Guide on what to look for in Mobility Scooters
Thanks to the tremendous advances in disabled mobility scooter design and technology over recent years, people who have mobility problems now can enjoy greater freedom and independence than ever before. Here on the Costa del Sol in Spain the facilities might still be in their infancy but I am confident that Spain will progress at a rapid rate to accommodate the disabled drivers over the next decade.
The main aim of a mobility scooter is to give people a richer quality of life and give them the freedom of choice that a wheelchair does not afford. Mobility Scooters give people independence and allows them to manage a lot of the everyday tasks themselves, such as shopping, going out with friends, going out for “walks” with people, they no longer are housebound.
At present there are no laws in Spain covering mobility scooters but our suggestion is that you follow the English rules for your own safety, but the mobility scooter laws will surely follow in Spain over time.
The mobility scooters at present are divided into Class 2 and Class 3 vehicles.
Class 2 Mobility scooter vehicles are the smaller scooters, such as the one’s you can dismantle and put into the trunk of a car. These scooters will travel up to speeds of 6.4kph (4mph), and the scooters are allowed to travel on the pavements and to cross over roads only, they are suitable for indoor use as they are smaller and more compact.
- For use indoor and outdoor, but scooters are best on even surfaces.
- These scooters have a short distance range.
- Scooters are less stable.
- Scooter seats are not so comfortable.
- Available with 3 or 4 wheels.
- The scooters can be collapsed/dismantled for transporting.
- The scooters are designed to fit easily into a car boot.
- Has handles for lifting and are lightweight.
- Normally the scooter battery can also be removed for lifting.
- Small and compact scooter
Class 3 Mobility scooter vehicles are the larger scooters which are capable of travelling up to 12.8kph (8mph). These scooters can travel on the pavements but are also allowed to travel on the roads, although you don’t need a driving license to use one, you must obey the rules of the road.
If you haven’t driven before it is best to talk to your dealer and arrange for a mobility scooter training course.
- Larger scooter models have more comfortable seats.
- Will cover long distances.
- The scooters come with 3 or 4 wheels.
- Kerb climbing of 10cm.
- Speed selector switch – pavement setting 4mph (6.4kph) can be flipped up to 6-8mph (12.8kph).
- The mobility scooters come with lights, indicators and a horn.
- Flashing beacon –optional – used when on the road to warn others of your presence.
The Difference between 3 and 4 wheel mobility scooters
- 3 wheel scooter version has a better turning circle and allows turning in small spaces and round tight corners.
- The 4 wheel mobility scooter version is more stable but not as manoeuvrable.
Check list for Mobility Scooter purchase
on the Costa del Sol, Spain
Below is a list of considerations before you choose the model of scooter you are going to buy. I have put a Adobe PDF download version here of the check list which will allow you to print it off for trips to Spain or other countries but is based on Spain.
- Do I need to use my mobility scooter in my home – indoors?
- Where do I want to travel on my mobility scooter?
- Do I want a small foldable scooter model that will go on short trips, say to one of the shopping centres here on the Costa del Sol, Spain, perhaps the local supermarkets etc., one that I can easily put in the trunk of a car?
- Do I want to use my mobility scooter in the area near my home?
- Do I want a 3 or 4 wheeled model mobility scooter?
- Do I have to manoeuvre round tight corners in either the interior or exterior area where I live?
- Are there any difficult areas I need to access? Consider the area where you live; are the pavements scooter friendly with dropped curbs; or do you have to take high kerbs; is the terrain friendly; is there rough ground; no pavements; is there lots of sand or grass?, here on the costa del sol, spain, there are varying terrains so check out the other specific area guides, to Fuengirola, Benalmadena, Torremolinos, Mijas, Malaga, Marbella the main areas on the costa del sol Spain, we are constantly updating these area guides on our site.
- Are there many hills that you need to go up on a regular basis? What camber they have, are they steep? Make sure they are not too steep for a mobility scooter to get up. Here on the costa del sol, Spain for example Benalmadena is quite hilly except for the seafront, but Fuengirola is more flat. Consider the amount of work the mobility scooter has to do on hills etc and then consider your weight. It is no good expecting a small mobility scooter to be able to go up steep hills and carry a lot of weight at the same time.
- Another option is that you might actually need two mobility scooters, a small scooter for use in the home and trips out in the car and perhaps a larger model to be able to drive around your local area? Have you considered buying a van or people carrier to enable you to utilise a larger mobility scooter all the time?
- Where are you going to charge the scooter? Your mobility scooter will need regular charging so you must have access to electricity.
- Where can you leave the mobility scooter when you are not using it? Is there room in your house or apartment or do you have a garage or other covered building where you can leave it? If not then consider buying a purpose built cover to keep it dry and clean.
- What sort of tyres do I want on my mobility scooter, solid tyres or pneumatic tyres? Solid tyres do not puncture but give a less springy comfortable ride. The wider the tyres the better the grip and stability.
- What sort of seat do I want on my scooter? Does it swivel to make transferring on and off easier? Does it adjust for height? Does it have forward and backward adjustment?
What to Ask your Dealer
- Make sure your dealer offers a home assessment service, you need them to visit to assess your needs and advise on the best scooter for your environment where the mobility scooter will be used, such as narrow doors, too small lifts (The lifts in Spain are very small) impassable steps (you may need a ramp putting in). We offer a ramp installation service here on the Costa del Sol Spain
- What is the delivery time?
- Do you have to pay for scooter delivery?
- Will the company assemble the mobility scooter for you?
- What guarantee is available? Remember in Spain the law is that the company has to give a 2 years warranty
- What after care service is offered, (most companies in Spain do not offer any) do they service the mobility scooter during the warranty?
- Do they make a call out charge during the warranty period?
- Make sure that the mobility company does have an after care service that is local, there are some companies who when a mobility scooter goes wrong have to send the scooter away and don’t even give a replacement mobility scooter whilst you wait sometimes several weeks for the repairs to be done
- Does your dealer offer a try before you buy scheme? Usually you can rent the model scooter you think will be appropriate so that you can try it in your home environment before buying. Ideally they should refund the price of the rental if you purchase the mobility scooter
A Guide to your Mobility Scooter Battery
Battery powered scooters operate from two 12 volt rechargeable batteries. Make sure they are maintenance free gel batteries with a label on saying they are airline safe. These scooters can be carried on planes because there is no risk of leakage.
Obviously the larger and heavier the battery the more power you have. The power your mobility scooter has to climb kerbs or go up hills will depend greatly on the size of your battery, the size and weight of the mobility scooter and also the heaviness of the driver.
Mobility scooters are electric and you simply charge it by plugging in the three pin plug into the pedestal of the scooter and the other end into the electrical socket. Always plug the charger into the mobility scooter first and then into the socket. It is recommended that you leave it overnight as unlike some other batteries this does it good and will actually clean the cells ready for the next day, the charger usually has a maintenance facility which operates when the battery is fully charged.
- Remember mobility scooters should be charged once a month when not in use otherwise the batteries life will be affected.
- When mobility scooters are used infrequently they should be charged once a fortnight.
- Mobility Scooters in constant use should be charged daily. Correct charging will increase the life of the battery.
With some mobility scooters you can also charge the batteries on their own (ie. Away from the scooter, this is often found on travel mobility scooters). This is ideal if you are keeping a mobility scooter in a car for use on days out.
A Guide to how your Mobility Scooter works
The mobility scooter in a way is like a motor bike or bicycle, there are handles to steer with, a place to sit and in general the mobility scooter will re-act like a bicycle.
The tiller is the main upright strut which is used to steer the mobility scooter like a motor bike. The tiller is adjustable moving towards or away from the seat for comfort so that the user can more easily steer the mobility scooter.
- The key
- The main control of the mobility scooter is the key; this must be switched on before the scooter will operate at all.
- If when you switch on the mobility scooter it starts to beep, check that the scooter is not in free-wheel mode. If the scooter is, then put the mobiltiy scooter into drive mode and turn on the machine again.
- Accelerating/Reversing lever
If you look at the handles of the mobility scooter nearby you will see two teaspoon shaped paddles. These are the levers to make the mobility scooter go forward and backwards, sometimes these are called wig-wag paddles operating the levers with your thumbs will make the scooter go backwards and forwards. Note the mobility scooter will beep as you go backwards to warn others of your manoeuvre. (Each of the levers can operate the mobility scooter forwards and backwards, so if you only have the use of one hand this will present no problem).
When you push the lever in just a little you move very slowly, push in more and you go faster. More importantly there is also a speed control dial which allows you to dictate the speed you wish to travel at and the paddles cannot make the scooter go any faster until you increase the speed on the speed controller. Pavement/Road Switch.
On some of the larger models there is a switch which is to reduce the speed as you are only supposed to go at 4mph on the pavements and only switch over to the 6-8mph when on the road.
You make a mobility scooter stop by doing nothing. As soon as you stop pressing the wigwag, the brakes automatically activate and bring the scooter to a gentle stop. This is called passive braking, and it works even if all the power to the electric scooter is cut off. It is the safest braking system possible and will stop the mobility scooter even on a steep hill.
Some scooters will also come with an emergency brake (most class three scooters have this)
Each scooter will come with a freewheel lever to permit easy rolling of the scooter when there is no power; this helps if you wish to push the scooter into a corner or down a narrow passage. This is generally found at the back of the scooter and should be demonstrated by your scooter dealer.
Some people may find it more difficult to transfer to the mobility scooter than into a wheelchair, particularly if it has a fixed seat, but there are features which should be looked for:
A 180° swivel seat so it can be turned for ease of transfer but make sure that you can swivel the chair back to the “driving position”.
That the tiller adjusts.
The scooter seat height is adjustable.
Arm rests that can be moved out of the way.
Lights and indicators
Lights are not essential but at night are a safety feature and a flashing light is necessary if you travel on the road, or a white light at the front and a red on the back.
Keeping the Vehicle Stable
Take Things Easy
Over flat even ground all mobility scooters should be stable. Four wheelers are generally more stable than three.
Take care when going round corners and up inclines and do avoid climbing kerbs, use the dropped kerbs. I know this is not easy on the Costa del Sol Spain as in some places they are still not there and a lot of places just have no continuity, but if you plan your routes you should be comfortable and safe.
Always adopt a straight line approach when climbing a kerb.
Most mobility scooter models have an anti-tip device behind the back wheels for increased safety on steep gradients. They have a powerful electric motor to give you the power you need for going uphill. Make sure the motor drives the rear wheels for maximum traction.
Some other safety features to look for and consider:
- Master key operations so no-one can ride your mobility scooter except you.
- A locking seat and tiller for better stability when riding.
- Reflectors so you’ll be seen in low light conditions.
- Front bumpers to absorb minor impacts without damage.
Electric scooters must remain comfortable not just for a few minutes, but over several hours of operation. Some seats are made from orthopaedic foam for maximum comfort and support. Most scooter seats can be adjusted both up and down and back and forth. They may also rotate into four positions for easy entry and exit, then lock in the straight ahead position for safety while riding. Armrests are often adjustable for width.
This is a new idea in Spain and at present there are two insurance companies putting together an insurance package that will cover for theft outside the home. Your home policy should cover you for theft, fire and damage in the house, but the main need is public liability and accident damage to other people and property and you can include a scooter breakdown recovery service, but check what your dealer can offer for the period of warranty and ask whether he can offer an extended warranty to cover these problems.