Consumer research for older and disabled people

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I bought my mobility scooter online

Join the RicaWatch panelWritten by Anonymous who phoned Rica for advice (Name withheld)

I bought a Road King mobility scooter from Pro Rider’s online store. It’s an 8 MPH, Class 3 vehicle with an 1100W motor, which basically means it’s the nuts. It cost £949, which I’m miffed about because had I bought it last week the price would have been £899. Prices are pretty volatile in the online world. Bargains may pass us by while we research various pros and cons.

But research is exactly what I did; a solid month of it. I consulted websites – the Rica Scooter & powered wheelchair search and to see which mobility scooters go on public transport. I phoned around organisations, visited shops and talked to experts. A local mobility place nearby offered to sell me the model equivalent of my scooter for £2,000, offering to discount a further £500 when he realised all the savvy stuff I knew.

But that’s the trouble with being an informed disabled consumer seeking value and sage advice: people just want to sell things at marked-up prices without providing the best options. I have multiple sclerosis (MS) and need products to make my life easier. That doesn’t come cheap. Since I am on benefits and don’t work any more, cost is a serious consideration. I’m young too, which means I haven’t got major savings. I have what I have.

It’s tough out there for disabled people right now. The DWP and the National Statistics Office last year (2013) published that a third of British disabled adults are living in poverty, which is a reprehensible figure. It seems a shame, then, that consumer research services have not invested more resources into collating online data from purchasers like us when it comes to aggregating the value of mobility scooters. We are, after all, the ones buying and using them.  Rica carries out research including mystery shopping and has active panels of disabled people, including RicaWatch - but more could be done.

Rica is naturally wary about the online purchase of mobility scooters. There are a lot of dodgy sellers out there and the inherent drawbacks of a scooter bought online are obvious. But one can’t dismiss that online buying is the future for mobility scooters. In a time when we do almost everything online then why not buy a scooter? It’s cheaper and gets delivered to the door. (Luckily, my dad is a retired engineer which negates me paying expensive assembly costs.)

My purchase of the Road King may work out or may not. You do your research but ultimately have to take a punt. However, there's a vast difference between the prices out there and what I paid online. Heck, even if I got a similar Class 3 scooter through Motability it would’ve taken a huge chunk out of my weekly DLA, no question.

I hope that my new mobility scooter lives up to what I need it to be. What’s for sure is that I went about doing things the right way and waited till I was happy with that choice… even though it meant I’m £29.00 out of pocket. (I persuasively negotiated a twenty-quid discount.) 

Hopefully it’ll be worth taking a cautious hit now for long term gain. Only time will tell.

See also: Motoring with MS | Mobility scooters – some tips for users | Mobility scooters - pros and cons