Stairlifts have been a godsend for quite some time for the elderly and disabled who have mobility problems. For those who have trouble getting around the house, stairlifts are a much more practical and cost-effective solution than moving into a bungalow. The other alternative is home adaptations, which can result in the rather sad situation of your relative being confined to the downstairs of their home.
Crowded stairlift market
Thanks to stairlifts, the elderly and disabled can stay in their own home, where all the surroundings are familiar to them, and which is near to their friends and amenities.
So, having decided that a stair lift is the way forward for your relative, which one is right for their circumstances? Well, the UK stairlifts marketplace is a crowded one. Around a dozen major stairlift manufacturers compete for a growing customer base - more and more of us are elderly, but living longer doesn’t mean that we don’t have problems with our knees.
Before you even speak to a stair lift manufacturer or retailer, we advise talking to anyone you know who has bought a stairlift. Ask them about the benefits they’ve experienced and the drawbacks, if any.
Contact as many reputable companies as you can so you can compare their stairlift products and prices. Remember that reliability and safety are the key factors.
When you’re considering stairlifts, don’t be afraid to grill the sales representative. After all, any sales rep worth his salt should know all his products inside and out. You should be able to talk about your particular staircase, physical problems and budget, and expect sensible answers.
Ask for all the information you can get on the company and its stair lifts. Find out how long they’ve been in business. Make sure that they have full insurance. Can they let you see genuine customer testimonials?
What about once the stairlift is installed? How long will the warranty be for? Can you extend it and if so for how long? What’s included? Some companies will give a lifetime guarantee - but it’s only for certain parts. What about service and support? How quickly will they come out if the stairlift breaks down? Do they use their own stairlift engineers or is the service subcontracted, meaning you might have to wait for your lift to be fixed?
You should also research online about the stairlift companies - look for negative (or positive) comments in forums and in the media. You should also stay clear of cold callers selling you stairlifts and try to take each stair lift for a test ride in the showrooms before you make any decisions. Selecting the correct stairlift will also mean considering the individual needs of the stairlift user and deciding which features will suit best - not just now, but in the future.
Curved or straight stairlift?
Once you’ve decided on a stairlift manufacturer, you’ll need to get your stairs assessed by a company representative. You should be aware that there are two principal types of stairlift ? straight and curved. Straight stairlifts are intended for stairs that have no bends or half-landings. If your stairs are perfectly straight, you’ll find the cost of this kind of stair lift quite reasonable.
If, however, your stairs have any kind of bend, corner or half-landing, you’ll need a curved stairlift. This is much less straightforward. It means that your stairlift will need to be custom-built for your staircase. This, of course, means that you’d better be sure that you need a stairlift, as it can’t go back to the factory. It means that your stairlift will be much more expensive than a straight one.
One slightly cheaper option if you would like to stick to straight stairlifts but have a curved staircase is two or more runs of straight stair lifts with a bridging platform. This does mean having two lifts, which means paying twice. It also means that you or your relative might be faced with more maintenance costs, as you will have the upkeep of two motors. This does, however, mean that you could enter the reconditioned stairlift market, thereby theoretically reducing your costs.
Stairlift sales rep
These days, you’ll also have a home visit from a stair-lift company representative. When the stairlift sales rep calls round at your relative’s, try to arrange for you or another relative or friend to be there, too. It’s going to be important to remember the information and to ask key questions.
The stairlift-company rep should thoroughly assess the staircase and ask pertinent questions about your relative’s needs, including how easy it is for them to get on and off the stairlift. They should be able to provide a quote in writing for the full cost of the stairlift, including installation. When the sales rep is in your relative’s home, it’s very easy to feel pressurised. They sound very convincing - but that’s their job. Just because you’ve had a stair-lift assessment doesn’t mean you have to buy. Try to talk to as many stairlift companies as possible before making any decisions.
One great solution is to call an independent retailer like UK Stairlifts, who can give you impartial advice about the right stairlift for your relative’s circumstances.
Reconditioned stair lifts
A reconditioned stair lift is another option to consider. Reconditioned stairlifts have been owned by someone else. With a reconditioned stair lift, both the stairlift and rail have been refurbished. They’re practically as good as new, and will usually give your relative many years of good service.
Buying a reconditioned stair lift is a great option. That’s because most of the lift is brand new. You’ll get a new seat, new rail and a reconditioned engine. This new engine should be good for a few years. For those on a budget, a reconditioned stair lift will mean a saving of around one-third on the price of a new stairlift.
Whenever you see a supplier with reconditioned stairlifts for sale, do ask a lot of questions about the stair lift. At UK Stairlifts, we would advise also not to buy a reconditioned stair lift that’s more than 18 months old, to ensure it’s in tip-top shape. Make sure you get a one-year warranty, too.
Hopefully, you’ll have found this brief introduction to buying stairlifts useful. All the main stairlift manufacturers have comprehensive websites. However, for truly impartial advice based around your or your relative’s circumstances, it might be best to approach an independent retailer, such as UK Stairlifts.
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