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So Many Scooters! What are the Different Types?

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My scooter obsession started with a vacation e-scooter experience. I got home, and I decided I wanted to commute to work on one. It turns out that an e-scooter would not work because of how far my job is on top of the terrain concerns. This led me to look up Vespas because a simple search for ‘scooters’ led me to more e-scooters. I did not realize Vespa was a brand, and I just assumed it was a type of scooter at the time. It was confusing. When you search scooter, you get so many different options that pop up that it is difficult to find what you are looking for.

Different Types of Scooters:

  • Kick Scooter
  • e-scooter
  • Mobility scooter
  • Moped
  • Motor Scooter
  • Vespa
  • Three-wheeled Scooter
  • Maxi-Scooter
  • Aqua Scooter
  Powered by Use Ages that Use Wheel Sizes
Kick Scooter Human Recreation Children ~4”
e-Scooter Electric + Human Recreation, commute Teens + ~4”
Mobility Scooter Electric or human Medical aid Any Varies
Motor Scooter Gas or electric Recreation, commute Driving age + 10-16”
Aqua ScooterGasRecreationTeens +n/a as for water use

Mopeds, three-wheeled scooters, maxi-scooters are simply categories of motor scooters. Vespas are a brand of motor scooters.

Kick Scooter

line of kick scooters
Line of kick scooters

A kick scooter is propelled by the power of a rider kicking off from a skateboard-like deck. In order to keep going, the scooter rider has to continue kicking off and on, or else the scooter will eventually lose momentum. This type of scooter has a handlebar and 2 wheels. You might have even had one of these when you were a kid. Human-powered is the key here, and it is a different shape than we talk about on this blog normally.

e-Scooter

line of e-scooters
Line of electric scooter rentals on a city street

This is a very popular type of scooter that pops up often when searching for scooter information. These are similar to the kick scooter, but they have an electric motor attached which makes it a much faster ride. The electric scooter is what e-scooter actually stands for. This type of scooter has two-wheels with a handlebar with the rider standing on a similar deck like the kick scooter but now add in a small, electric motor. The kick from the rider starts the forward movement, but the motor kicks into gear to keep the scooter going without repeated kicks from the rider.

They became very popular as a form of ride-sharing where you can rent them from primarily dockless stations in urban cities. Think of Bird and Lime rentals that people tend to love or hate.

These scooters may also be referred to as motorized scooters depending on your location.

Mobility Scooter

Mobility aid that assists in getting around for medical conditions

A mobility scooter is an aid that helps someone get around that requires some assistance, usually for medical reasons. There is a type of knee scooter to protect ankles that has no motor, and then there are motorized options like the one shown here that have motors to propel a rider. Still a scooter, but this is not what we’re talking about here. This category also tends to have 4 wheels.

Motor Scooter (aka Scooter on this blog)

Can you tell the differences visually between a moped or scooter if you don’t know the engine size?

Now we are in the space of what this blog is all about. This is a two-wheeled source of transportation where the driver sits over an enclosed motor with legs typically resting on a deck. This is a step-through way of sitting, but there are also some that have you sit like a motorcycle.

Most scooters are automatic, and they have traditionally had a gas-powered motor. In more recent years, there have been several electric-powered models introduced like the Vespa Elettrica.

Moped

Mopeds are defined a bit differently depending on the source. For example, some states classify a moped as having a speed restriction of 30mph and horsepower under 2.0. Another state might have the horsepower restriction under 1.8. I have even seen an electric bike with pedals get referred to as a moped. The general consensus is that a moped is a two-wheeled form of transportation that is basically a lighter, less powerful version of a motor scooter, but this is definitely a scooter.

Vespa

I have heard friends do this, too. I had no idea that Vespa was a brand. Scooters are just not that big of a deal where I grew up, and the scooters that were around were the kick scooter kind. Now that I’m into scooters, all motor scooters are just scooters to me. That period in between childhood and scooter-hood, I referred to motor scooters as vespas. Notice I didn’t capitalize that because remember, it wasn’t a brand to my newbie self. I definitely figured that out as I dove further into the research to start riding, but here we are!

Three-wheeled Scooter

Piaggio MP3 three-wheeled scooter

A three-wheeled scooter is a bit more explanatory than other styles as it has 3 wheels. There are 2 wheels in the front that steer and have a single wheel in the rear that propels the scooter.

Maxi-Scooter

A maxi-scooter is sometimes called a touring scooter. They tend to be on the larger size with engines that start at the 200cc engine size and have larger frames than traditional motor scooters. The Suzuki Burgman is an example of this type of scooter.

Look at the distance between the wheels on this scooter. This is an example of a maxi-scooter.

Difference Between Motor Scooters & Motorcycles

Mopeds vs scooters vs motorcycles, oh my!

When out riding, motorcyclists usually acknowledge me as a kindred two-wheel spirit with them because there are a lot of similarities. Both styles of riding mean you have to ride like no one else can see you and be aware in a way that driving in a car just doesn’t relate. That’s where the similarities end.

Motorcycles tend to have larger wheels, larger engine sizes (cc’s), are manually shifted with a clutch, and tend to have the engine attached to the frame. Scooters are smaller in general, their engines are usually part of the rear suspension, and usually have an automatic transmission. It almost feels like we are getting into the weeds, so here is a table with some summarized differences. It is important to note that these are generalizations. There are scooters where the rider sits astride it like a motorcycle. However, these are some high-level differences to help you understand some basic differences.

Factor Scooter Motorcycle
Engine Size 50-650 cc 250+ cc
Transmission Automatic shifting Manual shifting with a clutch
Wheel size 10-16” 16”+
Shape Rider sits with feet on step-through platform Rider sits astride, requires leg swing over the motorcycle
Engine Location Rear and attached to rear suspension Middle and attached to the frame
Requires Special Licensing Depends on state when 50cc usually a full yes when over 50cc Yes

Which is Easier to Learn to Ride? Scooter or Motorcycle?

Scooters are primarily a twist and go experience with an automatic transmission. Motorcycles generally require you to use a clutch to shift between gears manually. That additional movement is the only significant difference when learning to ride a motorcycle.

Other Types of Scooters

Did you know there is an aqua scooter, also known as, an underwater scooter? It’s aqua and therefore a water device, but they are described as “personal watercraft.” The more powerful items tend to be gas-powered, but there are some more entry-level versions that are battery-powered. Here is a link to an entry-level version made by Yamaha to check out on Amazon.

Aquascooter gas-powered on the left, Yamaha Underwater Scooter that is battery-powered is on the right.

There is also what I have seen called the one-wheeled scooter, but it is more commonly called a hoverboard that you move sideways on instead of forward and backward like the original hoverboards. Here’s a link if you want to see more of this scooter action.

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