With the popularity of electric scooters on the rise, the ongoing electric scooter vs car debate doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon. If you’re considering getting an electric scooter, you may also be wondering how the two-wheeled vehicle competes against a car.
Ultimately, the better choice depends on your own preference, needs, and situational factors, and it will never be an easy decision. In this guide, we will try to make that decision a bit easier for you.
Car vs electric scooter
Go for an electric scooter if you need to mainly need to travel short distances, like for running errands or commuting to work. They are cheaper, easier to ride, and you can navigate them through tight spaces and traffic. If you need to travel a longer distance with your family or need to transport heavy luggage, you’re better off with a car. A car is also more handy during extreme weather conditions.
In this guide, I’ll discuss the advantages of each mode of transport and compare some of their factors to help you figure out which one is the best for you.
Electric scooter advantages
To start, let’s look at the advantages of electric scooters over cars.
Electric scooters are environmentally friendly
It’s a known fact that electric scooters are more environmentally friendly compared to cars. This is what spread the craze for electric scooters in the first place and is one of their main selling points.
One of the major downsides of cars is their fuel combustion engines that cause air pollution. Frequent stopping in traffic jams causes excess pollution because the cars emit extra air pollutants when stopping or slowing down.
Of course, electric cars are a reality today, but they’re still nowhere near as widespread as gasoline-powered cars.
An electric scooter emits seven times less greenhouse gases than a car, which means fewer air pollutants and negative health impacts. This is because instead of burning fossil fuels to run, e-scooters use rechargeable lithium batteries. The reduction in air pollution also means you get a cleaner city and planet.
That being said, electric scooters have their downsides too. Their lithium batteries typically have an average lifespan of 2-3 years, after which they are left to rot in landfills if not recycled and handled properly.
So, improperly disposed batteries may eventually start leaking chemicals and emitting toxic gases. However, this can be managed by being a responsible e-scooter owner and disposing of the batteries according to government regulations.
In the case of regular gasoline cars, there’s not much you can do to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.
Electric scooters are cheaper than cars
It’s no surprise that electric scooters are cheaper than cars. They are smaller, have fewer components, and have a simpler design. On average, a good beginner-friendly electric scooter will cost you between $300 to $800. Though high-end e-scooters can go well above $1500, the cost is still significantly less than the average cost of a new car.
When you buy a car, you’re also obligated to pay a registration fee, insurance fee, and taxes. Not to mention all the parking fees you’ll have to pay throughout your ownership.
With an electric scooter, you can completely avoid the registration and parking fees, and in most places the insurance fees as well.
Typically, electric scooters don’t need to be insured, but even if you do decide to insure yours, the cost will be significantly less than what you have to pay for car insurance.
Electric scooters are more convenient
If you’re as impatient about traffic jams as I am, an electric scooter can be a lifesaver. Since electric scooters are lightweight and small, you can easily maneuver through traffic.
Also, most places allow electric scooters to be ridden in separate bike lanes, which means you can avoid traffic altogether. You don’t even have to hassle finding parking spaces. Even a small space like a bike stand is enough to park your scooter, or you can just fold it up and carry it wherever you’re going.
A foldable electric scooter is also easy to carry on public transport if you need to travel a longer distance. For example, I know a senior in my building who can’t drive his car anymore, so he uses his electric scooter to ride to and from transit stops, and it works great for him.
His scooter is foldable and comes with a seat, which helps him avoid fatigue and gives him a sense of independence.
Electric scooters require lesser maintenance
Cars have complex mechanical systems that require regular maintenance like oil changes, fluid checks, brake inspection, air filter replacement, etc. As I mentioned above, electric scooters have fewer parts than cars, so you don’t have to hassle with much maintenance.
In fact, maintaining an electric scooter mainly involves cleaning it regularly and taking care of the battery. The biggest maintenance cost you’ll incur will probably be the battery replacement, but that’s usually after years of use.
Through regular checks, you can ensure every minor risk of damage is nipped in the bud before it turns into something major. Even if you do have to take your scooter to the mechanic to get something fixed, it will cost much less than it usually does for car maintenance.
Electric scooters have more health benefits
Believe it or not, electric scooters do have health benefits. Apart from the fact that they decrease air pollution, electric scooters can help improve your balance and posture. You may not get a full cardio workout, but the vehicle does keep your body engaged enough to be considered light exercise.
While you ride, you have to constantly balance yourself while making turns, going down hills, and stopping when necessary. With time, as your balance improves, so does your core strength because your core muscles are always working to keep you stable on the scooter.
A study showed that standing can help you lose 8 additional calories per hour compared to sitting. So while riding your scooter, you’re also burning more calories than you would by driving your car or riding the subway.
Electric scooters also allow you to interact with nature and improve your overall mental health. When I’m going through a stressful situation, riding through my neighborhood helps me calm my nerves, and it’s definitely a hobby I recommend to everyone.
Electric scooters are more accessible
Apart from being more affordable than cars, electric scooters are also accessible to more age groups. The age requirement for riding an electric scooter varies from state to state in the U.S. In some states, children as young as 12 are allowed to ride them, and a few have no age limit at all.
You also don’t need a license to ride an e-scooter. So, if you’re having trouble acing your driving test, have a suspended license, or are ineligible for getting one (people with medical issues, non-citizens, etc), an e-scooter is a good way to commute around town.
Electric scooters are especially great for people with mobility because they operate easily. Riders that tire easily can opt for comfortable electric scooters with a seat, wide footrest, and larger and stable tires, to avoid physical exertion.
Fuel prices have been rising for the past few months and show no signs of stopping. With inflation and the global fuel crisis, prices are expected to increase further. The gas price right now in the U.S. is $3.937 per gallon, which can get you anywhere between 20-30 mi / 32-48 mi.
In comparison, a single charge for an average e-scooter battery will only cost you a few pennies. This will get you about 15-30 mi / 25-48 before needing a recharge.
One thing common about cars and escooters is that you’ll need to learn how to ride them both. It’s pretty easy to learn how to ride an electric scooter, and it only takes a few minutes to grasp the basics. A few practice rides in a safe, open space, and you’re good to go. Though this can take a few days to learn, you’ll get the hang of things soon enough.
The easier operation technique makes electric scooters, the more manageable option for people with disabilities.
To learn how to drive a car, you’ll need someone to properly teach you how to use the different gears, pedals, different parking techniques, etc. You’ll also need to be well-versed in the traffic rules and regulations regarding cars for wherever you live.
Now that you know the advantages of electric scooters, let’s get into the benefits of having a car.
Cars are better for traveling long distances
Cars are generally better for longer distances because they have more range than electric scooters. On average, budget electric scooters can get you around 9-18 mi / 15-30 kilometers on a single charge. Of course, there are a lot of long-range electric scooters that can cover distances much bigger than that (100 mi / 160 km and even more), but they will be quite more expensive.
A car is also the more comfortable option over an electric scooter for long rides. Even the most comfortable electric scooters won’t be practical for longer road trips.
Also, cars have trunks which means more luggage space for traveling. The most you can take with you on an electric scooter is a backpack. Excess weight will increase the load on the motor, and the battery will drain faster than normal.
Cars offer a much better riding experience
You can’t deny the amenities you get with a car, like air conditioning, extra legroom, adjustable and comfortable seating, etc. Cars are also better at handling rough terrains without making the ride uncomfortable.
Electric scooters, on the other hand, have smaller seats and wheels, which are more susceptible to bumps and vibrations.
Cars also give you better weather protection. You can easily ride them in the rain or on muddy roads without the fear of slipping or getting into an accident. You also won’t be worried sick about water getting into the components of your vehicle.
With a car, you feel safer riding on unpredictable and uneven roads because you have more control. According to a study, the injury rate linked to electric scooters was 115 per 1 million trips, whereas cars were found to be safer, with an injury rate of 8 injuries per 1 million trips.
Cars are more family-friendly
One of the major benefits of cars that put them ahead of all other vehicles is that they are family-friendly. Cars can seat more people and keep them safe with the help of seatbelts and airbags.
While an e-scooter is great for running errands and leisure rides, it’s designed to serve an individual person rather than a group.
Cars are faster
Cars easily win over escooters when it comes to speed because of their powerful engines. Most electric scooters can’t go as fast as cars, with their average top speeds ranging between 15-20 mph / 24-32 kmh.
The fastest electric scooters can go as fast as 100 mph / 160 kmh or even faster, but that’s the case for just a handful of models, and riding at that speed is very dangerous. Reaching those kinds of speed with a car, while not a trivial matter, is still much easier and safer.
Can an electric scooter replace a car?
There are scenarios where an electric scooter may completely replace a car. If you mostly move within your city, and the distances you cover are not too big (less than 10 mi / 16 km daily), and you also use public transport a lot, then an electric scooter can definitely be a replacement for a car.
Now, an electric scooter is vastly different from a car. While it may be more environmentally friendly and convenient, there are times when a car is just more reliable. In contrast, cars can be a nuisance while riding on narrow roads and in traffic jams.
If you have both a car and an electric scooter, the trick is to use them both in a balanced way that makes your overall life easier.
When to use an electric scooter?
An electric scooter can come in handy when you plan on riding on narrow pathways and routes that are usually filled with traffic.
If you need to run an errand or ride a short commute to work, it would be more convenient to use an electric scooter instead of a car. You’ll save time by avoiding rush hour traffic and won’t have to spend on fuel either. Not to mention that you won’t have to worry about finding parking space.
When to use a car?
There are a number of scenarios for which an electric scooter is not really a good option.
If you’re planning on a long road trip, a car ride will be the obvious choice, since it’s a lot more comfortable and less exerting than riding upright on a scooter.
Naturally, in extreme weather conditions, like heavy rainfall or heavy snow, you’re better off riding your car. A car is also the more reasonable option if you want to transport heavy luggage or travel with passengers.
Should you get a scooter instead of a car?
In general, it’s probably best to have both an electric scooter and a car for maximum transport versatility, unless you happen to rarely need one of them.
For example, if you rarely travel or leave your city, and you typically cover small distances and use public transport a lot, you may not need a car. In this case, an electric scooter can completely replace your car.
If, on the other hand, you have a long car commute and don’t need a lot of other transport options, then you probably don’t really need an electric scooter.