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The Ultimate First Timer Guide to Buying an Electric Scooter

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As a New York City dweller, I had never really thought about getting an electric scooter. I hadn’t seen many people using them in the city and I already had plenty of transport options– hopping on the the subway and bus was easy enough and Ubers were only a tap away.

And then the world changed. Lockdown fell over our cities. Uncertainty reigned. The new normal was a constantly shifting target.

More than anything, I was overcome with a feeling of being trapped. Trapped in my apartment, trapped in my neighborhood, too far from the people I cared about.

lockdown nyc grand central empty streets pandemic
As the city of New York fell into lockdown, we started to consider new ways to get around.

I dreamed of getting into a car and driving out to open skies. But we are New Yorkers. We don’t have cars.

The subway seemed too risky and my feet could only take me so far.

Then I was invited to take a ride on an electric scooter. I’m not being overly dramatic when I say the ride changed my life.

Check out video filmed of riding the Xiaomi M365 scooter below

I went from feeling trapped to feeling free. Pretty soon I had my own scooter, and since then we’ve been riding like the wind, finding adventures wherever we go.

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Exploring Roosevelt Island in Manhattan on my electric scooter.

I wanted to write this newbie guide to share my experiences with other first timer electric scooter buyers. While there are lots of technical guides out there comparing stats, there aren’t that many describing the visceral experience of owning a scooter.

So if you are on the fence about whether you need an electric scooter, if it’s safe to ride, and how much use you might get out of it, this very comprehensive beginner’s guide is for you.

I cover it all, from owning versus renting to the legality of e scooters to unexpected benefits and experiences, must have features, and top accessories.

I’m also including a few electric scooter and accessories recommendations, based on the research I did when looking for my own first e scooter.

Quick Content Guide

Why You Need an Electric Scooter if You Live in a City (Especially New York City)

(To skip to the recommendations or other info immediately, expand the Quick Content Guide to the right and choose it from the table of contents).

Before we get to my scooter and accessories recommendations, I am going to go through what I have found to be the benefits of having an electric scooter and address the main question I had– is it worth it?

Will I use the electric scooter enough to get value from it? Read on and decide for yourself!

Skip Crowded and Possibly Unsafe Public Transport for an Open Air Ride

During lockdown in New York City, we were advised to stay off public transport to keep it open (and safer) for essential workers.

Even as we moved through the opening phases of lockdown, it was evident viruses spread faster in contained spaces like subways and buses. Crime was also rapidly rising in New York City.

I personally did not feel safe resuming my pre-pandemic use of public transport.

But I couldn’t walk everywhere either. Fortunately, my electric scooter filled this transportation gap.

xiaomi m365 electric scooter review how to buy ride hamptons lilly pond lane buyer's guide
I took my electric scooter on vacation in the Hamptons.

Electric Scooters are Better Than Bikes

When I mention I have an e-scooter to some people, they’ll inevitably snap back “well why wouldn’t you just get a bike?” I have nothing against biking. In fact, I love biking for both exercising and tooling around on a pretty trail.

But the very reason I bought my electric scooter is that it is not a bike. A bike involves exertion and potentially getting all sweaty en route to my destination. That’s fine for an afternoon ride, but less so when I have dinner plans.

Bicycles also limit your outfit options to shorts or pants, whereas on my electric scooter, I can pretty much wear anything, including cute dresses.

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Enjoying dinner after a scooter ride, feeling fresh and fashionable.
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E scooters can be easily stashed table side.

Save Money on Transportation and Ubers

As I mentioned above, I nixed subways and buses for safety reasons. Before my electric scooter days, this sometimes left me with Ubers as my only option (windows down, with both myself and the driver wearing a mask).

With no Uber pool and overall Uber availability down, the price for rides was getting out of control. My usual short ride downtown was now costing upwards of $30 each way.

Riding my electric scooter, on the other hand, was completely free. Even when I combined the East side ferry with a scooter ride, I still only topped out at $2.75, a complete bargain.

With Travel Limited, Electric Scooters Allow you To Have Travel Adventures at Home

I am a travel blogger. Travel is not only my passion, but also my livelihood.

When the pandemic hit, travel became a distant memory as countries closed their borders to Americans. I wondered how could I sit still in one place. After all, I lived for the rush of new experiences.

Months later, I don’t miss long distance travel nearly as much as I thought I would. When I realized I couldn’t change my circumstances, I changed my mindsetwhat if I could have all those new experiences right here at home.

I traded wheels up on flights for wheels down on the electric scooter. Instead of flying to places far away, I started gliding to places not so far away, right in my home city of New York.

Sometimes we visited the islands. That is, the islands of Manhattan– including Roosevelt, Wards and Randalls .

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Under Hells Gate Bridge on Randalls Island.

Other times we crossed bridges just to see what was on the other side.

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Dumbo, under the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge.

We visited a few boroughs, with plans to visit the remainder.

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View of Riverside Park in the Bronx.
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Socially distancing at Domino Park in Brooklyn.
where ride electric scooters nyc randalls island xiaomi m365 Segway Ninebot Max
Picnic spot on Randalls Island.

See Familiar Places with New Eyes When Riding your Electric Scooter

The joy of riding an electric scooter goes beyond seeing new places– it’s also about seeing familiar places from a new perspective.

As a writer and photographer, I am naturally inclined to seek out new perspectives wherever I go. Sometimes I get that new perspective from behind the lens of my camera, other times it’s the result of my imagination running rampant with new ideas.

My favorite way to see the same place from a new perspective is to see it through someone else’s eyes.

Riding an electric scooter is yet another way to see the same familiar places through new eyes.

Zipping down the same city streets you’ve only walked before is an amazing experience, giving you a big picture perspective unlike anything else. With the skies open above you, and all of Manhattan laid out in front of you, you feel like the city is yours.

Scootering over and around Williamsburg Bridge at night is a transcendent experience.
Riding the city streets at night and noticing the moon above.
Everything is a little shinier and more magical from your perch on an electric scooter.

Ride your Scooter and Connect with Those you Care About

In this time when many are feeling isolation, connection is even more important than ever. Sure you can stay home and bake more bread or throw yourself into work and hobbies but humans are designed for connection.

My electric scooter allowed me to connect with my few but trusted persons more easily by making distance less of an obstacle.

Always connect.

Electric Scooters are Eco Friendly

While this post is geared toward city dwellers who likely don’t drive gas guzzling cars anyway, it’s important to note that e scooters are as eco friendly as you can get.

The more scooters, bikes and other non-fuel reliant vehicles are out there on the road, the more normalized alternative, eco friendly transport will become.

That means more bike/scooter lanes will be built and traffic and pollution will be reduced.

Personal Electronic Scooters are Now Legal in all 50 States, Including (finally!) New York

Personal electronic scooters are legal in all US states– BUT local counties may restrict use (or even ban them altogether) so make sure you check local laws before making a purchase.

New York was the last holdout to legalize e scooters, but as of spring 2020, they are completely legal, no driver’s license required.

This map will give you some general guidance about each state’s scooter laws, but note it is from 2019 and not updated– for example, the New York section does not reflect the recent change in the law.

Even when e scooters are legal, there are usually local ordinances that control where you can ride them. Most places allow them on streets and bike lanes but prohibit them on sidewalks.

Local ordinances will also govern whether any kind of registration or helmet is required, and whether there is a top speed limit (the scooters I recommend in this post are all well below any top speed limit restrictions).

Why You Should Own Versus Rent Your E Scooter

If you have looked into e scooters before, you may have weighed the benefits of owning versus renting through an e scooter rental share program like Lime or Bird. I’ll save you the trouble– it’s far better to own your own.

I am not a big fan of rental scooters unless you are traveling and can’t take your own with you.

First, your city may not even allow them. While most cities allow personal scooters, many cities ban rental scooter companies (Manhattan, for instance, does not allow rental share scooters).

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An example of why many cities ban rental scooters– they end up littered on streets and sidewalks, like this scooter in Los Angeles.

From a rider standpoint, owning a scooter is better in every way than renting one.

The scooters I’ve rented while traveling are often beat up and sometimes misaligned. Something may have broken on the last ride, and you would never know. I also found the suspension to be iffy, making for a bumpy, teeth shattering ride.

When I take my own scooter out, I know it’s fully charged and ready to go. Rental scooters have varying levels of charge depending on how much the last rider used it, so you may have to swap it out a few times.

And rental scooters aren’t cheap– it doesn’t take that many rides to make ownership cost effective.

Is an Electric Scooter Safe to Ride?

I believe an electric scooter is absolutely safe to ride– with the caveat that’s it’s only as safe as the person riding it.

I am a pretty cautious rider and try to stick to bike lanes and less busy roads. When I see a pothole, I slow down. I don’t drive in heavy rain (light rain is fine). And when I ride at night, I make sure to turn my light on.

To me, riding an electric scooter on NYC streets feels safer than riding a bicycle. You are lower to the ground, making it easy to hop off if needed.

The ability to accelerate quickly also ups the safety quotient– it’s easier to avoid problems if you can react fast and get out of the way.

Is an Electric Scooter Difficult to Ride?

Before I ever stepped foot on an electric scooter, I wondered if it would be difficult to ride. Rest assured, it is not. There is no real learning curve, just hop on, push off, press the accelerator and ride. Good balance helps but is not essential– the scooter is not going to tip over on its own.

I’ve let multiple friends (and my curious doormen) test out my scooter and no one has ever had a issue tooling around the block on the first try.

Things to Consider when Buying a Budget and Mid-Range Electric Scooter

When I explored the idea of buying an electric scooter, I had no idea where to begin. It’s not like you can survey everyone you know– electric scooters are still pretty new and I only knew one person who owned one.

So I did some Google searches, reviewed some guides and read the electric scooter related forums for advice.

Ultimately, I went with a popular mid-range model and have been extremely happy with my choice.

Owning my own scooter has made me realize which features ended up being most important to me, as a first time buyer.

Folding

Practically all electric scooters fold up, some do more easily than others. If you intend to take your e scooter on public transport, the footprint when folded up might be of more importance.

Price for the Best Budget and Mid Range Electric Scooters

You probably won’t find a quality electric scooter for under $400, but you don’t need to spend much more than $800 unless you are looking for a high performance model. Prices may fluctuate based on demand.

New v. Used

Used electric scooters are hard to come by, so this will be a non-issue for most.

That said, because scooters are in such demand now, it may be reassuring to know that if you find you don’t use your electric scooter as much as you’d hoped, there is a huge demand for used ones so you can always sell it later.

Buyer beware when considering a used scooter though– I have a cautionary tale. My friend who lives in suburban DC only needed a scooter for very occasional use, so she didn’t mind taking a chance on a used, but seemingly perfect condition scooter on Amazon.

She bought the identical scooter that I owned and it looked brand spanking new out of the box. But when we rode the scooters side by side, hers couldn’t keep up with mine and ran out of charge much quicker.

There is no way she would have known this if we hadn’t run this test– so it’s a risk you have to be willing to take.

Battery Life/Maximum Mileage

Battery life is very important if you want to go exploring– it determines how far your electronic scooter can take you before it becomes a push scooter (or gets thrown into the back of an uber).

When looking at an e scooter’s estimated mileage stats, don’t forget that these are best conditions estimates– knock off mileage if you go uphill, weigh more, or ride at maximum speed.

I recommend mapping out routes in your city to see how much mileage you’ll need.

Top Speed

Speed wasn’t a super important factor to me when I was making a decision, but I’m glad now that I went with a scooter that can reach up to close to 16 mph.

Brand longevity/Popularity/Reliability

I am putting these three factors together because they are closely related. There are a lot of fly by night electric scooter companies, here today and gone tomorrow.

Regardless of how good the scooter specs are out of the gate, if the company is belly up in a few months with no one around to address problems that might pop up, you will be out of luck.

It’s also important to consider that the more popular a scooter is, the more likely your local bike repair shop will have seen it and worked on it before– critical if you have issues.

Weight

I am not super strong and do not like carrying heavy things, so this was a key factor for me. Inevitably, you will run into stairs or other places where you might have to carry the scooter. The faster, longer life scooters will inevitably be heavier.

My Electric Scooter Recommendations for City Dwellers

Even living in a huge metropolis like New York City, I found few bike shops carried any electric scooters at all, and those that did carried niche, more expensive brands I wasn’t interested in purchasing.

I bought my electric scooter on Amazon and recommend you do the same. I’m a prime member so I have free shipping and returns, and the 30 day return policy made me confident ordering in case I got a lemon.

Keep in mind that return shipping can be crazy expensive so factor that into any “deals” you may find. I found Amazon had the best prices and availability anyway.

When I looked at the long lists of specs on e scooters and tried to compare them, it was making my head explode. I wished that someone could just pick for me.

If you are feeling the same way, I have tried to do just that, based on my personal experience, recommendations from others who own scooters, and my own research on other scooters I almost bought.

Xiaomi Mi M365 Electric Scooter

*Best Budget/Mid-Range All-Around Electronic Scooter* (I own this scooter)

Top Speed: 15.6 mph

Maximum Travel Range: 18.6 miles

Weight: 26 pounds

Price: Budget/Mid-Range (price fluctuates)

I love my Xiaomi Mi electric scooter. My model (also called the m365, they are the same model) is sometimes sold out because demand is so high, but keep checking back. There is also a more expensive pro version that is highly recommended.

Because these models are so popular, you have the added benefit of having lots of information about them online (so if you google a question about a random creak for example, you will likely find an answer).

Their popularity means it’s also more likely that your local bike shop has worked on one before.

I’ve used my scooter heavily for months and it rides as well as the day I got it.

The Xiaomi is as light as a quality scooter can be at 26 pounds– still heavy IMO but not too heavy for me to lift up a flight of stairs without problems.

The Xiaomi is very easy to fold up and down– I’ve taken it on the ferry many times and have to pop it up quickly at my stop so I test this out all the time.

I also love that the charger brick is small and light, so I can bring it with me in my backpack to recharge at my destination if needed.

I love air filled tires as they make for a slightly smoother ride. Other riders suggest adding slime to the tires to protect against flats (haven’t done this yet but I plan to at some point).

My scooter waits for the next ride.

Segway Ninebot Max

*Best Mid-Range Powerful/Long Life Electronic Scooter*

Top Speed: 18.6 mph specs (but reported 20 mph in real use)

Maximum Travel Range: 40.4 miles

Weight: 42.1 pounds

Price: around $799 (may fluctuate)

The Segway Ninebot Max Electric Scooter is more expensive than my Xiaomi M365, running at about $800, but it’s worth it if you can afford it and don’t mind the larger size (a plus for some as it has nice big platform to stand on).

The maximum travel range is so much farther than the the next lowest tier of scooters– up to 40 miles. And this scooter is fast– faster than even the specs list at 18.6, as the owner reported reaching 20 mph with it.

The Segway Ninebot Max gets great reviews both online and from people I know who haven’t had a single issue with it.

Like my Xiaomi m365 above, it is also an extremely popular model (from the well-established Segway company), hence it’s easy to find replacement parts. The pneumatic tires offer a smooth, flat free ride.

Another bonus of the Segway Ninebot Max that’s not mentioned in the description– there is no power adapter brick to carry around, only a simple charge wire. That means you can basically put the cord in your pocket and always have it with you if needed.

I’ve ridden around the entire Southern tip of Manhattan on this scooter and found it a sheer delight.

Review Segway Ninebot Max where ride nyc manhattan

Segway Ninebot E22

*Best Budget Electronic Scooter from Established Company*

Top Speed: 12.4 mph

Maximum Travel Range: 13.7 miles

Weight: 28 pounds

Price: around $469 (budget)

I don’t have much to say about these Segway Ninebot E22 scooters beyond the stats above other than I know a couple who bought a pair and love them. Segway is an established and reputable company and this is the most updated model (the newest version of the prior ES2 model).

Glion Dolly

*Best Budget Electronic Scooter for Folding*

Top Speed: 15 mph

Maximum Travel Range: 15 miles

Weight: 28 pounds (but rollable)

Price: around $429 Budget

Initially the Glion Dolly scooter really appealed to me because you can fold it up and wheel it around instead of carrying it.

This scooter gets great reviews and is a good budget option.

Go-Trax Elite Scooter

*Best Budget Electronic Scooter for General Use*

Top Speed: 15.5 mph

Maximum Travel Range: 18.6 miles

Weight: 26.45 pounds

Price: around $399 (budget)

The Go-trax Elite Scooter was also one of my top contenders. The stats look great, the reviews were excellent and the price was right. I ended up going with the Xiaomi M365 though simply because there were considerably more reviews (2200 versus 165) and in forums I read it was a rider favorite.

After You’ve Bought the Scooter: Essential Gear and Accessories

Congratulations, you own an e scooter! Now what? When I first got my electric scooter, I was completely unprepared. I rode helmetless with sandals on and not a care in the world.

It was only after riding a few weeks (without incident fortunately) that I thought it might be time to get some safety gear and useful accessories.

Best Helmets for Electric Scooters

I ordered and returned on Amazon no less than six helmets for my electric scooter before deciding to keep one. I actually worried that Amazon might ban me for returning so many.

My issue was primarily fit– although I measured my head and ordered accordingly I still had issues (I ultimately concluded I must have an odd shaped head). Since fit is personal to the person, I am still recommending a couple of other helmets I liked but didn’t happen to fit me properly.

Buying helmets in general was difficult because of the current shortage of all things bike-related. My local bike shops had very low stock and said it was difficult for them to get any at all. Amazon was consistently sold out of sizes in the models I wanted.

I wasn’t interested in traditional looking bike helmets– the helmets I ordered are all commuter styled and less sporty looking (and cuter on in my opinion).

Thousand Adult Bike Helmet

*Best E Scooter Helmet for Fit and Looks*

This helmet fit me the best and looked the cutest on– I love the vintage style. I also like the magnetic, pinch free clasp. I went with the basic black matte but they have a range of colors.

Bern Brentwood 2.0 Helmet

*Best Lower Priced E Scooter Helmet*

Not much to say about this helmet except it was cute (I loved the little visor) and comfy, just a tad too big for me so back it went.

Giro Quarter MIPS Mountain Bike Helmet

*Safest E Scooter Helmet*

I had read that helmets that use MIPS technology are the safest. Most of the MIPS helmets were of the traditional bike style that I didn’t care for. This was the best one I found lookswise for a still reasonable price.

Best Waterproof Electric Scooter Storage Bag

I like having a bag already attached to my scooter for carrying things, so in case I forget my backpack (or need even more space) I can put more things in the bag. You definitely don’t want bag swinging from the handlebars, so it’s best to go with an attached bag like this or a backpack (see below).

Although this bag indicates it’s for Segway scooters, it will work with any scooter.

Best Lock for Electric Scooter

If you are going to leave your scooter unattended (I take mine in shops with me), you definitely need a lock. You can go for a traditional bike lock, or get a convenient folding locks that attaches onto the stem of your scooter, the foldy lock.

Drink and Coffee Holder for Electronic Scooter

Nowadays, you often have to take your ice coffee to go. I may not want to stand and drink it right in front of the coffee shop, and realized I had nowhere to put it while I scootered to a different destination.

I liked this sleek aluminum cup holder better than the other options (most handlebar cup holders are made with strollers in mind and are clunkier).

Backpack for Carrying Things

I can’t take a big purse while riding a scooter so I usually wear a backpack.

You probably already have one, but if not I love this all purpose backpack, comfortable and convenient.

We often picnic when we scooter (I use that term loosely, sometimes we just sit in the grass and drink beers), so I plan to buy an insulated cooler backpack like this one next.

Scooter life– a perfect picnic for two.

Cell Phone holder for E Scooter

When you are on your electronic scooter, you gotta keep both hands on the handlebars, no exceptions (it’s not like a bike that you can ride one or no handed). I wouldn’t recommend adjusting your sunglasses or even tucking your hair back when you’re riding– much less fiddle with your cell phone.

When you hit a stoplight or otherwise pull over, though, you’ll want quick access to your phone, whether it’s to text, google a restaurant, look at directions or take a photo.

It’s too cumbersome to keep taking it out of my purse, so I prefer to have my iphone attached to my handlebars via this holder (in the alternative, I also sometimes wear it crossbody on a strap, happy with this one that I bought).

Bonus: A Mini Gimbal Stablized Camera to film your Scooter Rides

While you can use your iphone (place it in the holder above) to film, I prefer a steadier, smoother shot. Iphone video is also pretty horrible at night.

Go pros will work, but my DJI Osmo Pocket camera is even better as it has a stabilized gimbal design that is made for movement. I attach mine to my backpack for even steadier shots.

My osmo pocket works amazingly well at night and can track moving objects with its gimbal head.

Do you have an electric scooter? What do you love most about it? Share your tips in the comments!

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