A mobility scooter is a mobility aid equivalent to a wheelchair that is built and configured to operate like a motorized scooter. It is also called an electric scooter or power-operated scooter.
The mobility device typically consists of a padded seat on top of 3, 4, or 5 wheels, foot plates for the user's feet (flat area), and handlebars at its front to control 1 to 3 steerable wheels. Though mobility scooters solve the manual challenges of unpowered wheelchairs, most scooters possess a tiller steering mechanism that needs the user to apply shoulder and hand strength, keep an upright posture, and have some degree of upper-body strength and mobility to function adequately.
That said, mobility scooters are built for individuals that lack the ability or strength to use a manual wheelchair. This includes but is not limited to persons with mobility challenges, and seniors residing in assisted living or retirement homes. Most scooters are battery-powered and can be used outdoors or indoors. Some can also be disassembled into various parts while others are foldable or compact.
Features of Mobility Scooters
It is important to familiarize yourself with the primary features of a mobility scooter before buying one to ensure that you completely understand the functions you need so that you can make sure that they are included in the model you end up purchasing.
If a scooter comes with a suspension system it will offer a smoother ride, especially when going over uneven surfaces, rough terrains, or bumps. All full-sized 3 and 4-wheel scooters come with suspension, with portable scooters, some options offer suspension.
On average, most scooter seats can swivel to aid the user in easily getting on and off it. The user would also be able to lift and lower the seat, which is to ensure their knees stay at a comfortably 90-degree angle. Plus, the seats usually come with contoured backrests as well as headrests. Portable scooters usually have smaller seats with less padding than full-sized options.
Scooters typically offer 3 types of wheels; foam filled, pneumatic, and solid. Typically a portable or foldable lightweight scooter comes out of the box with solid wheels. Foam-filled and solid wheels are designed to prevent flat wheels and pneumatic wheels offer a rougher movement. That said, foam-filled wheels tend to absorb more shock than solid tires which makes the ride a lot smoother. Terrain and full-sized scooters usually have pneumatic wheels, which are air-filled wheels with the possibility of going flat, however, they offer a smoother ride than most options.
When it comes to mobility scooters, Batteries can always be upgraded or replaced. However, it is important to note that when a battery provides higher power this means that more weight will be added to the scooter. So the higher the power the more the weight, which will greatly affect its portability.
The usual battery for mobility scooters is 12V and can be charged from a typical wall outlet. That said, how often you use the scooter and the type of terrain it is used on ultimately determines how long each charge will last, as well as, the overall lifespan of the battery. On average mobility scooter batteries last around 18-36 months before needing to be replaced but many newer options, like folding scooters, come with lithium batteries which can last longer if used with the proper care.
The chassis is the scooter's base frame which is attached to all wheels, steering column, battery, motor, and seat post. The chassis is usually built of either fiberglass or metal and depending on the type of scooter you get, certain sections will be removable. The chassis is an important factor when the user is significantly shorter or taller than average. Chassis length can often be found in the specifications or the manual of the scooter.
This is located at the top of the scooter's steering column and enables you to control its direction. They usually come in different designs depending on the model purchased. The standard handlebars are straight bars with controls located in the tiller enabling the user to command the machine using their thumbs. Some options offer a wrap-around style which reduces fatigue allowing the wrist to rest on the handlebars. Unlike motorized wheelchairs, a scooter requires strength and use of both hands and arms to safely drive.
Some mobility scooters have a basket designed for storing the user's items but others come with a pocket or unique storage space. However, most scooters that don't have a basket or liner pouch can accommodate one as an add-on accessory. For example, here’s a scooter liner basket pouch add-on accessory by EZ-ACCESS or this cup holder by Enhance Mobility.
This is the steering column, which is sometimes adjustable. It typically appears as a vertical column that hosts the control box and is what is used for steering the mobility scooter. Taller individual will want an adjustable tiller to avoid hitting their knees when in a seated position.
Though the battery indicator is intended to show you the current life status of the battery in some models it can be unreliable. So you need to ensure that the mobility scooter you purchased features an accurate battery indicator to prevent getting stuck while far away from a charging location. The battery indicator is typically located between the handlebars at the top of the tiller.
Driving the scooter or pushing specific buttons is usually what engages the braking mechanism which is otherwise permanently on for safety reasons. In some mobility scooters, once you let go of the accelerator, it automatically engages the brakes, these are called magnetic brakes. Other models require you to engage the brakes manually.
The primary control panel can be found at the top of the tiller, tucked between the handlebars. This will usually include color coding indicators, digital readouts, odometers, speed control settings, as well as other visual representations of gauges and controls to monitor battery charge, speed, and other things.
Some mobility scooters will require a key to run while others would just use a basic on/off switch. For users that want to leave their mobility scooter in public spaces, it is best to get one with a key or it will be very easy to steal. In fact, some options like the Triaxe Cruze Scooter offer additional sets of keys.
There is a speed indicator that shows users how fast they're moving. It is found on the control panel and comes in several forms. Some options feature speed visual representations while others use the traditional gauge. Also, some mobility scooters have a preset speed while others require users to control the speed manually. Many scooters offer a maximum speed setting that will allow the user to govern the speed when the throttle is fully engaged.
Types of Mobility ScootersThere are several types of mobility scooters and being aware of the different types, and their individual pros and cons can make it simpler to know which option is best for you or your loved one.
Portable or Foldable Scooter
A foldable mobility scooter (a scooter that folds up) is one that can fold without having to use tools to allow for seamless portability. The goal of a lightweight foldable scooter is to make transportation/travelling for individuals with mobility issues that use a scooter a lot more convenient. Once folded, the scooter can usually be wheeled around much like you would a rolling suitcase.
So for disabled persons that want to carry their scooter wherever they go but do not want to install a lift on the back of their vehicle or depend entirely on the bus the best option would be to buy a foldable scooter.
They typically are built with low-weight materials which help their portability, making it easy to carry your scooter from place to place via your chosen means of transportation. This type of scooter folds to make it simpler to lift them in your trunk or be carried on a plane.
A lightweight folding mobility scooter can be transported in an airplane as foldable scooters also come out of the box with airplane-safe, non-spillable batteries.
That said, despite being smaller than most types of scooters, scooters that fold up are typically capable of accommodating disabled individuals of up to 300 lbs. Concerning weight, scooters that disassemble on average don't have any piece over 35 lbs. But for single foldable piece scooters, you need to be able to lift 50 lbs and over.
This type of scooter is best for disabled persons that intend to use their scooters outdoors part of the time. Full-size scooters are capable of accommodating bigger individuals as they have bigger seat options with lengthy backs (foldable scooters usually do not have seat options). The full-size scooters also have larger batteries and can travel longer distances. However, full-sized scooters are not great indoor scooters as they are too large to maneuver in close spaces.
The 4-wheel scooter is built with a wider turn radius and the additional wheel provides extra security when operated on inclines or uneven terrains. This type of scooter is best for leisure strolls primarily on even ground. 4-wheeled scooters are also built to be operated on gravel and grass just like the 3-wheeled option, however, the major difference is that this mobility scooter offers increased stability and a larger turning radius. But some 4-wheel options come with the expected stability of 4-wheels but turn just like a 3-wheel scooter.
This type of scooter is an excellent option for individuals who want the mobility device for use indoors as it comes with a tighter turn radius which makes it simpler to prevent hitting obstacles and navigating around corners and through doorways. Concerning stability, the difference between the 3-wheel and the 4-wheel isn't much but if you intend to use the scooter outside the majority of the time, the 4-wheel option is better.
Bariatric Mobility Scooter
The bariatric scooter is built for use by bigger or heavier people without losing the typical functions of smaller scooters. They are also used primarily for outdoor activities and are manufactured to be operated on most surfaces. Bariatric scooters are quite stable and offer in general a larger weight capacity, anywhere between 400 to 650 pounds. This type of scooter comes with bigger batteries and motors to support the heavier load and climb steep inclines easier. Some bariatric options come with full suspension and can be used in shopping malls and indoors as well.
The most important aspect of any all-terrain scooter is its large wheels. Big wheels help improve a couple of areas like traction which large wheels will aid as the big grooves will help in moving the scooter over wet or muddy surfaces.
The size of the groove on its wheels is usually dependent on how all-terrain-focused the scooter is built to be. The all-terrain scooter's big wheels also help to decrease the possibility of your scooter getting stuck on a bump and avoid small-sized potholes. This scooter type also features a strong suspension which boosts the level of control you have when moving over undulating surfaces. Every coil spring reacts independently to bumps meaning that if one wheel gets affected others won't, which increases stability on uneven surfaces.
The 2-seater mobility scooter is just like a regular single-seater scooter but much bigger and with an extra seat. This scooter usually comes with low maneuverability and speed but better user space and motor power. The position of each seat varies depending on the model of the 2-seater scooter. Some options include back-to-front and side-by-side. That said, some 2-seater scooters are built with 3 wheels which gives more room to the front user.
What to Consider Before Buying a Lightweight Folding Mobility Scooter
In this article, we're going to narrow in on scooters that fold up and look at what you need to consider before making your purchase.
Just like any other product, the first thing to consider before buying a fold-up motorized scooter is your budget. The cost of the product and how much you can pay for it will ultimately decide which type of foldable scooter you can get.
That said, the price range for lightweight foldable scooters is wide and usually costs anywhere from $900 to $5000. Plus, if you want to add extra features to your mobility scooters like a carry basket, swivel seat, etc. you also have to factor that into your budget. Also, consider purchasing an additional battery for backup since folding scooters usually have smaller, lightweight batteries that you will need to switch out more often for charging.
Also, if you're under some private or public insurance they will reimburse part or all the cost of the scooter if you have evidence from your medical practitioner that the purchase was a health necessity. Many states also offer disability grants and funding options for first responders, veterans, and other persons that may require mobility equipment. Insurance and such grants can help cut down the cost of getting a foldable scooter considering that it is a sizable investment.
Ease of Use
The point of an electric portable mobility scooter is that the user is able to either disassemble it into 4 or 5 pieces or fold them. However, for the foldable scooters, some options only allow for manual folding while others allow for motorized folding.
So depending on the type of disability using an automatic fold scooter may be the easiest option to carry around. Automatic folding scooters require the user to hit one button either on a remote control or on the scooter's dashboard. After the button has been pressed, it will automatically fold up in a couple of seconds. So for most users, this would be undoubtedly the most seamless and convenient option and would be best for persons with little dexterity or strength.
Manual folding scooters, on the other hand, require the user to fold them by hand. However, the process doesn't demand much strength. To do so, the user will usually first have to fold the seat backrest and then hold and pull the handle on the footplate upwards which will fold the scooter and bring the 2 ends towards each other. Just like this:
Then there's a tiny lever that can be loosened on the scooter's steering column up lower its handles. So it isn't a complex process but may not be the best for all users. If the manual option is too challenging then it is recommended to go for an automatic foldable scooter instead.
As with most battery-powered machinery, the weight and size of the scooter are determined by its battery. Fold up motorized scooters require smaller batteries than other mobility scooters.
This impacts its use case in several ways. First, since it uses a small battery, lightweight foldable scooters have a lower range of movement. So it is always recommended to purchase an extra battery when buying a scooter that folds. This will save the user from getting stuck when the battery dies or having to charge it frequently when on the go.
Secondly, smaller batteries mean that you can carry your mobility scooter on airplanes as the airline requirements for batteries accommodates. However, while most foldable scooters can be effortlessly loaded onto an airplane, not all battery types are allowed for air travel. For example, nickel-metal hydride and sealed-lead acid batteries are approved alongside lithium batteries but within specified limits. Bigger lithium batteries like those that the scooter needs should not be over 25 grams of Equivalent Lithium Content (ELC).
That said, since regulations are prone to change, mobility scooter users should consult with their chosen airline to know if their battery would be permitted. Also, some foldable scooters offer "airline-approved" batteries which makes it easier to decide.
A lightweight foldable mobility scooter is much smaller than other types due to its intended portability, which means that they have compact seats, and most times the room for your legs won't be adjustable. So if you need extra space for your legs a full-size scooter may be the better option. Additionally the seats are typically more narrow and less padded, so if you intend to use the scooter for long periods of time, be sure to take breaks or consider a larger scooter.
Frequency of Use
If you intend to buy a lightweight foldable mobility scooter as your primary scooter, you may want to consider going for the full-size option instead and renting one when you go on trips. This is because the full size offers more terrain usability than the foldable option. However, if you want to buy the electric foldable mobility scooter as a secondary option used to run quick errands then it could be a perfect choice. Also, if you intend to use it as a backup or for places with narrow doorways then it is a great pick as well.
It is vital to choose a scooter that can accommodate your weight and build as this can affect its stability during motion or when traveling on uneven terrains. Besides body weight, you would also need to consider the weight of what you intend to transport with it like a pet or shopping bag. Concerning the weight of foldable scooters, they still require strength to lift even though when compared to other scooter types they're lightweight. And because they're built to be traveled with you'll have to put them in your car's trunk or a compartment on an airplane when on the move at which point the weight would determine if you can go along with it; for instance, the Mobie weighs 58.6 lbs with the battery.
One of the most crucial things to consider when shopping for a scooter that folds is that due to its lightweight nature such scooters are unable to handle the same conditions and range of terrain that their heavier counterparts can. Folding power scooters function adequately on dry and dirt surfaces as well as inclines like access ramps and hard grass patches. Generally, though, a fold-up motorized scooter is best for transport, errands, offices, and outings where conditions can be easily managed. The folding travel scooter has a compact size that aids users in navigating supermarket aisles easily, plus you can lift some models over a couple of stairs or a curb if need be.
Additional things you may want to consider are the specific features of the scooter you want to get which include aspects like the size of its wheels, and its turning radius which varies significantly depending on the model. Also, each foldable mobility scooter comes with special functions such as a remote control for automatic folding, a USB charging port, and a digital dashboard that displays trip distance, battery life, and speed.
Top Performing Lightweight Folding Mobility Scooters
This Solax manual fold device comes in a lightweight compact design 4-wheel build that's created for tight terrains and to easily fit into vehicles. The mobility device also features security features like keyed control, intelligent breaking, and a lithium-ion battery backup. Solax Mobie Plus offers 13 miles per battery, 300lb weight capacity, and never flat tires as well. It is also airline-approved.
This 4-wheel scooter that folds by ShopRider is a portable electric scooter that is compact enough to fit into the trunk of most modern vehicles. It is extremely lightweight and the whole unit weighs just 59lbs.
The electric scooter also comes with 4 flat-free tires, a curved tiller, and an electric brake system. It can also be easily assembled.
The main attraction of this scooter that folds is its wheels. The Triaxe Tour scooter comes with electromagnetic brakes, as well as, a free-wheel mode. It also features a battery performance of up to 18 miles after one charge and a 6 mph speed. Concerning weight, the durable Triaxe is lightweight and can support a user weight of 375lbs. It also only weighs 58lbs. It also uses an airline-friendly battery which makes this a great pick for travelers, especially considering that it folds flat making it easier to store and transport.
Alternative Portable Scooter Options
EWheels Medical Travel Electric Scooter
This travel scooter is ideal for people who want a portable scooter that can be quickly disassembled in just 5 steps. The Travel Electric Scooter can be taken apart by removing its seat, basket, and other parts to make it easy to travel with. It features a heavy-duty bumper at its front and can go as fast as 4.5 mph. The mobility scooter can also be adjusted to accommodate 3 different height levels. With a single battery charge, the EM-M34 can go up to 10 miles. Due to its small frame, the scooter can easily maneuver indoors.
Roadster Mini 3-Wheel Electric Scooter by Merits
Built with flip-up armrests and adjustable height, the Roadster 3-wheel electric scooter by Merits can be easily disassembled without the use of tools. In less than 5 steps the user can seamlessly detach the scooter into 5 portable sections and then fold the control stem.
Dasher 4-Wheel Electric Scooter
The Dasher 4-wheel portable scooter is able to disassemble into 3 lightweight pieces which makes it easy to store and travel with the scooter. The scooter’s heaviest piece when taken apart weighs just 26 lbs. It also features a swivel seat which makes it easy to get into the mobility device.
Portable Comfort Electric Scooter
Just as its name suggests, the EW-M39 by EWheels Medical is built for comfort. The scooter's tiller can be steered without having to grip it, making this portable scooter an excellent option for users with limited hand strength. It also features a swivel seat for easy entry and flip-up armrests. The mobility scooter can be taken apart into 5 sections which are compact enough to fit into the trunk of a car. On full battery charge, the scooter can get up to 14.5 miles.
Where to Buy a Portable Folding Scooter
Purchasing scooters that fold up is a huge decision! Add to that choosing the best option for your particular needs and it can get overwhelming.
This is why it is so crucial to make an informed choice. Hopefully, our guide on what to consider before making your decision has helped you to reach a conclusion and you're now informed and excited to make the final decision.
Just ensure that all considerations like weight, ease of use, terrain, size, battery, cost, and how often you intend to use it affect your decision.
Now that you have all the information needed to make the best buy, where do you shop?
Wheelchair Liberty offers several folding power scooters that adhere to airplane guidelines, so you can be certain you'll find the right scooter for your particular needs here.