Mobility scooters are one of the best ways for seniors to stay independent despite physical and medical limitations. They don’t require you to have any ability to walk on your own or even push a wheelchair, yet you can still go about your day freely. Mobility scooters aren’t cheap, though - but, if you’re lucky, they might be free!
If you want a great mobility aid but don’t have the money to pay for it, read our guide on how to get a free mobility scooter. You’ll learn the different programs that pay for scooters, as well as the things you need to do to make sure you qualify.
What is a Mobility Scooter?
Mobility scooters are three or four-wheeled vehicles that persons with limited mobility use to stay active and independent. They are designed to be used indoors and out and can be ridden for several miles without the battery dying.
Mobility scooters are powered by batteries and require no physical effort to use. They are an ideal mobility aid for people with severe limitations who cannot use other devices, such as canes and walkers. As a result, many seniors use them almost daily when they are out of the house, running errands, and spending time outside.
How Much Does a Mobility Scooter Cost?
Mobility scooters can be purchased for anywhere between $600 and $4,000. The reason there’s such a wide range of price tags is that each scooter is built for a different purpose. Some are made for heavy-duty use and have a 500-pound weight capacity; others are more lightweight and intended for use at an assisted living facility.
Depending on what a mobility scooter is intended for, it will come with features that can make them pretty expensive. For instance, the Golden Technologies Patriot is made to be used all-day, on any terrain. It’ll cost you over $3,500. The Metro Compact is made for more casual uses such as shopping and travel near the home. As a result, it’s less than one-third of the price.
On average, a good, dependable mobility scooter will set you back around $1,000. Depending on your needs and wants, you may end up paying much more, but it’s safe to think of $1,000 as a “normal” price for a mobility scooter.
Mobility scooters aren’t the type of thing many people can afford to buy on a whim, if at all. Few people, seniors especially, can drop $1,200 on a scooter without seriously affecting their finances. That’s why many seniors look for ways to get their scooter partially or fully paid for!
Prove Your Need
If you want to get a free mobility scooter, the first step is proving that you actually need one. If you don’t have a medical need for a scooter, it will be practically impossible to get one without paying for it yourself.
Proving your need is a crucial step, but it’s as simple as a visit to the doctor. The doctor will assess your medical conditions and physical limitations to determine if a scooter is right for you.
They’ll be judging this based on the following criteria:
If your doctor can see that you meet those criteria, they will write you a prescription for a mobility chair. You might be thinking, “is it hard to get a doctor to sign off on a mobility chair?” The answer, unless you’re looking to get something you don’t need, is that doctors are happy to write prescriptions for your scooter!
The important thing to remember is that you need a doctor’s prescription to get a free mobility scooter, whether from a government program or another method. If you don’t truly need one, you may still qualify for other mobility aids, such as a cane or a walker.
Government Programs to Get a Free Mobility Scooter
If you’re enrolled in Medicare Part B, you may qualify to receive a mobility scooter. Medicare will pay 80% of the cost; you (or supplemental insurance) will be responsible for the rest. This means that if you’re approved for a mobility scooter that costs $1,450, Medicare Part B will put down $1,160.
The reason that Medicare covers mobility scooters is that they are considered a Durable Medical Device (DME).
These are devices considered medically necessary for the quality of life of certain seniors. Other examples of DME include walkers, canes, and wheelchairs.
So, Medicare will cover 80% of the cost of your mobility scooter, but what about that other 20%? If you’re in a lower-income household, that’s where Medicaid comes in. Medicaid will cover the entire cost of a medically-necessary scooter (or the remaining 20% leftover by Medicare, if you have both).
One last note: the mobility scooter you choose must come from a provider that participates in Medicare/Medicaid. Your doctor, also, must participate in Medicare. This information can be found by checking the Medicare website to find providers!
Social Security is a federal program, but many benefit decisions are made at the state level. This makes it hard to give blanket answers about how to get a free mobility chair. Each state has its own rules about who exactly qualifies, but there are two programs under the “Social Security” label that could provide you with a scooter:
Social Security Disability Insurance pays benefits to people who are “insured”, meaning they have worked and paid into social security long enough. Many seniors will automatically be considered “insured” because they/their spouse has worked and retired.
Supplemental Security Income pays benefits to adults and children with disabilities if their household income is under a certain limit and lack private/workplace insurance.
These are considered separate programs, but the medical coverage is the same. So, if you qualify for benefits through one of these two ways, you can get the entire cost of your mobility scooter covered. Remember that you’ll need a doctor’s prescription to get your chair covered.
Sometimes, applicants can be denied their application, due to medical or financial reasons. Fortunately, Social Security has an appeals process that allows people to make their case. If you’ve been denied coverage, you have the opportunity to receive a more thorough evaluation, where Social Security employees will look at your unique needs. This is a longer process, but can be worth it if you’ve exhausted your other options.
Getting a free mobility scooter through Social Security, while possible, usually takes the longest of any method. Social Security is an organization known for taking its time and is perpetually understaffed. If you think you can get a free scooter from another government program, it’s best to try that first!
Programs for Veterans
The US Department of Veterans Affairs will authorize the full payment of the cost of a mobility scooter for qualifying veterans. If you’re a vet, you can get a free scooter, but you’ll have to take the same steps for approval. First, get a written prescription from a doctor. After that, set up a visit to your local VA center. After a VA clinician verifies that you qualify, they will help you consider your options and choose the best one for your needs.
The process of getting a mobility scooter can take a few months. That amount of waiting can be difficult but ultimately worth it if you get an expensive scooter for free! After all, mobility scooters improve your quality of life drastically, so some patience and resolve will ultimately be rewarded!
Other Ways to Get a Free Mobility Scooter
If you have private insurance, either health insurance that you pay for yourself or that’s provided by your employer, you may be able to get a free mobility scooter. The problem with private insurance is that, unless you’ve got a world-class plan, your provider will try their best not to give you a free scooter. If they can save the money by denying you the scooter, they will! But, if you are approved, private insurance is usually faster and easier than Medicare or Social Security.
The best way to find out if your insurance will cover a mobility scooter is to read your policy and check for sections on “medical devices” or “mobility aids”. These sections will typically list the things that are/aren’t covered, as well as the conditions that need to be met. As always, you’ll need that prescription!
If you’re initially denied by your insurance provider, don’t give up! You can file an appeal, in which case the provided will review your application more closely. Many times, it comes down to a simple paperwork error made by you, the doctor, or someone at the insurance company!
Lastly, your insurance provider will likely have some requirements about the type of scooter you choose. Typically, one of those is that the chair must be able to last five years; this is similar to Medicare’s requirements for DME. So, it’s not just as simple as getting approval and selecting whatever you want- you’ll have to buy an approved mobility scooter to be covered! This may limit your options a bit, but oftentimes, this restriction helps prevent you from being scammed by a bad scooter manufacturer.
If you’re denied a mobility scooter through Medicare or private insurance but still cannot afford one, many charities are willing to help. Most of these charities have an application process that requires you to demonstrate your need. Nonetheless, each organisation has its own process and you can find more about it by visiting their website.
Here is a list of charities that you may be able to turn to for assistance:
- 1American Outreach Foundation: this nonprofit gives funds to veterans, low-income families, seniors, and single mothers to pay for mobility aids they can’t get otherwise.
- 2Used Home Medical Equipment is a website that offers a free listing service for those with disabilities who want to buy, sell, or donate new and used home medical equipment. Mobility scooters, hospital beds, powerchair lifts, portable lifts, living aids, and other items are among those featured. Everyone can use the website because it is zip code-driven.
- 3Many Rebuilding Together chapters carry DME that can include mobility scooters. Contact your local United Way chapter. You can find your local chapter here.
- 4The Triumph Foundation Exchange was created to connect persons in need of adapted equipment and supplies with people who had unwanted durable medical goods to donate. The products are absolutely free and have been donated in the hopes that they will find a good home.
- 5Many United Way chapters carry DME that can include mobility scooters. Contact your local United Way chapter. You can find your local chapter here.
- 62.1.1 assists you in locating resources to assist you with your bills, housing, food, employment, mobility equipment, and other needs. For example, if you search 2.1.1 Pennsylvania chapter for 'Medical Supplies Donation Programs,' you will get 16 charities to contact. You can find your local 2.1.1 chapter by clicking here.
- 7Your local Center for Independent Living (CIL) may maintain a DME library that can include mobility scooter. Find your local CIL here.
- 8Pennsylvania: Seniors, people with disabilities, their families, friends, service providers, and others who wish to search, purchase, sell, or donate previously owned AT can use REEP Online Classifieds for free. Sellers can submit listings with images, and buyers can peruse the listings and request contact information from the seller.
- 9Friends of Disabled Adults and Children (South Carolina): This charity provides free and low-cost mobility aids to people in need. They provide DME to people with temporary and permanent disabilities who cannot afford them; each year, they provide over nine million dollars worth of equipment and services.
- 10I Got Legs Gives Back Program (South Carolina): A small awareness-based charity that has a grant fund for people of all ages who have disabilities and can demonstrate financial need.
- 11Goodwill home medical equipment (NJ, PA) - Their inventory is always changing and includes wheelchairs (both motorised and manual), paediatric wheelchairs, walkers, portable ramps, lift chairs, hospital beds, bariatric hospital beds, canes, crutches, and bath and shower products, among other things. They also have innovative low-cost medical items such as incontinence, wound care, and ostomy devices. All items are sold at significantly discounted prices, resulting in significant savings on items that are frequently not completely covered by health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid.
- 12The Independent Living Resource Center is a nonprofit organization that provides essential medical equipment cost-free through its Medical Equipment Recycling Network. (MERN) program.
- 13The Easterseals Central Alabama organization, under the C.A.R.E project, helps you acquire medical equipment at no cost. This equipment, upon donation, is refurbished, repaired and sanitized, then made available to the public. You can submit requests for medical equipment here.
- 14Good Health Will is a medical stocking and recycling store with locations in Loveland and Greeley that services the communities of Northern Colorado. The charity accepts contributions of durable medical equipment and makes it available to the public at little or no cost.
- 15Any Oklahoman who is in need of Durable Medical Equipment such as a mobility scooter, regardless of income can contact Oklahoma Able Tech.
- 16Chive Charities is dedicated to helping those in need. Chive Charities covers gaps where insurance and other resources cannot, providing treatment equipment such as adaptive tricycles and robotic walkers, as well as service dogs, wheelchair-accessible vans, and a wide range of mobility items.
- 17The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation has an assistive technology programme that can help you find, partially pay, or fully fund a variety of equipment. These enable people with MS to function more independently in their daily lives and to participate more freely in recreational, educational, and vocational activities. Aids for daily living, communication devices, computer aids, environmental control systems, home and vehicle adaptations, orthotics, seating, positioning, and mobility equipment, vision and hearing aids, cooling aids, and other items fall into this category.
- 18Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation grants are reviewed quarterly in January, March, June, and September. Funds are limited and they usually can't support grants over $10,000. The request should be for a specific item. Requests from Wisconsin residents are given precedence but are not limited to the state. To apply for funding please fill out the application here.
- 19National Assistive Technology Act Tech Assistance & Training Center has created a directory of State Assistive Technology Programs that provide adaptive equipment in all 50 states. Adaptive equipment is any tool, device, or machine that is used to help with any task associated with daily living. As hospital beds help people with disabilities and seniors to be more independent, these programs can also offer them. Check your state’s AT program here.
- 20Kansas Equipment Exchange (Kansas) - Through KEE Reuse, eligible Kansans can get quality, refurbished durable medical equipment such as manual and power wheelchairs, patient lifts, electric and semi-electric hospital beds, shower chairs, communication devices and other health devices.
- 21Muscular Dystrophy Association is ready to recommend and prescribe various types of medical devices that can improve independence and quality of life. When such equipment is required, MDA assists in locating prescribed items by referring to community resources.
- 22The Lions Clubs help persons with disabilities by donating eyeglasses, guide dogs, and white canes for the blind, van wheelchair lifts, hearing aids, and recycled AT equipment such as mobility scooter. Not all chapters offer all of these services. If you have any requests, please contact your local chapter.
- 23Disability Action Center (California) - Disability Action Centers' durable medical equipment recycling program serves consumers of all ages and disabilities that live in Shasta, Modoc, Siskiyou, Lassen, Butte, Tehama, Glenn, and Plumas County. They take donations of used AT/DME and then clean, repair, and distribute the devices to people in our communities who need them free. Their inventory may include wheelchairs, walkers, beds, canes, crutches, shower chairs, commode chairs, Hoyer lifts, mobility scooters and many other items. Availability of such items varies based on what has been donated, and the available storage space.
- 24Ashland Christian Health Center (Ohio) accepts a wide range of durable medical equipment including wheelchairs, canes & crutches, walkers with and w/o wheels, bedside commodes, shower seats, shower transfer seats, CPAP machines, cushion seats, miscellaneous braces, small blood pressure machines, nebulizers, oxygen tubing, leg boots and more. Contact them to see if they have mobility scooter available.
- 25We Care of Lake County (Central Florida) provides free used medical equipment including mobility equipment to adults and children who are recovering from hospitalization or living with chronic conditions. Receive the medical equipment you need for your condition when you reach out to We Share of Central Florida.
- 26ECNV (VA) maintains a database of items that members of our community wish to donate, then connects those items to individuals that need those items for free.
- 27Clinics Can Help is a nonprofit agency based in Palm Beach County, Florida that collects used durable medical equipment so that it can be distributed to those who need it most. They collect, clean, repair, and store used medical equipment that is still in good condition so that it is ready to help someone who cannot afford it. This equipment includes wheelchairs, mobility scooters, walkers, hospital beds, patient lifts, crutches, canes, and nebulizers.
- 28For over 29 years, Project MEND has donated properly reconditioned and disinfected medical equipment and other assistive technology devices to people of all ages in South Texas who have a handicap or sickness.
- 29The Maryland Department of Aging (Maryland) - MDA is providing durable medical equipment (DME) to Marylanders with any illness, injury, or disability, regardless of age, at no cost. All equipment is collected via donation and is sanitized, repaired, and redistributed to Marylanders in need. DME include Wheelchairs, Power Wheelchairs & Power Scooters, Rollators and Walkers, Shower Chairs and Tub Transfer Benches, Bedside Commodes and Toilet Safety Rails, All Pediatric Equipment, Home Hospital Beds, Mechanical Lifts.
If you’re unable to get a mobility scooter approved by Medicare or private insurance, you can pay for it out-of-pocket and claim that expense on your taxes. You can only claim this as an expense if you paid for it yourself and did not receive any sort of reimbursement for your purchase. This method isn’t exactly getting the chair for free, but you do end up getting your money back!
Lastly, if all else fails, several internet organizations will let you raise funds to cover the costs of your scooter. The most famous of these is GoFundMe, a site that millions have used to raise money for a wide range of causes. In the United States, where healthcare costs are too much for many people to handle, a GoFundMe for medical expenses is becoming more common. If you’re out of options, a crowd-sourcing campaign will allow benevolent strangers to donate towards the cost of your chair! It’s by no means a perfect option, but people have used it successfully many times in the past.
Conclusion: How to Get a Free Mobility Scooter
Getting a free mobility scooter is possible, but it isn’t always simple. You always need a doctor’s prescription, but, depending on the method you choose, there can be lots of paperwork involved. Medicare and private insurance are the best ways to get a free mobility scooter, but Social security and nonprofit grants are immensely helpful to those with financial constraints. Have you gotten a scooter for free before? Do you have any questions, or tips that have worked for you? Feel free to share them in the comments section below!