Thursday, November 16, 2006

Are stairlift prices too high?

Disability Now have written an article on the price of stairlifts and I was asked a few questions over the phone by one of their journalists. Whilst I agree with many of the points raised I would like to clarify one of the quotes attributed to me.

The article quotes me as saying that it costs only £300 or £400 for one of the manufacturers that supply us to make a stairlift. This price is purely based on the cost of the materials used to build a budget stairlift. It does not include the huge cost of running a factory in the UK such as wages, machinery, packaging and transportation not to mention the costs of running offices and a fleet of vehicles. The true cost of manufacturing a budget stairlift is therefore far far higher than £400. It is probably my fault for not making this clearer at the time but I feel that its only fair to the manufacturers that I make the point.

I should also like to make the distinction between the cost of manufacturing a budget stairlift to the cost of making a stairlift at the higher end of the market. For example Stannah Stair Lifts feature many more component parts when compared to a simple budget stairlift. Their emphasis on safety and producing highly engineered, quality products means that their costs will be higher still. This is reflected in the price to the end user.

I would agree with the comments of Jon Stannah, MD of Stannah Stairlifts who says

"We feel that £2,000 for a highly complex technological piece of equipment with an aftercare service which is second to none is actually relatively good value for money."

£2,000 for a straight Stannah stairlift is definitely good value for money. The problem is that some companies are trying to sell lifts at prices far higher than this.

In my opinion one of the main causes of high prices in the private market is the parlous state of the local authority market. It has become a profitless market in many respects. With dozens of companies vying for work, the prices charged to local authorities have plummeted and this has led to some companies hiking their charges to private buyers. It is a worrying trend and until there is consolidation in the industry it is not a trend that will be bucked soon.

Until then it is vital that private buyers do as much research as possible to ensure that they get a good deal. It is also worth pointing out that most companies are reputable and aren't con artists and with a little care taken before placing your order you can get a fantastic deal on a stairlift that may just change your life.