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Types of Mobility Scooters Explained: Road Legal Scooters

Types of Mobility Scooters Explained: Road Legal Scooters

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Types of Mobility Scooters Explained: Road Legal Scooters
Last updated: February 12, 2019

With the warmer weather fast approaching, you may be thinking about purchasing a road legal mobility scooter to help you get around. For those that have owned or used a mobility scooter previously, this may be a fairly straight forward decision. However, what should you do if you have never owned or used a road legal mobility scooter before?

For those unfamiliar with road legal mobility scooters, this is the third and final article in a short series of blog articles that will attempt to demystify the jargon and get you up to speed on the different types of mobility scooters and the key considerations when choosing a mobility scooter to meets your needs.    

Different Types of Mobility Scooters

As a recap from the first and second articles, mobility scooters are available in a few different shapes and sizes depending on the users' needs. The type of mobility scooter can be loosely categorised as one of the following; 

Boot Scooter
Pavement Scooter
Road Legal Scooter

This blog article will focus on road legal mobility scooters and will explore portability, battery range, performance and comforts afforded by this type of mobility scooter. 

Additional commentary is also offered on servicing, user requirements and expectations that accompany owning and operating a road legal mobility scooter.  

Road Legal Mobility Scooters

Preamble; 

A 'road legal’ mobility scooter is the common name for a large Class 3 (typically 8mph) mobility scooter that is driven on the public roads. This title is used merely to indicate that the vehicle itself is roadworthy by definition of its features. This is to say, the vehicle includes a functional dual speed switch, headlights, tail lights, indicators, hazards, reflectors, brake and a rear view mirror, will not exceed 150kg of unladen weight and will be no wider than 0.85M.  To be truly ‘road legal’ requires the owner to register the vehicle with the DVLA (typically using a V55 form) and to then ensure the vehicle remains in roadworthy condition. The driver must also ensure they are of suitable competence and obey the Law governing public roads.  As with most vehicles on the public roads, it is the responsibility of the owner/keeper and driver to ensure they adhere to the Law. If you are in any doubt about your legal obligations contact the DVLA directly.  

Road Legal Mobility Scooter Portability

Road legal mobility scooters, as they are commonly referred to, are a large size mobility scooter and are considered a 'Class 3' carriage. Road legal mobility scooters are usually heavier and larger than the boot scooters and pavement scooters discussed previously. 

Whilst the smaller types of mobility scooters are often more portable, a road legal mobility scooter is typically not. For road legal mobility scooters that do disassemble, the process will often incur heavy lifting, fewer separable components (given to the more solid frame structure designed to carry heavier weight) and heavier individual components (such as larger wheels and seats). Similar to boot scooters and pavement scooters discussed previously, the rear of the mobility scooter that houses the transaxle, rear wheels, gearbox and motor usually separate as one whole component. In some instances, this will require the use of tools as the rear and main body frame components may be bolted together.  In most cases, the rear component is usually heavy and does not come fitted with a grab bar, making lifting and manoeuvring tiresome and challenging.  

The seat may be unlocked from the seat post and separated.  This may sometimes involve the use of tools. In most cases, the rear of the seat is usually adjustable, allowing to be lowered forward, into a more compact state.  The handlebars at the front of the scooter can then usually be lowered.  The shopping basket and both 12V batteries should also be removable. 

Road legal mobility scooters - as the name suggests - are designed for medium to long distance road journeys. To accommodate this extra range consideration, larger, heavier batteries are often fitted.  

 If you have a large enough vehicle such as a 4x4 and are willing to outlay the extra cost, an electronic hoist may be fitted in the boot will allow you to lift and manoeuvre the mobility scooter into the rear of the vehicle using a remote control. 

On the other hand, if transporting your mobility scooter is only likely to be required once in a while and you are of suitable physical strength, then a road legal mobility scooter will fit in most large cars providing the car is empty, the scooter is fully disassembled as far as possible and the rear seats of the car lowered to accommodate the full length. 

Road Legal Mobility Scooter Battery Range

A road legal mobility scooter is designed for making medium to long journeys, depending on the overall weight being carried and the size and condition of the batteries fitted. Typical use cases for using a road legal mobility scooter would be a trip around your local town centre, a trip to see friends or family, or sightseeing on holiday. Anywhere that is likely to otherwise require somewhere in the region of 30-45 minutes walking each way is a good example of the type of journeys that are suited to a road legal mobility scooter. 

If your journeys are short, road legal mobility scooters may be powered by two medium-sized (12V/34Ah) batteries (11Kg each), however, in most cases larger (12V/45Ah) batteries (15Kg) are usually fitted as standard.  Depending on the model of scooter, the batteries may be upgradable to the next physical size up (12V/85Ah) (25Kg).     

If you do choose to purchase a road legal mobility scooter with the intention of fitting larger capacity batteries for increased mileage, be mindful the bigger the battery, the longer it will take to charge. 

The achievable range is dependant on many factors, not limited to environmental conditions, quality & health of the batteries, weight, terrain and speed. As this is likely to vary by journey and user, ranges are estimated approximately. 

It is also important to consider that ‘achievable range’ is likely to lead to vastly different figures depending upon whom you ask, the type of test and conditions that the test is performed in. By way of example, a battery supplier is likely to use a math formula or digital apparatus to reach a result, the mobility scooter manufacturer a lab test at specific conditions (such as speed, weight, terrain) which will yield a different result again and then finally, the end user, whom will experience different results yet again upon a practical test carrying their particular body weight over different terrains and in consideration of other factors that are subject to change. 

The only true and accurate means of testing the achievable range of a mobility scooter and the batteries fitted is to ride the mobility scooter over a typical journey and in typical conditions and circumstance. 

As a point of reference, a road legal mobility scooter fitted with a brand new set of good quality 45Ah standard size batteries carrying a user weight of approximately 12 stone, travelling over mixed terrain and at full speed, is likely to see in the region of 6 - 7 miles range.    

Road Legal Mobility Scooter Lights

Every road legal mobility scooter should come fitted with a front headlight, taillights, indicators and hazards, with the lights controlled via buttons on the handlebars. This is a legal requirement of a Class 3 mobility scooter. 

Road Legal Mobility Scooter Tyres

Road legal mobility scooters may be fitted with either tubed tyres or solid, puncture proof tyres. Tubed tyres are cheaper and arguably offer a more comfortable ride than solid tyres as they will feel more cushioned by comparison.   Naturally, however, a solid tyre holds the distinct advantage of being puncture proof which can provide some additional peace of mind if you travel alone, have limited physical abilities or travel long distances and are concerned about breaking down. 

Ultimately, if the answer is you would struggle to be able to get home in the eventuality of a puncture, then consider upgrading the tyres from tubed to a solid type. The additional costs of the upgrade are usually worth it for the peace of mind.  

With use, both tubed tyres and solid types eventually need replacing so factor this into long term maintenance costs. 

Road Legal Mobility Scooter Performance

A road legal mobility scooter is usually designed with dual speed modes offering a maximum 4mph for pavement use and 8mph for road use.  Depending on the model, the maximum road speed may vary anywhere between 6mph - 12mph. It is a legal requirement that the dual mode speed switch is functioning and operable so as to ensure the riders safety and that of others when operating the mobility scooter on the pavement or in public spaces such as shopping centres and hospitals.  

There are two types of motor often found in road legal mobility scooters; 'brushed' and 'brushless'.  If fitted with a brushed type motor it is possible with regular long term use that you may need to replace the motor brushes.  This can be arranged during your mobility scooter service. Different models of a motor will require different size and type of brushes so plan ahead when arranging your mobility scooter service and advise your service engineer at the earliest opportunity if the service is to include replacing your motor brushes.  

Road Legal Mobility Scooter Seat

The seat is another part of the scooter that is often distinguished by the type of scooter it is fitted to. From a perspective of comfort, the seat on a road legal scooter will often be well padded and better suited for longer journeys.  If the seat includes a headrest, it is likely to be considered a ‘Captain's’ seat. Whilst offering greater comfort, it is worth remembering these style seats are heavier and bulkier than a standard seat. So if you are planning on transporting your road legal mobility scooter by car or consider battery range to be of greater importance than a comfort, factor in the impact of the additional bulk and weight that comes with a Captain's seat.     

Similar to how the seat on a push bike works, most road legal mobility scooter seats are adjustable up and down to accommodate users of different heights and allow ample leg room. A road legal mobility scooter will also be typically fitted with adjustable armrests and a swivel seat. 

How Comfortable is a Road Legal Mobility Scooter to Operate? 

A road legal mobility scooter is operated using controls on the handlebars. The handlebars may be a 'T' design that is held with both hands, similar to a push bike. A throttle lever is usually present that can be pressed with a thumb whilst holding the handlebars. Pushing the lever forwards or backwards will allow the scooter to be operated in forward or reverse directions. 

Some luxury or deluxe models of road legal mobility scooters come equipped with 'Delta' style handlebars. Delta handlebars curve back on themselves at the end of the handlebar, affording the user to be able to hold the handlebars in a different position to the regular 'T' design. Arguably, the greatest benefit of a Delta style handlebar and the different hand position is that it affords the user the ability to operate the throttle control by clasping the hand around it, rather than pushing with the thumb. This helps avoid 'thumb fatigue', a phenomenon where the user's thumb may become cold, stiff or uncomfortable over longer journeys.  

Road legal mobility scooters are often designed with a larger weight capacity than boot scooters and pavement scooters and are able to carry a typical maximum user weight of between 19 stone and 35 stone, depending on the model.  

Many models of road legal mobility scooter also often come equipped with suspension in the form of small spring coils or hydraulic dampeners fitted that will afford a bit of extra comfort over uneven terrain. 

With the larger size batteries, dual speed modes, Captain’s seat, extra weight capacity and suspension it becomes easier to understand the situations and applications a road legal mobility scooter is designed for. 

Legal & Requirements of You as a User

A road legal mobility scooter is a Class 3 carriage and is permitted to be operated on the pavement (in lower speed mode) and on public roads (typically in higher speed mode). 

4mph is the maximum speed permitted on a pavement or footpath; this does not necessarily mean it is the safest or most appropriate speed to travel at.  This is for the driver to determine, in consideration of both the environment they are in and their own competence to operate the mobility scooter at speed. Consideration must be shown to others at all times. 

The maximum speed a mobility scooter may be driven on the road is 8mph. 

To drive a mobility scooter on a dual carriageway requires a flashing amber light to be used to improve visibility to other road users.  A mobility scooter must not be used in a cycle lane or on a motorway and is only permitted on dual carriageways upto 50mph.  

Operating your mobility scooter without due care and attention in a public place so as to endanger your own safety or the safety of others is likely to be breaking the Law.  Common sense, safety and courtesy to others is paramount and the highway code must be observed at all times.  

Class 3 mobility scooters must be registered with the DVLA and should be issued a tax exemption.  

Taking out insurance on your mobility scooter may offer you peace of mind in the event of a fire, theft or an accident but is not a legal requirement

If you do choose to insure your road legal mobility scooter check first to see if you are not already covered by an existing policy, such as your home insurance.  Overlapping insurance policies of any description rarely both payout fully, so satisfy yourself with what you are and aren't covered for under any existing policies you may own.

As with any mode of transport, when operated in public space it is especially important to drive sensibly and remain considerate to other members of the public. Unlike a car, as of writing, there is no mandatory test to determine a individuals suitability or fitness to operate a road legal mobility scooter or any other type of mobility scooter (although this could change in the future). It is worth noting the mobility scooter is registered and recognised as an Invalid Carriage with the purpose of carrying a person that would otherwise have difficulty walking.  

To drive a mobility scooter on a public road the driver must be at least 14 years of age.

The driver should also regularly check to ensure they are able to read a car’s registration number from a distance of 12.3 metres (40 feet).

If you suffer from a medical condition or episodes that may impact upon your capability to operate a mobility scooter, you are best advised to factor in these considerations when determining your suitability to operate a mobility scooter competently and within the Law.  Such examples may include but are not limited to impaired eyesight, dependency and side effects of drugs or medication and conditions such as dementia.   

It is a legal requirement to notify the DVLA of medical conditions that could affect your ability to drive. A full breakdown of all the medical conditions that the DVLA are required to be notified is available. Failure to notify or keep the DVLA informed of your medical condition may result in a £1,000 penalty fine.   

Useful Links: 

Servicing

Depending on usage, an annual service is usually sufficient for most users. However, if you are a frequent user have your road legal mobility scooter serviced at shorter intervals. 

Similarly, if you notice any unusual noises or changes in performance or stability, have your road legal mobility scooter serviced at the earliest opportunity.  Like with many electrical or mechanical apparatus, regular servicing and maintenance will go a long way to avoiding unnecessary and costly repairs at a later date. 

This was the third and final article in a three-part series of blog articles exploring the different types of mobility scooters. 

Thank for reading. Next time, we will explore in more depth how to register a Road Legal Mobility Scooter with the DVLA using a V55 form

This is an opinion based article and is intended for informational purposes only. Errors, omissions, and amendments are to be expected.  

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