Should You Buy A Used Stair Lift?
As of this writing in 2017, a search for “used stair lift” on Google returns 9.82 million results (up from 1.5 million results 5 years earlier). There are hundreds of places you can buy and sell stair lifts, and there are even some really good deals to be had. A used stair lift can be a great option to save on cost, but there are some things to consider before getting out your credit card.
Is This Really The Right Unit?
Not only are some stair lifts better than others, some won’t work with your particular staircase even if the general shape and rail length appear to be right. It takes a professional eye to be sure that a given lift will work with a given installation.
In addition to simple compatibility, you need to look at the weight capacity and duty rating on any used lift. You’ll find that many used units on the Internet are lighter-duty, and may not hold up under every type of use.
Who Will Install And Service It?
Unless you plan to self-install your stair lift – which is usually a bad idea – you’ll need a qualified local stair lift professional to handle the work for you. It’s best to choose this contractor before buying anything, and to make sure that he will be amenable to installing a lift you purchased online. Some contractors are not willing to install a used lift you purchased elsewhere.
Even if you decide to self-install, service will inevitably be required at some point, and you’ll find that many stair lift service professionals are unwilling to mess with a unit they didn’t install.
Typically, an online stair lift dealer will recommend a local “professional” to install the lift. More often than not this turns out to be a local handyman rather than someone whose business is accessibility equipment. If an online dealer refers you to such a local installer, be sure to get in touch with him before making your purchase, so you can ask one simple question: “How many stair lifts have you installed here locally?” If the answer is anything like “this is my first one,” you’re probably talking to a handyman, not a stair lift installer.
What About Parts?
Your new (used) stair lift will probably need replacement parts at some time in the future. It may even need additional parts before it can be installed, such as extra rail sections to accommodate the length of your staircase. These parts, including rails, tend to be quite proprietary and often difficult to get. Sometimes, as in the case of Stairglide, the company has gone out of business and new parts simply don’t exist anymore.
Once again, the best way to find out about the parts situation is to ask your local stair lift professional. Stair lift contractors usually have a finger on the pulse of the current manufacturing scene, and will be able to tell you the parts outlook for whatever model you’re considering.
“Reconditioned” Stair Lifts
Many Internet sites advertise reconditioned stair lifts. There is just one problem with this: in all our years of selling stair lifts, we have never seen a lift that was actually reconditioned. Thinking about it logically, where would a reconditioned stair lift come from? When a still-functional stair lift is retired, it doesn’t go back to the manufacturer for “reconditioning,” because the manufacturer wouldn’t accept it; that’s not how they work. A pre-owned stair lift generally goes on the used market, either directly or through a dealer. These dealers, whether contractors or Internet merchants, are not likely to have the equipment needed for proper “reconditioning” of a stair lift.
If the concept of a “reconditioned” stair lift is faulty or meaningless, what are the Internet merchants really selling when they advertise it? Typically, they’re selling either new low-grade units or manufacturer returns. In the former case, you might get a good deal – but do you really want to enter into a business relationship with a company that uses deceptive selling tactics? In the latter case, you’re saving a few hundred dollars to buy somebody else’s problems. Worst of all, there is no way to tell the difference between the two.
“Recycled” Stair Lifts
Much like the term “reconditioned” discussed above, “recycled” gets thrown around quite a bit by online stair lift merchants. The word “recycled” may conjure up pleasant images of green-ness and environmental responsibility, but when applied to stair lifts, it’s at best a euphemism for “used.” At worst, it can be yet another way of saying “returned,” “defective,” or “broken.”
A used stair lift could make sense if the right one is available for a price low enough to be worthwhile. Just be sure to get hooked up with a qualified local stair lift professional, not a handyman who has never installed a stair lift before. And don’t get taken in by fancy marketing terms like “reconditioned” and “recycled.” There are really only two kinds of stair lifts – new, and used. Additional marketing designations are little more than smoke and mirrors designed to sell more stair lifts.