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Controls - starting and stopping

How do you turn your mobility scooter on, set your speed, accelerate and stop? We asked our panel of mobility scooter users for their most important tips.

Turning your scooter on and off

Things to check:

  • Do you have enough grip and strength to hold and turn the key?
  • Is the key in a position where you can reach and use it with your strongest hand, or two hands if necessary?
  • Is the key placed so that you can easily see it?
  • Can you tell when the scooter is switched on or off?
  • Do you have secure storage for the scooter?

'On' light

Scooters are battery powered. They don't make a noise when switched on, which can make it difficult to know whether they are on or off.

Some models have a little light that indicates when the scooter is on. Others have a battery dial that lights up. If a scooter is left on for long periods of time, the battery will run low. For peace of mind, you may find it useful to choose a scooter that tells you when it's on.


Attached key

Detachable key

The ignition key switch may be:

  • on the central control panel,
  • to the side of the panel, or
  • lower down on the tiller (steering column at the front).

Some scooters have a key attached, while others have a key that you can take out, like a car has. If you can’t rely on your memory, you may find it easier to choose a scooter with a fixed key. But if you are worried about security, or don’t have lockable storage, then a detachable key may be a better choice.

Keys also vary in size across scooter make and model.

Setting your speed

Speed dial on mobility scooter
Speed dial
Fast/slow speed switches on mobility scooter
Fast/slow speed switches

Things to check:

  • Are you able to grip and turn a dial at the same time as concentrating on the path or road ahead?
  • Are you able to use enough pressure to press a button?
  • Do you have enough strength in your fingers to push a switch?
  • Do you get pain in your fingers or hands when using the buttons and/or switch controls?
  • Can you clearly see and read the speed control labels (with glasses if required)?
  • Can you easily identify your speed on a digital display (with glasses if required)?
  • Can you read the digital speedometer display in sunlight and in shade (with glasses if required)?

Speed dials

On smaller scooters the only speed control is a dial used to set maximum speed.

Often, a picture of a tortoise is used to represent slowest and a hare used to for fastest. Other labels might show 'min' and 'max' or a range of numbers.

Speed switches and buttons

On larger scooters (class 3) the speed controls vary more. Some have a half/full speed switch, which may be shown as ½ and 1, a high/low button, shown as H/L, or a dial with an additional button to instantly boost or slow speed. All of these switch the scooter between accelerating up to 4mph (the fastest you can go on the pavement) and 8mph (the fastest you can go on the road).

You can use these speed controls to set your speed before you set off and to adjust it as you go along, too.

It's important to try out the speed controls when you test drive a scooter to check that you can use them safely while driving along.


Digital speedometer on mobility scooter

Digital speedometer

You're unlikely to find a class 2 scooter with a speedometer, but they are common on class 3 models.

A digital display is often used to show speed, and may also show additional information including:

  • battery life
  • temperature
  • time
  • mileage

If the digital display does feature a lot of additional information it may be difficult to identify your speed. A backlit digital display is often easier to read.


Things to check:

  • Can you reach the accelerator lever with all or most of your fingers?
  • Do you want to use one or both hands to drive?
  • Is it easier to squeeze or push a lever?
  • Are you able to hold a lever in one position for a long period of time?

The accelerator is usually a lever or paddle positioned close to the handlebars. There's often another lever on the opposite side. These levers are used to move the scooter forwards and backwards.

  • Do you want to use your right hand to move forward and left to reverse?
  • Do you instinctively know which hand to use to go forward and back?

Labelled forward and reverse levers on mobility scooter

Labelled forward and reverse levers












Acceleration levers

On some models you can use either hand to go forward and back: you pull the lever towards you to go forwards and push it away to reverse. The other side works the same, but the opposite way around. You can choose whether to use one or both hands.

Acceleration levers come in different shapes and lengths. You need enough reach to move the tiller and enough dexterity to pull the levers to control the speed. 

Check they are in the right place for you to reach, squeeze and/or push, and that the shape is comfortable – usually they can’t be altered.

It can be very tiring to maintain pressure with your thumb. If this is likely to be a problem, go for a design that allows you to switch hands or press with a different part of your hand.

When you're a scooter novice, it can be easy to confuse the forward and reverse accelerators. At the beginning, you may find that you reverse when you wanted to move forwards.  Some scooters include a little diagram or a dot of colour to remind you which lever is forward and which is reverse. This may be useful detail if you can't rely on your memory.

Braking and stopping

Things to check:

  • Can you easily release and/or remove your hands from the accelerator?
  • Can you reach the handbrake?
  • Can you squeeze the handbrake hard enough to make the scooter stop?
  • Can you tell the handbrake from other controls on the scooter?

Handbrake on a class 3 mobility scooter

Handbrake on a class 3 scooter
Some mobility scooter brakes can be hard to grip
Some brakes can be hard to grip

Class 2 scooters - stopping

Class 2 scooters don't have brakes. To stop you must release the accelerator lever. You may find it easier to completely remove your hand from the accelerator lever to stop quickly. As with accelerating, stopping on a scooter can take some getting used to, particularly if you have ever driven a car or ridden a bike.

Safety tip: Because there's no brake, it's difficult to do an emergency stop. The scooter tends to slow down to a standstill. It's important to allow for this when driving close to pedestrians or on a busy pavement.

​Class 3 scooters - braking and stopping

Class 3 scooters have handbrakes (these usually look like bicycle brakes) but they will also stop if you take your hand off the accelerator. The handbrake can be used to aid stopping or for an emergency stop.

They may be awkward to reach if you have difficulty stretching your fingers out or have small hands. The handle to adjust the tiller can look very similar and may be positioned opposite the handbrake on some scooters. Be sure to check which one is which before setting off.

See also: our scooter search.

This information is based on the findings of a research project by the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers. 16 disabled and older people (half experienced scooter users, half novices) tested a sample of seven class 2 and class 3 mobility scooters.

The Research Institute for Disabled Consumers is a UK consumer research charity. We don't sell products. Search online by product name to find suppliers.
Our unbiased research with real scooter users aims to help you choose the mobility scooter that will work best for you.

Last updated: May 2018

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