This comprehensive guide is the ultimate resource for buying an electric scooter. You will learn about electric scooter price classes, basic features, distributors, maintenance, and some tools that will help you with your buying research.
Electric scooter buying guide
The guide is divided into a few sections. Feel free to use the links to below to jump straight to what you’re looking for. If you’re totally new to electric scooters, then it’s helpful to read the whole guide.
Table of Contents
Buying an electric scooter can feel a bit like buying a car or other large purchase. We created this ultimate buying guide to help you along the way. This guide covers technical aspects of the electric scooter itself, price categories, where to buy, and maintenance.
The guide is intended to be used in conjunction with our electric scooter comparison list. The list contains the price and specifications of every electric scooter available on the market today. It is a useful tool for researching electric scooters.
Categories of Electric Scooters
Budget Electric Scooters (<$300)
Most scooters in this category are not recommended for anything but minimal or light recreational use. At this budget price-point, expect: under-powered motors, low capacity batteries, weak brakes, and spotty build quality. However, that said there are some excellent and very functional values in this category. They are worth taking a look at if you this is your budget.
Our pick for: Best Electric Scooter Under $300
Commuter Electric Scooters
The commuter class of electric scooters is the biggest one and therefore divided into two price categories. At these price points, we generally find that scooters are fairly balanced in terms of features, quality, performance, and price.
Budget Commuter ($300 to $600)
These scooters are great for traveling shorter distances, have reasonable range, and suitable build quality for daily commuting. Expect occasional repairs over the few year expected lifetime. They are best when your commute has relatively smooth surfaces and not a lot of steep hills. They are light enough that you can fold and carry them up stairs once in a while.
Our pick for: Best Electric Scooter Under $600
Premium Commuter ($600 to $1200)
These scooters typically add suspension, larger motors, bigger batteries, and better brakes to the budget offerings. The ride will be more comfortable, safer, and have better range due to these upgrades. However, there is a tradeoff with increased weight and size that will make loading into a car or carrying up stairs more difficult.
Our pick for: Best Electric Scooter Under $1200
High Performance Electric Scooters ($1200+)
These scooters are the highest performing in every category except portability. They have massive, sometimes dual motors (some reaching speeds above 40 MPH), extended battery life for extreme range (40+ miles), top-notch suspension, and hydraulically-activated disc brakes for stopping at fast speeds. Although still capable for daily commuting, their larger tires are the only ones suited for off-roading. These are the heaviest as well (typically 50+ lbs), so if you need to fold and carry these scooters, make sure you are comfortable with the weight.
Our pick for: Best Scooter under $2500
Hopefully you have some idea of what category your ideal scooter falls into. Feel free to sort and filter the list to start narrowing down your choices. The commuter class of scooter ($300 to $600) is one of the most densely populated and there are excellent values to be found in this price range.
Pro tip: You can sort the electric scooter database by price range (or any other feature).
Electric Scooter Features
Once you have filtered by price, it is important to understand the features of electric scooters. The top column gives you the most important features to consider when deciding what to purchase. They include: price, range, weight, top speed, motor power, suspension, lighting, brakes, and tires. Let’s go over each one.
There are always going to be better and worse values in purchasing electric scooters, but basically quality and features improve with price. You won’t be buying an off-road beast for $200. Refer to the main classifications for price brackets.
Range refers to the distance a scooter can travel before it runs out of battery power. A cautious rule of thumb is to take whatever the manufacturer advertises and divide by two. Results from the 2018 Electric Scooter Survey show most manufacturers overestimate by 30% in their range claims.
Like all batteries, as time goes on, your battery capacity (and scooter range) will diminish. Think about your commute and how far you travel in a typical day. Remember that when you scooter runs out of power you can still kick to push it.
Pro tip: You can also take your charger with you on your commute or buy an extra charger to leave at your destination.
Weight can be a big consideration if you ever need to fold and carry your scooter. Think about your commute: will you need to walk up stairs? When you get to your destination, do you have an elevator? Sometimes it might be late at night or inclement weather and you may want to take a ride-share home. Most will allow you to put your scooter in the trunk, but you still need to maneuver it into the vehicle.
Most scooters with a reasonable range (>15 miles) will weigh over 25 lbs. Anything much above 30 lbs will be fairly difficult to carry for long durations. Having a handle or shoulder strap will help and some scooters have extra wheels or a folded configuration that allow them to be rolled, but will still have to be carried up stairs or lifted into a vehicle.
Pro tip: You can go to a sporting goods store and pick up a few dumbells or kettlebells to test what weight you can safely manage.
Top speed is not a huge factor for most commuters as long as the scooter can reach 15 mph. In fact, some municipalities have laws against going over 15mph on scooters. In reality, when traveling on roads or in bike lanes, 15-18 mph is fast enough. If you are interested in the extreme performance type of scooter, those go much faster and we recommend wearing safety gear when traveling at those speeds.
Caution: Always wear a helmet when riding your scooter at any speed.
Motor power generally starts at 200 watts and goes all the way up to 6270 watts on the Dualtron X. For adults we do not recommend anything under 250 watts for daily commuting. This will be adequate for flat surfaces and very small hills. If you live in an area with steeper hills, think about going to 350 or 500 watts. Even with 500 watts your scooter will slow down on medium sized hills. At that point you can always kick to help the scooter. Larger motors will not only help with powering up hills, but they will also get you up to top speed more quickly.
Suspension, similar to that in a automobile, smooths out bumps and indentations in the road. Without it, and especially if you have airless tires, you will feel every bump that you travel over. If your commute is longer or has more rough terrain to cross, strongly consider purchasing a scooter with suspension. Suspension can either be attached to the front, rear, or both wheels. Scooters in the Premium Commuter class should have either front or rear suspension.
Scooter, like bicycles, can have a white front light and a red rear light. If you ride after dark, it is necessary to have both a front and rear light. Due to the design of electric scooters, they typically do not have very visible rear lights. If you are going to ride at night, strongly consider adding some flashing red rear lights to your helmet or backpack.
There are four main brake types: electric and/or regenerative, foot, drum, and disc. They are listed in order from least to most effective and can be installed on the front, rear, or both tires.
- Electric and regenerative brakes are the weakest. If you are traveling at 15+mph and need to stop quickly, these alone will not do the job.
- Foot brakes, which are activated by pushing your foot down on the rear fender, cause it to rub against the rear tire, slowing it down. This type of brake has slightly more stopping power, but is not as effective as the disc or drum brakes.
- Drum Brakes are enclosed inside the wheel hub and are generally lower maintenance than other braking types and have consistent performance in wet conditions.
- Disc brakes have the most stopping power and are lighter than drum brakes. They are typically found on the higher end Premium Commuter and High Performance scooters, but may appear on better quality Budget Commuter scooters.
Learn more in our guide to electric scooter brakes.
Tires come in two varieties: pneumatic (air-filled) and airless.
- Pneumatic tires have the advantage of shock absorption and better handling/traction (especially in bad weather). The downside to pneumatic tires is there is more maintenance required than the airless variety. Pneumatic tires are prone to punctures and need be filled with air when they have low pressure.
- Airless tires on the other hand are inferior in every way except they have virtually no maintenance required.
Pneumatic tires are common in all prices ranges, except the Budget range, where tires are almost exclusively airless (solid).
Pro Tip: Do not underestimate the improved ride quality you will get with pneumatic tires. These will make a huge improvement when rolling over even minimally bumpy terrain, where road vibration can be very uncomfortable on your feet and legs. Additionally, you can nearly prevent flat tires by following a few simple tips.
Learn more about the differences between pneumatic and solid (airless) tires in our electric scooter tire guide.
Where you buy an electric scooter can be almost as important as what you buy. When deciding who to buy from, you have a few options, outlined below.
- PEV Shop e.g. Last Mile S.F.
- Big Box e.g. Best Buy, Costco
- Department store
- Specialty distributors e.g. eWheels, MiniMotors USA, Rev Rides
- Big box e.g. Amazon
- Direct from China
- e.g. Alibaba / AliExpress
The editors of this guide tend to favor buying from a good domestic distributor, even though it will cost more. A decent electric scooter will cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. The value added from buying an electric scooter from a good domestic distributor will be enormous: warranty, replacement, parts, repair, etc.
The benefit of domestic whether it be a specialty distributor, local PEV or Amazon is fast shipping and generally easy returns and repairs if there is a problem.
The main downside to buying domestically is increased cost.
Direct from China
The benefit of buying direct from China is cost savings, which can be significant. The downsides are:
- Slow shipping time. It can sometimes take months to receive an order.
- Worse support. If there is a major problem you will not be able to return the scooter, though they may be willing to ship you parts.
- Authenticity. The scooter you buy may be a similar-looking clone of the branded model you really wanted. Some parts may be identical, but others may be different and worse.
Thinking about maintenance before you buy an electric scooter will save you from pain in the future. For example, some electric scooters do not have available replacement parts. Buying one of these will mean that you can only send it back to the manufacturer. The other thing to keep in mind is that there isn’t a good infrastructure in place for electric scooter repair, so the best option is often doing it yourself.
Read more about where you can get an electric scooter repair.
Even the most durable electric scooters will require maintenance. Our owner survey data indicates that most people have two issues per year or every 600 miles requiring maintenance. The most common parts needing maintenance are tires (flats and wearing out), brakes (brake pads, brake adjustments), and fenders (broken, loose etc).
Preventative maintenance can save you a lot of trouble in the future. Though most electric scooters don’t require regular maintenance on most of their parts, you can do some on your tires.
Read more about some simple preventative measure you can take to prevent flats.
Still not sure exactly where to begin?
For a good starting scooter, we recommend something with: 20 mile range, at least one good brake (calipers, drum, or disc), <30 lbs, 250 W motor (or more), and at least one pneumatic tire. This setup should be reasonably useful for the beginner and available in every price category except Budget.
Check out our curated best-of sections to find our expert selection of electric scooters.
For more information, subscribe to the electric scooter subreddit, the most active community of electric scooter owners in the world.