Does An Electric Scooter Cost Less Than Public Transport?

We could answer this question by launching into a sales pitch of cheap versus expensive, adult scooter specifications and point you to the range we carry BUT, we wanted this article to be informative and give YOU  the reader a comprehensive cost comparison of not only how much do electric scooters cost but how do they compare in terms of a viable means of transport in each Australian State.

We will take you through the costs of using a car, rideshare, public transport, scooter hire, and buying an electric scooter, then compare them all so you can see the real cost of your commute to work each week and make your own decision. At the end of the article, we have also a calculator that will give you a weekly cost comparison between hiring an electric scooter and buying.

HOW MUCH DOES YOUR WEEKLY COMMUTE COST?

The Car

In Australia, the most favored form of transport remains the car, mainly due to convenience, distance, and door to door accessibility. But it is also pretty expensive.

Australian Automobile Association (AAA) data suggests "typical city households" spend 14.4% of total income on transport. It's 12.7% for "regional households" which equates to $18,221 on annual transport costs, or more than $1500 a month.

Car loans, fuel, and tolls accounted for about 70% of these costs. Registration, licensing, servicing, tyres, insurance, and roadside assistance round out the remaining 30%.

Australians across the country on average spend between $200 - $290 per week owning a vehicle. To use that vehicle for work-related transport only the range is between $60 - $87 per week.

See the summary comparative rates at the bottom for a state by state breakdown.

Advantages of Using a Car:
  • Convenient door to door
  • No waiting for drivers or timing your commute to public transport schedules
  • The comfort of your own transport
  • Freedom to take any route or divert if required
  • Sing as loud as you want
  • Can take colleagues or friends
  • Ability to run errands to an from work
Disadvantages of Using a Car:
  • Expensive
  • Parking is generally a hassle and extra cost
  • Traffic most days
  • Limited use of mobile phones
  • Required to concentrate
  • Other drivers and frustration – lack of consideration by others

 

Ride Share – Uber / DIDI etc

Rideshare has gained popularity because of the price point in comparison to Taxi, its convenience offers door to door pick up, and technology used giving us a perceived better customer experience by way of the Apps. But if this is used as the main form of transport be prepared to fork out the cash, it’s the most expensive work-related transport of all categories we looked at.

The fee structure of Uber is not dissimilar to Taxis, they use this formula to calculate the estimated trip cost to give you an upfront price. But at the end of the day, if you spend longer in traffic or take a different route than what’s on the rideshare GPS, the fare is automatically adjusted.

Uber and other ride-sharing companies charge a flag fall, then hit you with a $/min rate and on top of that a $/km rate which looks something like this:

Flag Fall = $2.50

A per-minute payment = $0.40 per minute

A per-km payment = $1.45 per km

If you were using an Uber to get to and from work every day and you about a 10min ride from work each way you would expect to pay on average depending on the state you live in somewhere between $120 - $190 per week. Remember this is a cost that can’t be generally claimed as a tax deduction. It’s a massive hit to the pocket.

Advantages of Ride Share:
  • The convenience of door to door or where ever you are located
  • Generally cheaper than Taxi
  • No Parking
  • No maintenance costs, rego or insurances
  • Great for short trips in bad weather
Disadvantages of Rideshare:
  • Quality of the drivers not always great
  • No idea of who you're getting into the car with
  • Awkward conversations
  • You don’t always feel like talking
  • Surges
  • Wait time seems to be getting longer
  • When you pay for Comfort and its not really comfort
  • A massive expense if using every day

 

Use of Public Transport (Bus, Train, Ferry)

We have combined the use of Bus, Train & Ferry as most commuters don’t generally buy single trips, and will combine or switch the modes of transport depending on weather or circumstances. Commuters normally will either pay a yearly figure or use some form of state-provided transport card for top-up that has a volume-based discount structure.

On this basis, the annual spending for commuters across Australia is within the range of $26 - $60 per week. Perth is the most expensive city closely followed by Sydney.

This option is, of course, the lowest cost but comes with its advantages and disadvantages, you save money but you will need to schedule your commute with timetables, it normally combines a secondary form of transport like a car to the station, walk or Uber. You will need to deal with crowds and these days the hyped-up fear of sicknesses spreading can put people off.

Advantages of Public Transport:
  • A lot cheaper than the first two alternatives
  • You don’t need to think or concentrate
  • Can get emails, messages and other tasks are done on the way to work
  • Generally bypasses the traffic consistent trip length
Disadvantages of Public Transport:
  • Crowded at peak hour
  • Timing of your commute is based on public transport schedules
  • Hygiene colds, sickness easily spreads
  • That weird guy/girl staring at me
  • Doesn’t get you door to door so you need to combine transport modes

 

Electric Scooter Hire

First things first, for those uninitiated you need to know how to hire an electric scooter from the likes of Lime, Neuron, Uber, Ride, Ubr-E, Frog etc these scooter-sharing companies will depend on the state you live in.

How To Hire An Electric Scooter

Electric scooter rental units are tracked and found, unlocked, and paid for using the provider’s app. When the app is open the electric scooter locations will be displayed on a localised map. It's up to the prospective rider to then track down the scooter they want to ride. To engage the electric scooter, the smartphone camera is used to scan a QR code typically found on the handlebars, the scooter is then unlocked and ready for use. To operate an electric scooter; you just need to do a single kick-off as you use the throttle.

Once you have finished the ride, the rider takes a photo of where they’ve left it and in the app complete the ride. The scooter network is maintained by ‘juicers’ contracted to collect, charge, and replace them every night ready for the next days’ users.

It’s required by law that riders must wear an approved helmet, so the electric scooter sharing companies must provide access to these helmets, however, chances are you will find the scooter but not the helmet. Scooter sharing companies are now looking to interlock the helmet with the scooter meaning you won't be able to hire a unit without having the helmet.

How Much Does It Cost To Hire An Electric Scooter?

Australian customers with Lime, Neuron and the like are charged a $1 flag fall to unlock the scooter and 38c per minute of use. Lime has introduced a subscription model that charges the user every week $5.99 which allows users unlimited electric scooter trips without the flag fall but you are still charged the $0.38/min.

This is great if you use an electric scooter on average more than 6 times per week.

Lets run an example:

At 4 trips p/w = $1 Flag Fall x 4 + ((10min x $0.38) x 4 trips)

At 10 Trips p/w = $5.99 Flag Fall +((10min x $0.38) x 10 trips)

 

Electric Scooter Hire Example

No Trips pw

Flag Fall

Duration /trip

Cost pw

4

4

10min

19.20

10

5.99

10min

43.99

 

If you are commuting every day to hire an electric scooter it will cost approx $43.99. We are assuming a 10min ride as hired scooter units are limited to a geofence to prevent the scooters from going too far from the city fringes. Overall not too expensive when compared to other forms of transport like a car or an Uber, Public Transport will probably be cheaper. This, of course, will depend on how far you commute is.  

What Are The Advantages & Disadvantages Of Hiring An Electric Scooter?

This rental business model has drastically lowered the barrier for entry scooter riders, allowing those skeptical of electric scooters to test their curiosity, turning some into loyal riders.

Advantages of hiring an electric scooter:
  • You only pay for it when you use it (other than the subscription model)
  • You don’t need to fork out the cash upfront to purchase your own
  • You don’t have to worry about locking your own scooter up somewhere
  • You don’t have to worry about taking your own scooter on public transport if you combining transport modes
  • You don’t have to maintain it or charge it
Disadvantages of hiring an electric scooter:
  • Finding and electric scooter close by if you're on the fringe of the city
  • Getting the only one which is not charged enough to get you where you want
  • Someone else’s smelly helmet you are required to wear
  • Half the time you will need to kick push up hills because of a lack of power
  • Ride quality is poor
  • Its easy to lose track of what you are spending on these hire services particularly if you switch between them

 

Is Buying your own Electric Scooter Worth It?

Adult electric scooters vary in price a lot, from $200 for the cheapest models to $4,000+ for the best. Fortunately, electric scooters do come in a wide variety of choices, specifications, and features, in this section we will predominately be covering the costs of owning an electric scooter not so much the features and choosing one. If you want to know more detail on how to choose an electric scooter you can find the information at this link.

For the cost comparison, we have assumed that if you were to purchase an electric scooter the purchase price would need to be amortised (paid back to you in benefit) within 12 months. Another factor is a user may adopt a combined transport method using car, bus or train and then electric scooter for the last mile to the office or home, but for this comparison, we feel it's fair to assume the commuter is using the electric scooter 100% of the trip from door to door over a 10min period.  

There are some perceptions that electric scooters are for Kids and an adult on an electric scooter is ridiculous. However, over a period of time, we believe that this perception will change. Once a user tries an electric scooter and sees the benefit of convenience, cost, and fun there will be more converts.

If you are an occasional user its probably not going to add up to a cost advantage you're looking for, so these buyers will be in it just for the fun factor or some serious off-road use.

If you are averaging a few trips a week for either commuting or leisure you will see a benefit. If you commute every day via electric scooter then you will most definitely see a huge cost difference.

To give you a guide on the amount you should spend on an electric scooter we have categorised the electric scooter range for the various functional uses and frequency, with a suggested maximum spend:

 

Depending on where you fit in the table above will help determine if purchasing an electric scooter is worth it or not.

For our comparison, we have picked the Serious Commute with a frequency of Every Day giving us a purchase cost of $1,800.

Allowing 15% of the purchase cost for charging and maintenance equates to $270 p.a. in running costs.

Assuming that on average you take 4 weeks leave a year the weekly cost would look something like this:

(Purchase cost $1,800 + Running & Maintenance $270) / (52 weeks – 4 weeks leave = 48 weeks) = $43.12 pw

Buying an electric scooter allows you to pick something that fits your circumstances.

Advantages of buying an electric scooter:
  • You will always have your electric scooter close by and providing it has the range capable of taking you further than a hire unit
  • Most a pretty portable and can be folded and stored out of the way under your desk, unlike hired units.
  • Your not worried about someone else’s nits from a crabby helmet
  • Your electric scooter will typically have more power and better suited to your transport requirements
  • Ride quality is much better
  • Very low maintenance and servicing costs
  • After 12 months, your purchase cost would be paid back in benefit meaning all rides thereafter will just be the maintenance cost divided over the entire year, in this case, $6.25 per week
  • You have the opportunity to take it somewhere offbeat and enjoy it on the weekend
Disadvantages of buying an electric scooter:
  • Depending on the model if you do combine transport modes may be difficult to take on public transport
  • During wet weather, you will most likely need an alternative means of transport
  • You will have to spend some time maintaining the electric scooter
  • You will have to remember to charge your electric scooter
  • You will need to come up with the purchase cost (however these days 0% interest and buy now pay later schemes are everywhere)
  • If there is a problem you will need to follow the warranty process which may take a couple of weeks to sort out.

Cost Comparison of Transport Modes

Below we have tabled up the comparative data across each of the transport modes by the individual state within Australia. A couple of points to note:

Car costs we have only used the transport component and taken out any car finance, rego, insurance, etc as a car is typically used for private uses as well outside work commute.

Public transport is an average of all bus, train and ferry charges for that individual state.

Pricing has been heat mapped to indicated the cheapest mode of transport to the most expensive.

Conclusion

By taking just the cost comparative data it indicates that based on a nominal 10min trip from home to work, either purchasing or hiring an electric scooter is the cheapest alternative, we would apply the same logic to electric bikes (although bikes are harder to store outside bike racks). In some states, it still remains cheaper to use public transport. 

To determine between the hire or buy options for electric scooters we have created a calculator to help the decision. This will give you the option to select the various scooter models and compare directly to the hire cost, giving you a result of potential savings per week.

Scooter Hire v's Buy Calculator

Our Calculator allows you to compare the cost to hire a Lime or Neuron electric scooter versus the cost to purchase a scooter for your daily use.

Some important points to note:

  • Cost comparison is calculated over one year only. After one year the cost to hire remains but the purchase cost becomes zero.
  • The calculator assumes when hiring a Lime or Neuron electric scooter, $1 flag fall per trip and an average $0.38/min hire cost.
  • The Calculator assumes when buying the cost is amortised over 48 weeks and includes a 15% estimate for maintenance recharging.

 

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