Electric scooters are becoming an increasingly popular form of commuting in the US. Many will be surprised to know that the total revenue generated by the e-scooter market is expected to reach $695.9 Million in 2023. And by 2027, the number of users is expected to grow to 35 million. Even by global standards, the United States is leading the adoption of electric scooters.
This new trend has come with a conscious effort to cut down on urban car use and its corresponding carbon emissions. Anyone looking to improve the way they commute should consider adding electric scooters to their arsenal. But there are two ways to go about it. You can either buy a personal electric motor scooter or rent one for temporary use.
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Renting vs. Buying an Electric Scooter
With the rise of electric scooters came scooter-sharing systems. A scooter-sharing system provides electric scooters for short-term rentals to its users. Bird and Lime are two of the most popular electric scooter rental services in the US, providing electric scooter rentals in nearly all states of the US. Only selective states (Pennsylvania and Delaware) continue to prohibit having scooters on their streets while others have wholeheartedly accepted their use.
The second choice is to buy an electric scooter. There are plenty of manufacturers in the market to choose from. Forbes has listed its recommended top picks, including the Apollo City and the lightweight Unagi E500; both are great scooter models to consider.
However, many users still ask, “Should I buy an electric scooter or rely on a retail service?”
The decision isn’t that simple. Let’s take a deeper jump into the pros and cons of renting or buying an electric scooter:
Renting An Electric Scooter
Renting an electric scooter means paying your rental service a flat fee for its use under a limited period. Here are the pros and cons to consider:
Pros of Renting an Electric Scooter
We are all deeply aware of the impacts fuel-based vehicles have on the ecosystem. But you don’t have to worry about that aspect with electric scooters as they are great for the environment. Electric scooters are energy efficient; they produce zero emissions, do not contribute to air pollution and can reduce traffic congestion.
No Maintenance Costs
One of the biggest benefits of having a rental electric scooter is that you do not have to worry about any maintenance or repair costs. You don’t have to worry about the battery, motor or wheels as they wear out over time. The rental company will ensure that the scooters are kept in pristine working conditions before being handed out to customers.
Test Before You Commit
We are sure plenty of you readers are new to the world of electric scooters. Chances are you have only seen them on the roads but have yet to try one yourself. For some, the upfront cost might not be worth it. Some may not like the feel of an electric scooter (and that’s money down the drain). Renting out an electric scooter will allow you to test its performance before you commit to owning one.
Most electric scooter rental services will offer you a selection of different electric scooter models to choose from. This can be exciting if you like to explore new models. Another form of flexibility lies in the type of rental services you choose.
Some rental services will charge you a base unlocking fee, after which you will incur a per-minute rate for your rental. Unlocking fees usually range from $1-$2 whereas the per-minute rate could fall between 15 to 60 cents per minute. The exact rate and total cost will depend on the service you rely on.
A second type of model works on more extended rentals. You can rent an electric scooter for up to a month or a year with a flat monthly or annual subscription rate. Unagi is a popular choice that comes to mind, offering a monthly subscription for $59/month for their basic Unagi scooter.
Cons of Renting an Electric Scooter
Accumulated Costs for Repeat Renters
For regular users, the costs of a rental electric scooter commute may increase over time. Electric scooters can cost anywhere from $150 to $6500, the average cost being $300. Therefore, it may be better to bear the upfront cost and save costs in the long run rather than pour money into a rental service for several months. Personal electric scooters will also easily last you anywhere from 3 to 5 years.
While scooter rental services are becoming more and more popular, you will often run into availability issues. Sometimes you may be in a rush but when you open up your rental application, you will find no scooters in your area. Most scooters will be rented out during rush hour, leaving you to make some last-minute changes. This inconsistent availability may be a hassle for those who prioritize urgent commutes.
Restricted Area Usage
Some rental companies will only allow you to commute in designated zones. If your destination is out of the designated area, you will have to drop off the electric motor scooter.
For example, some services such as Bird specifically have “no-ride zones” designated on their application where you are not allowed to park a bird electric scooter. Lime has its own solution; your vehicle may automatically shut down if you enter their “no scooter zones.” Riders must walk their scooters out of the zone to continue riding. Some services may even issue you a fine if you still ride through their restricted areas.
Depending on the legitimacy of the rental service you rely on, your electric scooter may be damaged or may lack the necessary safety gear. For instance, most rental scooters do not come with helmets nor do their riders bring their own. An estimated 9 out of 10 people do not wear a helmet when renting a rideshare electric scooter, leading to a risk of head injuries.
Buying An Electric Scooter
The second option is to buy your own electric scooter; here is what you need to consider:
Pros Of Buying An Electric Scooter
If you value convenience above all, having your own electric scooter can be a godsend. You can charge it at home whenever you need and be ready for your travels the next morning.
So long as you adhere to your state’s electric scooter rulings (no riding on sidewalks, no riding on fast lanes, etc), you will be able to scoot around freely. You can further choose to recharge your electric scooter using renewable solar energy, making your commute even more environmentally friendly and reducing costs.
Some electric scooter owners may want to customize their vehicles. This won’t be possible with a rental scooter. But with your own scooter, you can allow your creativity to run free. Give it a paint job, add some stickers and make a signature look of your own!
Unlike rental services, which won’t always guarantee the availability of electric scooters, your electric scooter will always be with you. You can use it as you need, when you need it, where you need it.
Alleviated Safety Features
Users who buy their own electric scooters will somehow have an alleviated sense of responsibility and safety. You will most likely purchase your own protective gear with it, making it a much safer choice. You will also pay more attention to its regular maintenance so you don’t face any issues down the road.
One Time Cost
Unlike electric scooter rental services that will accumulate costs over time, you can purchase an electric scooter and pay a one-time fee. This one-time fee will always fall short of the costs of renting one out for extended periods.
How much does an electric scooter cost? Electric scooters are usually between $150 and $6,500 with $300 being the average electric scooter cost. Also check out our current picks for the seven best electric scooters for commuting.
Cons Of Buying An Electric Scooter
To clear up any misconceptions you may have, your electric scooter isn’t exactly a “one-time” purchase. You will most likely have to prepare for future maintenance costs. Servicing an electric scooter will help you avoid any major future mechanical problems and enhance its performance, so you should never overlook maintenance. (Usually, this would be the responsibility of your rental company).
Your scooter rental company would also oversee the timely charging of your electric scooter. Scooters are provided pre-charged to users. However, when you have your own scooter, you will need to actively make time to charge them. Any negligence during a busy schedule could leave you with a powerless scooter the next day.
High Upfront Costs
For some new users, the upfront cost of a scooter could be a tad much. This is a reality for younger adults and students who may prefer a more affordable rental service.
Once you purchase an electric scooter, that’s it! Now, you will have to continue using that model for the next 3-5 years until you choose to get a replacement. Electric scooters aren’t exactly cheap, so most people won’t be upgrading them any time soon.
With a rental service, you could try out different models from different services every time. You can get an electric scooter with seat or without, depending on your mood. Rental services bring in newer, improved models over time which you will be missing out.
Final Thoughts – Making Your Decision
In reality, neither choice is right or wrong. It all comes down to your use case and what you find convenient.
First, you will want to consider the cost. This includes its upfront and future maintenance costs. If you cannot afford an electric scooter just yet, it may be best to stick to a cheaper rental service. You will not only get a feel for these scooters but should also be able to make a more informed decision when you do happen to make a purchase after trying out different models.
Second, how often are you using these electric scooters? If you plan to ride on scooters daily and follow a strict schedule, you are better off having your own. But if you are only getting one for the occasional ride, a scooter rental service might be more appropriate.
With this information, you can now make the right decision. Weigh the pros and cons for yourself and go with what gets you comfortably and efficiently to and from your commuting destination!