Not everyone needs access to a car on a regular basis. Scooters and power-chairs provide independence and freedom for disabled people to get out and about.

Even if you’ve already decided that you’re either a scooter person or a power-chair person, it’s worth reading through notes on both since some of the advice and information overlaps. Furthermore, you may find something that changes your view.

Often information about power-chairs and scooters is presented together, since the reasons people use them, or the outcomes, are very similar. Both enable disabled people to travel around their locale easily and efficiently, ideal for people with impaired mobility that want to retain an independent and active lifestyle. Nevertheless, power-chairs and scooters are quite different.

Mobility scooters commonly have either handlebars (a bit like a bicycle) or a tiller (a steering column with no steering wheel, if you like) and are designed primarily for outdoor use. Power-chairs are much more manoeuvrable and are more suited to both indoor and outdoor use, though the range (distance they can achieve on a single battery charge) is likely to be smaller. They are usually controlled with one hand by joystick.

About you

There are hundreds of mobility scooters and power-chairs to choose from. This means that you can be pretty specific regarding finding one that meets your requirements.

Think about your body shape and weight. Consider any needs connected with seating that you might have such as back support and pressure relief. Occupational therapists (OT) or other seating specialists can give you proper, personalised advice. Your local NHS Service may advise you and may provide postural seating even with a privately purchased wheelchair. (Larger scooters are sometimes designed for bariatric use.)


Power-chairs and even smaller scooters are not designed for long journeys so you may want to transport your scooter and then use it. If you are thinking of taking the bus or a train, the best advice is to check that the vehicles on your route can accommodate the model you have in mind – as well as boarding and alighting procedures.

Smaller scooters are sometimes known as ‘boot scooters’ and are for use on pavements or shopping malls etc. These can either be folded or dismantled for transportation in cars. Be aware though that folding scooters are likely to be fairly heavy – and that even in a dismantled state some of the pieces are still quite bulky. (Hoists can be fitted to your vehicle to lift your scooter in and out.)

Where do you want to drive?

Scooters designed to travel on pavements and in shopping areas are called Class 2 scooters. They are the smallest, lightest and cheapest models and usually move at around 4mph – the current legal speed limit for pavement use – although some have higher capability. Mobility scooters for the road are Class 3 vehicles.

You can drive them on any roads except motorways or dual carriageways that have a speed limit of 50mph or above. As you would expect, they are larger and more powerful with bigger batteries – and therefore a longer running range (up to around 25 miles).

Leasing through Motability

The Motability Scheme can help eligible disabled people in exactly the same way as they do with motor vehicles.

Making your selection

Everybody is different, so the choice of whether to go with a scooter or a power-chair is entirely personal but the following general points might help you decide…

Consider a scooter if:

  • You can travel fairly independently and have decent balance when seated
  • You are able to use a steering column/tiller/handlebars#
  • You can transfer easily from a seat

Go for a power-chair if:

  • If you need to remain seated in your wheelchair throughout most of the day
  • Have restricted mobility and dexterity in one or both of your hands
  • Require assistance to transfer on and off a seat easily

By joining the Scheme and exchanging part of your higher rate mobility allowance, you could receive a new scooter or power-chair of your choice every three years, with weekly rental paid directly to Motability Operations from your allowance.

The Motability leasing scheme also includes:

  • Insurance – Cover is built in to the package that protects in case of accident, damage or theft (with zero excess) as well as against any damage caused by your scooter or power-chair to other property or people.
  • Breakdown – Provided by Motability Assist, help (including repairs) is available if you break down or even get a puncture that prevents you from getting home.
  • Servicing – Servicing and maintenance is also included to keep your scooter or power-chair working well. Motability will repair or replace tyres and batteries where necessary.


The NHS will provide what they assess you to need and may not provide a powered wheelchair. The key word is ‘assess’ because, unlike buying a mobility scooter, getting a powered wheelchair requires an assessment, usually by an occupational therapist. Each service has its own criteria for supply.

Generally they won’t supply a powered wheelchair if you can walk, even a little or can use a manual wheelchair (Class 1) independently – or if you wouldn’t use a power-chair in your home.

If you’re in work, or looking for work, the national Access to Work scheme may support you with a grant towards equipment you need, including a powered wheelchair, visit:

Did you know..?

There are almost 400 different scooters and power-chairs available through the Motability Scheme. Motability runs a UK-based team to help with your enquiries.

Tel: 0300 456 4566 or visit: