You can’t just order a stairlift off the peg; it has to suit you and your home. There are no independent consumer tests on these products checking for reliability, robustness, comfort, ease of use etc, so it’s vitally important to do your own research.
By Chris Lofthouse,
Outreach Manager at Rica
Stairlift companies will visit you at home to talk about what you need and how you’ll use the lift. They need to check your stairs and work out how the lift might be fitted. They’ll either give you a quote during this visit or send it to you soon afterwards. These visits are made without obligation – don’t be put under any pressure to buy.
There are four steps to take when you’re deciding on a stairlift:
1 Contact a number of companies
2 Discuss your options
3 Compare costs
4 Ask questions
Contact at least three companies
Prices vary a lot, so we recommend trying at least three companies. Different manufacturers offer different ranges of stairlifts, so you may have to try more than one to find the lift that works best for you and your home.
It’s best to contact firms that aren’t tied to any one particular make of stairlift so that you’ll have a wider choice.
If you’re not online, you can find stairlift companies through a mobility shop or disability equipment supplier – look under ‘disability’ or ‘stairlift’ or ‘mobility’ in your phone book, or adverts in newspapers or magazines.
When you contact the firms, you may be asked a few simple questions about your stairs and they’ll arrange an appointment to visit you.
Look for companies that are members of both or either of the following organisations:
- British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA): Member companies follow a code of practice, devised with the Office of Fair Trading.
- Lift and Escalator Industry Association (LEIA): Member companies adhere to the IS0 9001 standard, which means that products are made to a known standard.
The lifts themselves need to meet the relevant British Standard (BS 5776:1996) and conform to European health and safety regulations – look for the CE mark.
When the rep visits you.
If you can, have another family member or a friend with you. Two heads are always better than one. Keep alert and assess if the rep carried out a thorough assessment of you and your home. Insist that the rep provides a ﬁnal, clear, written quote and ask them if you will avoid paying VAT.
Questions to ask:
- Does the company have a money-back guarantee?
- Can you agree to pay the last instalment after the lift is ﬁtted – when you know that you are happy with it?
- For how long is the lift guaranteed?
- Is there a 24-hour repair service?
- How long might it take a repair person to arrive?
- How much would repairs cost?
- Is there anywhere to see and try out the lift locally? (This is unlikely.)
- Are the controls easy enough to use?
- Could you get on and off it easily?
- Is the lift comfortable?
- If things get more difﬁcult, will you still be able to use the lift?
Stairlifts have a number of safety features. Check which of these the lift has, if they are important to you:
- Speed controller – the lift will start and stop without jerking and will move slowly.
- Safety sensors – if the lift meets an obstacle on the stairs, it will stop.
- Safety belt – is one included and, if so, can you fasten it easily?
- Seat locks – swivel seats have a lock so that they don’t move when you are getting in or out of them.
- Locks – lifts can be ﬁtted with locks to stop children or visitors using the lift.
This information is from Rica, the consumer research charity. Find out more online at: www.rica.org.uk. Rica has carried out research with older and disabled people and has useful independent guidance online including price guidance, renting and maintenance.
Rica is a specialist UK consumer research charity working with older people and disabled people of all ages. They have a consumer panel, RicaWatch, and are always keen for new people to join: www.rica.org.uk/content/join-ricawatch
Different manufacturers offer different ranges of stairlifts, so you may have to try more than one to ﬁnd the lift that works best for you and your home.