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choosing a mobility scooter

MS_Wire_Ed_Tobias

My column, earlier this week, about traveling with a scooter, generated a couple of questions. What do you ride? Where did you get it? How much did it cost?

Here are a few answers for the group.

Less than a week ago I finally trashed my Pride Sconic, which was ready to bite the dust. The

pride-go-go
My new Go-Go

Sonic was nearly 12 years old and its motor had begun to make funny noises. The Sonic and I had traveled some rough roads and spent a lot of time in the salt air because I live at the beach, so it didn’t owe me a thing. I really didn’t want to be 10 blocks from home and have my scooter quit. So, I was off to a nearby scooter dealer to find a new ride.

After considering two Pride models, and one from BuzzAround, I drove off on a Pride Go-Go LX. It’s the 2016 version of the Sonic with a few small upgrades. Here are some things I considered before making my decision.

What Does it Cost?

It would be nice if price was no object, but it always is. I didn’t want to spend more than $1,500. In doing my research online I found scooters priced as low as $600 and as high as about $2,500. At the dealer it was a nice surprise. In January, 2005 my Sonic cost $1,995. My new Go-Go cost $1,079 and it has more features than the Sonic, including springs that act as shock-absorbers. The BuzzAround was priced at around $900, but I didn’t feel as comfortable on it as I did the Go-Go.

In most cases, Medicare and insurance won’t pay for your scooter. The cost will be covered only if your disability is so extensive that you need a scooter to move around in your home, and you’ll have to jump through a bunch of bureaucratic hoops to receive that coverage. (I can’t speak for what health services outside of the U.S. might require.)

If you can’t afford a scooter there are some organizations that may be able to help you pay for one. I wrote about a few in a previous column.

How Will I Use it?

I have two scooters. The Go-Go is the larger of the two and I use it to travel around my neighborhood, doing errands or walking the dog. Though it breaks into four parts, and I can put it into the back of my SUV, I don’t usually travel out of the neighborhood with it. If I’m going somewhere that requires taking the scooter in and out of the car several times, or if I’m traveling on a plane, train or boat, I use a much lighter TravelScoot, which folds up.

travelscoot
My TravelScoot

Where will you go? Hills, grass and other surfaces that aren’t hard and flat will reduce your travel distance. The places you go also may require a greater-than-normal ground clearance, so read the specifications. If you’re regularly riding after dark it’s a good idea to have a light. If you’re going to ride inside, or go in elevators, check the scooter’s length and turning radius.

How far will you usually ride? The TravelScoot’s lightweight and lithium-ion battery will take me nearly three times as far as the Go-Go on one charge. (Ten miles, rather than four).

Do you plan to carry anything? Most scooters have a small basket, but I’ve found it useful to have a scooter that allows me to place a small suitcase or a bag full of groceries under my legs.

How much do you weigh? Most scooters will carry 300 pounds, but not all will.

What’s your level of disability? Can you use hand brakes or do you need a scooter that brakes automatically when you release the accelerator? Can you handle a scooter that has its accelerator only on one side of its handle bars, or do you need the flexibility of being able to use either hand? Does the scooter have power for reverse as well as forward? Though this has now been changed, my older TravelScoot required me to use one leg to push it backwards.

So, there’s lots to consider. If it’s feasible, I strongly suggest you find a local dealer/medical supply provider and actually test drive a few.

Scooter Choices

Here are a few online places to begin your scooter search:

Hoveround

Pride Mobility

Smart Scoot

Spinlife

TravelScoot

Your Thoughts?

Please chime in if you have other suggestions or more questions.

[You can read other columns on my personal blog: www.themswire.com]

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

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Ed Tobias is a retired broadcast journalist. Most of his 40+ year career was spent as a manager with the Associated Press in Washington, DC. Tobias was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1980 but he continued to work, full-time, meeting interesting people and traveling to interesting places, until retiring at the end of 2012.
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8 comments

  1. Christine says:

    Thank you, Ed, for all the additional information. For the record, that .4 mile trip to walk the dog requires a cane, a leg brace, and its becoming clear that I won’t be able to walk that far much longer. I’ve had MS symptoms for at least 10 years (I’m 62) and retired 2 years ago after working in IT for 40 years. I live in a beach community in a house with limited storage space and am looking for a multi purpose mobility device as I find I’m tired of avoiding going places because walking is so difficult. There are so many motorized devices advertised, I was interested in what you were using as your description of your needs seems similar to mine. I need something that I can manage that fits in a car trunk for travel. Thank you for taking the time to provide more information.

  2. Michael A. Cavallo says:

    This is so damned sad. Please help! Did you know that NY Medicare rules don’t allow for scooter use outdoors? My wife and I both suffer from MS. My wife needed a new scooter and they offered her a minuscule vehicle with tiny tires. Not suitable for outside use. This crap annoys me to no end. I can’t go to the store and get a loaf of bread or travel to a park on a nice day? What, are we supposed to sit in our home like damned mushrooms? WE CAN’T WALK! Our scooters let me and my wife lead a somewhat normal life! This rule has got to change! HELP!

    • Ed TobiasEd Tobias says:

      Michael,

      Yes, it’s rediculous that Medicare won’t pay for an outside scooter. However, several MS organizations have programs to help pay for mobility devices. I wrote a column about financial assistance, “Will You Pay for My MS Drug,” a few weeks ago. If you can’t find it, check out the National MS Society’s web site, http://www.nmss.org, and look under “resources.”

      Good luck,

      Ed

  3. Richard Giambruno says:

    Thx for the good info. I have MS and have been through several scooters. As of now I use a EcoTrike I found at http://www.ecotrikes.com. it gives me what I call “mobility with dignity” because it sits me up at eye level, goes 16-18 mph and 30 miles on a charge. I take it to stores, malls, parks etc. If I am going to a event that is jammed for parking and traffic I park 1-2 miles away and quickly get there. I love it and get so many comments on it. It costs $2300 but if you contact them I have arranged a special price for us MS folks. Just tell them Rich G sent you! Good luck!

  4. Agnes Weessies says:

    On buying a new scooter there are several warnings to beware of. 1. If they refuse to demonstrate the scooter at the showroom or outside of it, leave and don’t look back. 2. Find out in advance if the brand you are looking g at is really for the handicapped not just a replacement for a golf cart. 3. Make sure there are clear and concise instructions in a manual to follow. 4. Ask about defective scooters and the return policies. 5. Find out if the store is reputable. This you can do through BBB or even yelp if there has been a lot of comments posted to yelp. There are many many good reliable scooters and dealers out there so find a good one.

    Why I say this is because of a $3200 fiasco and the need to escalate this matter to our states attorney general. There is a brand of scooters that was advertised as for the handicapped. A mobility scooter that had a 45 mile range on one charge. It also had the capability to go 15 MPH. My son being young figured it would be good for him to make it around d our neighborhood some of which would be in the street. The store was located centrally in our large metro area. The store was even one that catered exclusively to the handicapped. They had a large selection of this brand in stock. Granted they did not have the exact model but we were assured there were no differences from the one they showed us and the one my son desired. AT NO TIME did they demonstrate the scooter. In fact they refused to demonstrate it citing not enough room in the showroom. Yet they had a back door that led right out to a large parking lot. They also knew from my son being exhausted just walking with his walker about 50 feet to get into the showroom, that he was handicapped. We were again assured it was a great scooter especially designed for those in need of handicapped aided mobility. My son had just received his large first payment of SSDI. He paid for it and everything seemed to run smoothly. It had to be special ordered for the exact model he wanted and we happily tracked its path from Arizona to Florida. When it arrived, the truck driver had difficulty getting it off the truck. He finally took the cardboard covering off it and was able to maneuver it off the truck. OK I’m also handicapped but I have no visible problems unless I meet stairs. I went to work in our over 100 degree heat and high humidity to get the scooter off the pallet it had been shipped on. It took most the afternoon with me only working for a few minutes at a time. When I finally got it off the pallet, I then worked hard and got (I’m also white haired old lady who hates to be called a senior citizen) it pushed into our foyer so it could be charged. The initial charge took all night. At 9 am the next day, We excitedly pushed it back outside for the test run. That is when I found the first major problem. The seat could not be adjusted. It was one special for oversized people, and my 6’6″ sone would not be able to sit on it the way it was. The undersea showed that one side had not been cut out for the seat to be pushed backward. Nothing in the instruction manual showed how to take care of this problem. In fact the manual they sent was for a different model. OK I figured we would find out how, so i decided to try it out instead of my son. It was a good thing. Second major problem was the stability of the scooter. There was no locking of the scooter once the power to move it forward was halted. No parking brake that we could see either. With it rolling drunkenly I was able to get on it, but my son would have major problems unless I stood in front and hung on while he got in the seat. OK then came the joy of driving it for the first time. Nope make that nightmare. The hand grip was also the throttle. Not a problem since we have used many like that at grocery stores. Except instead of a wide degree of turning ability of that grip it had a hyper sensitive adjustment. Just a couple of millimeters of turning and it shot off quite quickly. Which had me headed straight for a tree. I jammed on the brakes and soon found out that they were not very responsive. They were very slow to engage. I quickly turned the scooter and shot out onto the road. OK, now came a slight incline to make it back into our driveway. It bogged down even with the handle grip moved to it’s fullest. I weigh half of my son’s weight and he is not near the 500 pound capacity of the scooter. It from this demonstration showed it was not capable of handling inclines. Which when we read the manual found it had three settings. We put it in the lowest to see if the extreme fast response was lessened. Not really. We put it in the highest setting and found it didn’t handle the incline any better (about a 3% incline). That was it. We were going to have to call the company and find out what was wrong with the unit. I tried to drive it back into our foyer. It could not handle the 2 foot long 1 inch degree of incline to make it in on just barely turning the throttle grip. It died trying to make it in the house. so I turned it back on, and tried again giving it a bit more and almost took out my dining room table that was 15 feet from the entry.

    We called the company. We were told by the head engineer and their customer relations person there was nothing wrong with the scooter, it had been tested before it left the factory. The parking brake was explained in several steps that you had to lean down in a way that you could fall off the scooter, to try and engage it. I lost following the instructions that were given quickly about step 4. This was not the type of parking brake that was on the floor model. That one showed to be one that auto locked in place when the throttle was not advanced. So major problem right there was the stability and inability to effectively engage any sort of parking brake. Then I asked about the brakes, and was told they work just fine. I explained how they didn’t work. I was told again they did. Anyone that wants to come out and see this thing and it’s capabilities or lack there of is welcome, because no matter what some one in Arizona says, here in Florida they do not work. The seat adjustment was another thing i asked about. This you had to unlock a compartment under the seat and do several adjustments before you could engage a system that would allow you to slide it backwards. This was not in the manual as well. The one in the showroom was already back as far as it would go, and fit my son just fine in the showroom. Then I asked about the extreme sensitivity of the throttle. I was told that the SCOOTER IS NOT REALLY FOR THE HANDICAPPED, BUT WAS MEANR TO REPLACE A GOLF CART FOR THOSE WHO DIDNT WANR A LARGE GOLF CART. That I said was false advertising on their part. It was sold as a mobility scooter to the handicapped, and was in a showroom exclusively for mobility scooters and lift chairs marketed to just the handicapped.

    Then I was hit with the cruelest part of this fiasco. Yes they would take it back. But we had to pay a 15% restocking fee, and pay for freight truck to take it back to Arizona. The store itself had another amount. They wanted a 20% restocking fee and the freight shipping charges as well. So it would be $1200 to send it back direct to the company, or $1300 to have it sent back to the store that is less than 15 miles from our home.

    The way the law is written in Florida there is no money to be made by attornies handling this kind of matter. Yes there are laws against it but no one will handle it. The only recourse is to go direct to the state attorney general. Which I’m in the process of doing.

    In summation, BUYER BEWARE

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