Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Scooter Shopping Decision Tree


Just now, the Saturn is - happily - getting a hitch put on the back, to hold an inexpensive cargo carrier for a scooter. No ramp yet - it'll involve a little lifting - but, all in all, a fine thing indeed. Later we can get a ramp put on by an old associate from our furniture shipping days. More on that later.

Today's cost of the hitch and platform: $282.08. Way worth it.

And since car stuff is Walter's purview, this leaves me a short breather to update y'all as best I can for now.

The decisions at hand on the scooter purchase had to to with things like, can the car take any kind of hitch and platform? Should I rent for now? If I buy, should I go local or internet? New or used?

One measure of a scooter is the size of the base, and that would affect the platform question: if the platform we could afford wasn't quite as large as we'd like, then we'd have to get a smaller scooter.

Not all cars can take a hitch. According to Chair Care, Toyota Camry can only take a Class 1 hitch - meaning, only very lightweight things can attach to the frame of that car. Chair Care knows one place in West Palm Beach that will do frame modifications to bring a Camry up to a Class 2 strength, for $350. That's for the frame modifications alone.

Same with the Saturn - it's only good for a Class 1 hitch. Maximum weight of platform and scooter: 200 pounds.

But that's better than NO hitch. And the class of scooter I'm looking at runs around 100 pounds. A hitch and platform weighs less. Total weight will be less than 200 pounds. Excellent.

So we called the local Uhaul, which is where one generally goes to get hitched. ;-) They could install the hitch and sell us a platform, today. They had to scarf one item from another Uhaul dealer, but that only took a couple hours.

It's big enough to accommodate any scooter we can afford. We just need to mind the total weight. So, *lighter* is best for us here.

Now: As Desert Cat found out last Friday - Lord, was it only Friday?!? - rental is expensive; he was given a price of $269/month, and that was probably for a lower-middle range scooter, the same range I'm looking at for purchase.

The high prevalence of renting vs. ownership programs is due to politics. Medicare pays far more to rent, so people aren't outraged that they're buying expensive medical equipment for people often perceived as not really disabled but faking it, lazy, yada yada. It's also highly likely that this results in more profit for any Medicare HMO or other *managed care* system. So health plan contractors would negotiate with Medicare for rental vs. purchase.

We have a very high elderly and disabled population here, meaning Medicare is behind many - or most - health plans. Just now that works in our favor: the market is driven by rentals more than purchases. So buying is far more sensible than renting; relatively speaking, purchase prices are reasonable. The purchase price of the same class scooter that DC was quoted $269/month to rent? Around $750-$1000, locally purchased, with good shopping done.

After my recent experiences, I'm all afire to own, not rent. The only real benefit of rental I can see is that they have to service it for free. Since they have STILL neither serviced nor replaced a scooter delivered defective in July, that does me no good whatsoever. That benefit is not a benefit if I can't use it in a reasonable amount of time.

Also, if I rent, I have very little choice about what scooter I get. If I buy, I can get much closer to what I actually need.

Last but not least: Once I own it, they can't take it away from me.

My BCBS HO M&M plan will quit on December 31, 2006. Oddly enough, I want to change health plans. That means that even if they delivered me a working scooter tomorrow, I'd have to give it up on 12/31 anyway! Then go through the whole process of paperwork with the NEXT company! And quite possibly be scooterless again for at least a few weeks, if not more.

Why didn't I realize that before? Because for 2 years they've either indirectly or directly implied this was a purchase, not a rental. I didn't really get it until very recently, when I asked them on the phone, with great care and precision. And they hemmed and hawed and then said, Rental - and in the tone of *rental (you dummy).*

I feel about purchase the way someone does once they've been through the horror of having a car repossessed. It's why I took my hurricane car insurance payment and paid off my car loan: I'd rather have a car no one can ever take away from me, even scratched and banged up and mildly malfunctioning everywhere, than a beautiful perfect car I may lose.

So: Purchase, not rent.

New or used?

New means you have certain warranties etc. That's good, especially in light of these recent repair issues.

But more than that, I have a strange and special consideration that has to do with my half-bubble life: Anything used - anything at all - is often permeated with *fragrances* that render it completely incompatible with my allergies. That goes especially for anything made with plastic, upholstered, or leather parts.

All someone has to do is park that scooter one time by the same electric socket they have their Glades plug-in plugged in? Put the scooter there to charge it up, for instance? and I can't use it. Ever. I cannot get those smells out. Believe me, I'm an expert. I have tried and tried and it's simply not doable, not by me or anyone else. And if I'm the one trying, I get it all over myself and my clothes and skin and lungs in the process. Not good.

So this goes both toward new vs. used, AND toward internet vs. local store. Used is out, based on smell alone. So is internet. I have to breathe it first. So I must shop in person.

With all the MRSA episodes, I haven't really gone into that aspect of my allergic life yet on my blog. But it's true for anything or anyone that comes inside my filtered-air house. I have to breathe the air coming off that object to see if it's going to put me in the ER. It can't cross my threshold until then.

Now: suppose I could somehow know for sure I could get a *clean* scooter off the internet. They often say *free shipping.* But that refers to UPS Ground type shipping, which will take 10 days or longer at this time of year. Expedited shipping, say overnight or 2nd day, is often around $200 or more - which would eat up any savings I'd get by buying at ebay.

And I needed the scooter yesterday, last week, last month. If I'm going to do this to help protect my foot, I should not wait another 10 days or longer: in that time I'm going to need to walk, and that's what causes more damage. So time is now of the essence.

You see, now I must be very, very careful until the end of my life. I got lucky twice on this foot: once in 2004, the second time just now. Both times came way too close to amputation, or worse.

The newly added permanent scarring damage means it's going to get much harder to be lucky if I get a third strike. And it wants to do it, it wants to go there, this germ in that area is not done with me. I can feel it.

I told Walter, in a way I'm glad I'm out of time, so I'm not tempted to save a couple hundred bucks by buying on the net. That was a bit hard on my penny-squeezing heart. But certainly for the best.

Next, I also think it's better to buy from a local store, because of any repairs that might be needed. Having a local store to take it back to *may* help get better service - out of interest in the customer who bought it from them, or any service arrangements between factory and dealer, whatever.

This applies to buying from an individual too: say I found a local person selling off a brand new scooter that I could breathe? Still, I'd rather go with a store, because of those ready repair issues.

Last but not least: What class of scooter?

Obviously, one that we can afford.

Enough donations have come in that, put together with some small funds we have on hand, we can afford a lower-middle range scooter, and a platform. This is PERFECT for now. Just perfect.

See, that's what works best for both house and errands anyway. They'll come apart into manageable-weight pieces should my platform have issues. The total scooter weight is compatible with our platform. And, while I considered getting an *el cheapo* at first that I could resell or trade up, it's best not to do that if I can: I get tired, and don't have the energy to address everything in my life as well as I want to as it is. To avoid revisiting the purchase by needing to trade up would be a good thing.

Even if I had enough money for the super fancy scooters - they run about $2000-$2500 just now - still, those things are very big, heavy, and somewhat unwieldy. Too heavy for that platform. Too much to fit inside my smallish car, much less hassle with taking it apart. And, I'd have trouble getting around certain corners inside my house.

So: General decisions made. Purchase not rent; new not used; from a local store rather than the internet or an individual; one that's light enough for our platform; lower-middle range in class.



Livey said...

You mean you don't have one YET?!

k said...

I do NOW!!!

Just got home.