Modern mobility scooters are an affordable, innovative and constantly-evolving solution for millions of people with limited mobility. But for those who use them, they’re much, much more: they’re independence. They’re autonomy. And most of all, they’re freedom.
Designed primarily for occasional use by people who have difficulty walking but don’t need a wheelchair, mobility scooters are the ideal option for many. They’re simple to operate, don’t have to be insured, and can be legally used whether or not the operator is a licensed driver. They’re approved for use on public pavements and walkways and some can even be driven on roadways. They’re primarily intended for outdoor use and most travel easily over surfaces like grass, dirt, and gravel, though some can be used in the home as well. Many mobility scooters are portable and can be transported in the boot of a car.
What you will learn from this article
For the right user a mobility scooter can be life-changing, restoring the self-reliance and simple life pleasures that disability has taken away. They’re not right for everyone, but for millions they’re the key to living a full, active, and independent life.
Who is the best candidate for a mobility scooter?
Mobility scooters are best suited to reasonably healthy people who have some degree of mobility. They’re designed to accommodate users who can stand and walk short distances unassisted but find it difficult to walk long distances or up slopes. Mobility scooter users must be able to sit upright unassisted and they need sufficient hand, shoulder, and upper body strength to operate the steering mechanism or tiller. Operators also need adequate vision and hearing, particularly if the mobility scooter will be used out of doors.
Mobility scooters work exceptionally well for many elderly people who have enough mobility to be independent but find walking long distances beyond their capacity. They’re excellent for people with disabilities that make walking difficult, exhausting, or painful, including arthritis, obesity, gout, and systemic disorders such as heart or lung conditions. Mobility scooters may also be a good choice at some stages of progressive disorders like multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease, though user capabilities should be closely monitored.
For people who cannot stand or walk at all, have extremely limited upper body strength and flexibility, or who cannot sit upright unassisted, mobility scooters are not a good choice.back to menu ↑
What exactly is a mobility scooter?
The broadest definition of a mobility scooter is “an electrically powered scooter designed for people with restricted mobility”. In practical terms, a mobility scooter is basically a battery operated low-speed scooter with design modifications such as extra wheels and a broader base plate that provide greater stability and convenience for people with some degree of disability.
The basic mobility scooter consists of a stem-mounted seat attached to a flat foot plate over three to five wheels. Like standard scooters, mobility scooters are steered by handlebars mounted to a tiller or steering column which houses the speed and directional controls.
Modern mobility scooters are powered by batteries which are charged by ordinary electricity; the charger may be onboard or offboard, depending on the model. The time it takes to recharge varies according to the type, size and age of the battery, how depleted it was, and the size and power of the charger. Mobility scooters should be recharged after every use, and it’s safe to assume that for every hour the scooter was in use, the battery will need to be charged for double that time.
The average distance you can travel on a single charge varies considerably, ranging from five miles to more than 40 miles depending on type, model, and size. Most scooters will accomodate weights up to 113 kg, though the largest models can carry 181 kg or more. All mobility scooters have a maximum speed of either 4 or 8 mph, and are legally classified as class 2 or class 3 invalid carriages according to their maximum speed.back to menu ↑
How are mobility scooters different from motorized wheelchairs?
Mobility scooters are designed for occasional use by people who have some degree of independent mobility, while motorized wheelchairs are designed for constant use by people who have little to no independent mobility. Though there are similarities they differ in many ways, all of which come down to the diverse needs of the intended users. Some of the primary differences are as follows:
Operator requirements: Mobility scooter operators need a certain amount of strength and mobility. Since a mobility scooter is intended for occasional rather than constant use, operators must be able to stand and walk enough to get on and off the scooter. They must be able to sit up unassisted, and they need to have sufficient strength and flexibility to control the handlebar steering mechanism. None of these requirements apply to motorized wheelchairs, which can be modified to accommodate users with any degree of disability.
Maneuverability and portability: Scooters are longer and more difficult to maneuver in close spaces, but are generally lighter and some models are extremely portable. Motorized wheelchairs are more maneuverable but are considerably heavier and less portable.
Customisability: Scooters are only minimally customisable, while motorized wheelchairs are designed to be adapted to the specific needs of the user, with many programmable options.
Cost: Mobility scooters are generally more affordable than motorized wheelchairs.
Can mobility scooters be used on roadways?
Whether or not a mobility scooter can be used on roads depends on how it is classified. In the UK mobility scooters are legally defined as either class 2 or class 3 invalid carriages. Class 2 invalid carriages have a maximum speed of 4 mph and cannot be used on the road, except where there isn’t a pavement. Class 3 invalid carriages can be used on the road and have maximum speeds of 4 mph off the road and 8 mph on the road. Mobility scooters are not approved for use on motorways.
Do I need insurance to drive a mobility scooter? Do I have to register it?
Mobility scooters don’t have to be insured, though it is recommended. Those that are classified as class 3 invalid carriages do have to be registered.
Are mobility scooters covered by the NHS?
The NHS and social services do not directly provide outdoor electric mobility scooters.
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Types of Mobility Scootersback to menu ↑
Travel/Portable Scooters (class 2)
Travel/portable scooters are the perfect choice for people on the go, whether the destination is across the street or across the world.
The smallest, lightest and most compact mobility scooters on the market, they’re designed to either fold or quickly disassemble to make them as portable as possible. They’re easy to take along wherever you go, so you have convenient, confident mobility no matter where you are.
Travel/portable mobility scooters are highly capable, fully functioning mobility devices with plenty of power to take users where they need to go.
However for the sake of compactness and light weight this range of mobility scooters may be on the minimal side when it comes to comfort enhancing amenities like adjustable seats and a full suspension, and most use solid rather than pneumatic tyres.
They also generally have lower maximum weight capacity and shorter travel distance between charges. But for users who really need maximum portability these are tradeoffs that makes sense.
Travel/portable mobility scooters have an average length of 35 to 45 inches and a turning radius of 45 to 55 inches. They have an average weight of about 45 kg, though some models may be slightly heavier and some super-light models weigh in at an astounding 22 kg or less.
The maximum travel distance between charges varies from model to model but is generally from 5 to 15 miles.
What makes them a good choice:
Anyone who is primarily concerned with compact size and portability should give this range of mobility scooters some serious consideration. Travel/portable scooters can be easily transported in the boot of a standard car. Some can even be folded or broken down to a size small enough to fit in a suitcase, making them ideal for travel by plane, boat, bus or train.
Travel/portable mobility scooters are excellent for transporting users over walkways, decking, and other smooth level surfaces as well as grass, dirt, and even gravel.
They’re small enough to be used indoors in some situations and could be a solution for people who have difficulty walking through large enclosed areas like airports or supermarkets. They’re key-started and can be safely parked unattended if necessary.
These scooters are light in terms of price as well as poundage. Cost varies widely from model to model and though the price of a new portable scooter can go as high as £2500 or more, the range begins around £500 and many are available for well under £1000.
Who they’re best for:
Anyone who wants mobility on the move will appreciate these exceptionally portable scooters. Whether you’re heading for the shops or taking a cross-country journey, the convenience of being able to transport a full-fledged motorized mobility device in a car boot is hard to beat.
The light weight also makes them a good choice for people who don’t always have someone along to assist them or who simply prefer to travel alone.
Maximum travel range is generally lower than that of larger scooters, and maximum weight capacity may be lower as well; these scooters may not be suitable for users who are very large, tall, or heavy.
Portable scooters have a lower ground clearance and the lack of a suspension system can result in a bumpier ride.They may be somewhat less stable than heavier models and may not perform as well when driven up steep slopes or over uneven outdoor surfaces. While they’re designed to fold or disassemble easily, some users may find the process challenging without assistance.
Travel/portable scooters are classified as class 2 invalid carriages and have a maximum speed of 4 mph. They cannot be used on the road, except where there isn’t pavement. They don’t need to be registered and the operator is not required to be a licensed driver.
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4 mph Pavement Mobility Scooters (class 2)
Pavement mobility scooters can be thought of as mid-sized, mid-priced mobility scooters. Stable, reliable, and affordable, this popular range of scooters is considered by many to be the ideal entry point for new users. They’re comfortable and uncomplicated scooters that easily meet the needs of people who simply want help getting around for shopping, visiting, and participating in the everyday activities of life.
Larger and heavier than portable/travel models, these scooters are ideal for use on paved areas and walkways. They’re generally built for outdoor use but some models are built for maximum maneuverability and can also be used indoors. Though they’re not designed to fold or break down to maximum compactness, some models can be disassembled and transported without the need for special equipment like a wheelchair lift.
Pavement mobility scooters have an average length of 45 to 50 inches and a turning radius of 50 to 55 inches. They weigh in at an average of anywhere from 45 to 90 kg and most have a maximum weight capacity of 113 to 136 kg. Many models feature a variety of built-in accessibility enhancements like an adjustable tiller, removeable shopping basket, and flip-up armrests.
Most pavement mobility scooters deliver an average travel-per-charge distance of 20 miles or more, and many offer a sleek and sporty design with special luxury features like padded swivel seats and splash guards. A number of accessories are available to increase convenience with additional storage and carrying capacity.
What makes them a good choice:
Pavement mobility scooters are an outstanding mobility option that will satisfy most users’ everyday needs. Ideal for transport to nearby shops, socializing with friends, or going to meetings or appointments in the neighborhood, these scooters are key-started and can be safely parked unattended.
Because of their longer base and heavier weight these scooters are very stable on most surfaces, which makes them a good option for traveling over gravel, dirt, and level grassy areas as well as pavements and walkways. Most scooters of this class are constructed with full suspension for a smooth ride, and many come equipped with comfort-enhancing features like adjustable height seats and adjustable tillers as well.
This range of scooters offers many options, and the cost varies considerably depending on the model, manufacturer, and add-ons you choose. Prices start at around £1000 and go up to £5000 or more, though most fall into the £1500 to £2500 range.
Who they’re best for:
Pavement mobility scooters are an outstanding choice for users who simply need help getting to and from everyday activities like shopping, meetings, appointments and social events. What they lack in extreme portability they make up for in stability, comfort, and convenience. A relatively long travel range of 20 miles or more between charges makes them a reliable option that will get most users though even the busiest days. Many consider this type of mobility scooter a good first choice for new users because they deliver simple, uncomplicated mobility and do it comfortably and affordably.
Pavement mobility scooters are longer and heavier than travel scooters and though some models can be disassembled and transported in parts, portability isn’t a strong suit. This class of scooter is mainly intended for use on outdoor walkways and pavements; they may be too large to be easily maneuverable indoors and cannot be legally driven on the roadway. They have a higher ground clearance than portable/travel scooters but may not be suitable for operation on very rough terrain. These scooters may not be suitable for users who are very large or heavy.
Pavement mobility scooters are classified as class 2 invalid carriages and have a maximum speed of 4 mph. They cannot be used on the road, except where there isn’t pavement. They don’t need to be registered or insured, and the operator is not required to be a licensed driver.
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8 mph Road Legal Mobility Scooters (class 3)
Vehicles in this range are truly the workhorses of mobility scooters, approved for use both on the pavement and on the roadway. They’re the largest and heaviest of all mobility scooters and offer the most in terms of stability and adaptability; often built with a high ground clearance and equipped with heavy duty suspension and all-terrain tyres, they traverse most surfaces with ease but are also excellent for everyday use on pavements and walkways.
This type of scooter also leads in terms of adjustability, comfort, and convenience. They generally offer the most options of any of the scooter types and are available with a host of amenities including padded adjustable ergonomic swivel seats, full all-round suspension, shock absorbing tyres, specialty lighting and LCD panel, built-in storage, and even safety turning sensors that automatically slow the scooter when turning at full speed.
Road legal mobility scooters are available in three, four, or five-wheel models.
The basics: Road legal mobility scooters have an average length of 55 – 65 inches and most models weigh between 136 and 181 kg. Many come with two high amperage batteries standard, giving this type of scooter an impressive travel-per-charge range of 20 to 40 miles. Maximum weight capacity runs from 136 to well over 181 kg.
What makes them a good choice: Road legal mobility scooters are a truly versatile form of transport. Approved for use on roadways (though not allowed on motorways), they can make commuting to work or school a viable option for the disabled. They’re also a good choice for users who need assistance with simple everyday transportation for shopping, visiting, meetings and appointments; they’re key-started and can be safely parked unattended. And because of their size, stability, and durable construction, they’re a must for any user who wants to travel over rugged terrain.
This class of mobility scooter is also an excellent choice for users who need extra legroom, seat adjustability, or weight capacity. In addition, they’re the best bet for users who want maximum power for climbing slopes and the longest possible travel distance between charges.
Cost range: The price of new road legal mobility scooters starts as low as £1000 but rises rapidly depending on what features each model ships as standard and what options the user may choose to add. Most scooters of this type cost somewhere between £2000 and £4000, though the price for super-equipped luxury models may reach £6000 or more.
Who they’re best for: These scooters are the perfect choice for many users. A class 3 road legal mobility scooter is the only type of mobility scooter than can legally be driven on roadways, so it’s a must for users who need that ability. Anyone who likes to explore areas that are well off the beaten path needs the stability, reliability, and long travel range that this type of scooter provides. And those who simply want to ride in luxurious comfort can’t do better than investing in the top-end customizable options a road legal scooter offers.
The extra power, additional seat and leg room, and high maximum weight capacity these scooters feature makes them a good choice for users who are large, tall, or heavy.
Important points: The weight and length of this type of scooter makes it minimally portable at best, and with a few exceptions this class of scooter is not well suited to indoor use. These considerations make it a decidedly “door to door” type of transport, so if mobility assistance is needed after the destination is reached this may not be the best option.
Legal status/requirements: Road legal mobility scooters are classified as class 3 invalid carriages and have a maximum speed of 8mph. They can be legally driven on the roadway but are not allowed on motorways, bicycle tracks or bus/cycle lanes. They don’t need to be registered and the operator is not required to be a licensed driver, but must be over 14 years of age.