Mobility scooters are increasingly used by able-bodied people as they are cheaper to run than cars, claims Labour MP Alison Seabeck. Therefore, the Department for Transport has started an investigation into the misuse of the electric motorised vehicles.

The scooters are cheap to run as they don’t require tax, insurance or the owner to hold a driving licence. The bad economy and soaring costs of fuel in the UK are seen as factors for growing interest in them.

“Because of the high cost of motoring you can see why it would be quite tempting to have one,” said Seabeck. However, “we also need to be aware that younger, able-bodied people are buying mobility scooters. Recently, one was seen cruising along the seafront at a Devon resort – the young man driving it had his golf clubs on the back. We see young women who appear to be able-bodied when they get on and off their scooters using them to do the shopping,” added the MP.

Mobility scooters are intended for disabled people only and the increasing use of the vehicles by the able-bodied is “very worrying”.

The scooters are cheap to run because they are part of the Motability Scheme. It’s a government-funded charity dedicated to providing mobility solutions for disabled people in the UK. It enables them to lease a car, a powered wheelchair or a scooter in exchange for their Disability Living Allowance or War Pensioner’s Mobility Supplement. It aims to give housebound people the freedom and independence that comes with easy-access transportation.

The initiative was set up in 1977 by the UK government and provides currently almost 600,000 disabled people with vehicles every year.

Numerous automakers and premium car brands are partners of the Scheme. They have many mobility cars available to suit every taste and budget. Mercedes-Benz, for example, offers a great range of cars from the compact and versatile A-Class to the spacious and stylish B-Class. Any adaptations can be made to meet the disability needs and get the people safely and comfortably on the road.

Vauxhall runs its compact cars and SUVs on the programme. Big vehicles are especially convenient for families as parents or carers of disabled children aged three years and upwards can apply for the Scheme.

The French car manufacturer Peugeot is also participating in the initiative and so are MINI and Nissan. The latest to join the Motability network is MG. It will offer the MG6 GT from April.

The misuse of the scheme, such as the scooters, can lead to tougher laws that make it more challenging for disabled people to acquire a car. Just last year, the government introduced changes to the Motability Scheme that limited advance payments on cars to £2,000 and the maximum price to £25,000. Before the price cap, the advance payment was unlimited and recipients of the Disability Living Allowance could acquire cars worth up to £37,000. Drivers under the age of 25 can now only use cars with a power output of 115 bhp or less whereas there was no restriction before.