2023 Stairlift Buyers Guide
2023 Ultimate Stairlift Buyers Guide
Whether you are researching for yourself or gathering information for a loved one, this guide is designed to provide all the information you need to make an informed decision and purchase the right stairlift for your home.
Table of Contents
Basics of Stairlifts: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started
Choosing the Best Stairlift Company for Your Needs
Straight and Curved Stairlift Pricing: Cost Considerations and Financing
Pros and Cons on Renting vs Buying
Stairlift Installation: What to Expect
Maintenance for Your Stairlift: Trouble Free Stairlift Operation
What to do When a Stairlift is No Longer Needed
Basics of Stairlifts: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started
In this section, you’ll discover all the essential facts about stairlifts – from different types to considerations for your home. Get an informed insight into whether a stairlift is right for you and what it can offer.
What is a Stairlift?
Stairlifts, also known as chair lifts, are devices designed to be installed and secured on the stairs to help those with mobility difficulties travel up and down the steps to access multiple floors. They can be manufactured for use either outside or inside the home, and with a straight or curved rail. Stairlifts provide safe accessibility in the home to help you enjoy your independence.
Stairlift owners will become familiar with two main components: The rail and the chair.
Depending on the structure of the resident’s staircase, the rails can either be straight or curved. Harmar’s exclusive straight and curved rail designs operate with an engineered nylon polymer worm gear, so there is no grease necessary, which means no messes to clean on your floors or walls and minimal lift maintenance.
Curved stairlifts can be fabricated so the chair, when not in use, can tuck around a wall for simple storage. Harmar’s straight stairlifts are compatible with the automatic folding rail, which deploys and folds as the stairlift begins to move.
From simple to heavy-duty, there is a chair style for virtually everyone. Often, the chair lift seats are designed with folding armrests, seat, and footrest so that when the lift is not being used, other household members or visitors can easily make their way up and down the steps or through halls without any obstructions.
Harmar offers chair lift seats to fit a variety of needs and can be upgraded with additional, optional features to make your chair truly yours. These upgrades can include but are not limited to: retractable seatbelts (standard on select Harmar stairlifts), key locks, and an automatic folding rail. Harmar’s chairs are also designed to transport from 300 to 600 lbs, the only manufacturer in the market to offer heavy-duty lifting capacity up to 600 lbs.
Types of Stairlifts – What to Consider Before Buying
Figuring out what to look for in a stairlift, or chairlift, can be difficult – especially if time is tight. There are typically four types of lifts for stairs: curved, straight, inside, and outside. Some of the first factors you should consider are:
- Is the stair lift needed inside or outside of the home (or both)? This determines the types of materials needed to manufacture your stairlift.
- What is the shape of your stairs? This means, are they continuously straight, or do they have a landing breaking them up? Do they have a curve or any turns? This will determine the type of rail necessary for your application.
If you have a straight staircase without any landings, chances are a straight stairlift will be best for you. Straight stairlifts, compared to curved stair lifts, usually offer a faster and less expensive installation – and because they are not custom-designed, many dealers opt to keep them in stock for quick delivery and install.
Harmar offers five straight stairlift choices:
Each were designed to best fit specific needs based on weight, cushioning, simplicity, and available add-ons or options.
Any staircase with curves, sweeps, or landings will most likely require a curved stairlift. Curved chair lift rails are custom designed to fit your unique staircase and can be fabricated to bend around corners to transport users down hallways. Because they are fabricated for a perfect fit, curved stairlifts are generally more expensive than straight stairlifts and are not held as inventory at a dealership. However, many curved stairlifts can be ordered in multiple colors to best fit your home’s décor.
Harmar’s curved stairlift, the Helix, can be designed to provide stair assistance inside or outside the home.
No matter the type of stairlift, you should consider the following:
- Ease of use:
- Does the stairlift have a call/send remote in case there are two users in the home, or the chair is not where you need it to be?
- How do you operate the chair lift? Is the toggle or switch located in an easy-to-reach place on the chair/armrests?
- Are there automatic features included? For example, Harmar’s straight stairlifts are compatible with our automatic folding rail, which smoothly raises and lowers when the chair is in use. This eliminates tripping hazards around the lower landing.
- Is the seatbelt easily accessed on the chair and is it easily locked/unlocked?
- Does the chair offer a swivel feature? This swivel enables the user to turn the chair while still in it at the top of the stairs so they can easily exit the lift, facing away from the stairs.
- Does the chair include a folding seat, footrest, and armrests? For ease, safety, and convenience, stairlift chairs should be able to fold at the aforementioned areas for safe storage when not in use and seat entry/exit.
- Does the stairlift include an overspeed brake and obstruction sensors?
- Are there available add-ons and safety features such as:
- Key locks
- Retractable seatbelts (optional on many, standard on Harmar’s SL600 and Helix)
- Automatic folding rail
- Extra rail
- Manual lowering tools
- Weight capacity:
- Depending on who will be using the stairlift and why, this factor can be one of the sole determinants of which lift – or manufacturer you’ll choose. Many lifts can range in capacity up to 300 to 450 lbs.; however, Harmar offers the only stairlift in the market that can accommodate up to 600 lbs.
- If the user is on the cusp of needing a chair with a higher capacity, it’s recommended you choose the lift with the higher range.
- Many dealers and manufacturers offer ranges on the stairlift warranty. This is important to consider when searching for your perfect fit.
Other Factors to Consider – Why You Should Find A Local Dealer
When you are ready to commit to a stairlift, we recommend finding a local dealer who you feel is passionate about their work. If choosing a Harmar stairlift, because our lifts do not require grease or lubrication, thus have less of a chance of the rails clogging or needing routing upkeep, there will typically be fewer maintenance visits. However, routine maintenance is recommended, and should an issue arise, it will be much easier for your dealer to reach you and diagnose any problems if they are local to your area.
Who are the Most Common Stairlift Users?
Stairlifts, whether curved, straight, inside, or outside, can be fantastic accessibility solutions to help you or a loved one remain at home longer with improved independence.
Anyone who is looking to:
- Successfully age in place
- Return home from the hospital or rehab
- Easily and safely access multiple floors in the home
Should consider learning more about the benefits of installing a chair lift.
Why Consider a Stairlift?
By considering a stairlift prior to any accident on the stairs, you’re protecting yourself from potential injury and future limitations – and could be saving money on potential medical bills from falls. Did you know that about 36 million adults fall each year, resulting in more than 32,000 deaths?
Others Who May be Stairlift Candidates:
There are also those who are fully capable of maneuvering around the home either on their own or with a mobility device but are limited to one floor due to mobility restrictions. The following may feel inclined to consider a stairlift due to difficulties with balance, muscle weakness, recovery, or irreparable injury:
- Someone who uses a scooter or wheelchair and can safely transfer from their mobility device to the chair lift
- Someone who uses a walker or cane
The following may also benefit from having a stairlift installed:
- Those recovering from surgery (including amputations and joint replacements)
- Those suffering from neurological disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or vertigo
- Someone suffering from Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Others struggling with arthritis
How to Choose the Best Stairlift Company for Your Needs
We understand that between finding the best stairlift for your needs and hiring a professional who you feel comfortable with, it can be stressful. However, knowledge is power and the more research on stairlift brands you conduct, the more prepared you are to have these conversations with potential dealers and the better you’ll feel walking into this new realm.
Researching available stairlift brands and dealers is an important step and in this section we’ll cover everything you need to do to choose the best dealer and stairlift company for your needs.
Look for a dealer who will ask questions about the person who will be using the stairlift and those who will be providing care to the stairlift user. You’ll want to work with someone who understands that every situation is unique. So, the more questions they ask about your lifestyle, the easier it’ll be for them to cater their service to your needs.
We also advise you ask about the installation team to be sure they are licensed, insured, and factory trained on the lifts they’re installing.
When you do find a handful of dealers, make sure you’re aware of their proximity to the home where the chairlift will be installed, confirm the services they offer, and how easily they are reached. We also suggest you set up appointments with a few dealers to review important questions you’ll need answered before making your decision.
Checkout the reviews
We suggest you not only read the reviews for the dealers you’re considering, but also the stairlift brands. You can find information like this on Trust Pilot, The Better Business Bureau, and something as simple as Google.
If you’re working with a Physical or Occupational Therapist, either for yourself or to help a loved one return home, you can also ask them for some direction. They may be able to help you decide where to start in your search for a dealer and stair lift brand.
Understand the installation process
Stairlift installations vary based on multiple factors: the type of lift rail (curved or straight), the brand of lift, the amount of customization, and the dealer/installation team. To start, curved stairlifts are customized to fit a specific set of stairs and require fabrication time and a more involved installation process. Straight stairlifts are manufactured to fit virtually any straight staircase, meaning they are more often stocked in dealerships and generally have a faster installation time.
You’ll want to hire a company who is factory-certified – like Harmar’s LiftSquad-certified dealers, who make their customer’s safety and independence their priority and respect their privacy, property, and needs. Your dealer should also be honest and open about answering your questions and relaying any important information about the products they sell, their services, warranty, maintenance routines, and method of contact. We recommend you also take the time to ask about the dealer’s ongoing service offers and maintenance – they will be the ones to call in the event of any technical difficulties.
After your stairlift is installed, your technician will remain at your home to train the stairlift user and the caregiver on proper stair lift use until everyone involved is comfortable and confident in using the new tool.
Working with dealers and contractors can be overwhelming at times, which is why it’s important to do your research on each company to ensure they’re offering the appropriate products and services – and that you would work well together. When looking for a dealer to work with, compile a list of questions that you know will help put your mind at ease. These will generally help inform you that you are getting a product that will last as long as you need it and will be provided with the best possible care and install/maintenance services.
Asking the hard questions before you commit to a dealer and make a purchase eliminates room for surprises down the road. Please keep in mind that different companies offer different services, so be sure to have enough information so you can compare contrast and pick a dealer or company that seems to be the best fit for you.
Questions to consider asking dealers:
- Does the dealer consult you on which product would best help me in my home?
- Is the dealer willing to come out and look at your home prior to ordering the equipment?
- Will the dealer train you on how to safely use the product?
- Does the dealer offer a selection of device brands?
- Has the dealer attended factory installation certification courses on the product they’re recommending you purchase?
- Does the dealer employ their own trained or LiftSquad-certified installers, or do they subcontract out?
- What are the specific parts and labor warranties associated with your recommended product?
- Does the dealer offer service 365 days a year?
- What is the cost of a service call?
- How quickly does your team respond to service calls?
- Does the dealer have a rental program/is it possible to rent the recommended product prior to purchasing?
- Does the dealer inventory certain products? How quickly can they install the recommended product?
- Can the dealer provide a quote showing the price for the product recommended, the install, and freight?
What else should you consider?
Many people depend on personal recommendations from a friend, relative, or trusted acquaintance, which is a great place to start. Even with a recommendation, it’s still important to do your own research on a company and be aware of their product warranties, reachability, proximity to your home, and service policies.
The general recommendation is to look at three different companies and ask them to answer basic information about their business. Comparing and contrasting experience, warranties, and service call policies are very important. We also advise you ask each company for a reference from a customer that is willing for you to visit the home and see a product already installed – or at least speak with them over the phone. Talking to the customer gives you the opportunity to ask questions about the customer experience and hear how satisfied they were with the process.
Each provider, dealer or contractor usually has a website – or can be found through a dealer locator, for example, like this page linked here. If you search for the name of the business or individual on Google, you can typically find reviews from past customers. You are looking for all 5-star reviews – read the reviews and see what others are saying.
The next place to look is your local Better Business Bureau – this organization acts a consumer watch dog and rates excellent businesses with an A or an A+ rating. Companies that do not have a BBB rating will likely be new to the business or are a very small business. You can look up any business on https://www.bbb.org/.
Find a pro
When looking at contractors or dealers for home safety equipment, it’s very important that the person measuring and installing your equipment has been educated on how to assist seniors with an “Aging in Place” certification. Some companies will have at least one individual who has gone through the certification – but it is not that person who will measure and install a product in your home. Look up who is CAPS certified and current with their certification by emailing the NAHB at Professional Designations Helpline [email protected] or calling at (800) 368-5242 ext. 8154
If you don’t have time to go and see a customer’s installation, or are unable to make such arrangements, ask the dealer if they have a showroom you can visit so you can see the product I person and understand how it will look in your home. Be sure to discuss how your family member moves, their current height and weight, and be open to suggestions. Often, stairlift models are compatible with additional features that may not be standard on all such as retractable seatbelts, tray tables, automatic folding rails, key locks, and more.
Once you have decided on a product, have the dealer walk through the safeguards on the device. These safeguards, or obstruction sensors for example, are in place to prevent accidents – it’s also a good way to learn that your stair lift may stop at times because something is in the way! Spending some time on basic troubleshooting with another family member is also very valuable. Spend as much time as you need to ensure your comfort with operating the lift, troubleshooting, and enjoying safe use for years to come.
What happens after the lift is installed?
On the day of installation, after the lift is installed, the technician or installer will review how to use the lift again and take any lingering questions you may have. There are also troubleshooting guides in the unit manual as well as online at https://www.harmar.com/resources/. But, please keep in mind, to please call your dealer when in need of help. They are more than happy to come back to your home to resolve any service issues with your lift and conduct regular maintenance checks to keep your lift running as long as you need!
There are multiple stairlift options, types, and models manufactured by many different companies – and it’s good to keep in mind that no stairlift user or case is the same. Read on to learn more about the price range you can expect and why purchasing a stairlift can help you save money down the road; however, we please keep in mind these are estimates and it is important to speak with a dealer for a more precise quote. To consult with a Harmar dealer near you, visit our Dealer Locator.
Straight and Curved Stairlift Pricing: How Much Does a Stairlift Cost?
In this section will discuss, the general cost of stairlifts and provide resources for funding opportunities. If you’d like more information about about stairlift pricing, review this article, Stairlifts Prices: How Much Does a Stairlift Cost?
Straight staircases with no landings will typically be considered for a straight stairlift. These lifts, used or new, can fall into the range of $4,000 to $5,000.
A curved stairlift’s price has many determining factors such as the length of the rail, the complexity, and number of turns needed. Because they are custom designed, they are typically marked at a higher price than straight stairlifts and can start around $9,000.
However, these numbers can vary based on the location of the lift and whether it requires weather-resistant material, the length, complexity, freight, install, and the dealership you choose. When speaking with a dealer, we suggest you ask for a quote broken into three sections: cost of the lift, freight, and install. It’s also important to prepare a number of questions when you are ready to consult with a dealer.
Funding and Financial Assistance
While insurance doesn’t cover the cost of stairlifts, there are many grants and financial assistance opportunities available. This includes, Medicaid, Veterans Health Administration, Department of Housing and Urban Development Office (HUD) and more. To learn more about the grants and assistance available to help fund your stairlift, review Stairlifts Grants and Funding Opportunities.
How Can a Stairlift Save You Money in the Future?
One in every five falls causes broken bones or head injuries – and more than 300,000 of those falls cause hospitalizations due to hip fractures alone. Installing a stairlift can help prevent those falls leading to hospital stays, trips to the emergency room, and potential surgeries. That means those bills could be avoided as well.
A fall-related injury can total a hospital bill of $30,000 and assisted living costs vary by area and establishment but range from $3,000 to $5,000 per month (median annual cost is $51,600) – that single month could cover the cost of your straight stairlift.
Renting vs. Buying a Stairlift
Stairlifts, or chair lifts, don’t have to be a permanent fixture in the home. There are other options if purchasing a lift for your stairs for long term use isn’t right for your unique case. Renting a stairlift may be the way to go, but don’t forget – there are other factors to consider such as whether you need a curved or straight rail, a folding rail, or if there are more personal contributors including the reason for the lift, or how long you may need it.
Renting A Stairlift
If you’re aware of how long you will need the lift and know it is a temporary tool to help you heal from an injury or surgery, a rental may be a great solution to help you travel up and down your stairs. We suggest using our Dealer Locator to find a dealer near you who offers a rental program, as rental programs, prices, and selections vary.
Buying A Stairlift
Whether you choose to purchase a brand new stairlift or a used model, this solution would be best for those who plan to age in place or have a more permanent diagnosis which would make climbing the stairs dangerous or impossible. It’s important to understand which type of stair lift you may need to best fit your lifestyle and your home, so we recommend using our Dealer Locator to find a local dealer who can best assist you in your stairlift search.
Straight Stairlift Installation – What to Expect
Most Harmar dealers and installers are LiftSquad-certified.
LiftSquad is a team of seasoned, professional installers who take classes to obtain and maintain certification in Harmar products and installations. They take an oath to make safety their number one priority, respect and protect your personal property, and must pass background checks. You can find LiftSquad-trained dealers on the dealer locator at Harmar.com.
Learn more about the LiftSquad Promise here.
Depending on the length and staircase, straight stairlifts can typically be installed by one or two professional installers, as they are much less involved than many custom curved stairlifts. Because each dealer and installation team is different, we suggest you ask about install time during your dealer consultation.
Day of Installation
When your installation team arrives, they will take final measurements to ensure all their numbers are correct and to avoid any excess drilling into your stairs.
Next, the railing is cut and fit together so the rail sits at the appropriate incline for secure travels at a smooth speed.
After the rail brackets are in place, one more round of measurements will be taken to ensure the rail is far enough away from the wall so no marks will be made as you travel up and down the steps. Please note: stairlifts do not require rail supports to be drilled into every step. Only a select number of stairs are needed for securement.
The chassis then slides onto the rails and is turned on. There will be a loud beep, which indicates the unit is healthy and ready for use.
Folding Rail Applications
Should you need a folding rail to avoid any doorway or hall obstructions, this add-on will be installed at this point to the bottom of your rail, then test the automation.
Testing Your Lift
Harmar’s LiftSquad-certified dealers and installers each make a promise to train their customers and their caregivers on the use of their new lift. So, after the installer personally tests the installed unit and ensures it is ready, they will instruct you and your loved ones on proper use to ensure your comfort and confidence in your new lift.
Curved Stairlift Installation
What You Can Expect before Installation
Curved stairlifts can be more involved, compared to straight stairlifts, due to their custom design and potentially intricate rails. So, the installation time varies based on size and complexity, but can typically take about three hours to complete.
The Day of Your Curved Stairlift Installation
Curved stairlift installations usually require two to three people. This team will arrive at your home and begin the process by ensuring all the materials and tools are accounted for so they can begin the process.
The next step is to place the stair supports for the lift on your steps based on the installation drawing provided by your stairlift’s manufacturer.
Once the stair supports are in place, the rail is pieced together, starting from the bottom, up. To ensure everything is in place, the installer will tighten just enough screws, which also helps to support the rail.
The battery is then installed along with the chassis, which will be tested by the team in your home to ensure you will have a smooth, quiet ride up and down your rail.
Next, the lift’s rail supports will be secured to the stairs – please note that stairlifts do not require rail supports to be drilled into every step, preserving a number of your stairs from any drilling.
Chair Lift Checklists
Your installers will rundown a checklist to be sure the lift is ready for use and conduct a security sweep around the lift and stairs. Then, your installer will help you learn how to correctly operate the lift. Harmar’s LiftSquad-certified dealers and installers promise to provide training to make sure you and your loved ones are confident with using the new lift.
Learn More about Curved Stairlifts
Harmar’s Helix curved stairlifts are optimal choices for home with curved, sweeping, or stairs with landings. Learn more about Harmar’s Helix here.
It’s important to keep your stairlift dealer’s contact information handy, should you need to contact them for maintenance or service. When shopping for a lift, please keep in mind the warranty will vary from dealer to dealer. We suggest asking the dealer you plan to work with about the offered warranty on the stairlift you are considering.
Maintenance for Your Stairlift
It’s not required to have your lift regularly maintained by your dealer, but we strongly suggest you consider scheduling an annual appointment to ensure your lift’s health. If you think you’ll one day consider either selling or donating the lift, it will be easier to do so if it is well maintained.
Cleaning Your Stairlift
Harmar’s stairlifts, unlike others on the market, do not require any grease or lubrication to operate. This means there will be less all-around maintenance, less mess on your floors and walls, and less of a chance of the rails clogging. Regardless of the lift you choose, it’s recommended you use either multi-surface wipes or a dust rag once a month to keep any dust from collecting on or in it; however, this is not absolutely necessary. If you choose to dust your stairlift, ask your dealer for lift-specific cleaning advice.
Optimizing Your Chairlift’s Battery
Many stair lifts on the market are battery-operated, which helps them run in the event of a power outage so you won’t miss a step. Depending on the stairlift you choose, the following steps may help optimize the battery:
- Turn off the stairlift if you leave town for an extended time or during a power outage when the lift is not in use.
- Make sure you use your lift regularly to keep it running.
- Do not unplug it so it can stay fully charged.
- Keep the chair parked at the top or bottom of the rail – usually where the charging strip is located.
What to do When a Stairlift is No Longer Needed
No matter the reason, the same question is often asked: “What happens if I don’t need my stairlift anymore?” Stairlifts, or chairlifts, are not necessarily permanent units in the home, which means they can be removed and either disposed of, rehomed, or bought back by some dealers. Please note, though, not all dealers buy back used stairlifts, so this may be a good question to ask dealers when searching for a stairlift.
Stairlift Removal and Rehoming
Dealers who do stairlift removal, because this typically involves labor, transportation, and (sometimes) disposal costs, may not provide this service for free, so we suggest asking whoever you choose to work with prior to the day of removal about a fee.
Depending on the stairlift, it can be possible to rehome the unit either to your new property or to someone else’s (should you choose to either donate/gift it or sell it to a friend). Straight stairlifts are the most commonly rehomed because they are not custom designed, like curved stairlifts. If you decide to rehome the chairlift, it’s important the dealer or installer reviews the unit (and new staircase) to ensure the lift is in excellent condition – and the staircase is an appropriate fit.
Buying Back a Stairlift
Dealers or installers who offer a buyback program will be particular with your stairlift’s condition. Each will have their own rules and requirements in order to accept the lift. For example, some may reject a lift older than one year, or some may insist on seeing the maintenance logs to ensure it has been well maintained throughout its use.
Maintain Your Independence
A stairlift is a great solution for those struggling with stairs in their home. It provides a convenient and cost-effective alternative to moving to a new home or an assisted living facility and allows you to maintain your independence and stay in the comfort of your own home.
We hope this guide has provided you with all the information you need to make an informed decision and purchase the right stairlift for your home. Whether you’re looking for a straight or curved stairlift, indoor or outdoor, we’re confident that you’ll find the right solution to meet your needs.
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