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Why Should I Buy A Scooter? Economics of Owning vs Renting.

by Nathan Schaumann

Rideshare Scooters in Sarasota, FL

Sometimes I get asked: Why should I buy a scooter? Especially if there are rental scooters placed all around my city? Recently I found myself with some free time in Sarasota, so I decided to run some tests and compare the economics of owning vs renting a scooter in Sarasota, Florida. I noticed a group of rental scooters outside my hotel with a brand I wasn’t familiar with, Veo (which, upon checking, I learned is exclusive to Sarasota).

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The Ride

The Veo scooter itself looked pretty similar to Lime scooters that I had ridden before, with dampening suspension in the front, front & rear fenders, and a somewhat bulky deck. Curious, I decided to take one for a ride in the nearby neighborhood. I ended up covering a distance of 6.42 miles in 34 minutes, and it cost me $15.69. For a direct cost comparison between owning and renting a scooter, scroll to the end of this article.

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What I Liked

  1. Thumb Throttle – I personally prefer thumb throttles, although I’m aware that some prefer trigger throttles. Rideshare scooters typically use thumb throttles or twist throttles.
  2. E-brake – The electronic brake was remarkably strong, which I appreciated because it minimized the need to use the mechanical brakes.
  3. Power – The motor provided ample power, and even though the scooter was electronically limited to 15mph, I’m guessing it had the potential to reach 22-23mph without the limiter. It handled hills with ease, hardly slowing down even on significant inclines.
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  1. Suspension – The front suspension, despite some rust and occasional squeaking, performed well, offering a relatively comfortable ride, especially for a rental scooter. In my hometown of Provo, the Bird-branded rental scooters lack suspension, have solid tires, and are quite uncomfortable to ride.
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  1. Bell – I found the physical bell to be a nice feature, with the perfect volume to alert pedestrians. However, it’s worth noting that this scooter lacks a horn for alerting cars, making it unsuitable for road use.
  2. Rear Motor – Rear-mounted motors provide better traction and hill-climbing ability than the typical rental scooters with front-mounted motors.
  3. Mechanical Brakes – The dual disc brakes were highly effective in providing strong stopping power.

What I Didn’t Like

  1. App – Almost every rideshare bike or scooter brand requires you to download their specific app. While this makes sense from a business standpoint, it can be a hassle for users who frequently switch between apps in different cities. It took me about 10 minutes to set up the app and enter my credit card information before I could start riding.
  2. Quiz – Before I could start riding, the app required me to take a quiz on electric scooter laws. Unfortunately, this added to the time it took for me to begin my ride, and I found the questions somewhat ridiculous. For instance, one question asked whether wearing a helmet was required by law, to which the answer was yes. However, Veo (or Bird or Lime) does not provide helmets with their scooters, and carrying a helmet while walking around is not at all practical. Additionally, the quiz required me to confirm that scooters were not allowed on sidewalks, but in Sarasota, the roads are ill-suited for scooters, with narrow lanes, no shoulder or bike lane, and cars traveling up to 45 mph – not an ideal environment for a 15mph electric scooter.
  3. $10 Minimum – The app demanded a minimum $10 payment, which seems odd for scooters designed as “last mile” transportation. If you only intend to ride a few miles, an Uber or Lyft would potentially be even cheaper than renting a scooter. For reference, my Lyft ride from my hotel in Sarasota to the airport (7 miles) cost $9.65.
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  1. Push Start – I dislike scooters with a push-to-start feature as they can be challenging to maneuver at low speeds while weaving through pedestrians and crosswalks. The power can cut out if you go too slow, forcing you to adjust your riding stance and push off again.
  2. Parking Zones – During my ride, I saw an acquaintance from the media event and stopped to chat. When I attempted to end my ride using the app, I realized I had to locate a designated “parking zone,” and there were none nearby. Consequently, I had to continue paying while waiting to resume my ride. This was inconvenient, but I understand the need for parking zones to prevent sidewalk clutter.
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The Economics

Renting a scooter can be relatively expensive. I paid $15 to cover just 6 miles, which ended up being more costly than an Uber for the same distance. The total cost of purchasing a scooter with specifications similar to the Veo/Bird/Lime rideshare scooter is around $700 (e.g., the Segway Ninebot F65). Assuming a rate of $2.50 per mile for the rideshare scooter, you would need to ride only 280 miles on your Segway F65 to match the cost of renting a scooter. This is not a substantial distance, especially for a frequent rider. In fact, I purchased a Tifgalop X10 scooter from Amazon just last month and have already ridden it for 265 miles.

The Freshly Charged Take

If you rely on a scooter for regular transportation, I recommend buying a scooter rather than relying on the chance of finding a rental scooter near your residence and hoping for a nearby parking zone at your destination.

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