This comprehensive guide will help you work out what to look for in a good supplier, the things to watch out for as well as the important essentials you must know before you begin your search into finding the correct chair for you and your disability.
This guide will highlight and bring to your attention what firstly to look out for and secondly what to completely avoid when doing your research and seeing what the market has to offer.
*The sad and truthful fact right now is that in the (year 2020) around 80% of mobility companies in the UK are either ripping you off, misleading you or outright lying to you just to get a sale.
The world of Folding Electric Wheelchair’s is the fastest growing sector in mobility right now which is great for legit companies like us who have already secured our place at the top and earn’t our reputation as a leading Uk brand. Whats not so good is that with any exciting and up and coming industry also brings the bad eggs, hustlers, opportunists and eBay sellers looking to make a quick buck. Sadly this niche has been hit very hard in regards to dodgy sellers, fraudulent listings, untested/unregulated products which lie about the specs, shipping times and the items delivery locations, these sellers also often don’t understand current regulations and are basically completely deceiving, misleading, or out right lying to every customer just to get a sale.
I guarantee that at least 75% of UK customers that have purchased a wheelchair in the last 3 years will have got stung somehow, left feeling helpless, upset or out of pocket in some sort of way, due to mis-information, poor products or bad aftercare.
The below guide is to inform and help you so that whatever chair or brand you decide to go with (even if it’s not ours), at least you now have the facts and can make an informed decision, rather than ending up out of pocket and in a total, helpless nightmare.
These next 5 points will not only help you, but also expand your knowledge on Folding Electric Wheelchairs, the industry and what to look out for.
- Never Ever buy a wheelchair from an overseas company
A very simple rule to go by when choosing any chair online is – if it looks too good to be true or seems cheap compared to the rest of the market, then there is always a reason why. (Ever heard the expression, you get what you pay for) This saying can’t be anymore true than when purchasing a wheelchair. It is physically impossible to produce a quality and reliable chair which has decent parts, batteries, motors, a safe ands strong frame but that is also lightweight enough to be desirable and do its job properly for under around £1500. Not to mention the tiny fact that it must be fully tested, regulated, Uk compliant and most importantly the company should have decent products liability policy which protects you as a customer in case you ever hurt yourself due to a product fault or it catches on fire and burns your house down. Fact is an overseas company selling to a uk customer can’t offer any product liability insurance. This means it’s completely impossible for you to ever sue or even try and claim for any damages, loss or ever get back a penny in the event of an accident.
Overseas ‘mainly Chinese companies chairs’ may seem cheaper as an upfront cost. But that is the only thing good about them, and even the cheap upfront cost you originally spent out always ends up costing you more in the long run tenfold.
The minute you buy a chair online from any ‘wheelchair company’ that isn’t actually based in the UK you have literally just shot yourself in the foot and wasted all your hard earned savings and money that you’ve just spent!.
By far the biggest problem UK wheelchair users are faced with though is trying to find a company that actually offers a decent warranty and aftercare.
The online sellers on Ebay that are from overseas offer you a ‘so called’ warranty that means absolutely nothing. Once something goes wrong there will be no point of contact when you breakdown. (Which you will) and you won’t be able to call them because they are a Chinese company and won’t even have a phone number listed. This then leaves you with no choice but to try emailing them. Once these companies get a warranty claim or an enquiry regarding a fault they will completely blank or block you. If you’re actually lucky enough for them to respond to you by email then they will have no idea what’s actually faulty with your chair as they can’t see it first hand and then they will expect you to work out the fault for yourself, or make you take pictures or videos of the fault (which most customers wouldn’t understand how to do in the first place) before they will even help you. If you are then eventually lucky enough to get them to send you a part (which might even end up being wrong as it’s they are only guessing what could be wrong as they have not seen your chair)
You then wait 30 days for the part to be delivered from china (which they even sometimes make you pay for) before they will even ship it to you. They will also always make you pay for the shipping costs which are not cheap as the goods have to travel 5000 miles before they reach you and even worse you will be stuck paying the import duty on the goods when you finally end up with it in the UK.
Lastly, after waiting over a month completely immobile and helpless you end up receiving your part and then have to either work out how to fit this part yourself or you have to cough up even more money to pay someone else to do it.
The final Icing on the cake is, most companies will not even touch or fix any wheelchairs that was not originally bought from them directly. More so most refuse to touch a chair that isn’t from a well known UK company or Brand.
2) Never buy a wheelchair from your local mobility shop.
A wheelchair is a big purchase, and not only that it’s an incredibly important one. A purchase that if made correctly will change your life and give you back your freedom.
The most important thing with any major purchase, whether it be a car, house or a piece of mobility equipment is to do your research. There is a lot of choice out there now, there is also a lot of rubbish! In fact I would say 75% of what’s out there is complete rubbish, so it is imperative you do your research, search the internet, watch the videos, look at the different specs on offer and most importantly ask lots of questions before you buy. This is the most important part because not every Electric Folding Wheelchair will be right for you or for your particular disability.
This is why you need to find a specialist who has a range of Electric Folding Chairs that suit an array of different needs, so you can be properly assessed and properly fitted.
There are three major issues with buying from your local mobility shop.
- They will more than likely only stock one model of chair, (normally a Pride Igo) literally the worst chair on the market. Because they only stock one model they will literally try and push that one chair to anyone who walks through their doors who’s looking for a folding wheelchair whether it’s right for them or their disability or not.
- Worse still because they are a local mobility shop you will always pay at least 20% more for the chair than you should and unless you’ve done your research you would never know.
- Your local mobility shop will stock an array of different mobility products, meaning they will never be an expert or specialist in any one thing. They will have limited knowledge of Folding Electric Wheelchairs and won’t be able to tell you about modern mobility or the new regulations because the owners will be old school and it’s not a priority for them to know and learn the latest and greatest trends or technologies and about all the new regulations. A good example is that most mobility shops do not realise or even care about the new battery rules for flying and will happily sell you a wheelchair that is not approved under the new laws, and what’s worse is most of them are so uneducated that they don’t even know they are conning or misleading you into purchasing a product that isn’t fit for purpose.
3) What to look for when choosing the perfect wheelchair for you.
This particular subject is a must read for anyone looking to purchase a Folding Electric Wheelchair. This guide can also be applied to anyone looking to purchase any piece of expensive mobility equipment that you hope will change your life.
The very first and most important thing anyone needs to do in their journey when choosing the perfect chair…… is to just take a breath, try not to get too over excited or to jump into the market headfirst as this will only leave you confused resulting in making a bad decision. Instead, take your time, be smart and just grab yourself a piece of paper and write down a list of the most important things this wheelchair must be able to do in order to dramatically change your life. Also write down the key attributes that your new chair must have or have on it spec wise. This should be everyone’s starting point as it will also help you with what questions to ask later on. Once you know roughly what you’re looking for it will also straight away eliminate a lot of chairs because they won’t have the right spec or design for you!……….if you need some help or you are struggling to make a list, here are a few case studies below which may help you.
Case study 1 – 60 Year Old Lady who is 5ft 4 and weighs 15 stone.
What does she need and want from her new chair?
- Due to her height to weight ratio she’s looking for a chair that can comfortably take her weight easily and most importantly that she can feel comfortable in when sitting and that she doesn’t feel pinched in between the arm rests.
This is an incredibly important point to understand. Just because a wheelchair can easily take your weight that it states in the spec, it still doesn’t mean that it will comfortably fit your specific body shape. It’s a well-known fact that men and women are by nature completely different body shapes. Men tend to hold their weight in their mid sections and normally outwards whereas females tend to hold more weight around their lower midsection, hips, bottom or thighs meaning that they normally patrude widthways.
Although the exact same weight, A 15 stone, 6ft man would more than likely fit into a standard Folding Electric Wheelchair (depending on the brand and model), where as a 15 stone 5ft-4 lady due to her height to weight ratio would feel uncomfortable in a standard chair, the side bars of the armrests would be digging in and they wouldn’t be a happy bunny. (On top of that always remember to allow space for a jacket or coat as well for the winter months) This means that someone that fits this similar type of case study would need a chair with more space between the armrests (for example the LITH-TECH SC-1 XL) which at its widest point is still no wider than the regular SC-1 but just gives the user more comfort and space between the armrests and on the seat resulting in them loving their chair instead of it making them feel bad about themselves or uncomfortable. In the end of the day the two most important things that you must feel in your new wheelchair is to feel safe and comfortable!
- She is newly retired and her and her partner want to travel the world once she has her new chair.
First and foremost, she is going to need a proven and reliable chair with reliable parts from a well-known and reputable company. The last thing anyone will want to have happen is to break down in the middle of nowhere in some random country where you don’t even speak the language and get stranded.
The next most important thing whilst travelling is for your chairs batteries to be easily and quickly removed in seconds (not minutes), this feature will reduce hassle, waiting around and awkwardness when in either ques or in hotels or getting it into taxis etc in case they need to remove them to make the chair lighter so to lift it easier. Most importantly the batteries must be able to be removed so they can be charged off the chair and into the battery directly. This is a must when buying a chair in 2020 (every LITH-TECH model offers this)
The next major point is that she needs to buy a chair with plane safe batteries under the new rules so she can bring her chair on all the airlines in the world. The only batteries which are completely plane safe on every airline in the world under the new regulations are 6ah batteries. You can have either one or two of these and you will experience no problems on any airline in the whole world. (Good UK example is Ryanair will only Except 2 x 6ah batteries if your chair comes with 2 batteries as standard, but ask in advance as every airline is different)
90% of UK mobility companies or Ebay sellers firstly don’t even know the new battery regulations or for that matter even know much about wheelchairs full stop, and secondly some know but chose to not tell you as they don’t want to lose out on a sale – basically defrauding you.
If this or something similar has happened to you, remember your rights (especially as a vulnerable customer) as this is false advertising, in an attempt to mislead a customer into a sale. It’s illegal, unethical and you can seek legal help and even give back your chair. (just remember to get a printout of their advert for proof first)
Last summer we experienced a holiday horror story where a lady had bought a chair off ebay from one of our competitors. Part of her criteria when buying it was that it was plane safe as she was just about to go on her first family holiday abroad and needed the new chair to make this holiday happen…..irresponsibly and deceivingly she was assured by the (unnamed but well known company) that it was all fine and that was that. Two months later her and her family got to the airport ready to enjoy their well needed trip to Spain when they were stopped whilst checking in the wheelchair. They were told that it wouldn’t be able to board the flight due to its batteries being above regulation output. (Apparently, she was sent an email but never received or read it) She was told they would keep the chair for her in storage at the airport but she would have to hire one out there. She was left completely distraught and also panicked, worrying that she wouldn’t be able to hire or find one out there. She made the decision before she had to board the flight just to get her phone out and google someone for help. She typed into Google “folding electric wheelchairs uk” found LITH-TECH right at the top and called us. After she explained the situation, we gave her a ten minute telephone consultation in which we agreed on a suitable model, she paid us over the phone then and there and we shipped it out to where she was staying in Spain. She received it in 48 hours and was utterly thrilled with her new SC-1, our response time and most of all that we saved her holiday.
Case study 2 – A 70 year old man who lives by himself near town but can’t walk more than 20 meters without aid and who gets out of breath easily
- He needs the chair to be capable, safe and one that can be used on multiple terrains so that he can safely make the 1 mile journey into his local town.
Rule of thumb is, if you need a wheelchair that can tackle town or city life – you ideally need a safe, capable and multi terrain chair (such as a SMART CHAIR) as you will be faced with an abundance of obstacles, bumps, curbs, uneven pavements and also people in your way while you are trying your best to get to your end destination without mishap.
This means your criteria should be a medium weight chair (around 24-28kg) with big rear wheels and (Preferably rubber tyres) so you can hold the road well and stop safely and quickly. The bigger wheeled chairs will also be better and smoother at taking curbs, cobbles, grass and uneven pavements). Wheelchairs with anti tip bars at the back which are low to the ground are not good at taking curbs, uneven terrain and just get in the way. If big rear wheeled chairs have these it means there centre of balance isn’t very good and potentially dangerous, only small rear wheeled chairs should have them.
- It needs to fold up small and have the ability to be pushed or towed in free wheel mode when either in a folded or unfolded position
This is an imperative feature to have these days when buying a modern chair and all of LITH-TECH’s chairs can do this. They can Either be used like a stroller (standing behind the chair and using your hands to hold the top of the back rest for balance) meaning the user can still safley get some exercise and push their own chair in freewheel mode very easily. It also means a friend, loved one or family member can easily push and manoeuvre you whilst you’re sat in your chair.
All of our customer also want the luxury of being able to fold up and tow their chair behind them like a suitcase or alternativly they can push their chair around forward by holding the legs and just pushing. This is great for those of you that have small houses or flats. Being able to push or pull a chair in freewheel mode is great as it means you don’t have to lift the chair around the place and risk hurting or injuring yourself. It also means that when the chair is not in use it can simply be folded and wheeled out of the way and into the corner of a room or hallway.
Case study 3 – Someone who is predominantly housebound to mainly inside the home and the back garden.
- They would ideally want a smaller chair which is narrow and nimble so it’s nice and easy to use around a typical house or bungalow.
In this specific scenario (dependant on user size and weight) they would be looking for a smaller, probably lighter and definitely a slightly narrower chair if possible.
It would need a small turning circle and be able to manoeuvre easily in small and tight ares, for example narrow hallways, doorways and around the kitchen.
This time it’s not about big wheels or being able to do an array of terrains, it’s about being responsive, breaking well, and being very nimble and easy to navigate. For example, reversing into bathrooms or coming up really close so you can transfer onto the sofa. It is also a must that both arms must be able to fully lift up out of the way for easy access. A great example would be either the LITH-TECH COMPACT or MULTI CHAIR 1 from our range. These chairs are great inside but can also tackle grass and other obstacles easily as well.
4) Ask Lots of Questions
When buying a piece of equipment as important and as expensive as an Electric Folding Wheelchair one can never ask too many questions before a purchase.
It’s imperative that you firstly understand your own needs, then look for the right chair for you based on this. If you are struggling with this or just have more questions, then that’s when it’s a great idea to call a wheelchair specialist like ourselves and start asking away.
Good questions to ask.
- My wheelchair needs are xyz, what chair would you recommend for my needs and why?
- What range or distance can I expect from a particular chair’s batteries?
- Can your chairs batteries be charged on and off the chair?
- Are your batteries plane safe under the new airline regulations?
- How long do your chairs take to fold or unfold?
- Can your chairs be pushed and towed in a folded and unfolded position in freewheel mode?
- What warranty comes with your chair and what does it cover?
- What happens if my chair stops working under warranty?
- Does your company have legitimate product liability insurance? (95% of UK Sellers do not have proper insurance as it’s so expensive)
- Are your chairs multii-terrain capable and if so, to what extent?
- Do your chairs armrests fold up and out of the way for easier access and getting under tables?
- What is the delivery time if I purchased a chair?
5) How to fund your wheelchair?
A good wheelchair is quite a big financial outlay so there will more than likely be some saving needed before the big purchase. If you can’t afford to buy the wheelchair outright yourself, here are a few options that may help:
Finance – If you have a good pension coming in or still work there is a good chance you will be eligible for finance. This is normally done over a 3-5 year price plan but can also be done in as little as 12 months.
A grant- These are usually from charities or government funded schemes. Find one that fits and supports your specific disability and they will be much more likely to help you fund it.
The NHS – It is possible to get a wheelchair through the NHS but sadly the wheelchairs they offer are very poor and the wait times are simply insane, so most people on the waitlist just give up.