There are a number of options available to people looking to purchase a stairlift these days, but what are the real differences offered? After all, a stairlift is just a stairlift right ?
Maybe so, however when you buy a stairlift, you are buying a lot more than just a mechanism to take you up and down the stairs. As a mechanical piece of equipment, you will need regular servicing and technical support on top of good quality and longevity. This got us thinking. While most stairlifts are generic and operate in the same basic fashion – a chair, a track and a power supply – the additional aspects are worth investigating to find out which manufacturers offer the best all round packages. Or is the industry now so monotonic that it simply doesn’t matter which lift you choose? Help My Mobility decided to investigate.
Stairlifts offer the ability to move easily up and down a staircase. We’ve looked into four of the leading stairlift companies in the UK - Stannah, Acorn, Companion and ThyssenKrupp Encasa – to see what their companies have to offer in terms of choice, service and aftercare. These elements can have a massive impact on choosing your stairlift, as they will be the things that matter most both before and after it has been installed.
Much as in the world of motoring, you must approach buying a stairlift recognising that different manufacturers will offer different perspectives. All stairlifts will do their job in carrying you up and down the stairs, but it is the features and designs which set them apart.
At the top of the stairlift range, you have Stannah – the Rolls Royce or Aston Martin – designed to look sleek, aesthetically pleasing, and with a vast array of customisable features to enhance your stairlift experience. Other brands like Companion, are more comparable to companies like Ford – more basic, but still doing the job well, less available options but crucially with a smaller price tag.
Just as if you were buying a car, inevitably your choice will come down to your budget, which in turn will influence the features and extras you desire. Having a range of options to choose from is a good thing. Because each lift is customised to meet the needs of the individual, having options leads to even greater flexibility.
Some manufacturers, such as Thyssen Krupp and Companion, have only three and two set models respectively, although both manufacturers offer fully customisable stairlifts in terms of seating, operation and colour.
Stannah and Acorn on the other hand, offer more tailored packages for different purposes. The less important things such as seat fabric and colour are still fully customisable, but the core requirement of each lift differs.
There are a number of features available for all of the stairlift manufacturers. Adjustable seats and arms, wall or remote controls, removable keys, weight limits, load sensors and control mechanisms are all various options to decide on before making your stairlift purchase. Some models will offer different combinations of these, and so this can have a large bearing on which lift you will buy. Stannah have the greatest range of combinations due to their extensive model range. Acorn similarly have a good range of standard products, offering various features to customers. This explains why Stannah’s price structure is very rigid, whereas other companies will be more negotiable over price. For this reason we recommend trying to haggle the price down with your sales representative. Companies offering less choice of additional extras will lead to more vague costs upfront, and prices will probably escalate faster with add-ons being potentially expensive.
All companies will offer some form of customisation aesthetically. Again, the higher end companies like Stannah have a greater range of options in this regard, but you’ll be paying more for this privilege. Changeable extras include seat sizes, folding options, swivelling ability and fabric style and colour. Like with a car, these options often cost little to nothing, as they personalise the lift to suit you and your home.
Free Home Surveys
Fortunately, all the major manufacturers will offer a free, no obligation survey, undertaken at your convenience in order to determine your options, and inevitably provide you with a quote which is often flexible and valid for long periods of time. If the company you are buying off does not offer this service, consider their credibility as a reputable provider seriously, as they can sometimes sting you with extra costs and outlays, before you’ve even agreed to have a lift. Refuse to be charged for any survey or quotation. All four of the manufacturers featured here offer a no obligation survey, meaning you do not have to take them up on any quotation given. You will be given time and space to make a decision, to be followed through when it suits you - as should be the way with any reputable dealer or manufacturer.
Try Before You Buy
This is important, but because of the complex nature of stairlifts, difficult to actually do. Stannah are the only company to offer this service on a nationwide scale, whereby you can visit one of their showrooms across the country, and actually try out the products to see which is best suited to your needs. We advise that you go along and try them out, even if you do not buy a Stannah product, you can at least determine which features you like or dislike, and get an idea for how they operate and the feeling of moving on one. You may find the occasional dealership with their own installed lift made by another manufacturer, but Stannah are the only company with a publicised network of participating distributors.
Warranty is another area of the industry which is typically standardised for most of the companies. Acorn, Thyssen Krupp and Companion all offer the one year benchmark which has become the norm for stairlifts and other mobility products. Although most, if not all manufacturers will market their products as built to last, warranty can be important for parts repairs and peace of mind. Again, only Stannah offer a greater warranty of two years as standard. Be aware that there are additional warranty plans available to get more long term cover, although this will cost extra no matter which company you buy from.
Another exclusive for Stannah customers, they receive a 14-day satisfaction guarantee. If you are not happy with the product or service, they will fully refund your money and remove the stairlift free of charge. They are the only manufacturer we have found who explicitly state that they offer this policy. If you are unsure, ask your chosen manufacturer’s service team before they begin installation.
Next Day Installation
Sometimes you need a stairlift quickly, whether because of a spontaneous injury or long term illness, and it can be a pain to sort one. Stannah offer next day installations on their straight stairlifts, while Thyssen Krupp and Companion take a slightly longer, up to a week for the former and 3-5 days the latter. Acorn on the other hand have a unique ‘Fast Track’ system, whereby in some circumstances, they can have a stairlift installed within hours of providing a quote. Their special track can be adapted on site, even on some curved stairlifts, making them the best choice for a quick installation. Their engineers are trained to do the work normally reserved for the factory, on site without making a mess of your house.
Curved stairlifts will always take longer, because of the complexity of design and implementation, and as a result take around 2 weeks to be fitted and operational in most cases. Installations will normally take a couple of hours, with allowances for unusual or extra-long staircases. All lifts are specifically designed to your stairs, and every manufacturer guarantees no building work will take place. The majority of stairlifts are now fixed to the stairs rather than the wall or railings.
24/7 Aftercare, Help Teams and Emergency Call Out
It would be impossible to determine which company has the best customer service, as every individual agent from each company will experience unique calls or issues daily. What we do know is all reputable companies will offer round the clock aftercare support for any problems which may occur. If they don’t then avoid their business!
Complimentary Service Checks
Whilst servicing is often externally carried out and not included in the overall cost of the stairlift, some companies do in fact offer complimentary service checks to their customers. Stannah give you the first two services for free, while Acorn carry out an annual service check for you, free of charge. This can save you money in the long term, as annual service costs can run into the hundreds if carried out independently. Help My Mobility advises using the manufacturers direct to get the most reliable maintenance for your stairlifts, as after all they know their products inside out. While third party engineers are often just as reliable, you can guarantee that engineers employed first hand by the manufacturers will have all the correct training and carry out company procedure effectively. One rogue trader could leave you with a costly bill.
So is a stairlift just a stairlift?
Yes it is. However the companies do all offer differences in both the quality of their product and services. Both Stannah and Acorn have taken into consideration not only the needs of the customer/user, but the aesthetic value of having a stairlift positioned in the home. Some people like to have it matching the décor, and their styles and colour options allow this to be another customisable feature for consideration. That is not to discredit the other manufacturers, whose lifts are just as capable of doing their job. They are all tailored to the individual, and every company can make a stairlift work for your needs.
The difference comes in the pricing. Admittedly, Stannah stairlifts are more expensive than their competitors on average, but with this comes with more for your money. Stannah offer arguably better quality than their competitors, in terms of build and service once the lift is installed. Their longer warranty and satisfaction guarantee shows that they are more confident in their products than the other manufacturers. They have the largest range available, and a wide network of distributors who help with their try before you buy service. They are the most costly company, but in terms of what you are getting for your money, seemingly worth the investment in a product which will last a long while.
Acorn and Companion are slightly cheaper alternatives, with Acorn’s free annual service saving you money and hassle in the long term. They will all function identically, regardless of brand as at the end of the day a stairlift is just a stairlift. It seems you are paying for a higher level of service, personalisation and long-term investment when you splash out on a Stannah stairlift, although if you don’t require those additional extras then as we have shown there are just a feasible alternatives available to all users.
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