Renting a Ride
Rented Mobility Equipment Helps Consumers Get Around — Could It Help You Expand Your Business?
- By Lunzeta Brackens
- Feb 13, 2008
Letting a mobility issue stand in the way of an important meeting or family vacation is almost an anomaly these days. Today, those faced with limited mobility have places to go, people to see, and more importantly, options.
No longer is the grandmother who can’t keep up with her family left behind. No longer is it a problem when a businessman flies into a conference and has left his accessible vehicle miles away. In both situations, a rental can save the day.
“We have a base of tens of thousands of customers who rent with us 70 or 80 times because they travel, and it’s easier than taking their expensive equipment on the plane with them,” says Tim Scott, VP of sales and business development at
Scootaround, Inc. (www.scootaround.com
). Scootaround accommodates scooter rentals and service in 500 U.S. locations. As a leading provider of scooter rentals, Scootaround offers disability services and equipment to the Las Vegas Convention Center, McCormick Place in Chicago and the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. The company primarily does business with large hotels, major cruise lines and Avis Car Rental.
Theme parks, top resorts and convention centers are all so huge that many people can’t function in such large acreage without renting mobility devices — even if they don’t rely on mobility equipment at home. “People are starting to expect that they can get a scooter rental (delivered) to a facility where they happen to be because it’s becoming part of the everyday norm,” Scott comments.Who’s Renting Scooters Anyway?
If you’re wondering if renting scooters will work for your business, think of the people who’ll need them. Consider the businesswoman with arthritis who’s at a tradeshow and on her feet 12 hours a day for several days in a row — scooter rental candidate? Or what about people who need to get around cruise ships? Or seniors who have mobility issues, but still want to travel?
“In today’s society people are wanting to still get out and about, and they’re prepared to own the right kind of truck, the right kind of car… or scooter,” Scott emphasizes. “The costs have come down, the technology has improved, and the stigma of it being a medical scooter has changed now. They’re more of a lifestyle — it’s almost like the new walking.”
A scooter’s benefits aren’t limited to just the person with a walking disability. “It’s really where the tourists are and where the large facilities are,” Scott says. He mentioned that many of Scootaround’s clients tend to be bariatric, seniors, people with chronic conditions (multiple sclerosis, asthma, diabetes) and the general population who for whatever reason (injuries, sore feet) need assistance getting around.
“It’s not always somebody with a disability,” Scott acknowledges.
Bruce Locke, owner of Atlanta Scooter Rentals (www.atlantascooterrentals.net
) finds that most of his customers are travelers who have problems walking around large hotels, convention centers or civic centers because of their age or weight. Then there are those customers looking to rent because they have a scooter that’s being repaired. Scooter Rental Policies, Pricing & Upkeep
Scooter rentals are an attainable means of transportation that don’t take a huge chunk out of customers’ wallets. The average scooter rental price can range from $25 to $65 a day, Scott says. At his facility, Locke rents scooters for $40-50 a day, which also includes pickup and delivery with a three-day minimum rental fee. Not bad for a device that will give consumers a day’s worth of driving (anywhere from 10 to 20 miles of traveling, depending on terrain). However, the price differs according to travel time and cost of equipment, and whether the scooter is used indoors versus outdoors.
Scootaround’s rental policy works similar to renting a car or hotel room: Weekly rates are cheaper than weekends, and renting up to seven days is cheaper than renting for a shorter period of time. Making reservations guarantees consumers that the rental will be there even if they don’t arrive until later that day. Many customers choose to have their scooters left in their hotel or with the bellman or desk clerk, Locke and Scott both say.
If a Scootaround renter has a change in traveling plans, cancellation insurance is available. If the customer has a fender-bender, damage insurance will cover the expense of dents and dings.
“Once you have it, you’re responsible for total care” is Locke’s policy.
Scooters are fairly easily maintained. However, during outdoor shows, sometimes they get rained on, which can cause a fuse to blow. Of course, there are little things that can go wrong: People bump into things, and although it rarely happens, some scooters have been dropped from buses. Aside from that, the biggest maintenance issue that Locke has noticed is the nicks acquired as people try to squeeze through passages that are too narrow. As a rental, a scooter typically has a lifespan of two to four years.
“We just have minor replacements like arm pads and seats that get worn,” Locke says.
Both Locke and Scott say most of their customers aren’t first-time renters, but still, they are given a refresher course on how to operate the machinery and controls. Because most scooters go about 6 mph, it’s very manageable for most people who have never driven a scooter to use one, Scott confirms.
Just as those renting cars have options, so does the scooter-renting customer. Renters can choose basic scooters with three or four wheels, transportable ones or heavy-duty scooters, which are all available in a host of designs and colors. After choosing a type of scooter, the customer then decides how many options he or she would like to have: tilting seats, leather seats versus vinyl, and the list goes on.
Unlike car rental companies, these dealers who rent scooters seldom worry about whether their vehicles are in good hands. Renters are usually mature and responsible, Locke says. Most importantly, they bring the vehicles back in good condition.
“If you take care of the product,” he tells customers, “it will take care of you as well.”Reasons for Renting Accessible Vans
The reasons people rent accessible vehicles are just as varied as why they rent scooters. Most of the renters have accessible vans at home, but need a means of getting around that doesn’t involve public transportation. Connie Stauffer, president of both Lift-Aids Inc. and Wheelchair Getaways in Euless, Texas (www.wheelchair-getaways.com
), offers that option. Stauffer, whose company has been modifying vehicles since 1986, meets clients at the airport with the vehicle that they’ve reserved by telephone. Renting accessible vans makes traveling alone easier for people with disabilities. It offers maneuverability that a regular vehicle could not provide. Clients typically can roll into the van from their wheelchairs and begin driving or transfer themselves into the driver’s seat.
To rent an accessible vehicle, clients can call and make a reservation over the telephone by providing Stauffer or her staff with flight time, proof of insurance and credit card information. Vans rent for about $100 a day, and customers are responsible for their own gasoline. If a van is brought back on empty, renters accrue a $75 fee. Reservations can be made online, but Stauffer prefers potential customers to call.
The dealership insures the vehicles for itself, but renters have to furnish insurance from their own carriers to be covered while driving the vehicle. If a vehicle happens to break down while being rented, Wheelchair Getaways offers a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week emergency line customers can call to have the problem fixed on the spot. Or the vehicle can be swapped for another one.
Sometimes people with accessible vans forego having them serviced for fear of being left without transportation for too long, says J.C. Crist, rental agent with Freewheel Van Rentals, www.freewheelvans.com
, in Wheat Ridge, Colo. That’s another possible business opportunity for an accessible vehicle dealer. “In our service department, a lot of times people weren’t able to leave their cars for several days to have the repairs done, so there were a lot of repairs that weren’t being done properly or on time,” Crist adds. “They didn’t want to leave the vans because it was their only transportation.”
Being able to rent an accessible van alleviates that fear. Some of Crist’s clients also happen to be baby boomers who are now in wheelchairs or scooters and who have a hard time transporting themselves in and out of the home.
“People just need a way to get around or back and forth to the hospital for a week or two weeks, so we try to fill that gap for everybody,” he adds.http://www.alamomobility.com
Jenny Parker, rental and sales coordinator with Alamo Mobility in San Antonio, Texas, www.alamomobility.com, noticed that many of her clients have accessible vehicles in shops for repair as well, or live in nursing homes.
“With accessible vans, you can get the client in the wheelchair in the van,” Parker said. “Clients don’t have to worry about needing someone there to transfer them in and out of the vehicle.”
Even those with short-term disabilities look for a temporary transportation fix.
“I have some renters that say, ‘I got in a car accident and my leg is in a cast,’ or ‘My husband has his leg in a cast, we’re only going to need a van for a week or two,’” she recalls.
These are needs that Parker can meet, if given enough time (it generally takes a week or so for her to prepare the van and paperwork). She always urges customers to reserve the vehicle in advance; otherwise she may not have anything available, she says. Parker, like Crist, has six vans, which rent for $95 a day.
In Colorado, many of the elderly depend on the Regional Transportation District to provide rides, but appointments have to be made weeks in advance, Crist says.
“It’s a real headache for some, and (renting vans) helps them to get to their appointments and be able to go out,” he adds.Get Around
The process of renting from Freewheel Van Rentals is not a lot different than renting from any other rental agency. The major difference is that they rent to the passengers only. Crist doesn’t sell vehicles with adaptive driving controls.
“We supply the tie-down, and the vehicles are equipped with dropped floors, power doors and ramps,” Crist says. “It’s a totally different car than they would get at a rental agency.”
Crist, Stauffer and Parker all share the same insurance procedures — customers must provide their own.
“We have insurance on our vans, but we don’t provide additional insurance as if you were going to rent at Enterprise,” Parker said. “The customer has to provide their own insurance, and their insurance has to transfer to our rental vehicle.”
From a documentation and service standpoint, renting accessible vans is not much different from renting a regular vehicle at Alamo Mobility. Parker ensures that everything is running efficiently within the van, and vehicles are serviced every six months. She also makes sure that the vehicle is washed, detailed and given routine tune-ups and oil changes. She does her customers a favor by not keeping any vehicle on hand that’s three years old or older. Parker goes the extra mile by giving her clients 100 free miles to burn and a full tank of gas.
At Freewheel Vans, before a van is rented, Crist checks headlights, oil and tires, and ensures that vehicles with more than 30,000 miles don’t leave the lot for rental. His only requirements from customers are respect for the vehicle, returning with a full tank of gas and bringing it back as clean as they found it. Those standards are ones his customers comply with.
Although many of the rental services are done in the larger cities, more providers in smaller areas are beginning to see the need for it. Forward thinking and advances in technology have helped to emphasize that whether a person is leaving home for business or pleasure, transportation should be the least of their worries. If your dealership’s geography and customer demographics are favorable, you might also consider joining the rental revolution.
This article originally appeared in the March 2008 issue of Mobility Management.