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Home Medical Equipment

Chair Lift vs. Stair Lift: Which is Right for Your Home?

Stairs are one of the biggest obstacles to aging in place. Most American seniors prefer to remain in their homes as they grow older, and there’s strong evidence that familiar surroundings benefit seniors’ physical and psychological well-being. But many are forced to move because they can no longer safely access their home’s upper floors. 

Stair lifts and chair lifts offer a solution that helps seniors to live independent lives in their own homes. In this article, we look at the difference between stair lifts and chair lifts, explore their features, and reveal how much you can expect to pay. 

How Do Chairs Lifts and Stair Lifts Help Seniors to Age in Place?

Chair lifts and stair lifts do a similar job. They help people with mobility challenges to safely move up and down the stairs in their homes. Stair lifts are ideal for people who can walk and hold themselves upright, and chair lifts are designed for people who rely on a wheelchair. Let’s have a closer look at each. 

What is a Stair Lift?

A stair lift is a motorized carriage attached to a rail that runs along the staircase. The rail is often fixed to the stairs if they’re straight or to the wall in curved stairways. To use a stair lift, you sit on a seat or “perch” attached to the carriage. You operate the lift with controls built into the carriage, and it gently carries you up the stairs. 

What is a Chair Lift?

A chair lift—also known as a wheelchair lift or platform lift—performs the same function for people in wheelchairs. However, chair lifts work differently. The most common type is the vertical platform lift. Instead of following a rail along the stairs, a vertical platform lift moves directly between floors. 

To use a chair lift, you roll your wheelchair onto the platform—most chair lifts have a small ramp that pivots to become a low safety barrier when the lift is in motion. Once you’re on the platform, you can operate the lift with built-in controls. Unlike stair lifts, chair lifts are usually enclosed on three sides for safety. 

If your home doesn’t have the room for a vertical platform lift, you might consider an inclined platform lift as an alternative. Inclined platform lifts ride on rails connected to walls or steps, and they can usually be folded back against the wall when they aren’t in use. 

Chair Lift vs. Stair Lift: A Price and Feature Comparison

There are many different stair and chair lift designs to choose from, and each manufacturer builds and sells lifts with varying features and pricing. However, we can give some general guidelines. Keep in mind that the features you require and the cost depend on many factors, and you should consult a stair or chair lift professional before making a final decision. 

Stair Lift Features

Stair lifts are available in two basic patterns: seated stair lifts and standing stair lifts. 

  • Seated stair lifts have a padded chair, often with arms. They may also be fitted with safety straps to hold the occupant in place while the lift is in motion. 
  • Standing stair lifts are designed for people who struggle to stand up from a sitting position. They may include a high stool or bar that the occupant can lean against. 

Other features included on many stair lifts—although not all—include:

  • A powered swivel seat that repositions the occupant so they can easily step out onto the landing. 
  • Foldable seats, arms, and footrests. 
  • Wireless remote controls.
  • A backup battery in case of power failure. 

Stair Lift Costs

Stair lift costs are influenced by the features you select and whether your stairs are straight or curved. Curved lifts tend to be more expensive as they often require custom manufactured rail components. As a rough guideline, you will pay between $2,000 and $5,000 for a straight stair lift. A curved stair lift is likely to cost between $8,000 and $14,000. Stair lifts with premium features may be significantly more expensive. 

Chair Lift Features

As we have already mentioned, chair lifts are available in both vertical and inclined variants. Features to look out for on both types include:

  • Side platform walls. 
  • An automatic folding ramp. 
  • Limit switches at the top and bottom. 
  • Lift call and send controls at the top and bottom. 
  • A battery for operation during power outages. 

You should also ensure that the platform lift’s weight capacity and platform area are sufficient to meet your needs. 

Chair Lift Costs

Wheelchair lifts are more expensive than stair lifts. Incline lifts are the most economical option, and you should expect to pay between $3,000 and $4,000 for a lift fitted to a straight flight of stairs. Inclined platform lifts for curved stairs are significantly more expensive, often costing $8,000 or more depending on the complexity of stairs. 

A vertical platform lift that reaches from one floor to another is likely to cost $10,000 or more, including the hardware and installation. Shorter vertical lifts suitable for fewer steps are less expensive, but the minimum cost of a vertical platform lift that traverses a few steps is around $4,000. 

Wheelchair lifts and stair lifts empower seniors to age in place, but they are not the only equipment available to help older people to live independent lives. You might also be interested in walk-in baths and home hospital beds. To learn more about the benefits of an adjustable bed with height, tilt, head, and foot adjustments, phone or email our bed experts today.

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About Transfer Master

Transfer Master has built electric adjustable hospital beds for the home and medical facility since 1993. We started with a simple goal that hospital beds should allow wheelchair users to transfer independently in and out of bed. Twenty-five years later, our customers are still at the center of everything we do. You’ll feel the difference.