Even though they have been a roaring success on streets around the world, recent legislation and the Covid-19 pandemic has finally convinced the government to take action and legalise electric scooters when using them via a rental company. Unfortunately, an electric scooter that you own can only be ridden on private roads.
Whilst we await a change in the law, we decided to take an in-depth look at whether it is better to rent a scooter or purchase one outright. With the launch of American micro mobility companies like Bird and Lime a couple of years ago, it jump-started the movement with their electric scooter rentals. This has made its way to the UK and you can now rent an electric scooter in most major UK cities for just a few pounds.
This has also seen a growth in people choosing to buy their scooter outright, in fact, many of the rental scooters we see today are modified versions of the ever popular Xiaomi M365. With this rising popularity amongst students and commuters, many people are now wondering, is it better to rent an electric scooter or buy one of your own?
Both choices have their own advantages and disadvantages depending on your individual situation and preferences, but we believe ownership offers superior benefits. Let me explain why.
Protecting our Planet.
Electric scooters are touted as green and better for the environment and on the surface, this is largely true. Unlike most combustion vehicles, electric scooters do not produce harmful carbon dioxide or nitrous oxide when in use. However, as with all consumer goods, contaminating by-products are created in the manufacturing, shipping and disposal / recycling process. These are many many times smaller when compared to cars but renting isn’t as eco-friendly as ownership when it comes to protecting our planet.
Firstly, distribution, collection and charging are all integral parts of the electric scooter rental business model. Each night and often during the day too, and army of juicers and gig economy workers drive around the city recharging, repairing and relocating electric scooters that have been used. Somewhat ironic when many rental companies advertise their products as replacements for cars.
In practice, their average lifetime of a scooter ranges anywhere from 28 days to 9 months and, once damaged, scooters most often simply end up in the landfill rather than being recycled. Just check out Birds now infamous Instagram channel showing where Bird scooters go to die. If we convert this to CO₂ per passenger mile, other modes of transport will operate for thousands of miles before being scrapped.
On the other hand, owning your electric scooter, if properly maintained and ridden will see you get many miles for years. Therefore, owning your electric scooter is greener then renting and much more eco-friendly than using a car.
Renting an electric scooter is great for infrequent use, like exploring a city or on a tourist trip. However, we took a scenario to see what the costs would be if you used an electric scooter every day to commute to and from work.
Based on a one-way journey to a workplace which is 5 miles away it will cost you £1 to unlock your rental scooter and approximately 18 pence per mile to ride it. That costs you £1.90 with the round-trip costing £3.80 (about the same as an M&S sandwich).
Not bad when you consider this option is cheaper than public transport and you are maintaining current social distancing rules whilst you scoot to work in the fresh air. But the costs quickly add up and renting the scooter every working day for the year will end up costing you just under £1,000 for the year.
If you compared that to the cost of purchasing a Xiaomi M365 which is currently £359.99. Your purchase will be paid back within 5 months.
* We found that your scooter is paid off in just 90 days, when compared to the cost of renting a scooter for the same duration.
Ownership is designed for more regular travel so although you might wince at the initial price tag, the upfront cost is spread over the usable lifetime of the scooter and becomes much cheaper per mile over time. Using our payment options with Klarna you can even spread the cost over 3 months making it even more viable.
Therefore, it’s cheap to rent but owning is more cost-effective in the long-term
The great thing about renting an electric scooter is that they are instantly ready-to-use. Anyone with a smartphone can unlock a scooter using an app, ride away and leave it in a designated drop off area. But it is still difficult for operators achieve good electric scooter availability, so they resort to increasing the total number of scooters within a city, a brute force solution that is very expensive and hardly sustainable as the number of users increases. This leads to another issue - Urban Clutter, caused by poorly parked scooters which become inconvenient obstacles to pedestrians and even potentially serious hazards.
What you want when you walk out of your home or leave your office is to ride immediately and not have to hunt around with an app for the nearest available scooter. Renting appears convenient but owning is less hassle. This takes us nicely to our final reason, quality of the ride.
All operators have to contend with is vandalism. Whilst rental scooters typically have more robust, durable frames in order to withstand frequent public use, this doesn’t mean they don’t get damaged. It is not uncommon to see more than one rider on an electric scooter and some are even thrown into rivers and canals and stolen or damaged deliberately by individuals with little regard for public property.
This host of problems is avoided completely with ownership. Electric scooters are designed to be quickly folders allowing for easy carriage and storage. This might seem like a hassle at first but at least you know your electric scooter is in great working condition each and every time you need it. No need to waste time searching for a scooter in rideable condition or fiddle with an app because your own electric scooter is always with you when you need it.
Based on the evidence..
When it comes to rental and ownership, it is clear that one type of electric scooter will be more appropriate for some users than the other, depending on your needs and daily habits. Rentals may be ideal for the touristic exploration of cities, whereas regular commuters will benefit from the reliability of having a personally owned vehicle at hand which is permanently at their disposal.
However, in terms of sustainability, urban clutter, safety, and reliability, ownership is superior to rental. Check out these high-quality electric scooters that you can own for as little as £359.