Health & Medical

Everything You Need to Know About Stair Lifts (3 Main Types)


Stairlifts are an increasingly popular choice for seniors to allow them to regain some of the independence that can be lost from a loss of mobility, especially for those who wish to remain in multi-story homes. You’ll want to make sure you know everything to make an informed buying decision.

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There are three basic types of stairlifts, straight, curved, and outdoor. Each of these options has a minimum stair width allowance of at least 36” and can support about 300-lbs as standard. You can expect to pay a median price of roughly $3,000. Price can fluctuate based on the added features needed.

No matter your reason for needing a stairlift, whether it be to maintain your independence or because of medical reasons, there are specific questions you’ll want answers to before you make your purchase. These questions are particularly crucial since you’re making a sizeable investment. Use the following information as your guide to everything you need to know about stairlifts.

Three Main Types of Stair Lifts

As we have briefly touched on, there are different types of stairlifts, each with its unique functionality. The three main types of stairlifts are as follows:

  • Straight Stairlifts
  • Curved Stairlifts
  • Outdoor Stairlifts

One of the most often asked questions regarding stairlifts is whether or not they are an option if you have a curved staircase or one with landings.

The simple answer is yes.

As we continue, we will touch on some of the unique features of each lift and the various restrictions and changes you can make.

Straight Stairlift

Having a stairlift installed on a straight set of steps is the most basic and straightforward process in terms of installation. Straight stairlifts are custom but more standardized, so the cost for the materials and installation is less expensive than the more custom options we’ll talk about later.

A basic, bare-bones option that is just used to transport you up and down the stairs and doesn’t have some of the additional extras can cost around $2,000.

There are a few aspects that can increase the cost of your stairlift.

  • Thinner frame
  • More comfortable seat
  • Color options to match your home décor
  • Higher weight capacity

Some of these options can add more than $1,000 to the standard price range of one of these lifts.

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Curved Stairlift

Curved stairlifts will work for curved staircases, stairs with landings, steps that change directions, and even spiral staircases. All of these options will generally be more expensive than a standard straight stairlift.

It is critical to note that there is no standard package for curved steps. An installer will need to come out and take measurements to get the exact specifications for your stairs. Having the installer come to your house to measure beforehand ensures that you’ll receive a precise lift that won’t fail.

Again, it is vital to be aware that you need a minimum stair width of 36” to install the chair on your steps. While these systems are custom and can install on multiple stair designs, you must have the proper clearance.

If you’re unsure if a chairlift will install on your steps, the installer will be able to address your concerns when they provide you with an at-home consultation.

Just like the options for straight steps, the price can increase based on the add-ons that you choose for your chair. The cost can climb to over $5,000, depending on your configuration.

Outdoor Stairlift

For those of you who have steps that lead to your front or back doors, you’re also in luck. Some stairlifts are made specifically for these areas.

Of course, being outside, weatherproofing is an essential aspect. Outdoor stairlifts can withstand:

  • Rain
  • UV rays from the sun
  • Cold temperatures

These lifts also can be produced for either straight or curved steps. The installer or technician that comes to give you an estimate will discuss all of the options that are available with you and will take precise measurements.

Stairlift Basics

As we continue, we’ll discuss some of the standard features you’ll find on almost all stairlifts.

Stair Lift Basics How Stair Lifts Work



All stairlifts are on a rail system your chair will glide along as you press the directional button for the chair to go either up or down the stairs. Many people are concerned that to install the rail in their homes, they will need to make structural changes.

Luckily, no structural work needs to take place.

Instead, the installer will screw the railing into the stair treads. Being installed through the step means that you won’t have to open any walls or add reinforcement.


Another primary concern that continually arises when thinking about stairlifts is safety. Gearing stairlifts towards the senior community, security is, of course, a top priority. Any stairlift that you find on the market features a seat belt, so you’ll never have to worry about falling out of the chair while suspended on your steps.

You will also find a step that you can use when getting into your seat, and that will provide you with extra stability while you’re seated.

Finally, there are also some stairs on the market that have sensors that will automatically stop the chair if it runs into something left on the stairs. While you will be in control of your seat, you may not notice something left on the steps, so this feature is an added precaution for your benefit.

Stair Width:

We very briefly touched on the minimum stair width required for adding a stairlift in your home. The reason that you’ll need stairs that are at least 36” wide is to accommodate you in a seated position, as well as the added space required by the placement of the chair rail.

The railing cannot be installed directly against the wall or stair skirt, so there needs to be room to hold the rail a few inches away.

If there is only one person in the house that requires this lift to move up and down the stairs, you won’t need to worry about continually navigating around the chair on the steps. These chairs fold up against the wall when they aren’t in use so anyone else in the house can walk down the stairs normally, without the chair impeding their path.


When you buy a stairlift system new and have it professionally installed, you should receive a guaranty on both the lift itself and the labor. Labor warranties typically last for about a year, while warranties on your chairs will vary based on which company you choose to use.


For those looking for a less permanent solution, renting a chairlift system is also an option. Rental would be useful for someone having surgery that will limit mobility for a short period. It will also make sense if someone with limited mobility will live with you for a relatively short time.

Rental prices will vary based on location and company; however, most places will give you the option of rent-to-own. Renting-to-own will most likely come into play if something that you thought was going to be a temporary situation becomes more permanent.

Stair Lift Frequently Asked Questions

Below you will find the most commonly asked questions for those looking for a stairlift. Please contact us if you have more questions that need to be answered.

How Much Does a Stair Lift Cost?

Stairlifts can be a costly piece of machinery. Because they are complicated to install, just getting one placed in your home can break the bank. However, there are other choices.

How Much Do Stair Lifts Cost? | Mr. Stairlift | Bruno®


Let’s look at the costs for the different types of stairlifts first.

  • Straight stair lift: $2,100 to $5,000
  • Pre-owned stair lift: $500 to $2,000
  • Custom curved stair lift: $10,000+
  • Straight outdoor stair lift: $3,500 to $6,500
  • Curved outdoor stair lift: $12,000+

Another choice for stairlifts is to rent one. If you are only going to need one for a few months or just cannot afford to pay for one outright, you can rent one. The prices range from $250 to $500 a month.

Does Medicare Cover a Stair Lift?

Although Medicare typically does not pay for a stair lift, there may be special cases where you can get it approved. If you live alone and have to get up or down the stairs for your daily living routine, it is possible that you can get it covered.

Medicaid will help you pay for a stair lift in most cases. In fact, as long as it helps you avoid being placed in a nursing home, there are several Medicaid programs that you may be eligible for. Check with your Medicaid office for more details.

If you or your spouse has ever served in the military, the Veteran’s Administration (VA) has some options you can try. These are some of the reasons why you may be eligible.

  • If your disability is related to your military service, the VA healthcare will pay for it if you have a home visit and skills evaluation.
  • If your disability is not related to your military service, you could get help from the VA Aid and Attendance Benefit.
  • Another program called Veterans Directed Home and Community Based Services could possibly help you.
  • The VA also has grants that can assist you in paying for a stair lift.

What Kind of Stairs Can Be Fitted for Stair Lifts?

You can get a customized stair lift to fit any stairs for the right price.

Whether you have a railing or not, or if your stairs are curved, a stair lift can be installed on any type of stairs.

The main thing that is needed is the right width. As long as your stairs are wide enough, you should find a stair lift to fit.

How Wide Should Stairs Be to Install a Stair Lift? 

Typically, your stairs will have to be at least 28 inches wide for a straight stair lift and about 30 inches for a curved stairlift. The space has to be wide enough for you to sit on the seat while moving up or down without getting stuck.

But if your stairway is too narrow, there may be a solution for you anyway. If you are able to perch on the edge of a chair, you can use a higher seat, so your knees do not stick out. This allows you to get up or down without hitting the wall. If your stairs are not wide enough or there is another reason why you cannot get a stair lift installed, you may want to consider installing an elevator instead.

Can Stair Lifts Go Around Corners?

If you have a curved staircase or corners, you can get one to fit your stairs, but it will cost you more. While a curved stair lift costs a lot more than a straight stair lift, if you have curved stairs, you may have no choice. A curved stair lift can take you around spirals, corners, and over landings.

In fact, you can use your stair lift to go up to four landings or levels.

Is There a Maximum Weight Limit for Stairlifts?

Most of the stair lifts have a limit of 300 pounds. However, they do make heavy-duty stair lifts that can handle up to 750 pounds with a wider seat. But, if you need a heavy-duty stair lift, you will need a stairway that is 36 inches wide or more. You will also need an inspector to check your stairway to make sure it can handle the weight.

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Stair Lift?

Every item has its pros and cons and stair lifts are no different.

Here are some of the pros and cons of getting a stair lift:

Thumbs Up - Pros


  • You can safely go up or down stairs
  • You can stay in your home rather than going to a care facility
  • It helps you bring things up or down stairs without falling
  • The ride is smooth and comfortable
  • It is an excellent short-term solution for an injury

Thumbs Down - Cons


  • They can be expensive
  • May not be covered by insurance
  • You cannot hide them
  • They do not have many design options
  • They take up stair space

Final Thoughts

Getting a stairlift installed in your house could be one of the best decisions of your life.

Regardless of why you are considering a chairlift, the most important factor is figuring out what you need for your specific situation. This guide should provide you with answers to some of the most critical questions you may have been asking, but you must consult your technician to ensure you’re getting everything you need.

Use this guide to regain your independence!


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