Experts Consulted


Hours of Research


Companies Considered


Companies Selected


8


45+


10+


7


COVID-19 Update: With social distancing and stay-at-home orders, many seniors are struggling with loneliness and isolation. We’ve developed a list of products that caregivers or seniors can purchase to help older adults stay happy, healthy and connected, whether they are aging in place at home or in an assisted living community.

The question of what to do if one develops a mobility problem is often heavy on the minds of seniors who own multi-level homes. Recent CDC analysis of disability data shows that seniors disproportionately struggle to walk and climb stairs. Of the general American adult population, 13.7% struggle with mobility, compared to 26.9% of adults aged 65 and older. For seniors with disabilities and for those who are trying to plan ahead, installing a home elevator can be an elegant yet practical solution to mobility problems.

Home elevators are a surprisingly old solution to limited mobility. Their manually operated predecessors, dubbed “invalid lifts,” appeared in the mid-1800s, and powered home elevators came later in the early 1900s. Over the years, costs, appearances, efficiency, and safety have all improved dramatically for home elevators, making them more accessible than ever. Elevators remain a significant investment, however, and many seniors believe them to be financially out of reach or too complicated a purchase to contemplate. 

The alternatives to elevators can be less than ideal. Wheelchair lifts and stairlifts can both be unsightly and may not be a good long-term solution. Moving to a one-story residence is always an option, but for some seniors, this is a sad and limiting prospect that they’d like to avoid. Rather than being daunted by the complexity of home elevator shopping, seniors need resources that will help them truly evaluate if a home elevator is right for them. 

Our guide can help you decide if an elevator is a smart investment for your situation. In this guide, you’ll find reviews on the best elevators on the market. You’ll also learn about the basics of how elevators operate, how they’re installed, and how much they cost. A step by step guide at the end of the article can walk you through the buying process to help you feel more confident if you do decide to make the purchase. 

The Basics of Home Elevators

Those shopping for an elevator will encounter terminology and mechanical concepts they may not be familiar with. Below you can find a quick recap of key elevator terms followed by a simplified explanation of the major types of elevators. You’ll also find information on how dealers set prices.

Home Elevator Parts:

  • Hoistway: The shaft or hoistway is an enclosure built around some elevators to keep mechanical parts out of sight. The shaft may extend through the ceiling of the top floor.
  • Engine Room: Some elevators require a closet-like room to house the engine and various mechanical apparatus that move the elevator. 
  • Pit: Many elevators require that a 6”-12” pit be incorporated into the ground floor. Elevators that don’t require a pit will likely have some kind of step or a minimal ramp to the cab.
  • Car or Cab: The cab or car is an enclosed or partially enclosed vehicle that the passenger rides in to go from one floor to another. 
  • Hatch or Lid: Elevators without hoistways need hinged hatches (lids) over the holes in the floors that the elevator passes through. Hatches are covered with the home’s flooring and include safety sensors that stop the elevator if someone stands on the hatch. 
  • Door or Gate: Elevators may have one door, two parallel doors (called “walk through”), perpendicular doors, or even three doors. On an elevator with a hoistway, there will usually be a wooden door that’s the same as is used throughout the house, and when you open that door you will encounter a sliding or accordion-style “gate” of some kind. Shaftless elevators usually have acrylic or glass doors that slide away or open outward. Some have just a half-door. 

Home Elevator Types 

Manufacturers categorize elevators according to their power source and mechanics. The following categorizations should help you better understand companies’ offerings, though terminology may vary slightly. 

  • Hydraulic: With hydraulic elevators, a motor pushes oil into pistons that move the elevator. Hydraulic elevators often require a pit, a drilled hole in the pit for the piston, a hoistway, and a machine room or closet. Roped hydraulic elevators are modified with a pulley system that allows for the same amount of lift with a shorter piston. This kind of hydraulic system may often be installed without a piston hole or a machine room.
  • Overhead Cable Drum/Winding Drum: Many home elevators use a system that winds and unwinds chains (geared or ungeared) or cables/steel ropes in a compact “drum” situated on top of the cab. These systems may use a counterweight pulley system as well. They can be installed with or without a hoistway, and are often less expensive than a hydraulic elevator. Tracks are installed on one or two sides of the elevator if there is no hoistway.
  • Traction or Chain/Cable Drive: These terms may be used to refer to elevators that use a chain, pulley, and counterweight system that is not positioned atop the cab. Instead, the motor and other key components will be contained within an engine room or perhaps a small closet. This kind of elevator always requires a hoistway. 
  • Pneumatic: Pneumatic elevators are a new kind of elevator powered by a vacuum system. A passenger tube with door(s) fits inside a slightly larger tube and is suctioned upward. The downward descent is powered by gravity alone. These elevators use relatively little energy and are essentially plugged into your home’s electric system. They never require a hoistway, pit, or machine room. 

Elevator Costs

It’s impossible to get 100% accurate cost information until you’ve picked customizations and consulted with installers on labor and retrofitting costs. Most companies will provide a ballpark “starting cost” over the phone with the caveat that costs could be higher. An itemized, accurate cost requires a meeting with a local dealer/installer. The fewer home modifications and elevator customizations required, the cheaper the final cost will be. Starting costs are often $20,000 or more.

How We Chose the Best Home Elevators

How we chose the best home elevators

Wheelchair Compatible 

Home elevators come in all shapes and sizes, and people buy them for different reasons, including mere convenience rather than mobility. Since this article is for seniors who may use wheelchairs or walkers, we made sure to only include companies that have at least one wheelchair-friendly option.

Options for Smaller Spaces

Many home elevators require a machine room to house the engine and other crucial components that make the elevator work. Designs that require a machine room can be difficult to place within the home- not everyone has extra space. All of the companies on our list have at least one option that’s “machine room-less,” as those in the industry commonly say.  

Informative Sales Materials

Shopping online for a home elevator can be an overwhelming experience. Companies can help customers be more comfortable and informed in the process by providing specifications and downloadable diagrams or manuals. When curating our list, we focused on companies that made this kind of information very accessible.

The 7 Best Home Elevator Companies of 2021


Styles


Hoistway Required?


Pricing*


U.S. Made?


Maximum Weight Capacity


Warranty


Ameriglide 


-Roped hydraulic
-Overhead winding drum 


Some models


$12,500+ (not including installation)


Yes


950 lb.


5 year limited


Savaria




-Roped Hydraulic
-Geared chain drive
-Geared traction with a counterweight


Some models


$30,000+ 


No


1,400 lb.


3 year limited (parts)


PVE Home Elevator


Pneumatic only


No models


About 30,000+ 


Yes


525 lb.


1 year limited


Stiltz


Overhead winding drum only


No models


About $22,000+ 


No


500 lb.


2 year limited


Nationwide Lifts


-Hydraulic
-Cable drive
-Overhead cable drive
-Pneumatic 


Some models


$20,000+ 


Varies by model


1,400 lb.


10 year limited or other


RAM 


-Chain drive
-Cable drive


Always


About $30,000+ 


No


1400 lb.


2 year (crystal)


Inclinator


-Cable drive
-Overhead winding drum
-Hydraulic


Most models


About $40,000+


Yes


1,000 lb.


2-3 years limited (varies by drive style)


*Note: All listed costs are for the lowest-cost model offered, without add-ons, for a “2 stop” (two-story home) installation. All include basic installation costs, besides the construction of a hoistway, unless otherwise stated. Actual costs can vary dramatically, and most companies do not provide information on the upper limit of their product line’s costs. In rare cases, some projects could cost up to $100,000.

Ameriglide 

Most Transparent Pricing

Ameriglide is a mobility company that focuses on affordable home modifications for the average homeowner. Founded in Raleigh, North Carolina in 2004, this company caters to homeowners with a DIY mentality, and it is perhaps most famous for its stairlifts. Now with stores in sixteen American states as well as one store in Ontario, Canada, Ameriglide showrooms are accessible to many consumers. Even those unable to visit a showroom can order online or over the phone, however, with no need to deal with a middle man. 

Of all the excellent elevator companies on our list, Ameriglide is the only one that directly lists its itemized prices on its websites. To obtain information about pricing from other companies, customers must call a representative who will frequently direct the customer to call a local dealer. The dealer may not give the customer a ballpark number until an in-home visit is completed. Ameriglide operates under an entirely different business model, listing its prices and itemizing the cost of most upgrades right in the product listings of its elevators (installation, taxes, and permits cannot be listed online, however). Those who value transparency will appreciate the way Ameriglide communicates prices online.

Overview of Ameriglide Home Elevators

Styles


-Roped hydraulic
-Overhead winding drum


Hoistway Required?


Some models


Pricing


$12,500+ (not including installation)


U.S. Made?


Yes


Maximum Weight Capacity


950 lb.


Warranty


5 year limited


Pros and Cons of Ameriglide Home Elevators

Pros:

  • Outdoor Option: The Ameriglide outdoor elevator is a great option for unique circumstances, such as for seniors with beach-access homes who want to go from their upper deck to a ground-level walkway. This sturdy, weather-resistant aluminum elevator meets such specialty needs perfectly, and a comparable product is difficult to find elsewhere. 
  • Endless Customization Options: The Elite Residential Elevator has all the customizations you could wish for. With 14 different finish options, this elevator’s interior can fit almost any design scheme. The elevator also has two light options, three fixture options, two control-panel shapes, two handrails, six standard sizes, and customizable sizing. The Ameriglide outdoor elevator has less style flexibility but is still customizable with three finish options, three roof options, over three door and gate options, an optional ramp, an optional Plexiglas enclosure, and more.
  • Wheelchair Accessible: Both elevator models are made with the assumption that someone with a wheelchair will probably be using them. Ameriglide is a company that truly caters to those with limited mobility, and designs are accordingly ample. 
  • No Machine Room: If you choose the standard option on the Elite Residential Elevator from Ameriglide, you don’t need to worry about extra space in your home needing to be converted into a machine room. The overhead winding motor in this elevator uses space efficiently in your home. A machine room is only necessary if you choose the hydraulic rope option.  

Cons:

  • Indoor Hoistway and Pit: Unless you’re one of the few seniors who can benefit from an outdoor elevator, you’ll have to have a hoistway built around your Ameriglide elevator, and an 8+” pit created under it. These requirements necessitate significant retrofitting, and installation costs could be prohibitive. 
  • Limited Models: Ameriglide only has two basic models, although it does allow significant customization for both visual appeal and function. These two models are both rather old-fashioned looking, too- this isn’t the brand for you if you’re looking for a sleek addition to your home.

Savaria

Best for High Weight Capacity Elevators

Marcel Bourassa founded Savaria in 1989, originally focusing on offering wheelchair lifts to those with disabilities. With headquarters in Laval, Quebec and over 1,500 employees around the world, the company now serves customers with all kinds of mobility needs. Savia has product lines and subsidiary companies that offer home and commercial elevators, stairlifts, patient lifts, automobile modifications, adjustable beds, and more. In addition to growing the business, Marcel Bourassa founded the Bourassa Savaria Foundation in 2014 as a way to give back to the community.  

Savaria is one of the best choices for those looking for a minimalist design with a high weight capacity. Shaftless elevators with transparent walls have become quite popular with homeowners due to their ability to blend into both modern and classic home plans. They’re also extremely popular because they require little modification to the home. Many such designs from other companies are small and have a maximum capacity of 500 lbs. or less, but multiple designs from Savaria have roomy cars and the capacity to carry well over 800 lbs. For those who want a sleek design with few restrictions, Savaria is the ideal choice. 

Overview of Savaria Home Elevators

Drive Systems


-Roped Hydraulic 
-Geared chain drive
-Geared traction with a counterweight


Hoistway Required


Some models


Pricing


$30,000+


U.S. Made


No


Maximum Weight Capacity


1,400 lbs.


Warranty


3 year limited


Pros and Cons of Savaria Home Elevators

Pros:

  • Six Models: Savaria has one of the most diverse product lines on our list. Those seeking a more traditional-looking elevator can choose between the Eclipse, Infinity, and Zenith elevators, while those who prefer a minimalistic design can choose between Vuelift and Telecab models. You can find nearly every size and style here. Some available elevators can service up to six stops, and unique shapes, such as the hexagonal Vuelift option, are available. 
  • High Weight Capacities: Most elevator models at Savaria have high weight capacities. As already mentioned, the available shaftless elevators (Vulift and Telecab models) can carry substantially more than elevators from competitors. The more traditional models that this company carries also have high weight capacities. The Infinity HD model, for example, can carry up to 1,400 lbs. if local code allows for its installation. Such a high capacity elevator may suit those who envision several people going up at once or who would like an elevator that can be used to transport heavy objects like furniture as well as people.  

Cons:

  • Difficult to Obtain Pricing Information: Savaria employees do not divulge price ranges for their elevators online. A Savaria salesperson confirmed that the elevators would be “in the five-figure range” but declined to comment further and said that more exact prices need to be obtained from local dealers because costs vary by location. Price estimates for our guide were obtained from third-party online sources. 
  • Warranty Exclusions: Savaria elevators come with a three-year “parts” warranty that applies to defects in material or workmanship. This warranty, while helpful in certain circumstances, excludes far more than it includes. Twenty-two individual parts and surfaces are excluded due to their “consumable” or “cosmetic” nature, and many circumstances, such as failure of the consumer to document that the product has been serviced according to the recommended schedule, will also invalidate the warranty. 

PVE Home Elevators

Most Innovative Design

Pneumatic Vacuum Elevators, known more commonly as PVE, was founded in 2002 by CEO Juan de Ledebur. The brand’s sleek, tubular elevator design has been featured in the home of an NBA star, as well as in the homes of seniors and a variety of other customers across North America and on four other continents. This brand has a network of 250 authorized dealers, all of which it trains at its Miami, Florida facility prior to authorization. Although PVE has a simple product line, the company enjoys great success and remains popular with customers.

PVE is the only manufacturer of vacuum-powered elevators. These elevators look and indeed operate much like the vacuum tubes that some bank drive-thru’s use, but on a much larger scale. This elevator design operates on relatively simple principles of physics, maintaining an elegantly understated look and requiring little maintenance. Passengers of the elevator can enjoy a 360-degree view of their homes as they travel up and down. PVE’s innovative design provides a new way for seniors with compact homes to enjoy the benefits of a truly modern elevator.   

Overview of PVE Home Elevators

Drive Systems


Pneumatic only


Hoistway Required


No models


Pricing


About $30,000+ 


U.S. Made


Yes


Maximum Weight Capacity


525 lbs.


Warranty


One year limed


The Pros and Cons of PVE Home Elevators

Pros:

  • Efficient: PVE builds its vacuum elevators with efficiency in mind. Installation doesn’t require the construction of a new shaftway, engine room, or pit, so relatively few labor hours and few construction materials are required. These elevators also don’t require lubricants that need to be replaced often. Instead, they just require the replacement of a seal about every five years (every 15,000 lifts). 
  • Great for Small Homes: A PVE home elevator can fit almost anywhere. The smallest model has an exterior diameter of just 30 inches, making it possible to tuck it into the curve of a spiral staircase or any tight space. This home elevator will look elegant in a spacious home, of course, but it will do equally well in a two-story home that’s quite compact. The largest PVE elevator, which can transport up to three people and is most suitable for a wheelchair or walker, has a 52” exterior- still space-saving despite its larger capacity.  
  • Versatile: PVE offers its unique elevator in three sizes that can accommodate between one and three people and can be upgraded with a foldable seat when desired. These elevators can be made to travel up to five floors (maximum 50 ft.). Originally designed for residential use, PVE elevators have also appeared in unorthodox locations such as yachts and even night clubs and theaters.

Cons

  • Small Interior Diameters: One of PVE’s greatest assets, its compact design, can also prove to be a downside for some people. The interior of a PVE is between 20.5”-43.5”, depending on the model. For plus size seniors or for anyone who feels uneasy in small spaces, ascending in a PVE home elevator may not be a great option. Those who are unsure if these compact designs will be comfortable for them should probably travel to a showroom to test a PVE in person.
  • Noisy Operation: These elevators are, unfortunately, a bit noisy. According to the manufacturer website, vacuum elevators operate at 85 decibels, a noise comparable to an actual vacuum cleaner. People and even pets sensitive to noise may find this too overwhelming in a small space. 

Stiltz 

Least Obtrusive Design

Stiltz was founded by Australians Lachlan Faulkner and Cameron, Peter, and James Gillespie in 2010. The company established its business headquarters in the United Kingdom and its factories in China. In 2013, the business expanded to the United States, establishing its United States headquarters in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. A few years after its U.S. debut, Stiltz again expanded, this time across Europe. Stiltz’s only products are its elevators, which the brand prides itself on making affordable and simple to install. 

All Stiltz home elevators have something in common- they blend in. According to Stiltz, these elevators are “whisper” quiet, making less noise than the perennially popular hydraulic elevators or the newer vacuum elevators. These elevators, which operate with an electrically powered overhead winding drum system, are also often quite small. Finally, these shaftway-free elevators can be either transparent or made of panels in colors that match the buyer’s home. Customers of Stiltz say that sometimes their visitors don’t even notice the lift until it’s pointed out to them. For the customer who wants a small elevator that can blend in anywhere, Stiltz is the answer. 

Overview of Stiltz Home Elevators

Drive Systems


Overhead winding drum only


Hoistway Required


No models


Pricing


About $22,000+ 


U.S. Made


No


Maximum Weight Capacity


500 lbs.


Warranty


2 year limited


Pros and Cons of Stiltz Home Elevators

Pros

  • Dual Rails: The Stiltz name is a nod to the two tracks that the elevator car travels on. When ascending, the car of the elevator appears to be wearing stilts. Where many other elevators need to be flush with at least one supporting wall, this elevator needs none since it’s stabilized by its dual rails. Since it has these rails, the car needs no shaftway whatsoever, though consumers may choose to have the car placed within one if they desire a truly hidden lift.
  • Low Costs: Like most elevator brands on our list, Stiltz does not list its costs online. However, the smallest and most basic forms of this elevator may cost as little as about $22,000 or $23,000, including installation. Larger sizes are estimated to cost, on average, between $25,000-$28,000. Most elevator companies on our list say their starting costs are about $30,000, so a Stiltz lift could be a more economical alternative. These estimated costs do not include taxes and permits.

Cons

  • Continuous Touch: Stiltz elevators are built with continuous touch buttons, meaning that the elevator won’t move unless your finger is on the button. While this is intended as a safety precaution, riders may find holding down a button a nuisance. 
  • Limited Floors: The Stiltz home elevator can only be made for up to three-story travel. Of course, for most customers, this will be more than enough, but in rare cases that a customer has several floors in their home, Stiltz won’t meet the need.

Nationwide Lifts

Best Warranty

Nationwide Lifts is a nationwide retailer of both commercial and residential elevators. This brand was founded in 2003 by brothers Andy and Tom Darnley. The brothers are the third generation of elevator mechanics in their family. Nationwide Lifts operates through a franchise system with corporate headquarters in New York, Southern California, and Florida. The brand also works with many affiliate elevator companies to serve areas that don’t have a local franchise. Nationwide Lifts initially focused just on selling elevators made by other companies, but since 2017 it has also been manufacturing its own line of Freedom elevators. 

Nationwide Elevators makes the bold claim that it offers “America’s best warranty” for elevators. Indeed, when the company’s warranty policy is compared to others on our list, all others fall behind. This brand offers 10 years of coverage on mechanical parts, five years of coverage on electrical parts, and one year of coverage for labor costs. Many other companies offer a mere year or two on very limited parts. Where other warranty terms are short and are poorly explained, Nationwide Lift’s warranty shines not only for its impressive length and coverage but also for its clarity.

Overview of Nationwide Lifts Home Elevators

Drive Systems


-Hydraulic
-Cable Drive
-Overhead Cable Drive
-Pneumatic 


Hoistway Required


Some models


Pricing


$20,000+ 


U.S. Made


Varies by model


Maximum Weight Capacity


1,400 lbs. 


Warranty


10 year limited or other


Pros and Cons of Nationwide Lifts Home Elevators

Pros:

  • Customer Service: Nationwide Lifts prioritizes making its customers feel heard and valued. This brand has a 24/7 toll-free number, a great warranty, and a focus on meeting deadlines. With a large team of qualified service technicians across the United States, this brand can give customers the support they need during the selection, installation, and maintenance phases of buying an elevator.  
  • High Capacity: The Freedom Elite elevator, a Nationwide Lifts original, is the only elevator on our list that can lift up to 1,500 lbs. For a home that needs a truly heavy-duty yet elegant option, the Freedom Elite ticks all the boxes. 
  • Large Product Selection: Nationwide Lifts carries exclusive elevator designs as well as elevators that are sold elsewhere. Between these two categories, the brand carries a total of eleven designs. If you want to compare the features of multiple kinds of elevators, this company is a great place to start exploring. Other brands carried by Nationwide Lifts include PVE, Stiltz, Savaria, and more. 
  • Financing: Some seniors opt to finance their home elevator projects, and Nationwide Lifts makes that simple through in-house financing. This financing is provided through SunTrust Bank, a common online lender. Interested customers can click the apply button on the nationwide website to get the process started.  

Cons

  • Interest Rates: If you do choose financing through Nationwide Lifts and SunTrust bank, you could end up paying as much as 10% interest on the money you are loaned. While this may still be lower than most credit cards, it can translate to a lot of money lost for the consumer. 

RAM

Most Informative Website

Richard A. Meunier founded RAM in 1987 with the goal of providing long-term value to residential and commercial customers. This brand provides both wheelchair lifts and elevators across the United States and Canada through its extensive dealer network. RAM even has one dealer in Hawaii, a state that often isn’t served by otherwise national companies. RAM elevators and lifts are custom-made in a 30,000 square foot factory in Canada by the company’s highly experienced employees. Over the years, RAM’s dedication to providing custom-made, quality products has to lead to many positive customer testimonials, an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, and thousands of excellent lifts and elevators in homes across the continent. 

With an elevator company like RAM that offers numerous customizations, it can be difficult to imagine all the possibilities. RAM makes it a little easier for customers to visualize what RAM elevators look like in a real home, though. The company publishes numerous examples of real-life RAM installations under its “News” tab on its website. Customers can simply go online to read about the installation details and look at the pictures. For customers who are uncertain of what they want, this detailed information and images are a great benefit.

Overview of RAM Home Elevators

Drive Systems


-Chain Drive
-Cable Drive


Hoistway Required


Always


Pricing


About $30,000+ 


U.S. Made


No


Maximum Weight Capacity


1,400 lb.


Warranty


2 year 


The Pros and Cons of RAM Home Elevators

Pros

  • Low-Cost Option: RAM used to only offer one residential elevator, the luxurious Crystal model. Now the brand has expanded the collection to offer the Stratus, a traditional but more economical option that can travel 14 ft. and hold up to 500 lbs. This elevator can’t travel as many floors as the Crystal can, but it has a simpler installation process that keeps costs low. A Stratus, without customizations but including installation, starts at roughly $30,000. This cost may not include the cost of constructing a hoistway.   
  • Customization: Both the Stratus and the Crystal model can be customized in seemingly countless ways. Those seeking a color-matched finish can select from hundreds of available laminate finish options that RAM’s suppliers carry. RAM customizes other features too- door placement can be configured in a variety of ways, with up to three doors or even a safety sensor gate instead of a physical one. Customers can also add heavy-duty steel kickplates, an extended warranty, and several other features. 

Cons

  • No Shaftless Models: RAM knows what it’s doing when it comes to traditional elevators, and it focuses exclusively on them. Chain drive and cable drive elevators that require a shaft and, in some cases, a machine room, are the only options available here. RAM simply isn’t a good fit for the senior looking for minimal home alterations or an elevator with a very small footprint.  

Inclinator 

Most Industry Experience 

Inclinator was founded in Philidelphia by C.C. Crispin in the early 1920s following Mr. Crispin’s invention of an early version of the stairlift. As the company grew, it expanded into the home elevator business, launching its first model in 1928. The brand now has quite the reach, with Inclatior products offered not only in America but also in Canada, the eastern Caribbean, Mexico, and throughout Central and South America. Inclinator is now lead by CEO and President Cliff Warner and members of the Crispen family still sit on the board and are involved in the company’s regular operations.

Inclinator is by far the oldest company on our list, with over 90 years of experience in the mobility industry. This company has a long history of service and quality workmanship.  Incredibly, Inclinator is still providing maintenance work for elevators that were originally installed in the 1930s when the company had just barely begun making elevators. Over the years, Inclinator has shifted its product line slightly, but its track record of excellence has never changed.

Overview of Inclinator Home Elevators

Drive Systems


-Cable drum
-Overhead winding drum
-Hydraulic


Hoistway Required


Most models


Pricing


About $40,000+


U.S. Made


Yes


Maximum Weight Capacity


1,000 lb.


Warranty


2-3 years limited (varies by drive style)


Pros and Cons of Inclinator Home Elevators

Pros

  • Exterior Installation: Inclinator takes pride in the flexibility of its products, offering numerous customizations. One of the unique options for an Inclinator elevator is to have it installed on the outside wall of a home. Where permitted, this option can save room inside the home while still attaching the elevator to the home in a seamless way, sealing it into the house. 
  • All-Glass Options: Inclinator offers fairly old-fashioned elevators, mainly sticking to traditional power sources and large designs. However, it breaks from the traditional models with its all-glass option. This design, although it can still be quite large, looks airy. Inclinator suggests this model for a modern “industrial-style” home, but it would look nice in many settings.
  • Style and Safety: This company seamlessly blends safety and style in its custom made elevators. Features like handrails, LED safety lights, and in-cab phones aren’t merely thrown in as an afterthought or a requirement. Instead, Inclinator offers these features in numerous materials to fit any well-designed home. The customer can choose from many metals, varnishes, and colors. Walls, floors, and fixtures can all be purchased in “virtually any custom paint or stain.”

Cons

  • Confusing Website: As a customer, it’s possible to bounce from page to page on Inclinator’s website without a clear idea of what’s available on which “Elevette” model. The best way to explore the website is through the “Home Elevator Brochure” listed in the “Home Elevators” tab at the top of the page. Every model of the elevator from Inclinator is called “Elevette,”  and models are differentiated by numbers in multiples of 50 or 100, from 100 to 500. 
  • Significant Construction: Inclinator elevators can be powered with a cable drum, an overhead cable drum, or a hydraulic drive. All of these require a 6”-10” pit and most require a machine room and hoistway.

How to Choose a Home Elevator

How to choose a home elevator

It’s easy to get confused when looking for a home elevator. The step-by-step guide below will help you evaluate the suitability of an elevator for your home, and explain the best method to compare models and know what to expect for pricing, installation, and maintenance.

Step 1: Weigh the Pros and Cons of Elevators and Their Alternatives

Before you start shopping for a home elevator, take time to really consider its suitability for your situation. Start by thinking about why you want or need one.

Common reasons for buying home elevators include:

  • Stairclimbing fatigue experienced by you, loved ones, pets, or household staff
  • The desire to be able to easily transport things like laundry up and down the stairs
  • Experiencing issues with energy, balance, pain, stiffness, poor eyesight, or falling 
  • Preparing for potential future mobility problems

Can these or other reasons you have for wanting a home elevator be met by an alternative product or lifestyle change? Consider some common alternatives below.

Common alternatives to elevators include:

  • Stairlifts: A stairlift is a chair with armrests and a footrest that mounts on a rail system and moves along the staircase. Stairlifts may cost anywhere from about $3,000-$15,000, including installation. Click here to get a free quote for the purchase and installation of a stairlift in your home.
  • Wheelchair Lifts: A wheelchair lift is a platform that moves vertically much like an elevator but that usually isn’t enclosed and isn’t decorative in any way. These may cost roughly $3,000-$5,000 before installation.
  • Downsizing: Seniors with multilevel homes can move to a one-level home or an assisted living community. Predicting how much you’ll save or spend on a move is difficult because there are so many variables.

The above alternatives can all, in theory, cost less than an elevator, but they do have some downsides. Both lifts prohibit multiple passengers or carrying extra objects, and many people consider them eyesores, too. Stairlifts require the patient to transfer into and out of the chair repeatedly, which is dangerous for some. Downsizing can put money in your pockets, but leaving a home you love is difficult. Discuss elevators and alternatives with your loved ones and financial advisor to get a well-rounded perspective on your situation.

Step 2: Learn About Elevator Pricing 

If you’ve determined a home elevator is for you, then it’s time to consider costs in detail. A home elevator plus its installation often costs above $20,000-$30,000, and in some cases, it can be as high as $100,000. You’ll need to get detailed quotes from multiple companies before making a choice. Below you can see how different factors affect final costs.

Factors that affect elevator costs include:

  • Home Modification: If the elevator needs a hoistway, machine room, wall reinforcements, or a pit, then your construction costs will be fairly high. Pneumatic or shaftless overhead winding cable drive elevators are likely to be the most economical choices overall, while other cable/chain drive and hydraulic options tend to be more expensive due to the above home modification needs. Many installation quotes from dealers do not include the cost of a hoistway construction because the company expects that you’ll use another contractor for that. Hoistway construction alone could easily cost $2,000-$4,000. 
  • Labor Costs: Your elevator will most likely be installed by a local dealer. Labor costs depend on project complexity and skilled labor costs in your area. Count on needing to pay for at least one to three full days of labor for a small crew of workers, in addition to the labor costs of building a hoistway (if necessary). 
  • Size and Customization: A higher ceiling, larger cab, extra lights, custom flooring, special wall veneers, a fold-down seat, extra handlebars, and any other “extras” can each add between a few hundred and about a thousand extra dollars to the tab. 
  • Number of Stops: Basic elevator costs usually reflect the cost of a “2 stop” elevator, that is, one that only travels between the first and second floors. Each additional stop could cost about $1,000 extra.
  • Shipping, Taxes, Permits, and Inspections: When speaking with dealers you’ll want to ask about shipping, taxes, permits, and inspection fees. These are all based on location, but shipping may be several hundred or even $1,000, and taxes should be a percentage of the purchase price. Your county may charge you for permits and inspections as well. Make sure you know what is and isn’t included in your quote. 

Step 3: Learn About Elevator Safety 

Before you start talking to companies you should also learn the basics of elevator safety so that you can ask the right questions. 

General Home Elevator Safety 

In general, all elevators should include a redundant power source or some plan for stopping a freefall in case of a power failure. Other common safety features include in-cab phone lines, sensors that stop the elevator or its doors in dangerous situations, and keys that limit child access to the elevator if desired. Grab bars and fold-down seats are another form of safety feature, though they are often optional. The most important standard of safety is ASME A17.1, safety standards put forth by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. If a company doesn’t want to talk about ASME compliance, that’s a safety red flag. 

Child Safety

In some tragic cases, children have been killed or seriously injured due to badly designed home elevators that have hoistways. The United States Safety Commission offers a warning about gaps in some elevators between the hoistway door and the elevator gate that can be deadly to small children. Some companies have been slow to address this problem even in their new designs. Ask companies how they eliminate this dangerous gap. Keep in mind that there is less information available on how safe shaftless elevators are for children since they are a relatively new invention. 

Step 4: Consider Your Needs and Compare Quotes

If you understand elevator alternatives, costs, and safety, then it’s time to start looking at companies and elevator types. As you do so, you’ll want to consider the following topics.

Space and Weight Capacity

Consider space inside and outside of the elevator. How much space does your body and potentially your wheelchair/walker need? Do you need it to have the weight capacity and space for multiple people? How much space are you willing to lose within the room so that the elevator can be installed? The manufacturer should be able to tell you the interior measurements, including height, and they should also list the exterior “footprint” and the weight limit. Look into whether or not the elevator needs a hoistway, pit, and machine room/closet. Also, ask if the hoistway needs to extend into the attic area.

Style

Home elevators come in all shapes and sizes, and many are customizable. There are a few key style questions you should ask yourself:

  • Do I want my elevator to be visible or covered?
  • Do I want my elevator to blend into surroundings, to fully match surroundings, or to stand out as a focal point?
  • What style points am I willing to compromise on for the sake of cost or other factors?

Elevators enclosed in a hoistway are the easiest to hide and also usually have the most customization options. Shaftless overhead cable drive elevators can stand out or blend in, depending on the design and how large they are. Pneumatic elevators and overhead cable drive elevators that are fully transparent tend to stand out due to their glossy, light-catching appearance, but they’re versatile enough to look good with a wide variety of home styles.

Noise

If you’re sensitive to noise within your home, ask salespeople for a noise comparison. Hearing “this elevator is as loud as…” can help you make a choice. It will also help to visit a showroom and ride elevators there. Vacuum elevators are considered some of the loudest elevators, while cable drive and overhead cable drive fall somewhere in the middle, and hydraulic elevators are said to be the quietest. Noise levels can vary by brand.

Step 5: Plan for Installation and Maintenance 

When you’ve selected your elevator brand and local dealer, it’s time to plan for installation. If the elevator is a traditional style (hydraulic or cable drive with a hoistway) that will be fully customized, it may take as long as eight weeks to manufacture, and then it will have to be shipped, possibly across the country. If you opt for an elevator that requires a shaft, machine room, and/or pit, then you’ll likely have to book a separate contractor to do that preparatory work. The dealer should be able to give you guidance on the kind of person you should hire.

The actual installation of an elevator, after preparatory work is done, generally takes between one and three days. After installation, you will need to have the elevator inspected by a local authority, an appointment that the dealer should help you arrange. After passing inspection you’ll need to have a yearly inspection by either the company that installed it or by another certified professional in your area. Certain parts, such as the vacuum seal in a pneumatic elevator, may need to be replaced on a schedule every few years. Making these inspections and replacements part of your yearly routine is crucial for catching any problems early. This limits your liability and will help to keep your homeowner’s insurance company happy with you.

Frequently Asked Questions

home elevator faqs

How can I pay for a home elevator?

Home elevators are not cheap, and figuring out how to pay for one can be a challenge. Payment plans are available through some elevator companies, but interest rates could be as high as 10%. If you’re going to get financing then you’ll want to shop around, and you might consider using some of the equity in your home. 

In some cases, the Single-Family Housing Repair Loans & Grants or other home improvement programs from HUD may be available to help you add an elevator to your home. It may also be worthwhile for you to look into your state’s Medicaid programs as well, as some versions of Medicaid do provide help with home modifications or improvement in limited circumstances. Elevators are often considered luxury items, however, so there’s no guarantee that a grant program will look favorably on them.

Can an elevator be used like a dumbwaiter?

Elevators can, like a dumbwaiter, be used to transport goods that you don’t want to carry up and down the stairs. Elevators generally have a “call” button that will bring the elevator to whatever floor you are on, making it convenient to have the elevator come to you when you need it. Many people find that using an elevator as part of their chore routine helps them to be less tired and better able to cope with their household needs.

Can I get a home elevator if my home has more than two stories?

Some home elevator brands only build elevators that serve two stories, but most offer options for more. Typically, the maximum amount of stops that a home elevator is capable of is six or seven, but this varies. On their specification sheets, most companies will list the maximum feet that the elevator is capable of traveling as well as how many stops it can make. Each stop beyond the second floor may add about $1,000 to the total cost of your elevator.

What’s the difference between a lift and an elevator?

Most of the world says lift, but Americans say elevator. Therefore, you may sometimes find companies that call their elevators “lifts.” In some cases, however, the term lift can be defined more narrowly to mean an elevator that’s not fully enclosed, that only travels a short distance, or that have a constant touch button for operation. These lifts tend to give the user a little more control than an elevator does, but they may be less aesthetically pleasing. 

Can I get a seat in my home elevator?

Many home elevator brands allow you to add a seat and extra grab bars to your elevator if you would like. Often the seat will be made of sturdy plastic and will fold up against the wall when not in use. The seat can be a nice option for those who don’t use a wheelchair but who do like the option of sitting. Most companies don’t heavily advertise their seat option even though they have it, so you may need to ask if a seat is available. Adding a seat may add about $100 to your cost in some cases.