Best Electric Scooters
Electric scooters, or e-scooters, seem to be shaking up transportation today by offering a fun and environmentally friendly way to get around - but are they worth the hype?
Whether you’re looking for an electric scooter for adults, an electric scooter for kids, one for a commute, or one to just cruise around in - you should know the basics to decide which scooter is right for you.
What is an electric scooter?
Most of us know what a normal scooter is, and perhaps we’ve even ridden one at some point, so what makes an electric scooter different?
Electric scooters (or motorised scooters) run on an electric motor that is powered by rechargeable batteries, letting you ride it as long as the batteries have charge. They generally come with a charger that you can plug into an electrical socket.
- Great for riding short distances. They’re designed for shorter rides, making them a great option when you want to zip around.
- Easy to use. Driving it is as simple as, if not simpler than, riding a bike.
- Convenient. It’s easy to find a parking space (or if possible you could just keep it with you) and you can easily skip traffic jams.
- Relatively eco-friendly. They have a much lower carbon footprint than cars and don’t emit air pollution.
- Low operating costs. While the upfront cost of an electric scooter may be high, they’re inexpensive to run - particularly if you charge them during off-peak times.
- Can increase mobility. Not everyone is able to walk or go anywhere they want, whether because of physical, health, or even just time constraints. An electric scooter can make it a lot easier (and possible) to go places - such as areas that don’t have much public transport.
- Can be fun! Serious stuff aside, electric scooters can be fun to ride - just ensure that you’re being safe so that your enjoyment isn’t at the expense of anyone else’s.
- Not designed for longer rides. If you have a long commute, an electric scooter may not have the range to take you where you need to go.
- Can be dangerous. If the areas you’re riding around don’t support electric scooters (for example if they don’t have dedicated scooter or bike lanes), it may be dangerous, especially if motorists aren’t used to sharing the road with e-scooters.
- They aren’t meant to get wet. This means you’ll need a backup mode of transportation for wet weather.
- Changing legal status. The laws surrounding them aren’t widely known and are also constantly changing - this can make it difficult to keep up with the guidelines you need to follow.
- Can reduce amount of incidental exercise. If you want to increase the amount of exercise you do, an electric scooter may make it hard to do so, particularly if a large portion of your physical activity is gained from commuting around.
Are electric scooters legal in Australia?
Because they vary between states and aren’t widely known, the rules on electric scooters can be confusing, particularly for new riders. To add to the confusion, it’s often still legal for retailers to sell e-scooters in states where you cannot ride them in public (and some retailers aren’t even aware of local laws themselves).
Here’s a basic summary of how legislation differs state to state, but you should do your own research into laws where you live before you buy one and hit the road. Note that these regulations only apply to electric scooters, and not other similar vehicles such as mobility scooters, electric mopeds, or electric hoverboards.
This information was last updated on 5th February 2021 and may have changed.
Australian Capital Territory
You can only legally ride an electric scooter on the pavement or bike lanes in the ACT. Riding it on the road is only permitted when there is no footpath or nature strip alongside it. You must stick to a speed limit of 15km/h for footpaths and 25 km/h on shared or bike paths.
New South Wales
Riding an e-scooter is currently illegal in NSW, unless you’re on private property. The penalty for using one on a public road or footpath is a $78 on-the-spot fine, with the potential for an increased penalty.
You can ride your electric scooter on public roads and footpaths in VIC as long as the motor’s maximum power output is lower than 200W and it has a maximum speed of less than 10km/h. The fine for breaching this is $826, and other penalties may apply.
Electric scooters can be ridden on QLD paths and roads, but your scooter must have a maximum speed of 25km/h and a maximum weight of 60kg (when not carrying a person or load).
Laws in the NT depend on your scooter’s power - if it has a maximum power output of less than 200W then you can use it on public roads and footpaths, but those with greater power are considered to be motor vehicles, and therefore must be registered if you want to ride them in public areas. All electric scooters can be used on private property, regardless of power output.
You can only ride your e-scooter on private property in SA. You may only use ridesharing scooters on public roads, footpaths, and other public spaces. Riding your personal scooter in public can carry a penalty of $1232 and upwards.
In WA, electric scooters can only be legally ridden on low speed public roads and paths, and only if they have a maximum engine output of less than 200W and a maximum speed of 10km/h on level ground. You can however ride any e-scooter on private property.
You can ride your electric scooter on low-speed public roads and footpaths in Tasmania if it has a maximum power output of less than 200W. Those with a higher power output can only be used on private property.
Factors to consider when choosing an electric scooter
Safety should be a top priority when choosing an electric scooter, and there are plenty of features to look out for (in addition to practicing safe scootering and abiding by any relevant laws).
Some of these include:
- Lights: These make it safer for night riding - bonus points if they have the option to flash for extra visibility. If your scooter doesn't come with lights, check whether you can purchase them separately and attach them yourself.
- Sturdiness: Generally, the sturdier your electric scooter the less likely it is to break down on your in the middle of riding it. Look out for a durable frame that seems like it can take a big battering.
- Anti-slip surface: An anti-slip surface on the deck helps you securely stand on the scooter when you're riding it.
Regarding brakes, hydraulic disc brakes are generally a more reliable option than drum brakes, V-brakes and band brakes. This is because they manage heat better and thus don’t deteriorate in the same way that other brakes do. Models with these brakes are generally pricier, but as is the case with all e-scooters, ensure that if you are looking into a model without them that it still has the features necessary for safe driving.
Also consider the weight limit of any scooter you’re considering buying and whether this can accommodate both the driver and their load. Remember that electric scooters are designed for only one rider.
Electric scooters for kids
There are plenty of smaller electric scooter models designed for kids that let them get in on the fun. Often manufacturers will list a suitable age range for their scooters, so ensure you follow these guidelines.
For children, safety features are even more important, as is teaching them safe riding. Don’t choose a larger scooter in anticipation of your kid growing into it unless you’re not going to let them ride it until they’re tall enough - buy one that suits their current height and upgrade accordingly as they grow.
Keep in mind that some states only allow people aged 18 years and over to ride electric scooters on public roads and paths.
While it may be tempting to go for the fastest electric scooter on the shop shelf, it’s crucial that you pick a model that complies with your state’s and city’s laws regarding maximum scooter speed. There’s little use spending more on a faster scooter if you can’t drive more than 10km/h.
When considering scooter speeds, also factor in that the heavier the rider and the steeper the hill you’re climbing, the slower you will go, so it may be unlikely that you will actually be able to ride at the maximum speed advertised by a manufacturer.
Electric scooter battery and range
The range (distance that the scooter can travel on one battery) that manufacturer’s tout are often best-case examples that are based on a lighter person riding on a flat, straight road.
You may not even want a scooter for a work commute - you may be after an off road scooter that’ll be used on rougher terrains and more inclines. In this case you might want to look for something with a higher range - some off-road models can last up to 120km on a fully charged battery pack (most electric scooters have a range of up to 90km).
Design and functionality
Think about the size and weight you’d prefer, taking into consideration that it has to be hefty enough to bear your weight but lightweight enough to make it portable. Your scooter should be easy for you to carry (including up any stairs or other less accessible spaces you may have to navigate) and whether it has folding capabilities for easy storage and convenient handling.
You’ll also need a handlebar that’s at a comfortable height for you - these are often adjustable. Also consider the size of the standing deck - some people feel more secure with a wider deck.
While most e-scooters are standing scooters, there are some electric scooters with seats (that are similar to bicycle seats) on the market, which may be a more comfortable option for you.
The majority of commuter scooters are 2-wheeled, however there are some 3-wheeled electric scooters and even 4-wheelers which offer more support for uneven terrain. What you prefer is entirely up to you, however ensure these less common models comply with state laws.
An electric scooter can set you back anywhere from $500 to $3000 and upwards. Electric scooters for kids are generally cheaper, and usually cost between $250 and $400.
You should also factor in the price of the electric scooter accessories you’ll need. This includes but is not limited to a helmet, lock, lights, an electric scooter bag, and a warm outer layer if you don’t already have the clothing needed for colder outdoor commutes.
Buying an electric scooter shouldn’t be a rash decision - you should do your research, and if possible, take some out for a test run to see how you feel riding them. With so many models to choose from, there’s bound to be one that’s just right for you.