If you’re someone who struggles to walk, motorised mobility aids represent a life-changing technology that offers a new lease of life and total independence. Not only do scooters and wheelchairs allow a person to get about more freely, but they offer true freedom, which can have a tremendously uplifting effect on mental wellbeing.
The two main types of motorised mobility aids are electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters and some people make the mistake of thinking that the two are so similar that they are interchangeable. The truth of the matter is that each comes with its own benefits and drawbacks that should be taken into consideration.
Understanding the Differences Between the Two
When choosing between an electric wheelchair or mobility scooter, it’s important to think carefully and consider your own unique personal needs. The right mobility aid should feel like an extension of yourself, so it’s important to find one that’s right for you.
To help shine a little light on the subject and provide some clarity, we’ve compiled a list of factors to consider before you make your purchase. So, if you’re ready, we’ll begin.
Mobility scooters offer more mobility and independence than a manual wheelchair, while having a layout similar to a moped or quad bike. It should be noted that both mobility scooters and electric wheelchairs are classified as either Class 2 or Class 3 “invalid carriages.”
Class 2 carriages have a maximum speed of 4 miles per hour and are not allowed on the road, whereas Class 3 carriages can go up to 8 miles per hour and are road legal. That said, they cannot be driven in bus lanes, cycle lanes, motorways, or dual carriageways with a speed limit over 50mph.
Mobility scooters are very simple to operate using an intuitive control system. Their low centre of gravity and gripping tyres makes them sturdy, stable, and capable of dealing with varying types of uneven terrain.
Mobility scooters are generally well suited to people who still have some use of their legs and can walk short distances. If you can move about your house and garden relatively easily but struggle to go to the shops then a mobility scooter may be the choice for you.
One of the main drawbacks of scooters is their large size. This results in a large turning circle that makes them impractical to manoeuvre in small spaces and generally unsuited for indoor use. Their bulk and weight mean they generally also need more storage space than a wheelchair.
However, it is possible to buy foldable mobility scooters which tuck away neatly for easy storage and transport. Mobility scooters are also limited by the physicality required to operate them.
Users need the arm strength to hold them outstretched to the handlebars for extended periods, as well as the core muscles required to stabilise themselves in the seat. For conditions such as muscular dystrophy, this would be an impractical choice.
Electric Wheelchairs are sometimes referred to as Powerchairs and like the mobility scooter, they offer a motorised alternative to the manual wheelchair and come in a range of styles and designs. Things like battery size, maximum distance, controls, and front/rear/mid-wheel drive can vary from chair to chair providing different kinds of functionality.
Overall, powerchairs are more comfortable than mobility scooters as they offer the ability to adjust things like seat height and backrest to cater to the individual. They are also more manoeuvrable due to their smaller size and tighter turning circle, allowing them to rotate in more confined spaces like supermarket aisles.
This makes them well-suited for indoor as well as outdoor use and Powerchairs are also easier to store than mobility scooters thanks to their lightweight design. This means they can be folded up to fit in the boot of a car during journeys and are easily stored at home when not in use.
Electric wheelchairs also don't require any of the physicality that is needed for a mobility scooter. They are controlled by a joystick located at the end of the armrest that’s sensitive to small movements, meaning no exertion is necessary. With more focus on comfort and support, people with posture issues or lacking core strength will be better suited to a powerchair.
Like the mobility scooter, electric wheelchairs are also
and cannot be used while they are charging. You will need to pay attention to how far you can travel on a full charge to ensure you don’t run out of battery whilst out and about, however, this is made easier by the fact that power chairs typically come equipped with battery gauge displays.