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.
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.
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).