Guest blogger: Gordon Raney, Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) and owner of 101 Mobility® of Dallas, Ft. Worth, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and Little Rock. Below, Gordon shares his experiences with selling mobility equipment and offers some tips for customers looking to purchase a stair lift.
At 101 Mobility®, we regularly receive calls from individuals who purchased a stair lift online and now find themselves in a situation in which they can’t get it installed or maybe the lift has malfunctioned and they can’t locate anyone to service it. In many cases, the perceived savings on the front end of the transaction is more than negated by the increased hassle of constant repairs or complete replacement of the lift once they find out, unfortunately, no one will service that particular brand and the brand has no local service or support once the initial transaction is complete.
To avoid any hassle, keep these 8 tips in mind when picking a stair lift and a stair lift company to meet your mobility challenges:
1. Know the brands.
Not all brands are created equal. Similar to purchasing cars, stair lifts come in many different brands, many options, and at many different price points. Visit the specific brand’s website to understand the product and locate reputable dealers in your area. Once you have identified a brand, it is extremely important to read independent reviews and the various consumer publications that discuss the pros and cons of your desired brand. This process should eliminate a good portion of the “un-reputable” brands on the market. For example, stair lift brands that we trust and sell in our own 101 Mobility® store locations include Bruno, Harmar, and Handicare. Over time, these brands have proven very reliable and provide an excellent value in the market.
2. Know the dealer.
Becoming a dealer for some stair lift brands is as simple as completing a dealer application form at the time they place their first product order. Don’t be afraid to ask a dealer where they are located, if they have customer references, and if they are properly experienced, licensed, and/or insured to install stair lifts. Review services such as Yelp and Angie’s List are great places to read about potential contractors and dealers that you may hire. Unfortunately, we see a lot of unqualified “handymen” purchasing their first stair lifts online and then passing themselves off as dealers to their customers.
3. The dealer should be properly certified to perform your stair lift installation.
Reputable stair lift brands come with a training program that certifies the dealer to install and maintain that particular brand. These manufacturers will only sell products to their certified dealers. If the installing company does not have these certifications, then the product warranty can be voided immediately. You also do not want a potential dealer practicing their very first installation on your staircase. Some dealers are even contracting out their installations to third-party groups and a revolving door of “handymen.” This often means your installer has little experience and the dealer is not interested in servicing the lift later should that be necessary. Be sure you know exactly who will be performing your installation, if they are full-time employees or contractors, and if they are certified to do so.
4. Make sure the dealer understands staircases, including (most importantly!) your own.
All staircases are different, even those that are built by the same builder using the exact same specifications. The nuances of your staircase and the proper evaluation on the front end will ensure you get the best fitting and safest stair lift possible. The rail overhangs at the top and bottom of the staircase, the proper clear width between any wall obstructions, height differences related to a specific stair tread (every staircase has them), and flooring surfaces all play heavily into getting the right installation. Don’t trust a dealer who has a “one size fits all” mentality when it comes to stair lifts. Certain manufactures make better lifts for certain applications. We sell multiple brands for this exact reason. 101 Mobility®’s team of factory-certified service technicians conduct a full staircase evaluation and take specific measurements to ensure a job well done. Be hesitant of dealers in your home who are overly pushy on the sales side, but can’t tell you how the exact unit you are discussing will lay out on your staircase.
5. Make sure the dealer understands your specific needs.
Our customers rely on us to understand their mobility issues and constraints in order to guide them to the right stair lift product. We not only want to think about their needs today, but also 5 years from now. A dealer who won’t come to your home to meet with you is someone who is not going to understand the real situation, challenges, and goals. There are numerous stair lift features and options that can be added to a stair lift to meet nearly any mobility need, but a proper evaluation must be done by the dealer to know these concerns.
6. Understand the warranty and future maintenance of your stair lift.
Some manufactures have very limited, short-term warranties and others have robust, long-term warranties. Be sure you know where you stand. The warranty is only as good as the manufacturer and the dealer who stand behind it. A 10-year warranty from a fly-by-night company has no value. I was recently amazed when speaking with a customer of ours who had been shopping around and getting different quotes. She found it odd that we had such lengthy manufacturing warranties and a service warranty as well. It seems the previous dealer that she had spoken with had told her that his product doesn’t need a warranty because “it is that good.” This customer believed that salesman until I was able to explain the real value of warranties and why good companies offer them. On the other hand, a “lifetime” warranty is only valuable if the company honors it and makes it easy to manage. If not, it’s simply a sales gimmick.
When your stair lift malfunctions or stops working, you will be looking for someone to service that lift. Buying off-brands and cheap foreign stair lifts increase the likelihood that you will not be able to find maintenance professional. Most local and reputable dealers will not work on certain brands, and even if they did try to repair the lift, there is a chance they would not be able to get the parts needed for the repairs. At the time of purchase, make sure to ask who performs the maintenance work on the lift you are considering. There are dealers out there who only sell lifts but have no intention of ever providing maintenance for them. Unfortunately, this even applies to some of the big box, well-advertised brands. Again, do your research and read your consumer reviews regarding warranties and service after installation!
7. Don’t be fooled by television commercials.
Some consumers assume that being on television is a sign of a great company. Spending a bunch of money on commercials does not make the product or service of that product any better. Many of the better stair lift manufacturers do no television advertising whatsoever. Instead, they rely on reputation and word-of-mouth referrals. Would you rather have a manufacturer who spends heavily on television commercials, or a manufacturer who spends money on building a strong dealer network of trusted professionals providing full-service stair lift installations and maintenance?
8. Know where your stair lift is made.
There is something to be said about putting Americans to work and building top-quality stair lifts right here in the United States. While there are some good foreign stair lifts being produced (mostly in European countries), we are fortunate enough to have many of the top stair lift brands such as Bruno and Harmar produced domestically. If this is something that matters to you, then please look for those brands that proudly display the “Made in the USA” logos. From a dealer’s standpoint, it certainly makes it easier to find and get replacement parts from American-made stair lifts rather than foreign versions.
.Buying a stair lift is a significant investment in one’s independence and ability to continue living safely at home. These decisions should not be taken lightly without properly educating yourself about the options and differences among brands and dealers. The factory-trained service technicians at any of the 101 Mobility® locations will gladly help you navigate these decisions.
At 101 Mobility®, we are locally owned. Our teams will meet with you and your family one-on-one to determine which style and brand of stair lift will best suit your needs and budget. Our technicians are full-time employees, trained and certified in the brands we sell, install, and service. And more importantly, we are with you for the long haul! In addition to the manufacturer’s product warranty, we provide a service and labor warranty on every lift we install. Furthermore, should you need any stair lift service, our local service team will be there to assist you.