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How to buy the best stairlift

Buying and installing a stairlift

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Buying and installing a stairlift

Discover the average price you should expect to pay for a stairlift and how you may be able to get financial help buying one.

If an occupational therapist (OT) has assessed your needs and recommended a stairlift, you'll then need to find out how much one for your home will cost. This will involve a feasibility study by a stairlift company.

To find out about recommended stairlift companies near your home, consult your OT, or an expert from a mobility centre or disabled living centre, who will be able to give you some options. 

Alternatively, visit the Disabled Living Foundation’s (DLF) Living Made Easy website, which has details of stairlift models from national stairlift manufacturers and suppliers, many of whom are members of the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA). 

The latter can be reassuring, as it means that the company has to follow a code of practice set by the BHTA and the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

Find out which firms have been voted the best stairlift brands in our independent customer survey.

Stairlift prices

Though stairlifts are fairly expensive items, the cost of buying and installing one has remained stable for years. A simple straight stairlift can be bought for around £2,000. However, prices can jump to as much as £6,000, or more, if you have curved or especially long stairs, or need additional features.

£3,475 the average price paid for a stairlift, according to our research

Our 2016 survey of stairlift owners revealed that the average price paid for a stairlift was £3,475. Prices and quality vary between manufacturers and by type of stairlift, though: our stairlift brand reviews contain average prices for brand new and second-hand Acorn, Handicare and Stannah stairlifts.

As a general rule, every corner in your staircase will double the initial price. However, if you have a staircase formed of two straight flights of stairs with a landing area in-between, it may be cheaper to buy two straight stairlifts instead of one curved one. You would need to be mobile enough to easily transfer from one lift to the other though.

Because curved stairlifts are made to measure, a deposit is normally required. This isn't usually necessary for straight stairlifts. 

Getting a quote for a stairlift

For a stairlift company to be able to give you an accurate quote, it will need to visit your home to carry out a feasibility study. This should be free of charge and seeks to determine, among other things, whether your stairs are wide enough for the stairlift you want, and, if you want a seated stairlift, wide enough to allow room for your knees when seated.

Acorn told us that it can generally come out the same day, whereas Stannah says it typically takes one to two days.

It is a good idea to get quotes from two or three different companies, including one manufacturer and one supplier, so you can compare prices and make an informed decision. 

If possible, try to arrange for your OT to be present during the feasibility study. If this is not possible, you should at least make sure that your OT has given you clear written instructions about which stairlift features are important for you – for instance, whether you need one that is seated or a standing and, if seated, whether it needs to be height-adjustable.

Once the study has been completed, the company representative will give you a written quote either there and then, or in the following days.

VAT exemption for stairlifts

If you are registered disabled or have a chronic health condition, you can claim VAT exemption when buying a stairlift.

If you are registered disabled or have a chronic health condition, you can claim VAT exemption when buying a stairlift. Visit the HM Revenue and Customs website for further details.

Finding the best stairlift company

A company should not put any pressure on you to purchase one of their stairlifts. Be especially wary of companies with pushy salespeople, or of those that flaunt ‘special offers’. Our stairlift brand reviews shows which brands represent the best value for money, quality, reliability and more.

A good company will be able to give you information on the length of the stairlift’s warranty – most should have a one-year minimum warranty, and some offer extended warranties. It should also be able to inform you about their after-sales service – for instance, how the company deals with breakdowns, and whether it has a ‘buy back’ policy’ (and if so, how does it compare to those of other companies).

Stannah is the best-known brand of stairlift, but other manufacturers and suppliers include Acorn and Handicare

However, the market can look a little more complicated than it really is as, for example, Acorn sell as both Acorn and Brooks (they used to sell as Bison Bede, too), and Handicare now owns the companies Minivator and Freelift. Stannah only sell as Stannah.

All stairlifts must be CE-marked and comply with British Standard BS5776.

Buying a second-hand stairlift

Many manufacturers and suppliers sell reconditioned stairlifts. Reconditioned stairlifts are usually straight stairlifts that have been removed from one property and are able to be fixed to another staircase in a different home. Made-to-measure curved staircases are not normally available second-hand.

Reconditioned stairlifts can be considerably cheaper than buying new.

Handicare and Stannah told us that only approved or authorised dealers should be selling reconditioned stairlifts: do check, as if you buy a reconditioned stairlift elsewhere, it won't come with assurances such as a one-year warranty, guarantee and a full service history.

When we surveyed stairlift owners in 2016, we found that the average price paid for a second-hand stairlift is £1,490, compared with £3,475 for a brand new one.

Hiring a stairlift

Hiring a stairlift might be a better option than buying if you know you will only need it for a set period of time, such as recovering from an accident or operation. Some suppliers have a minimum term for stairlift hire, often around three months.

Installation costs when hiring (which normally also includes removal at the end) range from £350 to more than £1,000, while monthly rental fees range from £10 for a straight stairlift from a local supplier to as much as £150 a month for a complicated curved stairlift from a national manufacturer.

Financial assistance for stairlifts

It's worth looking into whether you might be eligible for a stairlift from the council.

If you need to buy a stairlift because you have a chronic illness or other form of disability and intend to live in your current property for the next five years, you may be eligible for a disabled facilities grant to help with the cost.

Social services or your local environmental heath department may be able to offer grants of up to £25,000 to eligible people. They also sometimes offer low-cost loans. However, your income and savings have to be assessed first, and referrals from an occupational therapist (OT) are normally required.

To find out more, visit Which? Elderly Care for a guide to financing home alterations.

Installing a stairlift

Stairlifts can normally be installed in less than a day. And as most stairlift rails fit to the stairs rather than the wall, no structural alterations to your home should be needed. For this reason, tenants in rented accommodation are not precluded from having a stairlift fitted.

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