Stairlifts can be an important tool for helping you or a loved one get about the hose without risk of falls or overexertion, ideal for seniors or those with lower mobility. You can find models of the best stairlifts designed for both indoor and outdoor staircases, and stairwells of all shapes. Purchasing a stairlift is a big investment which should last you a long time, so you should look for a high-quality model with safety features and an easily maintained driver system that's covered by a long warranty.
We have nearly a decade experience in reviewing stairlifts, drawing on personal experience with research and buying models for loved ones, visiting showrooms and speaking with company representatives to learn exactly what to look for and what to avoid when choosing a stairlift. We’ve created this buying guide to help you figure out exactly what you need and choose a company that will work with you to install your lift.
Editor's note: Looking for a stairlift for your home? If you're looking for information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:
1. AmeriGlide: Best value stairlift
AmeriGlide only has seven stairlifts available, but that includes chairs for indoor, outdoor, straight and curved staircases. Every product is listed with the base price of the lift, so you have a good idea of what you’re paying from the get-go. Ameriglide also lists costs for extra features and accessories, but not installation costs. This is because the customer is responsible for installing each unit. However, AmeriGlide designs its lifts to be easy to install without the help of a professional and has detailed instructions both on its website and with the stairlift.
Every AmeriGlide stairlift is clearly priced online, including add-ons, and is the only stairlift company we reviewed that lets you buy directly through its website. Part of the reason its lifts are lower priced than others is that it uses aluminum rails instead of steel. Stairlifts from AmeriGlide are only covered by a one year warranty.
- Read the full review: AmeriGlide
2. Stannah: Best curved stairlifts
Every curved stairlift by Stannah is custom made for your home. Though the selection is limited, each lift has several seating options including heated chairs, to make them more personalized. Its perch-style seats are helpful for those that have a hard time getting up and down from a traditional chair. Instead, the perch lets you stay more upright and puts less pressure on knees, hips, and backs.
Stannah doesn’t offer bariatric models but does have both indoor and outdoor stairlifts. Its dealers and service technicians are friendly and helpful, and every stairlift includes a 10 year warranty.
- Read the full review: Stannah
3. Harmar: Best bariatric stairlifts
Every Harmar stairlift mounts to either your existing railings or to the ground instead of the wall to cut down on the time and renovations needed to install your lift. The patented quiet drive system keeps the lift steady while in motion and is safely encased to keep oil and residue from falling on your floors. Harmar stairlifts include additional safety features like motion sensors, seatbelts, and key locks.
You can choose up to six different chair colors to match the decor of your home or office building. Most stairlifts offered by Harmar work in either a private home or in a commercial building, including residential living facilities. The best model offered by Harmar, the Pinnacle Heavy Duty, holds up to 600 pounds.
- Read the full review: Harmar
4. Acorn: Best quick installation stairlift
Acorn is the best company to go with if you need a stairlift installed quickly. The whole process of purchasing and installing an Acorn stairlift is only a few days with some areas offering next-day installation once the unit is bought.
The batteries of Acorn’s stairlifts should last for five years before needing to be replaced. However many users complain that its batteries tend to die within two years of purchase. And in order to fix the problem, you’ll need to open an issue ticket with Acorn then wait for a technician to get around to visiting you with the part you need replacing.
- Read the full review: Acorn
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What to look for when choosing a stairlift
The years of experience we have evaluating stairlifts mean we’ve learned a few things to look for and consider before committing to buy. Here are the most important ones:
Weight limits: Every stairlift has a maximum weight limit with most holding between 300 and 350 pounds. Lifts that hold more than this are known as bariatric stairlifts. On average, bariatric units hold up to 400 pounds, but there are some companies that offer models that hold up to 600 pounds.
Rails: Some stairlifts have a single rail system while others have two. Rails are either curved or straight depending on how your stairs are laid out. Depending on the company stairlift, rails may be mounted to your walls, existing stair rails, or to the stairs themselves.
Power source: Most stairlifts include a battery pack that recharges while the lift is parked. This is the best power source since the stairlift will still work during power outages. However, it can be difficult to replace these batteries since most companies don’t sell them directly to consumers. You can choose a stairlift that uses electrical power and simply plugs into an existing electrical outlet in your home.
Safety features: The two biggest safety features to look for are seatbelts and object sensors. Sensors pick up when there is something in the way of your lift and will stop before you bump into it. The best stairlifts have sensors that stop for both alive and inanimate objects. Seatbelts keep you in place while the stairlift is in motion. Some of the best companies have programed their lifts to stay put until the seatbelt has been properly used.
Another popular safety feature is a key lock. This prevents others from using your chair, but can also keep curious children safe if they decide to climb on or play with the lift.
Warranty: A warranty of some sort comes with every stairlift. The industry standard is for one year, but we’ve found high-quality stairlifts that last a long time include a longer warranty. Some companies include a five, or ten year warranty with a couple guaranteeing their top models with a lifetime warranty.
How much does a stairlift cost?
Because of the different types of stairlifts and the number of options available with each, it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact cost. However, you can find a straight lift for as little as $1,000, but it is more realistic to pay around $3,000. For stairlifts for curved, platform and switchback staircases, you can expect to pay much more, possibly double the amount of a straight stairlift. Expect to pay more for any home renovations needed before your lift is installed, and a few hundred to $1,000 more for the actual stairlift installation.
Are stairlifts covered by Medicare?
Stairlifts are considered as home improvement pieces, much like adding a spare bedroom or repouring your driveway. Because of this stairlifts are not covered by Medicare. There are a handful of private insurance companies that will cover a portion of a stairlift when it is prescribed as a medical device from your physician. However, this only covers the lift, and not maintenance or home renovations needed for the stairlift to be installed.
Are stairlifts tax deductible?
While the stairlift itself may not be tax-deductible, the cost of the renovations needed to install the lift may be. The IRS lists, in great detail, construction costs that can be claimed. These include widening doorways and hallways, installing railings and support bars, moving or modifying electrical outlets and installing lifts.
Because we are not tax experts, we recommend speaking with an accountant or an IRS representative to learn more about what qualifies for a deduction.
Can you rent a stairlift?
Yes. Several stairlift manufacturers allow you to rent a lift for a little while, which is helpful if you need one for a recovery period following an accident or surgery. The terms and conditions for renting a stairlift vary and are overseen by a dealer in your area. Typically, you have to pay fees for installation, de-installation and a monthly maintenance fee with a three-month minimum. If your need for a stairlift is expected to last less than a year, then do the math and figure out if renting would be less expensive than buying.