Mobility scooters: seating and stability
Seats on scooters are quite basic - although some are padded, they're not usually designed to be used for very long periods. If you need seating support then a powered wheelchair with a pressure relief cushion may be a better option.
Many mobility scooter seats can be adjusted (both up or down and backwards or forwards) which makes it easier to find a position that lets you use the controls comfortably. Swivel seats and flip-up armrests make it easier to get in and out.
It's important to be able to sit comfortably on your scooter. Try sitting on a scooter before you buy it - find out if it's comfortable to sit on for a while, not just a few minutes.
When trying out a scooter, check that:
- your back is supported, even while you're turning the tiller
- the seat isn't too short to support you if you have long legs
- nothing catches your knees when you turn
- there's enough room for you to position your legs comfortably (this can be a problem with smaller models, particularly if you have long legs or need to stretch them out)
Mobility scooters are generally stable when they're on flat ground and gentle slopes. There's advice on using scooters on rough ground, kerbs and slopes below.
Most scooters have three or four wheels, while some have five.
Three- and five-wheelers can be easier to manoeuvre in tight spaces. Three-wheelers can do this because they are narrower at the front, although some people say this makes them more likely to tip over.
Wheels come in varying sizes. Bigger wheels will help smooth out bumps, meaning you can travel over rough ground and climb kerbs more easily.
There are several types of tyre:
- Pneumatic tyres are inflated with a bicycle pump. They absorb bumps well, so will probably give you the smoothest ride. However, they need to be kept at the right pressure and can puncture.
- Solid tyres don’t puncture but aren’t as good at absorbing bumps.
- Puncture proof (or micro-cellular) tyres give a smoother ride without the risk of puncturing.
If you're crossing the road or moving your scooter onto the pavement, you may need to climb a kerb. There are now many dropped kerbs at crossing points – try and use these when you can.
All scooters can climb small steps (up to 2.5cm, or 1 inch) without difficulty. Beyond this, it depends on the size of the wheels and the scooter's power. The instructions that come with your scooter should state its maximum climbing ability.
Safety tip: It's best to approach a kerb straight on, at a 90° angle. You'll need some momentum to be able to get over it, but not so much that you're jolted or unable to slow down on the pavement. If in doubt, practise at the retailer's or at a mobility centre.
Going up a slope takes more battery power, so in hilly areas you won't be able to travel as far between charges. Remember that going uphill will slow you down, and going downhill will make you accelerate faster.
All scooters have a 'maximum gradient', the steepest slope that they can safely be used on. This should be clear in the instructions. You can also look for it in our mobility scooter search.
Safety tip: Don't try and turn the scooter on a steep slope - make sure it's always pointing straight up or down the slope. Otherwise, you risk tipping over.
Some scooters have anti-tip devices fitted behind the rear wheels. These stop the scooter tipping backwards if you try to go up a slope that is too steep.
Your retailer should be able to fit them so that they're at the best angle and don't hit the kerb.
With some you can move them out of the way or adjust them yourself if you have enough strength and dexterity.
See also: our mobility scooter search.
This information is based on the findings of a research project by Rica (now the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers). 16 disabled and older people (half experienced scooter users, half novices) tested a sample of seven class 2 and class 3 mobility scooters.
Find out more about our consumer research forum.
Our unbiased research with real scooter users aims to help you choose the mobility scooter that will work best for you.
Last updated: May 2018