The difference between a scooter vs motorcycle is more nuanced than you might think. Technically speaking, you’ll find scooters listed in your state’s motor vehicle department has them listed under motorcycles. But it’s not quite that clear-cut, is it?
The difference between scooters and motorcycles is generally in their size, power, cost, and often their appearance. Scooters are lightweight, small, and easy to maneuver, making them a popular choice for shorter commutes and urban uses. Motorcycles are heavier and more powerful, providing better performance on highways and long-distances.
Those are generalizations, but did you know that scooters aren’t necessarily slower than motorcycles? They can be quite fast, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s consider these differences to make the right choice between a scooter and a motorcycle.
- Understanding Your Needs
- Scooter vs Motorcycle Cost Difference
- Performance & Handling Differences
- Fuel Efficiency Comparison
- Storage & Convenience
- Scooter vs Motorcycle for Beginners?
- Legal Requirements
- Which is Better, a Motorcycle or Scooter?
- Is a Scooter Safer than a Motorcycle?
- Are Scooters More Comfortable than Motorcycles?
- Be Seen & Be Safe! 🛵
Understanding Your Needs
When deciding between a scooter and a motorcycle, you’ll want to think through your specific needs and how each option might fit into your lifestyle. Your choice will largely depend on the types of rides you plan on taking, your budget, and how riding fits into your life.
First, consider the types of rides you’ll be taking. Are they daily commutes or weekend trips? For short city rides, a scooter is likely your best bet. It’s fuel-efficient and easy to maneuver. But if you’re looking at longer trips, a motorcycle offers higher speed and extended comfort.
Next, think about your budget. Scooters are generally more affordable, not just upfront but also for ongoing expenses. These include maintenance, fuel, and insurance. That said, you can find cost-effective motorcycles and high-end scooters. Just remember to factor in ongoing costs when budgeting.
Last, how does riding fit into your lifestyle? Need extra storage space? A scooter’s under-seat compartment has you covered. Interested in a riding community? Motorcycles offer a broader range of clubs and events. If customizing your ride matters, you’ll find more options with motorcycles.
By considering these aspects—ride types, budget, and lifestyle—you’ll be in a better position to understand how the following differences will matter to you.
Scooter vs Motorcycle Cost Difference
When thinking about what matters to you, hopefully you were starting to think through how much the differences might cost you. There is the cost of the motorcycle or scooter, insurance, licensing, and don’t forget – maintenance.
Engine size matters a lot in pricing whether you’re looking at a scooter or motorcycle. A 50cc scooter can technically be purchased on Amazon like these 50cc TaoTao scooters for much less than you’d think a transportation source could cost.
However, if you stick with a reputable brand with a dealer supported warranty, they generally start at $2,000 for the smallest engines (& therefore lowest speeds). On the other side of this, the most powerful scooter available right now has an MSRP around $10K (Kymco AK 550 review here).
For motorcycles, I was recently checking out a Honda Rebel 300 – and it runs at just under $5k MSRP. A Vespa GTS 300 is quite a bit higher than that with the same engine size. So you’ll find a lot of overlap in the price ranges.
I then visited a dealer to look at an Indian Motorcycles Scout Bobber. It’s just over 1,100 cc and starts at over $11K Then the Elite models with a starting price of $38,999!
You’ll find a lot of overlap and nuance when you layer in engine sizes, brands, and much more. That said, I have yet to run across a scooter in $20,000 range! With that, it is easier to keep costs down with a scooter, but there are plenty of motorcycles on the lower end of the price range. It all depends on your needs!
In general, scooters tend to be more affordable than motorcycles. You can find a quality scooter for around $1,000-$3,000, while a good motorcycle typically starts at $4,000 and goes up from there. Keep in mind that the cost of a scooter or motorcycle will vary based on the specific model, features and brand.
Additional Initial Costs
When buying either a scooter or a motorcycle, you’re going to have additional costs before you drive up – whether new or used. Are you legally able to ride with the appropriate license requirements for your state? Liability insurance at least? State transfer for the title? Yes, even scooters have titles.
Initial licensing and paperwork: Both scooters and motorcycles require proper licensing and registration. Although the process may be different depending on your state, some states do not require any special license beyond a drivers license depending on the engine size of a scooter.
As far as the paperwork, many states base some fees like a sales tax on the value of the item you’re buying. Since scooters generally cost less, you’ll pay slightly less on those adjusted fees.
Insurance: Insurance costs for scooters are typically lower than motorcycles due to their smaller engine sizes, value, and generally lower risk factors. However, these costs may fluctuate based on factors such as your age, driving history, and the specific make and model of your scooter or motorcycle.
Maintenance: Maintenance costs for scooters are usually lower than motorcycles as well. With fewer mechanical parts, a scooter is less complex, resulting in lower labor and parts costs during repair or maintenance. Motorcycles, on the other hand, have more advanced engines and can require more specialized knowledge and tools, which can result in higher service costs.
If you think that safety gear matters for for the scooter vs motorcycle debate, you’re actually wrong. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation will tell you that you need to have all the gear on both. Some states even require a helmet & sometimes eye protection regardless of scooter vs motorcycle.
Performance & Handling Differences
When it comes to performance, both scooters and motorcycles have their unique strengths. Scooters are known for their maneuverability while motorcycles are known for their power. It just isn’t that simple, though!
Engine Size and Power
When you think of a motorcycle, you tend to think large motors meant for higher speeds and a scooter is likely to make you think of small motors designed for slower speeds. That’s partially right, but it is not 100% true!
Brief newbie explainer: Engine sizes are measured in cubic centimeters (cc) which refers to how much it can displace fuel to turn it into power. The lower the value, the lower the top speed you can expect and the higher the number, the faster we are talking. Generally.
- Motorcycles and motorbikes have engines sizes from 150cc to over 2000cc. The highest speed of a 150cc engine is about 60 mph or 97 kmh. You’ll find most on the road to be in the 750-1100 cc range, but you’ll hear that beginner bikes are in the 500-750cc range.
- Scooters, on the other hand, have an engine with sizes that ranges from 50cc to 550cc available new. A scooter with an engine of 50cc can’t be described as one designed for speed since you’re looking at the 30-45 mph max range. Check out this article if the 50cc speed limit has you curious. However, a 550cc scooter is designed for higher speeds and can travel on a highway just like a motorcycle.
To help illustrate the speed difference, a 50cc scooter is best used within the city whereas the 1000cc motorcycle can cruise along just fine on a highway next to a 550cc scooter.
Layer in that you’ll see more physical differences when you think about scooter vs motorcycle with bigger or smaller engines, too. We’ll dive into that more in a moment, though. A 50cc scooter is much smaller than a 500cc scooter. Obviously.
The speed of a scooter vs motorcycle depends on the type of engine the scooter or motorcycle has. Regardless of whether you’re looking at a motorcycle or scooter here, the speed is dictated by the engine size.
There are a lot of factors that influence the speeds of each individual motorcycles and motor scooter engines, so it isn’t cut and dry. That said, below are some generalized guidelines to expect for a top speed REGARDLESS of if you’re talking scooter or motorcycle.
- 50 cc = ~ 40 mph (if not restricted to 30 mph)
- 150 cc = ~70 mph
- 200 cc = ~75 mph
- 300 cc = ~85 mph
- 400 cc = ~90+ mph
I was checking out a Honda Rebel 300cc last weekend, and in chatting with the sales person & doing some research, the 300 just doesn’t have the power. It seems hands down that people recommend the 500cc at a minimum if you’re looking to travel on the highway. I point this out because the 300 cc has a top speed of about 85 mph should be more than fine on the highway. There’s just a lot more to think about as part of the decision making process.
The key takeaway here is that you can find slower or faster options in both categories – scooters and motorcycles.
Wheel Size and Stability
The size of the wheel of a two-wheeled vehicle determines how stable the wheels will be when the scooter vs motorcycle is going at a high speed.
- The wheel size of a motorcycle tires is generally 16” or larger. This makes the motorcycle a lot more stable when riding at a higher speed & able to handle stuff in the road that you might come across.
- A scooter has a wheel size which ranges from 10” to 16”. The wheel size of scooters is small and this makes the scooter relatively unstable when at a high speed. Scooters are also not able to handle debris on the road in the same way or rough patches because of the small wheels.
Fuel Efficiency Comparison
When it comes to fuel efficiency, scooters generally have the upper hand over motorcycles. Thanks to their smaller engines and lighter frames, scooters can achieve impressive fuel economy. You might find that scooters can get anywhere between 60 to 100 miles per gallon (mpg) depending on the model. This makes them an excellent choice for city commuting and short trips.
The engine size also translates to fuel efficiency. In general, the bigger the motor, the more gas it will use compared to a smaller motor option. Since most scooters on the road have a smaller engine size, you’ll find them more fuel efficient, as well.
On the other hand, motorcycles usually have larger engines and heavier frames. As a result, their fuel consumption tends to be higher. You’ll typically see a motorcycle’s fuel efficiency ranging from 30 to 60 mpg depending on the size and type of motorcycle. However, keep in mind that motorcycles are designed for longer trips and offer more power, so their higher fuel consumption is somewhat justified.
Here’s a quick comparison of fuel efficiency between a scooter vs motorcycle:
|Vehicle Type||Fuel Efficiency (mpg)|
|Scooters||60 to 100|
|Motorcycles||30 to 60|
Storage & Convenience
When it comes to storage and convenience, scooters have a definite edge over motorcycles. Most scooters come with built-in storage compartments, making it easy for you to carry small items like groceries.
That said, scooters & motorcycles have accessories that you can add like racks, top boxes & saddle bags. You can add a front rack to many scooters but not on motorcycles, but you can have more weight on a larger motorcycle than you can on a scooter. If you plan on long distance trips with a lot of luggage, this can make the motorcycle the better option for you.
Parking a scooter can be quite hassle-free, as they are compact and easy to maneuver. You’ll find it much simpler to find parking spaces for scooters, especially in crowded areas where parking can be a real challenge. Plus, their lightweight design makes them easy to push or physically move, even in tight spots.
Many scooters have a step-through frame with a platform to place your feet so that you’re riding in an upright position. Some find the step-through frame very convenient for getting on & off. In addition, the engine is generally enclosed on scooters & underneath the seat, so you aren’t as likely to touch a hot part of the motor at any time.
There are versions of scooters that do not have the platform for your feet and look more like motorcycles, though. Read more about the different types of scooters here.
In summary, scooters offer several advantages in terms of storage and convenience, making them an attractive option for those who value these features. While motorcycles have their own distinct advantages, scooters stand out when it comes to ease of use, parking, and maneuverability.
Scooter vs Motorcycle for Beginners?
Riding on 2 wheels is generally going to feel the same when you get going. However, it is a bit easier to just hop on & go on a scooter. You’ll hear scooters referred to as twist & go for a reason.
Most motorcycles are manual. Most scooters are automatic. However, older scooters are manual & automatic motorcycles are available.
When I say automatic, it’s referring to no shifting of gears on your part. The motor does what it needs to do. You twist your right handlebar & it will go. When it isn’t automatic, there’s more to do as you’re riding along.
Both of the leavers by your hands on the handle bar are then for braking on a scooter.
The levers on a motorcycle handlebar are a bit different. The left lever is the clutch, and the shifter is the left foot. The right lever on the handlebar is a brake as is the foot control. So the left side of your body makes the motorcycle go. The right side is your braking.
To brake, you’re expected to apply both brakes evenly. This feels smoother on a scooter with the brakes both being hand operations.
And don’t get me started on the idea of the motorcycle riders that act like you’re not legit if your bike is automatic. Dude. Were you around in the 80s when people said the same thing about cars & trucks? 🙃
When considering whether to purchase a scooter vs motorcycle, you’ll want difference between scooter and motorcycle legal requirements.
First, licensing differences may be a big deal for you. In many states, you will need a specific motorcycle license to operate a motorcycle, while a scooter may only require a standard driver’s license, depending on engine size.
Traffic laws are another aspect to consider. Many rules of the road apply to both scooters and motorcycles, but things like minimum speed requirements can impact the type of vehicle you can operate in that area. For example, you are likely to find that your state won’t allow your 50cc scooter to be on a 55mph minimum highway.
Age restrictions can also vary between scooters and motorcycles. In some locations, you may be allowed to operate a scooter on public roads at a younger age than a motorcycle. You’ll want to double-check the specific age requirements for your area. If you’re young, the 50cc scooter might be just the thing for you for this reason!
Which is Better, a Motorcycle or Scooter?
Scooters are a subset of motorcycles, so one is not better or worse than the other, so it depends. <– Worst answer in the world, so I’ll try to give a little more structure to this.
In general, people choose scooters to save money, need something with a lower speed, or want something easier to learn to ride on.
In general, motorcycles are more popular than scooters due to their speed and styling.
The visual difference between motorcycles in general and scooters is very striking. You can find more motorcycle like scooters and mopeds, but many fit the more classic Italian Vespa styling, which does not attract the same buyer of a Harley Davidson either.
Also, United States highways are really how we get from point A to point B, and many scooters just aren’t equipped to go long distances at high speeds. Some can, but most can not.
There are also motorcycles intended for some gravel/off road like paths called adventure bikes. Right off the bat you’ll noticed that they have knobby tires which scream to be taken on an adventure. Thus the name!
There are many more nuances to which is better, but your circumstances, needs and budget really drive which would be better for YOU!
Is a Scooter Safer than a Motorcycle?
Scooters are not actually safer than motorcycles, but in general, the slower speeds of scooters make the risk of serious injury and death to be less when wearing appropriate gear and responsible riding.
Scooters typically have a lower speed range and can get around obstacles easier. However, riding on 2 wheels without the protection of a car frame leaves a scooter rider just as vulnerable as a traditional motorcycle.
If a scooter vs motorcycle rider is hit at 50 mph with all other circumstances exactly the same, the results are the same.
So the slower speeds of a 50cc make it feel much safer, while the opportunity for disaster is the same even if you won’t find yourself riding at highway speeds on that same 50cc.
Are Scooters More Comfortable than Motorcycles?
In general, scooters are more comfortable than motorcycles. The riding positions and seats greatly influence comfort on both.
However, there are many motorcycles designed specifically for comfort. A scooter can be more comfortable than a motorcycle. The position in which you ride your scooter is more like a sitting position hence, it is easy to ride, easy to handle, and they are also very comfortable. Scooters have floorboards where the rider’s feet rest while riding the scooter.
That said, some types of motorcycles are built for comfort, and the more reclined position with optimized cushioning will make a long ride much more pleasant!
Be Seen & Be Safe! 🛵
I don’t like an ‘it depends’ answer, but it really depends on your personal preferences and needs. If you’re looking for a more affordable, lightweight, and fuel-efficient option that is easy to maneuver in crowded urban areas, a scooter might be the ideal choice for you. They usually have lower top speeds, which makes them perfect for short commutes and running errands around town.
On the other hand, if you prefer a vehicle with a higher top speed, more power, and better stability at higher speeds, a motorcycle could be the better option. Motorcycles are suitable for long distance rides and highway travel, offering a greater sense of freedom and adrenaline rush for thrill-seekers.
For me, it comes down to this:
- Budget: Scooters tend to be cheaper to purchase and maintain, while motorcycles can have a higher upfront cost and ongoing expenses.
- Riding experience: Beginners may find scooters easier to ride due to their automatic transmission and lighter weight, while experienced riders might enjoy the versatility and power of a motorcycle.
- Usage: Think about your daily commute, the type of roads you’ll be traveling on, and whether you’ll be doing mostly city riding or long distance trips.
Ultimately, the choice between a scooter versus motorcycle is a personal one. Weigh the pros and cons, test ride both options if possible, and go with the one that meets your needs & you’re the most comfortable and confident on!