Electric Bike vs. Scooter: What’s the Difference?

Electric Scooter

People want alternative modes of transportation.  Both the electric bike and scooter qualify.  Both are growing in popularity because of the many benefits each offer.  However, both are quite different.  In fact, they’re very different modes of transportation.

I’ve rented scooters. I own an electric mountain bike. Yes, the two are different… quite different.

Table of Contents

Should you buy a scooter or electric bike?

Let’s jump right into the key question and that is when should you buy a scooter and when should you buy an electric bike?

Buy a scooter instead of an electric bike if:

You don’t want to put in effort into transportation.  With a scooter, you just sit.

You don’t mind the beaurocracy of a scooter (insurance, license plate, etc.).

You want to travel at regular vehicle speed.

Buy an electric bike instead of a scooter if:

You’re looking for a mode of transportation where you get some exercise.

You don’t mind being a bicycle using bike lanes and holding up traffic if using vehicle lanes.

You don’t mind traveling at slower speeds than regular traffic.

You like being able to transport your bike on bike racks.  Yes, you can probably haul a scooter around in a pickup truck but it’s not nearly as convenient as putting a bike on a rack.

The electric aspect is no longer an issue since you can buy electric scooters now as well.  I suspect electric scooters will rapidly grow in popularity. It’s an ideal vehicle to be powered by electricity.

It’s probably an easy decision given the two are very different.

Electric Bike Basics

Electric Bike

The electric bike looks like a futuristic version of a traditional bicycle. However, there are two key differences between an electric bike and the version you grew up riding. The electric bike is powered by an electric motor and a battery (much like what you’d find in an electric car). The electric bike DOES require you to pedal, however. The motor is to assist as you go up hills or even pull a small trailer.

The electric bike possesses a torque sensor that matches your physical output with power from the motor. That means that the bike won’t go on its own without your peddling.

Scooter Basics

Scooter

Before I launch into the basics, I should clarify that this electric bike vs. scooter article is comparing the sit-down scooters pictured above (such as Vespa scooters) and not the stand-up scooters.  It can be confusing because both are referred to as scooters.

Scooters have been around since World War I, and they are much like a motorcycle. The scooter is powered by gasoline, and, by definition, it is considered a motorcycle. The difference is the design of the scooter. A scooter is built on a step-through frame and offers a platform for the driver’s feet. The scooter is typically a 50cc motor, but some may be 150cc.

The scooter is completely powered by a motor and needs no physical assistance from the driver to propel itself forward.

Ok, now that we know the basic difference between an electric bike and a scooter, let’s go more in-depth as to the major differences between the two modes of transportation.

The Electric Bike – More Detail

An electric bike is a bicycle that must be peddled in order to move, but the motor of the bike will assist the rider on hills and when pulling a small trailer behind. In theory, a rider could use the assist feature when he or she is tired for a little extra power (I ALWAYS have the full boost on… I love it).

You can get a great workout riding an electric bike. I often do especially when on the trails. I ride pretty hard and get a good sweat.  My heart rate will double or triple resting.

Most electric bikes will go no faster than 30 mph; but some do.  You can remove any speed cap sensors to hit speeds in excess of 40 mph. Consider that most professional bike riders (competitive bikers) can go about 25 – 28 mph on a traditional bike, with the average person going about 13.5 mph as a beginner, and this seems to be rather slow for those who utilize an electric bike. However, when you consider that the biker is not meant to ride the bike while the motor does the work and the rider provides most of the momentum, this is a fair speed for the electric bike.

Keep in mind also that those who use an electric bike will still be able to use bike lanes and will not have to register this motorized vehicle with the state.  I often see folks on scooters use bike lanes but they shouldn’t.  They should use car lanes.

Electric bikes typically cost anywhere from $1,500 to $15,000.

Electric bikes offer riders cheap transportation and improved health. Those who wish to lose weight or to just simply improve their overall fitness will have an opportunity to exercise at their own pace with the electric bike, plus you can enjoy time outdoors with family and friends. Some downsides to the electric bike include the initial cost, more complex parts to the electric bike (compared to a traditional bike), and the weight of the bike. Some municipalities have vague rules about potential registration of electric bikes as well.

The Scooter

Historically, scooters were gas-powered.

Now you can buy both gas-powered and electric scooters.  The Vespa Elettrica can go about 100km per charge and caps at 70km/hr.  That beats most electric bikes with respect to range per charge.

A gas-powered scooter with a powerful engine (300cc) can go over 100 km/hr.

A scooter is has a seat, small or low wheels, and a floorboard for the driver’s feet. Engines and the power train of the scooter are typically under the seat of the scooter or attached to the rear axle of the machine. The scooter uses a CVT (continuous variable transmission) transmission.

Many scooters have 50 to 150 cc engines, but some can be as large as 850 cc. Some scooters can reach a top speed of 75 mph.

A scooter must be registered with one’s state, and some states require an endorsement on one’s driver’s license in order to operate the scooter on the highway. A helmet is also required when riding a scooter (much as it is with one who rides a motorcycle). Most scooters are not allowed to use bike lanes unless they are of the smaller engine sizes.

A scooter will vary in cost depending upon the size of the motor. Typically, scooters run from $1,200 to $5,000. However, scooters with larger motors can cost as much as $8,000!

There are some great benefits of owning a scooter. First, the scooter offers great gas mileage (or in the case of electric, great range compared to electric bikes), with most averaging about sixty miles per gallon! The insurance for a scooter is cheap as well. Scooters can be easily parked anywhere, and they are a lot of fun to drive. However, the scooter offers little storage space for drivers, and it requires a motorcycle license in most states. The helmet and other safety gear one is required to wear while operating a motor scooter can get expensive. Plus, riding a scooter for over an hour or two can become uncomfortable.

FAQs

Can I buy scooters and electric bikes on Amazon?

I didn’t find any scooters other than kids scooters but I suppose there are some. There are electric bikes but the selection isn’t great. You would be far better off ordering from a bike retailer. You’ll end up with a better ride that is more suited for the type of cycling you’ll do. If I were to buy a scooter, I’d probably go to the main scooter brand which is Vespa.

Can I buy used electric bikes and scooters on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace?

You bet you can and it’s a great option for both. Bicycles are stupid expensive these days and many people upgrade all the time which means you can get a great electric bike or scooter for far less than you’d pay for the equivalent new. Seriously, a 2 year old electric bike that isn’t bashed up will be perfectly good. Same with a scooter.

Which is more comfortable, the electric bike or the scooter?

The scooter probably, given it has a plusher seat and you don’t pedal.

Which is easier to stow, the electric bike or the motor scooter?

The electric bike is easier to stow since it’s smaller and lighter.

Can I tow a trailer with the scooter?

Absolutely! In fact, you can carry a slightly larger trailer with the scooter than you could with the electric bike.  Just don’t try to pull a 26 foot motor boat or RV.

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