The idea of scooters often conjures up romantic thoughts—pictures of zipping around a windy road on a lazy, languorous afternoon on the Mediterranean.

But in the get-up-and-go world of America, the reality of scooter riding can look much different. Before buying a scooter, read on to see what may—or may not—make a scooter the right vehicle for you.

Scooters vs. Motorcycles

You're ready to switch from four wheels to two, but you're unsure whether to opt for a cycle or a scooter. While the motorized bikes are similar in concept, there are many aspects that separate scooters from their big cycle cousins.

Before buying a scooter, think about when and why you will be riding it. This will help you determine if it's the best two-wheeled choice for you. There are several other major factors to consider when deciding between a scooter and a motorcycle.


In general, scooters are less expensive than motorcycles. Even higher-end scooters are not typically more expensive than average motorcycles.

Depending on your state, you may also be able to skip out on certain equipment costs, such as a helmet; however, it is generally recommended to wear a helmet whenever you are operating a motor scooter, regardless of your local legislation.

Scooter Insurance

While it is required in all states to have scooter insurance, it is typically a less costly bill than car or motorcycle insurance, since scooters usually are:

  • Ridden fewer miles.
  • Ridden under less risky circumstances.
    • i.e. No racing or off-roading.

Before purchasing a motor scooter, check out your state's motorcycle insurance requirements.


Whether or not a scooter will be convenient for you depends on why and how you plan on riding it. Consider the following:

  • Environment.
    • A scooter will likely be easier to maneuver (and park) in urban settings compared to its bigger motorcycle brethren.
  • Learning curve.
    • Scooters mostly have automatic transitions, which are easier for most people to master than the manual clutch and gearshift on a motorcycle.
      • NOTE: Scooter riding courses are available and generally recommended for novice riders.
  • Your weight.
    • Due to its smaller size, a scooter's max speed will decrease noticeably depending on the weight of the driver.
  • Gas mileage
    • Perhaps one of their biggest draws, scooters typically get much higher gas mileage than most cars. Keep in mind, however, that this is also true for most motorcycles.
  • Passengers and cargo.
    • Some motor scooters are built for two riders or have more storage space, but most of these vehicles operate best with a single rider and a lighter load.

Choosing to buy a scooter over a motorcycle may not be a good idea if you:

  • Plan on using the highway.
    • In fact, scooters are banned from highway driving in some states, due to their slower speeds.
  • Want to go fast.
    • Perhaps the biggest differences between a scooter and a motorcycle are speed and power. The more powerful scooters typically don't reach the speeds of even the average motorcycle.

Scooter Safety

While there's no clear difference when it comes to which vehicle is less likely to cause an accident or injury, the subject of scooter safety is still worth considering.

A scooter's smaller stature has many people believing the vehicle is a safer option, but that factor also carries a certain number of risks, including:

  • Being lost more easily in a driver's blind spot.
  • Being more vulnerable while changing lanes, at intersections, or in parking lots.
  • Having less to protect you in case of an accident.

Scooter Models

Within the broad umbrella of motor scooters, there are several ways to classify the vehicles— namely, by body type and by engine type. These can play a role in determining whether you want to buy a scooter—and if so, which scooter you opt to purchase.

Body-wise, scooters can generally have:

  • Two wheels—The classic engineering setup of a scooter.
  • Three wheels—The two wheels can either be in the front or in the back of the scooter.
  • Full enclosure—These scooters include a windscreen and a roof.

There are also several different model types, including:

  • Basic models—The simplest form of a scooter.
  • Fast-basic models—Built to reach higher speeds.
  • Gas-saving models—Built to reach higher miles per gallon.
  • Touring models—Built to ride longer distances.

Scooter Engine Types

Scooter engines are classified by cubic centimeters (CCs). These units give an idea of how much power an engine has, with the higher number of CCs correlating to a more powerful engine.

Engines with lower CCs typically have lower max speeds than engines with higher CCs. It is always a good idea to check the exact specifications of your desired scooter and check its max speed.

Gas vs. Electric Motor Scooters

While electric scooters are a newer innovation continuing to be developed by manufacturers, they have been on the market long enough to garner some comparisons to traditional gas-powered scooters.

Electric scooters derive their energy primarily from batteries, and are typically better for:

  • Cost—While high-end electric scooters may cost as much as or more than traditional gas-powered models, you will undoubtedly save money on gas.
  • Environmental impact—Electric motor scooters give off much fewer emissions.
  • Noise—Electric engines are much quieter than gas-powered ones.

Gas-powered motor scooters tend to have the edge when it comes to:

  • Speed—Gas-powered engines can go much faster.
  • Durability—Since they can reach higher speeds, gas-powered scooters are typically built more hardily.

Scooter Licenses

The issue of being legally qualified to ride a motor scooter varies from state to state. Generally, you can ride a scooter on private property with no certification, but in order to take it on the road, you MAY have to:

  • Have the motor scooter titled and registered with your state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office.
  • Obtain a motorcycle license in order to legally operate the vehicle.

Make sure to check with your state's DMV office to determine which steps you need to take. Once you've done your required homework, you'll be ready to buy the scooter you've always wanted!

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