Electric scooters are great, but does it make more sense to share or own?
Have you noticed more scooters zipping around your neighborhood lately? You’re not seeing things. Electric scooters are more popular than ever, and an increasing number of city-dwellers are adopting them as a cheap and convenient alternative to driving cars.
Companies like Lime and Bird have also helped to bring scooting into the mainstream; their sharing services provide public access to electric scooters for short windows of time, so nearly anyone can borrow one to run errands, get to work, or take a ride around the block. While scooter sharing works well for short distances, in areas where you can easily return them to designated drop-off stations, there comes a point where an avid scooter user has to ask themselves: Is it time to stop sharing and buy my own electric scooter?
In the long run, owning an electric scooter is simply more cost-effective.
If you’re utilizing a scooter on a regular basis, perhaps every day, to commute to work and back, the cost of each ride adds up. Let’s do the math.
Scooter Sam has a five-mile commute which costs him $11 (the cost of using Lime or Bird to travel that distance) every work day. Even with this very generous example (five miles is a pretty short commute, much lower than the national average), Scooter Sam is spending at least $2,500 a year. For this amount, he could simply purchase a high-quality scooter of his own and ride it for free every day. (And if he took advantage of Ridepanda’s flexible financing options, he could get one starting at $50 a month!)
The bottom line is, scooter sharing is certainly beneficial for those who need to ride short distances every now and then, but for anyone who wants to use a scooter more than a few times a week, it’s probably cheaper to invest in one of their own.
Scooter sharing services also fall short with regard to convenience and reliability, particularly for commuters who need to get to their destinations quickly.
Lime and Bird operate based on the idea that you’ll be able to find a scooter near your given location.
If there isn’t one nearby, it’s possible that you’ll have to go out of your way to locate one. Then, even after your scooter search has ended, you still need to ensure its battery has enough of a charge to get you where you need to go.
Scooter owners do have the added responsibility of maintaining and occasionally repairing their scooters—but they also enjoy conveniences that more than make up for the maintenance hassle. For example, they never have to search high and low for a ride. It’s always right there when they need it. Also, they can take full advantage of the fact that electric scooters are portable and compact. Many can even be folded and tucked under an office desk after commuting to work.
Most importantly, scooter owners can rely on their vehicles in ways that shared scooter users can’t.
When you use scooter sharing services such as Lime and Bird, you don’t know if the scooters have been damaged by people who used them before you. Because Lime and Bird users don’t bear the burden of maintenance, they usually don’t treat shared scooters as carefully as they would treat their own (frequent patrons of these services will often advise you to pump your scooter’s brakes a few times before departing to make sure they work, lest you get an unfortunate surprise when attempting to stop at an intersection).
Safety During COVID-19
Due to COVID-19, there are also health and safety concerns related to shared scooters; you just don’t know if the prior user was healthy, or if the vehicle itself has been sanitized recently. Depending on their fleet size, sharing companies are only able to manually sanitize each individual scooter on an infrequent basis, and certainly not after each ride. Every time you touch the handlebars, you are taking on the risk of infection. With your own ride, you avoid this concern completely.
Due in part to the issues with scooter sharing services we’ve already discussed here, many city governments have implemented regulation caps on the industry. In the past year, a number of electric scooter companies were forced to pull out of major U.S. markets, leaving their users in the cold. For example, Bloomberg reports that since Bird left Bakersfield, CA, the city’s 380,000 residents no longer have shared e-Escooter access of any kind. In November 2019, Lyft Scooters announced it was pulling its service out of several major cities, including Nashville, Atlanta, Phoenix, Dallas, and Columbus.
While scooter sharing programs are usually very popular among residents, the truth is scooter companies are struggling to maintain such large fleets across metropolitan areas.
This is bad news for those who rely on those services; without easy access to scooters wherever they are, electric scooter sharing can become more of a hassle than it’s worth—especially for people traveling on tight schedules, who can’t afford to waste time searching for a scooter to pick up. The good news is, ownership is always an option and—as we’ve established—it can actually be more beneficial and practical on a day to day basis than sharing a ride.
To Own or Not to Own?
We now return to the big question:
Well, if you got this far, you now know that owning your own scooter has a number of advantages that are not to be overlooked. If you’re a commuter and you anticipate using an electric scooter regularly, you should consider purchasing your own. Scooter sharing services like Lime and Bird are expensive; $1 initially plus up to $0.39 per minute thereafter.
For a regular scooter rider, this can add up to thousands of dollars a year. If you buy a scooter, you pay once and (aside from occasional maintenance) you ride free for years to come. Furthermore, consider the convenience and reliability of accessing your own scooter wherever and whenever you are—rather than having to be on the lookout for available scooters in your vicinity, like some kind of scooter scavenger! Lastly, as the scooter sharing market collapses in major cities due to government regulation, scooter sharing may not be a sustainable option. For commuters or avid riders, buying might just be the best bet.
If you’ve weighed the pros and cons and you’re now ready to start shopping for the best e-scooter (or e-bike or e-moped), be sure to check out Ridepanda’s curated selection of the most durable, high-range products with flexible financing options. Enjoy the ride!