Best Stairlifts of 2019

Grandma on Stair lift with grandpa and grandchild on stairs

The best stairlifts are easy and safe to use while having the power to lift the necessary weight up a flight of stairs. In addition, stairlifts need to be customizable to your stairs while also being small enough to fit without getting in the way. However, since every home is different and everyone has unique mobility needs, we evaluated stairlifts based on the primary purpose they fulfill rather than how they might outperform other stairlifts. Another reason for doing this is because stairlifts are typically sold through regional distributors, so the products available in your area could potentially limit your options.

Best for easy maintenance

Harmar Pinnacle

Reasons to Buy
 Easy to maintain
Reasons to Avoid
 Hard to find repair technicians 

Harmar’s premium straight stairlift offerings are the SL600 Pinnacle Premium and its heavy-duty version, the SL600HD Pinnacle Premium. The SL600’s advantages are a slim profile capable of fitting on most stairways and an efficient and easy-to-maintain drive system. While most stairlifts use a rack-and-pinion system, this one uses a unique helical-worm-gear system that draws less power. And according to Harmar, this results in twice as many trips on the stairlift per charge than other models. 

The SL600 also features a nylon polymer gear drive, which requires no specialized lubricants or grease. While this is good news for your carpet and any curious pets or grandchildren, it also means the stairlift requires less maintenance than most, which is a good thing because the most significant downside to the SL600 is finding a technician or parts if it needs repairs. Fortunately, Harmar provides a resource for certified repair techs and parts dealers. In addition, the gear rack comes with a 10-year warranty, and a three-year warranty on all parts.

The SL600 has a weight capacity of 350 pounds and can move at a speed of 20 feet per minute, making it an efficient use of power and speed. This is especially impressive considering the 10.5-inch profile from the rail. And if that’s not enough, the SL600HD carries up to 600 pounds and moves at 14 feet per minute. It also has a slim profile for a heavy-duty stairlift, with a profile of just 17 inches from the rail.

Best for curved stairs

Stannah Sadler

Reasons to Buy
 Easy to get in and out of 
Reasons to Avoid
 Repairs are costly 

A good curved stairlift is difficult to find, in part because it has to navigate curves and bends on stairs unique to the home’s layout. The Stannah Sadler provides an excellent curved stairlift option that can be customized to your home and has the power to lift lots of weight around curves safely. And the perch-style, tilting seat makes it easy to get in and out of, especially if you have back or knee issues, so you don’t need assistance when using it. 

With a saddle-like seat (which is where it gets the name), the Sadler puts you into near-standing position, making it easy to sit down, control the ascent or descent, and get out of without requiring assistance. In addition, the seat is capable of raising and lowering to meet your height and assistance requirements.  

The weight capacity is 300 pounds. While this is rather little compared to many stairlifts, it’s very good for a curved devise. In addition, the safety and comfort features make this one of the more user-friendly options. It has a retractable seat belt to keep you from falling off, which is designed to be fastened and unfastened using one hand. It also uses sensors to stop the lift if there are any obstructions on the railing. A wall-mounted remote allows you to call the lift up or down the stairs. 

Best value

AmeriGlide Horizon Stairlift

Reasons to Buy
 More affordable than most stairlifts 
Reasons to Avoid
 Joystick controls can be difficult to use 

Stairlifts made for straight stairs typically cost between $3,000 and $5,000, not including any installation costs or home modifications, but the AmeriGlide Horizon stairlift offers similar versatility and ease of use but at nearly half the price. This is why it’s our pick for the best stairlift value. 

The Horizon comes in two models: an indoor stair elevator and a weatherproof, outdoor version, which comes with a waterproof cover and foot mat. It relies on a rack-and-pinion drive system and overspeed governor to keep it from losing control on steep tracks. And it’s capable of lifting 300 pounds, though there is a Plus model capable of lifting 350 pounds.

The Horizon comes with rails in standard lengths of nearly 14.75 feet, which can be extended up to 30 feet. The Horizon can also be installed on staircases with an angle up to 62 degrees, making it a great option for steep staircases. In addition, the folded profile is just 13.5 inches, so it’s not in the way when not being used.

The controls are in a good position, but there may be a learning curve for some users; the multifunctional joystick requires experience to master. You use a joystick to swivel the seat in and out, as well as to go up and down the stairs.  

Best for comfort

Acorn 130 Superglide

Reasons to Buy
 Comfortable for people with arthritis issues 
Reasons to Avoid
 Battery only charges when parked 

Earning an award from the Arthritis Foundation means something, and this is why the Acorn 130 Superglide earns a mention as an excellent example of a stairlift designed to minimize discomfort. It’s very popular among seniors suffering from arthritis and other dexterity issues because of the directional controls and smooth ride. 

The 130 Superglide comes with three seat options: Standard, Sit/Stand, and Perch-style. The multiple options allow you to choose a seat best designed for your comfort and preference. For example, the standard seat features deep cushioning and armrests similar to a normal chair, but the perch-style seat puts the user in a near-standing position, which is ideal if you have knee, hip or back issues. Each option swivels, making it easy to get in and out of. In addition, the controls are simple to use, requiring very little movement.

As with most stairlifts, the Acorn 130 Superglide uses a rack-and-pinion drive system capable of lifting a maximum of 300 pounds, though an upgrade can increase this to 350 pounds. The 24-volt battery uses DC power to charge, allowing it to run in a power outage. However, it can only charge when it’s parked, unlike some stairlifts, which have charging strips on the rail. That said, the battery is optimized for a quiet and smoother ride than other stairlifts, according to Acorn.

Best for chair options

Handicare 1000

Reasons to Buy
 Six seat options 
Reasons to Avoid
 No charging strip on railing 

Most stairlifts have one seat option. If you’re lucky, you might get two or three options. With Handicare 1000, you have six designs. Each features anti-slip upholstery in various colors to match your interior design aesthetics. The seats all use a manual swivel, but you can upgrade to a powered swivel if you prefer. However, the powered version often requires repairs. 

The 1000 has a maximum weight capacity of 350 pounds, which is 50 pounds above average. If that’s not enough, an upgrade can increase the weight capacity to 440 pounds. However, if you choose the perch-style seat option, the weight capacity drops to 300 pounds. The 1000 also has an outdoor version featuring a UV-protected, weatherproof materials with a waterproof cover.

As with most stairlifts, the Handicare 1000 uses a 24-volt rechargeable battery. Unfortunately, the rail doesn’t have a charging strip, so it only charges when parked at the bottom and top of the staircase. Still, this is only a minor inconvenience, as the battery is likely to maintain a full charge regardless.

For safety, the 1000 features a harness and a seatbelt. There are also sensors to keep it from running over obstructions. In addition, a key switch prevents people (like grandkids) from using the stairlift unnecessarily.

Why trust us on stairlifts

Your risk of injury from a fall dramatically increases as you get older. And stairs are the riskiest place in your home for such falls, so installing a stairlift is the safest and most affordable way to age comfortably in your home.

As such, we focused on guiding you through the ins and outs of buying stairlifts, visiting showrooms and consulting with experts within the market. We recognize this is not a simple purchasing decision that can be narrowed down to features and specifications. It’s a significant investment that may require making modifications to your home. We recommend you visit a showroom from a distributor in your area to get a quote specific to your needs.  

What we evaluated stairlifts on

Our reviews are less of a comparative evaluation and more of a guide to what kinds of stairlifts are available and how those features are best for various scenarios. The reason for this approach is simple - not every stairlift is available everywhere and everyone has different mobility and comfort needs. In reality, most stairlifts operate under the same specifications, speed, safety features and size, with only minor differences in comfort preferences and foldable profiles. The biggest consideration is what models are available from the distributors in your area, and the buyback programs the distributors offer.

Buying the best Stairlift: frequently asked questions

How much does a stairlift cost?

A stairlift can cost between $1,000 and $15,000, with straight stairlifts typically at the lower end of that range and curved stairlifts at the upper end. Custom installation adds to the price. Will government or private insurance pay for the cost of the stairlift? 

Typically Medicare does not pay for the cost of a stairlift. A stairlift is classified as a “home modification” by Medicare instead of “durable medical equipment,” which would be covered.

In the case of Medicaid, many states have waiver programs that provide some funding for home modifications. Paying for Senior Care has compiled a list of states with such programs.

Through the U.S. Veteran’s Administration some veterans and their surviving spouses are eligible for a Veteran’s Aid and Attendance benefit that can help to defray the cost.

Some private insurance policies, such as long-term care policies, will pay for at least part of the cost of buying and installing a stairlift, though typically not maintenance or repair costs.

Are stairlifts tax deductible? 

Adding a stairlift to your home is not a decision to made casually. Not only do stairlifts cost thousands of dollars, but you may have to consider the cost of modifications to the stairs and surrounding area. As such, one way to recoup some of those costs is to deduct them on your taxes as a home modification.

According to Mobility123.com, to qualify for a tax deduction, you need to start by getting a written recommendation from your doctor. This proves you have a medical need for the stairlift and that modifications are necessary for the health and mobility of whoever the stairlift is for. You can deduct all the operating and maintenance costs related to a stairlift or ramps. In fact, the deductions are not limited to stairlifts. If you’re taking on a senior parent, you might have to modify other parts of your home to accommodate and care for them.

Consider deducting the costs of the following:

  • Constructing entrance or exit ramps for your home
  • Widening doorways at entrances or exits to your home
  • Widening or otherwise modifying hallways and interior doorways
  • Installing railings, support bars or other modifications to bathrooms
  • Lowering or modifying kitchen cabinets and equipment
  • Moving or modifying electrical outlets and fixtures
  • Installing porch lifts and other types of lifts (but elevators generally add value to the house)
  • Modifying fire alarms, smoke detectors and other warning systems
  • Modifying stairways
  • Adding handrails or grab bars anywhere (whether in bathrooms or not)
  • Modifying hardware on doors
  • Modifying areas in front of the entrance and exit doorways
  • Grading the ground to provide access to the residence

If you have any questions about what qualifies for a deduction, always makes sure to consult with a certified public accountant, the Internal Revenue Service or your tax professional. We are not experts on tax laws.

Can I rent a stairlift? 

If you need a stairlift due to an injury or surgery from which recovery is likely, you may consider renting a stairlift instead of buying one. The same companies that sell them frequently rent them out as well. Typically, you have to pay fees for installation, de-installation and a monthly maintenance fee with a three-month minimum. If your need for the stairlift is expected to last less than a year, then do the math and figure out if renting would be less expensive than buying. 

What to do when it’s time to remove the stairlift? 

Some stairlift sellers have a buyback program for used stairlifts that includes de-installation. Handling it on your own involves the costs to repair the holes drilled in the stair treads to mount the stairlift rail, among other damage, depending on the scope of the installation. 

Can I buy a used stairlift? 

The flip side of the buyback program is that the stairlift sellers usually refurbish them and resell them at a discount. This option typically works best if you need a standard straight stairlift without modifications. 

How do stairlifts work? 

A stairlift is a motorized platform with a chair that is installed into a stairwell along a stair-tread-mounted rail and can transport an individual, who is usually seated, from one story of a home to another. Most stairlifts are battery-powered, although there are ones that are wired directly into a home’s electrical system. 

What types of stairlifts are there? 

Stairlifts come in straight and curved designs to accommodate the two main stairwell designs. 

  • A straight stairlift is used for a straight stairwell without any bends, turns or partial landings.
  • A curved stairlift is used in a stairwell with bends, turns or partial landings.

While two straight stairlifts could be used with a stairwell that has a partial landing or switchback, it would require a seat transfer between the first and second stairlift. That is why a curved rail is generally recommended for that type of stairwell.

What are the standard features of a stairlift? 

Standard features include:
  • Padded seats that swivel to make getting into and out of the chair easier
  • Adjustable armrests and footrests that fold up out of the way
  • Push-button, rocker-switch or tiller controls located on the armrest
  • “Call send” controls which allow you to call or send the unit to the other end of the stairs (handy if the stairlift will have more than one user) 
  • Safety features (listed below)

What safety features should I look for? 

Look for features that keep the passenger safely in place on the chair and will not allow movement that could harm her or him. These include:

  • Seatbelts to keep the passenger in the chair
  • Seat sensors to prevent the stairlift from operating unless the passenger is seated properly in the chair
  • Footrest sensors to stop the stairlift if there is an obstruction in the stairwell
  • Mechanical and electrical braking systems to stop the stairlift from moving too fast or in an uncontrolled manner in case of mechanical failure
  • A key lockable switch so that children and other unauthorized users cannot operate it when locked

Perch models are available for people who have trouble bending their knees to sit or have very narrow stairwells. People lean or perch on a padded seat with their legs more or less straight, and are strapped in with a seatbelt.

Other added features include:

  • Remote controls for the “call send” controls to make it easier to send a chairlift back downstairs after using it
  • Power swivel seats to make transfers easier at the end of the stairlift ride

Who is a good candidate to use a stairlift? 

A stairlift is best-suited for a senior whose mobility disability is minor-to-moderate. Mike Carter, an instructor with the University of Southern California’s National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification, suggests that a candidate for a stairlift be able to do the following:

  • Transfer themselves in and out of the chair – or able to always have someone on hand who can assist them without hurting themselves
  • Have sufficient balance and torso control to remain in the chair until it reaches the top and it is time to transfer out of it
  • Have the physical and cognitive ability to manage the controls on the stairlift
  • Have the cognitive ability to handle the unexpected, such as being able to use a cellphone or medical alert device to summon help if an emergency, malfunction or power outage causes the lift to stop in progress

Are there alternatives to stairlifts? 

If there is a need to transport a wheelchair or mobility scooter between floors along with the passenger, you could opt for a wheelchair platform. Wheelchair platforms come in vertical and inclined designs. A vertical platform is similar to an elevator and includes a safety enclosure large enough to fit the passenger in their wheelchair. It can extend up to 14 feet and requires a 6-foot square area of space for installation. An inclined platform is typically located in a stairwell and travels between floors along a rail, similar to the way that a stairlift does. It can extend 164 feet and requires at least 36 inches of space for installation, so it is not a good option for narrow stairs.

How is a Stairlift installed? 

The stairlift rail along which the chair travels is installed into the stair treads, not the wall. The process creates small holes which can be repaired after de-installation; depending on the level of customization, more may be involved. Many companies urge you to have them professionally installed to ensure that it is done safely, although some companies, such as Ameriglide, encourage do-it-yourself installation

How much weight will a stairlift carry? 

Most straight stairlifts can carry at least 300 pounds, while curved units carry at least 265 pounds. However, many models carry more weight, up to 600 pounds, in the case of the Harmar Pinnacle SL600HD. 

Do stairlifts come with warranties? 

Most stairlifts come with a 12-month standard warranty that covers parts and labor, though the types of repairs they cover may be limited, so check the warranty before you make your purchase. Some companies offer lifetime guarantees on the motor and gearbox. For an extra cost stairlift companies generally offer extended warranties, as well as maintenance and service contracts.

Special thanks to Williams Lift Co. for making its showroom avalible to us to take the photos featured in this article.

How do stairlifts work?

A stairlift is a motorized platform with a chair that is installed into a stairwell along a stair-tread-mounted rail and can transport an individual, who is usually seated, from one story of a home to another. Most stairlifts are battery-powered, although there are ones that are wired directly into a home’s electrical system.

Who is a good candidate to use a stairlift? 

A stairlift is best-suited for a senior whose mobility disability is minor-to-moderate. Mike Carter, an instructor with the University of Southern California’s National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification, suggests that a candidate for a stairlift be able to do the following: 

  • Transfer themselves in and out of the chair – or able to always have someone on hand who can assist them without hurting themselves
  • Have sufficient balance and torso control to remain in the chair until it reaches the top and it is time to transfer out of it
  • Have the physical and cognitive ability to manage the controls on the stairlift
  • Have the cognitive ability to handle the unexpected, such as being able to use a cellphone or medical alert device to summon help if an emergency, malfunction or power outage causes the lift to stop in progress

Are there alternatives to stairlifts? 

If there is a need to transport a wheelchair or mobility scooter between floors along with the passenger, you could opt for a wheelchair platform. Wheelchair platforms come in vertical and inclined designs. A vertical platform is similar to an elevator and includes a safety enclosure large enough to fit the passenger in their wheelchair. It can extend up to 14 feet and requires a 6-foot square area of space for installation. An inclined platform is typically located in a stairwell and travels between floors along a rail, similar to the way that a stairlift does. It can extend 164 feet and requires at least 36 inches of space for installation, so it is not a good option for narrow stairs.

What types of stairlifts are there? 

Stairlifts come in straight and curved designs to accommodate the two main stairwell designs. 

  • A straight stairlift is used for a straight stairwell without any bends, turns or partial landings.
  • A curved stairlift is used in a stairwell with bends, turns or partial landings.

While two straight stairlifts could be used with a stairwell that has a partial landing or switchback, it would require a seat transfer between the first and second stairlift. That is why a curved rail is generally recommended for that type of stairwell.

How is a stairlift installed? 

The stairlift rail along which the chair travels is installed into the stair treads, not the wall. The process creates small holes which can be repaired after de-installation; depending on the level of customization, more may be involved. Many companies urge you to have them professionally installed to ensure that it is done safely, although some companies, such as Ameriglide, encourage do-it-yourself installation

What are the standard features of a stairlift? 

Standard features include: 

  • Padded seats that swivel to make getting into and out of the chair easier
  • Adjustable armrests and footrests that fold up out of the way
  • Push-button, rocker-switch or tiller controls located on the armrest
  • “Call send” controls which allow you to call or send the unit to the other end of the stairs (handy if the stairlift will have more than one user) 
  • Safety features (listed below)

What safety features should I look for? 

Look for features that keep the passenger safely in place on the chair and will not allow movement that could harm her or him. These include:

  • Seatbelts to keep the passenger in the chair
  • Seat sensors to prevent the stairlift from operating unless the passenger is seated properly in the chair
  • Footrest sensors to stop the stairlift if there is an obstruction in the stairwell
  • Mechanical and electrical braking systems to stop the stairlift from moving too fast or in an uncontrolled manner in case of mechanical failure
  • A key lockable switch so that children and other unauthorized users cannot operate it when locked

Perch models are available for people who have trouble bending their knees to sit or have very narrow stairwells. People lean or perch on a padded seat with their legs more or less straight, and are strapped in with a seatbelt.

Other added features include:

  • Remote controls for the “call send” controls to make it easier to send a chairlift back downstairs after using it
  • Power swivel seats to make transfers easier at the end of the stairlift ride

How much weight will a stairlift carry? 

 Most straight stairlifts can carry at least 300 pounds, while curved units carry at least 265 pounds. However, many models carry more weight, up to 600 pounds, in the case of the Harmar Pinnacle SL600HD

How much does a stairlift cost? 

A stairlift can cost between $1,000 and $15,000, with straight stairlifts typically at the lower end of that range and curved stairlifts at the upper end. Custom installation adds to the price. 

Will government or private insurance pay for the cost of the stairlift? 

Typically Medicare does not pay for the cost of a stairlift. A stairlift is classified as a “home modification” by Medicare instead of “durable medical equipment,” which would be covered.

In the case of Medicaid, many states have waiver programs that provide some funding for home modifications. Paying for Senior Care has compiled a list of states with such programs.

Through the U.S. Veteran’s Administration some veterans and their surviving spouses are eligible for a Veteran’s Aid and Attendance benefit that can help to defray the cost.

Some private insurance policies, such as long-term care policies, will pay for at least part of the cost of buying and installing a stairlift, though typically not maintenance or repair costs.

Are stairlifts tax deductible? 

Adding a stairlift to your home is not a decision to made casually. Not only do stairlifts cost thousands of dollars, but you may have to consider the cost of modifications to the stairs and surrounding area. As such, one way to recoup some of those costs is to deduct them on your taxes as a home modification.

According to Mobility123.com, to qualify for a tax deduction, you need to start by getting a written recommendation from your doctor. This proves you have a medical need for the stairlift and that modifications are necessary for the health and mobility of whoever the stairlift is for. You can deduct all the operating and maintenance costs related to a stairlift or ramps. In fact, the deductions are not limited to stairlifts. If you’re taking on a senior parent, you might have to modify other parts of your home to accommodate and care for them.

Consider deducting the costs of the following:

  • Constructing entrance or exit ramps for your home
  • Widening doorways at entrances or exits to your home
  • Widening or otherwise modifying hallways and interior doorways
  • Installing railings, support bars or other modifications to bathrooms
  • Lowering or modifying kitchen cabinets and equipment
  • Moving or modifying electrical outlets and fixtures
  • Installing porch lifts and other types of lifts (but elevators generally add value to the house)
  • Modifying fire alarms, smoke detectors and other warning systems
  • Modifying stairways
  • Adding handrails or grab bars anywhere (whether in bathrooms or not)
  • Modifying hardware on doors
  • Modifying areas in front of the entrance and exit doorways
  • Grading the ground to provide access to the residence

If you have any questions about what qualifies for a deduction, always makes sure to consult with a certified public accountant, the Internal Revenue Service or your tax professional. We are not experts on tax laws.

Can I rent a stairlift? 

If you need a stairlift due to an injury or surgery from which recovery is likely, you may consider renting a stairlift instead of buying one. The same companies that sell them frequently rent them out as well. Typically, you have to pay fees for installation, de-installation and a monthly maintenance fee with a three-month minimum. If your need for the stairlift is expected to last less than a year, then do the math and figure out if renting would be less expensive than buying. 

What do I do when it’s time to de-install the stairlift? 

Some stairlift sellers have a buyback program for used stairlifts that includes de-installation. Handling it on your own involves the costs to repair the holes drilled in the stair treads to mount the stairlift rail, among other damage, depending on the scope of the installation. 

Can I buy a used stairlift? 

The flip side of the buyback program is that the stairlift sellers usually refurbish them and resell them at a discount. This option typically works best if you need a standard straight stairlift without modifications. 

Do stairlifts come with warranties? 

Most stairlifts come with a 12-month standard warranty that covers parts and labor, though the types of repairs they cover may be limited, so check the warranty before you make your purchase. Some companies offer lifetime guarantees on the motor and gearbox. For an extra cost stairlift companies generally offer extended warranties, as well as maintenance and service contracts.

Special thanks to Williams Lift Co. for making its showroom avalible to us to take the photos featured in this article.