There comes a time in most of our lives when buying a stair lift is inevitable, whether it is for ourselves or a loved one. However, for many people, buying their first stair lift can feel like something of a challenge, and knowing what to look for may be intimidating.
Using a stair lift can make your golden years much easier and yet a lot of people still feel that having one installed means giving up some of their independence, but quite the opposite is true. As we get older, it’s no secret that everyday tasks such as going up and down the stairs becomes more difficult, and in some cases, dangerous.
For many people, the addition of a stair lift can mean the difference between being able to remain at home or having to go into an assisted living facility. Most older adults prefer to stay in their own homes and so it is of little surprise that stair lifts are an essential accessory.
In this article, we are going to be exploring all of the important factors to consider when purchasing a stair lift, giving you the ability to find the right product for your needs, as well as looking at how a stair lift is anything but an admission of physical defeat, and more of advantageous addition to the home.
Best Stair Lifts Comparison Chart
Here’s a handy reference list of our reviewed residential stair lifts. Further below is a more comprehensive comparison and review guide.
|Harmar SL600 Pinnacle Premium Stairlift||Handicare Xclusive Straight Stairlift||Harmar SL600HD Pinnacle Heavy-Duty Stairlift||Harmar SL350OD Summit Outdoor Stairlift||Handicare Sterling 2000 Stairlift|
|Weight Capacity||350 lbs||285 lbs||600 lbs||350 lbs||255 lbs|
|Stair Lift Rail Type||Straight||Straight||Straight||Straight (outdoors)||Curved|
|Seat Size||19" (W) x 16" (D)||15" (D)||25" (W) x 16" (D)||19" (W) x 18" (D)||15" (D)|
|Rail Length||16 ft (standard), 70 ft (maximum)||15.6 ft (maximum)||16 ft (standard), 40 ft (maximum)||16 ft (standard), 25 ft (maximum)||Up to 65 ft|
|Speed (FPM)||17 ft/min||29 ft/min||14 ft/min||20 ft/min||24 ft/min|
|Incline Limits||32 – 52°||30 – 45°||32 – 45°||35 – 45°||0 – 56°|
|Upholstery Type||Vinyl||Vinyl||Vinyl||Marine-grade vinyl||Vinyl|
|Drive System||Helical worm drive||Rack and pinion drive||Helical worm drive||Helical worm drive||Rack and pinion drive|
|Battery Back-Up||Yes (up to 40 trips)||Yes (Up to 15 trips)||Yes (Up to 40 trips)||Yes (up to 40 trips)||Yes (Up to 10 trips)|
|Warranty||3-Year parts, 10-Year gear rack, 1-Year battery||2-Year parts, Lifetime on motor and gear rack||3-Year parts, 10-Year gear rack, 1-Year battery||2-Year parts, 10-Year gear rack, 1-Year battery||2-Year parts, Lifetime on motor and gear rack|
|Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
What is a Stair Lift?
A stair lift is an important piece of equipment that is designed to help those with decreased mobility in tackling the staircase. These motorized chairs are often used in the home, but this is certainly not their limit – stair lifts are more commonly being installed in public buildings such as churches and libraries as a way of making these places more accessible to those with limited mobility.
For the most part, a stair lift is installed by applying a rail to the treads of the staircase onto which the chair is attached. The stair lift is motor operated and offers the passenger a smooth and safe ride up and down the stairs.
People who use stair lifts are most commonly those who are still able to walk by themselves and move around mostly unaided, but find that climbing and descending the stairs causes pain, or has become too difficult. This makes the ideal solution for those with disabilities and the elderly.
What Are the Benefits of a Stair Lift?
For users with impaired mobility, installing a stairlift can offer many benefits. Some of these benefits can include:
Most obviously, installing a stair lift provides the user with the benefit of no longer having to tackle a staircase that they find challenging. Of course, this is ideal for anyone with limited mobility and gives them the opportunity to be more free both in their own homes and in public buildings that feature a stair lift.
It is unfortunate that many older people come to rely on their loved ones to assist them at home, but a stair lift is a great way to bring back some independence, and can mean that the elderly person is able to remain in their own home without friends and family worrying that they will become injured. There is nothing quite like having peace of mind, especially where those you care about are concerned.
For some people, they will have spent years avoiding going into certain parts of their homes for fear of falling on the stairs. Many elderly people convert the downstairs of their property and avoid ever having to go upstairs. But having a stair lift gives them the freedom to enjoy all of their homes rather than just a few rooms.
Helps to Reduce Accidents
It may come as a surprise to learn that the stair lift offers many more benefits than just the obvious, for example, safety is greatly improved.
There is a chance that, without the aid of a stair lift, a person may trip on the stairs and cause a significant injury. It will, therefore, not be surprising to learn that as many as 60% of deaths from falls in the elderly come as a result of falling on the stairs. This is a terrifying figure, but could be potentially eradicated if all vulnerable older people were to make use of a stair lift.
Can Be Installed on All Stairs Types
Many people are under the impression that a stair lift comes in just one design and that they are only suited to straight stairs, but this could not be further from the truth.
One of the great advantages of installing a stair lift is that no matter what type of stairs you have or where they are situated, there will be an option for you. The modern stair lift is a versatile and diverse piece of equipment that can be fitted to curved or straight stairs, and can be used both indoors and outdoors.
Pain Free Access
If, during your later years, you struggle with pain from conditions such as arthritis, climbing the stairs can be a very uncomfortable experience. Even if you can manage the journey safely, it may not be completely pleasant, but a stair lift can solve this problem and allow you to use the stairs without any discomfort.
Can Be a Cost-Effective Solution
By installing a stair lift, you stand to save a lot of money. There are a lot of older adults who make the painstaking decision to sell their beloved homes and move into a home that is more accessible such as a bungalow. However, this is not always a preferable option and practicality certainly shouldn’t outweigh sentimentality if it doesn’t need to.
A lot of older people have spent many happy years in their homes and do not want to have to leave so rather than upping sticks and going into either a residential home or a private residence that doesn’t feel like home, there is the more affordable option of fitting a stair lift.
Types of Stair Lifts
As we have discovered, stair lifts are not limited to one particular type and in this modern day, there are many options, which means that you will always be able to find a stair lift to suit your requirements.
One of the first things to think about before purchasing a stair lift is what type you will need. Below, we will look at the various types to give you a clear idea of which will work best in your home.
Straight Stair Lift
One of the most commonly used stair lifts is the straight stair lift and one of the great advantages of this is that they usually come with a rail that can be adjusted or cut to fit the staircase on which it will sit.
This type of stair lift is used indoors and come in a variety of weights. Depending on the weight of the user, you can select a straight stair lift that has a maximum capacity of between 300lb and 600lb but this will vary by manufacturer and is something that you should question – but more on that later.
As its name may suggest, the straight stair lift is designed for use on a staircase that goes straight up and down with no bends or curves. One of the many benefits of these is that they are very easy to install.
Curved Stair Lift
Not all homes feature a perfectly straight set of stairs – some homes have a curved staircase and others have right angles where we see a mini landing. But just because the staircase is a little more complex, that is not to say that a stair lift cannot be installed.
There is the option to purchase a pre-made curved stair lift but if you want a really snug fit, it is preferable to have a custom made rail that is perfectly adapted to your staircase.
Many manufacturers offer this service and will use a sophisticated photo system to ensure that the measurements are down to a T.
Outdoor Stair Lift
It is not uncommon to find a set of stairs outside, in fact, many gardens are set on multiple levels and just because we have reached our later years, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be free to enjoy those areas of the garden that are more difficult to access.
This is just one application of the outdoor stair lift which is specifically designed to stand up to the elements, no matter what the weather. What’s more, you’ll find that most stair lifts of this kind feature a handy cover for added protection. There are two main types of cover – the canopy which is located above the chair and a removable cover that can be stowed away underneath whilst the chair is in use.
Furthermore, outdoor stair lifts can be customized to suit your stairs and come in both straight and curved formats.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Stair Lift
Your new stair lift is going to assist you for many years to come and so it is important to think carefully about the various features of the piece of equipment, but also the following factors.
Doing so will make certain that you purchase the most suitable stair lift for your needs. Whilst there are many affordable stair lifts on the market, this should be seen as an investment so it is not worth parting with your money for a product that will be substandard.
Shape of the Staircase (Straight/Curved)
The most obvious thing to consider when buying a stair lift is what type of lift you will need. However, choosing between straight and curved options isn’t the extent of the decision.
There are some homes whose stairs are significantly steeper than average and this can require specialist alterations. The same can be said for staircases which are not as wide as you would find in most homes.
Speaking to the manufacturer or installation expert will allow you to get a good idea of what your requirements are and will ensure you are getting a stair lift that both fits and functions correctly.
Size of the User
Each of us is different and it’s no secret that we all weigh different amounts, but for this reason, a stair lift that is suitable for one person may not be ideal for another.
Where safety is concerned, it is vital that you inspect the weight capacity of the stair lift to ensure that it will fully support the person using it.
Most stair lifts are designed to hold people weighing up to 300lb. However, there are those which are able to hold heavier weights and a lot of manufacturers are now adding more heavy-duty products to their catalogs, with some models being able to carry people who weigh up to 600lb.
One of the most important things to be certain of when purchasing a stair lift is that it is going to be safe to use. Since this is a piece of equipment that you will be relying on for probably the rest of your life, you need to be sure that it is not going to pose a risk of injury.
Many people install a stair lift as a way of preventing injury from trips and falls, the last thing you want is to then use a stair lift that puts you in even more danger.
Modern stair lifts offer superior stability but it is still worth investigating what the model you are looking at can offer, For example, the addition of a seatbelt is imperative, this is especially important for those who are a little more unsteady even when sitting down – it doesn’t bear thinking about what might happen if you were to lose balance at the top of the flight of stairs. All of the newer stair lifts now come with a fitted seatbelt for maximum safety and one of the most notable features is that many are fully retractable. This means that you will not need to fight to move the seatbelt out of the way when you are positioning yourself in the chair.
Furthermore, a good stair lift will be fitted with sensors that are able to pick up on anything that may be obstructing its path. These sensors are located in both the motor and in the footplate for maximum effect and will prevent both accidents and damage to the stair lift itself.
It is important that, if you are going to be using a stair lift regularly, you have a pleasant and comfortable ride.
When looking at modern designs you can expect to find a range of features that give you cushioning and support, as well as additional safety. For example, many stair lifts come with the option to adjust both the height of the seat as well as the position of the arm rest – this will make the chair as comfortable as possible for the individual.
We have already discussed that some staircases are narrower than others and in this case, or even if you have a wide staircase but need to save space, it is important to think about ways in which the stair lift can fit in without becoming an obstruction to other people (or pets) using the stairs.
Of course, there are options for slimline stairlifts that are perfect for narrower staircases but the options go even further than this.
You should look at which features of the product will free up space when the stair lift is not in use. One of the most common space-saving features are flip-up arms and a flip-up footrest. However, there are also stair lifts which boast a seat that can be folded away when it isn’t being used, and you’d be surprised how much space this can free up.
These features are especially important if there are other people in the home who will not be using the stair lift, as well as for creating a more aesthetically pleasing installation.
Most modern stair lifts are powered by the main electrics within the home. This is the easiest and most efficient method of power. However, from time to time, you may experience a power outage and it is vital that you are still able to make use of your stair lift.
Before you make your purchase, you should check to make sure that the stair lift has a battery back-up. This is important in all cases but even more so if you absolutely must be able to use the stair lift to access the bathroom, for example.
The type of landing you have will depend on whether a swivel seat is necessary but for most people this added advantage makes using the stair lift that much simpler.
There are two main reasons for this – primarily, when you turn the seat so that you are not facing the stairs, getting off the stair lift becomes a lot safer and the risk of falling down the stairs is almost removed completely. However, in addition to this, getting off the lift on a flat surface means that dismounting is a lot easier to do.
Ease of Operation
Using your new stair lift needs to be easy, there is little point in making this type of investment if navigating the stairs doesn’t become any easier. There are many options when it comes to an easy-to-use stair lift, but one of the most notable is automatic operation.
For example, many of the features that we have already talked about such as folding footrests and swivel seats can be fully motorised. Whilst there are manual options, if your mobility doesn’t allow you to make use of this, an automatic solution is more preferable.
Additionally, you may opt for an arm-activated stair lift which gives you the opportunity to control things like the footrest with a simple push button on the arm rest.
Of course, stopping and starting the stair lift should be effortless with simple and easy-to-reach controls being an absolute must.
Stair Lift Warranty
When you buy a stair lift, you want to feel confident that it is going to serve you for a long time. When you are parting with your hard-earned cash, it is important that you have some kind of guarantee for both the product itself and the workmanship of the installation.
Various manufacturers will offer different warranties, but for the most part, you can expect to have at least one year of the labor as well as two years on the stair lift and its components. Anything less than this, and you should be asking why.
Stair Lift Condition
As with anything, there are options to buy either a brand new stair lift or a pre-owned one and of course, if you are going for the latter, it pays to be sure that the equipment has been well taken care of.
If you are buying a used stair lift from a manufacturer, you should ask whether there is still a warranty, and if the terms differ from new stair lifts. Additionally, do not be tempted to make a snap decision without having looked at the parts and tested them.
As a rule of thumb, if you are financially able and are planning to use the stair lift for longer than 12 months, opting for a new one is always going to be the best choice.
Best Stairlifts for Residential Use
1. Harmar SL600 Pinnacle Premium Stairlift
Best Overall Stairlift for Straight Staircases
- Weight capacity: 350 lbs
- Stair lift rail type: Straight
- Seat size: 19" (W) x 16" (D)
- Speed (FPM): 17 ft/min
- Incline limits: 32 – 52°
- Folded width: 10.5"
- Drive system: Helical worm drive
- Battery back-up: Yes (up to 40 trips)
The Harmar SL600 Pinnacle stairlift is an extremely well-designed and reliable stairlift suitable for straight staircases.
What stands out about it is its compact design. When the seat and footrest are folded, it measures just 10.5″ wide, making it the narrowest stairlift on the market. So, whether you have a narrow staircase, or you are simply looking for a slimline stairlift that won’t take up too much space, you really won’t be able to go far wrong with this stairlift.
Another highlight about this stairlift is its drive system. While many standard ones use a rack and pinion drive, this stairlift uses a helical worm drive system. While this may not mean much to many, the advantage is, not only is it far more energy-efficient, but it also requires less maintenance, as it does not require any grease or lubrication.
The stairlift is fitted with a comfortable 19-inch wide seat, with a full-sized backrest, that can support weights up to 350 lbs. The height of the seat can be adjusted to suit the individual preferences of the user. The seat swivels to assist with easier transfers when getting into and out of the lift. A retractable seat belt is fitted as standard, to ensure maximum patient safety.
In case of a power outage, the lift is still operable, as a battery back-up system will provide sufficient power for up to 40 trips. Safety sensors will stop the lift if it detects any obstructions or the seat is not in its correct position. Two remote controls are included that will allow you to call the stairlift or send it up the staircase in case someone else needs to use it.
The Pinnacle is easy to install, and it can be installed on either the right or left-hand side, to suit different staircase configurations.
2. Handicare Xclusive Straight Stairlift
Best Budget Stairlift for Straight Staircases
- Weight capacity: 285 lbs
- Stair lift rail type: Straight
- Seat size: 15" (D)
- Speed (FPM): 29 ft/min
- Incline limits: 30 – 45°
- Folded width: 13"
- Drive system: Rack and pinion drive
- Battery back-up: Yes (Up to 15 trips)
The Handicare Xclusive is an excellent option if you are looking for an economical but well-built stairlift suitable for a straight staircase.
Despite its price, the stairlift has many features that you would normally find on a pricer model. The padded seat and backrest provide exceptional comfort, and a retractable seat belt helps to ensure the user’s safety. The seat’s upholstery is removable, and it is also washable, so it can easily be kept clean.
The lift has been designed for users with reduced dexterity in mind. The hand rests are shaped to follow the curvature of the hand in order to reduce strain. The large toggle controls are also easy to operate, even if the user suffers from arthritic joints and pain.
Due to its slim and compact design, the stairlift measures just 13-inches wide when the seat, footrest, and armrests are folded. This makes it ideally suited for a narrow staircase. It also provides sufficient space for other users to climb the stairs when it is not operational.
The Xclusive stairlift comes with a manual swivel seat that makes stepping off the chair easier and safer. If preferred, this can be upgraded to a powered swivel seat instead, and this is particularly suited for those with poor core strength. The powered swivel seat works by just holding the toggle in the same direction of travel, and the chair will automatically face the landing without minimal effort required.
Should there be a power outage, a battery backup will provide enough power for up to 15 trips. A manual emergency stop button and safety obstruction sensors are fitted as standard, to protect the patient’s safety. A key switch also protects against unauthorized use. The lift will not operate unless the armrests are folded down, therefore helping to ensure the patient is fully protected when the chair is moving.
3. Harmar SL600HD Pinnacle Heavy-Duty Stairlift
Best Heavy-Duty Stairlift
- Weight capacity: 600 lbs
- Stair lift rail type: Straight
- Seat size: 25" (W) x 16" (D)
- Speed (FPM): 14 ft/min
- Incline limits: 32 – 45°
- Folded width: 17"
- Drive system: Helical worm drive
- Battery back-up: Yes (Up to 40 trips)
With a weight capacity of 600-pounds, the Harmar SL600HD Pinnacle heavy-duty stairlift is perfectly suited for larger users who struggle with walking up and down stairs.
This bariatric home stairlift has been designed with comfort in mind. The 25-inch wide seat provides ample room for wider framed individuals, and the seat is contoured to help maximize comfort and provide better pressure distribution. The extra-high backrest also provides good back support. The seat can be adjusted in terms of height too. This allows the user to position the seat at the optimal height, helping to reduce strain on the user’s hips, as well as making it easier to get in and out of the chair.
Often people worry that installing a stairlift may result in higher energy bills. This stairlift, however, uses a helical worm drive system, which means it is far more energy-efficient than other stairlifts, and it also requires minimal maintenance. Another benefit of this type of system, is it provides a much quieter and smoother ride, so it is less likely to disturb others in the household when it’s operational.
Trying to get into and out of a stairlift can often prove problematic, especially for those with more severe mobility impairments. The Harmar SL600HD Pinnacle stairlift is fitted with a seat that swivels 85°, which makes it easier and safer to get into and out of the stairlift, without having to twist your body. The oversized footrest and sturdy armrests also provide the rider with extra leverage when transferring to and from the seat. A seat belt and safety sensors come fitted as standard to protect the user from the risk of accidents.
When the stairlift is not in use, the seat and footrest can be flipped up to free up space on the staircase, allowing able-bodied users to use the stairs safely. Should the power go out, a battery back-up will provide sufficient charge for up to 40 trips.
4. Harmar SL350OD Summit Outdoor Stairlift
Best Stairlift for Outdoors
- Weight capacity: 350 lbs
- Stair lift rail type: Straight (outdoors)
- Seat size: 19" (W) x 18" (D)
- Speed (FPM): 20 ft/min
- Incline limits: 35 – 45°
- Folded width: 14"
- Drive system: Helical worm drive
- Battery back-up: Yes (up to 40 trips)
The Harmar SL350OD Summit stairlift is the perfect solution if you are looking for an easier and safer way to gain access to your front door via a straight staircase.
This stairlift from Harmar has been specifically designed for outdoor use. The weather-proof chassis and durable marine-grade vinyl seat can withstand most elements, including rain, wind, snow, and it can handle temperatures ranging from 0° to 125.
The stairlift is easy to install, it attaches to the tread of the steps, and it can be installed on either side of the staircase. Fitted with a helical worm drive system, the lift is economical to run, and it requires minimal maintenance. The drive system also ensures a smooth and stable ride, and it can travel up to 20 feet per minute.
The large 19-inch wide seat ensures that there is ample room for different sized individuals. To make transfers easier and safer, the seat swivels 90-degrees. When the stairlift is not operational, the seat and footrest can be flipped-up to conserve space, allowing others to use the staircase safely without obstructions.
A range of safety features are fitted to the stairlift. A seat belt helps to reduce the risk of accidents when the lift is operational. Safety sensors are fitted that automatically stop the lift if it encounters any obstructions in its path, such as pets, children, or dropped items. If there is a loss of power, the lift will be powered via a battery back-up that will provide up to 40 trips.
Operating the lift via the easy to use rocker controls is a breeze. The controls are large enough so that even users with limited dexterity can still operate the lift without any discomfort or difficulty.
5. Handicare Sterling 2000 Stairlift
Best Stairlift for Curved Staircases
- Weight capacity: 255 lbs
- Stair lift rail type: Curved
- Seat size: 15" (D)
- Speed (FPM): 25 ft/min
- Incline limits: 0 – 56°
- Folded width: 16"
- Drive system: Rack and pinion drive
- Battery back-up: Yes (Up to 10 trips)
The Handicare Sterling 2000 stairlift is an ideal option for those with a curved or spiral staircase.
The stairlift uses a twin rail system that allows it to travel around corners and between landings, making it suitable for most staircase configurations. As the rail system can follow the natural curvature of the staircase, it means that it takes up less space, so it can be installed even in the most compact of spaces.
The Handicare Sterling 2000 is fitted with a comfortable and height-adjustable seat that can be altered to suit the individual preferences of the user. A retractable seatbelt helps to ensure the patient’s safety when the lift is in motion. Once the lift reaches the top of the stairs, the seat can swivel to assist with safer transfers. The footrest is carpeted, and this offers the user with better grip, therefore reducing the risk of slips and falls when stepping onto and off the chair.
In order to conserve space, the seat, footrest and armrests fold-up to provide unobtrusive access to the staircase for other users. The Sterling 2000 comes with two remote controls that allow you to call it or send it up the staircase, without needing to sit on it yourself.
The lift uses two 12-volt batteries that allow it to continue to operate for up to 10 trips in case of a power outage. This means you never need to worry about becoming stranded.
The stairlift is packed with a range of safety features. A stop button allows the rider to manually halt it in case of an emergency. Safety sensors are also fitted that automatically detect possible obstacles in its path. The lift uses a key switch that helps to prevent unauthorized use. This is a particularly handy feature if you share a home with kids, or you regularly have grandchildren over to stay.
Whether you are looking to buy a stair lift for yourself or are researching options for an older relative or friend, knowing what to look for in the product can go a long way in helping you to make the right decision.
There are, fortunately, multiple options when it comes to modern stair lifts and no detail is left ignored from superior comfort, to aspects that make the stair lift easy to use. It is important to consider your needs and the space and types of stairs the lift will be fitted on, before committing to a purchase.
Once you have decided on a product, you can expect to reap many benefits from regained independence and the ability to remain in the home you have come to know and love, as well as being able to navigate the stairs in a pain-free and easy manner.
There is little doubt that a stair lift is an important and welcome addition to the home of anyone who has found using the stairs more difficult.