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The Research Institute for Disabled Consumers is the UK’s leading expert in user-centred research involving disabled and older consumers. We have over 50 years’ experience of independent, specialist research.

Guide to choosing and buying a stairlift

If you're having trouble getting up or down stairs, we hope this information can help you to decide whether a stairlift is right for you and, if so, how to choose one.

Our research is based on:

  • what people who've bought stairlifts have told us over the years
  • research that we've carried out for Age UK

Important: There has never been any independent consumer product testing of stairlifts in the UK.

Stannah Starla stairlift

Six things you need to know before buying a stairlift

  1. Types of stairlift
  2. Choosing a stairlift
  3. How much it costs to get and install a stairlift
  4. Getting further help
  5. Manufacturers and suppliers
  6. Checklist

Stairlifts: the basics

Most stairways can be fitted with a lift. They can be installed on curved walls, and on unusually shaped or narrow stairways. Stairlifts can be installed quickly. Once installed they can look quite neat and can be supplied in colours that suit your home.

The most common limitation is the width of your stairs, but stairlifts these days are fairly compact. Generally, you can get a lift with a seat fitted if your stairs are wide enough to allow room for your knees when you're sitting down, with some extra space for clearance. If you have very narrow stairs, you may need to fit a standing or perching lift - some of these will fit a straight stairway that is only 24" (62cm) wide.

The carrying capacity of lifts varies. There are lifts that will carry up to 30 stone (190kg), while others will only take up to 25 stone (158kg).

To use a stairlift you need to be able to:

  • get to it
  • transfer onto the seat or platform
  • and work the controls

If you're considering a standing lift, you'll need to be able to stand up. You'll also need not to be prone to dizzy spells.

If you do need a stairlift, don't put off making the decision. Many people who have bought them wish they had done so earlier.

Can tenants get a stairlift?

If you're a private tenant, check the terms of your tenancy agreement. Usually, stairlifts don't count as structural alterations because they are fixed to the stairs, rather than the walls - but you need to check. If you have an unusual stairway or some other fixed feature that would have to be changed, you'll need to consult your landlord.

If you're a council tenant, contact your local council for information. It's likely that the installation of a stairlift will have to be organised through them.

What if there's a power cut?

Most stairlifts work from a battery. Battery powered lifts charge themselves up automatically, while those that work from the mains all have a back-up battery. This means that they'll work during a power failure.

Know your consumer rights

Check to see if you know your rights when buying goods and services online or when visiting shops. Go to consumer rights.

This information from the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers is unbiased and we hope it will help you choose the right option to meet your needs. We don't sell products. Please search online by product name to find suppliers or go to our Useful contacts section in the menu above.

Last updated: August 2018

Introduction | Next: Types of stairlift