the winter, plus a pair of unlined walkers for the – ha! – summer. Plus, for winter, a fleece vest with pockets for heat pads. You can get very cold on a scooter, and the wind-chill on a Class 3 machine is surprising. I’ve written about all that, too.

      Luckily, I still wear the same sort of clothes I wore for backpacking (comfy and convenient), and fleeces and down are very good on scooters too. Not waterproofs, as they’re not designed for sitting down in – bikers’ kit is.

      Don’t know how far you’ve read, yet, but storage is critical – scooters’ electronics and batteries need pretty much the same conditions you do (mine’s in my bedroom). They don’t take kindly to being left in a cold, damp shed.

      Wherever you plan to keep it, try to get a demo, make sure it fits. It’s physically quite small, so it’ll squeeze into most places.

      You should bank on getting around 50% of the claimed range from any machine if it’s very hilly, and remember it takes more power to come back up a hill than go down it (obvious, but people do forget). I get around 17 miles out of my Sterling, but I reckon the hills here – although we have a lot – are probably more modest than yours.

      Ron.

  3. Thanks again, Ron for a great reply.

    The informatioon all helps. I’ll have no option but to store it in a garden shed as I live in a first floor flat.

    Your blog has been a godsend regarding information on mobility scooters. There are so many choices and it is important to make the correct one.

    You heard any reports on the TGA Mystere?

    Many thanks,
    Gwen

    • TGA Mystere – Not familiar with it, but it looks very Shoprider-ish to me. And balloon tyres on tiny wheels really suck – another reason I picked the Sterling.

      Have a look at the Rascal 650 – goes for around £1,700 and the Shoprider Cordoba – very like the Sterling but bigger, and with a claimed range of 35 miles.

  4. Hi Ron
    Great stuff Ron, keep up the good work. Dont let the BASTARD,s grind you down.

    Cheers FRED……. cataracts, hence the brief message

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