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How to choose and buy a mobility scooter.

The information below should help you choose the correct mobility scooter for your needs and budget.

Types of mobility scooters, power chairs and electric wheel chairs.
Scooters come in all sizes and shapes. From small travel scooters for the boot of your car, to large fully enclosed scooters. Some scooters are 3-wheeled some are 4-wheeled.   Electric wheel chairs, can be used instead of a mobility scooter depending on the needs of the user. Small power chairs are ideal for use indoors, at retirement homes and villages, as well as around other purpose built care facilities.


Warranties:
Different manufacturers have specific warranty conditions and timeframes for cover of components etc. These may vary and it is worth discussing with the sales representative.
When buying new you will be covered by the consumer guarantees act as initiated by the government (www.consumeraffairs.govt.nz). More information can be found via the Citizens Advice Bureau (www.cab.org.nz), or your local library and the internet.  Companies are bound by the act to only sell products that are fit for purpose.  If something breaks in the first year of ownership and the scooter has not been misused, then the company should repair or replace the scooter under the terms of the warranty.


Pricing.
Price is often a major factor in the purchase of a scooter. With this in mind it is really
important to understand what you need from a scooter. Then you can start to consider all the options within your price point. Different brands/models may have similar features but there can be a wide difference between prices. It is best to go with a reputable brand as after sales service etc. is guaranteed. Although some scooters may be new and be at a significantly reduced cost, at times this isn’t necessarily a good thing. This can often affect the after sales service and accessibility of parts and support.


Wheel size.
The bigger the wheel the more ground clearance and the rougher terrain the scooter can handle. Small scooters have smaller wheels, and are designed for around town use. Larger scooters with larger wheels have bigger batteries and can ‘soak up’ the bumps of the sidewalks better but take up more space and have a bigger footprint.


Features.
There are a wide range of options on scooters including suspension, seats, electronic packages and control panels. Not all scooters are the same so it is worth considering all the finer details of the scooters you are interested in. Specification sheets should be available for scooters so you can compare the features.


Mobility Scooter Canopies -Covers
Mobility scooters can sometimes be fitted with a full rain/weather cover which allows the user to go out all year around in all weathers.  Before considering fitting any such canopy to your mobility scooter it is worth considering whether fitting a canopy will affect the warranty of the scooter as many manufacturers will not cover warranties if the scooter has been modified in any way. Canopies can cause extra strain on the scooter (frame and motor) and therefore it may not be suitable for a canopy to be fitted.   Canopies fitted to small/medium mobility scooters can be a hazard in windy conditions with the mobility scooter being blown over or blown sideways causing the driver to end up in the road.
There a few good quality mobility scooters available on the market that come with manufacture fitted canopies. These tend to be expensive as they are full sized mobility scooters that are built to run in wet conditions.   These mobility scooters come with solid front screens so the driver can clearly see through and optional fabric rain sides. 


Batteries
Mobility scooters generally have two 12v deep cycle batteries that run a 24v motor. 
The batteries are measured in amp hours (ah). The greater the amount of amp hours the larger and more expensive the battery. Battery sizes range from 24ahr to 80ahr. The smaller the scooter typically the smaller the battery, whereas larger scooters will have the bigger batteries.
The batteries in a mobility scooters are called deep cycle batteries, this means they are more expensive than your standard car battery. Mobility Scooters must have deep cycle batteries fitted or they will not function properly.  Not all batteries are created equally and at times the “good deal” of a cheaper battery, may result in a costly new purchase in a short period of time. Batteries have a life span of between 2-5 years depending on how they have been used and cared for. A set of new batteries will cost between $300-$1000. It is important to follow instructions to assist with maintaining the life of a battery.


Travel distance:
There are many factors that can effect a scooters range: size of the batteries fitted; how you drive; terrain covered; outside temperatures, to name a few. Smaller scooters generally can travel up to 25km on one charge. Large scooters can go more than 40km. 


Different makes and brands and direct importers.
There are many makes and models of scooters on the market.  Purchasing a scooter made by one of the larger global brands is generally the safest bet, and generally gets you the most up-to-date scooter. These manufacturers have plenty of parts available, as well as technical support helplines, and don’t quibble over honouring guarantee’s. Pride, Heartway, Invacare, Shoprider, and CTM have all been around for many years in NZ and have an excellent range of spares available. 
It is worthwhile to consider the pro’s and con’s of the cheaper brands that are available. Although there may be benefits of the initial upfront cost of the purchase it is important to ensure that there is the after sales service, warranties and parts available for repairs. It is quite a common experience that we see for those purchasing a cheaper brand that has major issues and it is near impossible to resolve or very expensive.


Scooter usage:
Mobility scooters are specially designed for the purpose of keeping people mobile. Under NZTA rules they must be used on the foot path, if no foot path is available then they must be driven over to left hand side on the road.
Most manufacturer’s say not to use your scooter in the rain and stay away from any puddles and mud.  Treating and looking after your scooter as per the manufacturers recommendation’s as set out in their complimentary owner manual, should give you years of trouble free enjoyment. If not treated properly, any misuse at the hands of the operator may cause the scooter to experience a breakdown and incur costly repairs that may not be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.


Servicing and breakdowns.
Just like a car your mobility scooter will need to be maintained. Keeping the tyres pumped up and the battery fully charged are simple daily tasks that can be carried out by the owner. Most manufactures will recommend a service every 6-12 months. 
This may be sooner if you cover large distances.  Keeping your scooter well serviced and looked after should avoid breakdowns and maintain the value of your scooter if you ever decide to sell it.  


Rules, regulations.
The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) have a comprehensive booklet called “Keeping Mobile”.  The booklet sets out rules and regulations and shows you how to safely use your scooter.  When operating your scooter on the pavement it is important to remember to be courteous to other people, slow down and move over.



 

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