Scooters Vs Motorcycles: What’s the Best Choice?

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Not since the Biden vs. Trump 2020 presidential race have two sides been so polarized in their opinions. But when it comes to scooters vs motorcycles, the line in the sand has been well and truly drawn. There’s no sitting on the fence in this one, each side has some very clear views on their preferred mode of transport.

In this article, the key differences between scooters and motorcycles are discussed. The case for and against both scooters and motorcycles are made before a final decision is made in the battle of two wheels.

Scooters Vs Motorcycles: What’s The Difference?

Scooters vs Motorcycles Which One Is Your Best Choice The Driving Force

Scooters typically have an enclosed engine under the seat, while on a motorcycle the engine tends to be exposed. Engine size is another point of difference, with scooters typically between 50cc and 250cc, while motorcycles, on the other hand, tend to be over 250cc. Generally speaking, if it’s less than 50cc, it’s a moped.

The Design

Scooters have a different design to the average motorbike, with a step-through frame. They typically also have a platform for the feet. A motorcycle, on the other hand, requires you to swing your leg up and over it to get on.

Wheel Size

Scooters vs Motorcycles - wheel size

Wheel size is another point of difference, with most motorcycles having a wheel size of 16 inches or over. Scooters, however, typically have a wheel size between 10 and 16 inches. Larger wheels are necessary on a motorbike due to the higher speeds they travel at. Scooters don’t have quite the capacity for speed, so can handle the smaller wheel size.

Related: What Are the Different Types of Motorcycle Tires?

Fuel Economy

It’s well known that motorcycles have better fuel economy than your standard car. Scooters top motorcycles though and are often able to get 100 miles (160.93 km) to the gallon, which given you currently must take a second mortgage on your house to fill the gas tank is a distinct advantage.

Scooters – The Case for and Against

Scooters Which One Is Your Best Choice

Scooters have moved on from the days of the nifty fifty, which was predominantly the domain of the fairer sex. Originally used for short commutes and errands, with decent top speeds and improved handling, they are now a viable option for people of all ages and sexes.

Scooters have gained a real foothold in heavily populated areas, especially the Asian countries, where they dominate the roads. Having ridden a scooter from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi in Vietnam (and back), it’s fair to say scooters have both advantages and disadvantages.

As a total aside, a word of advice, pay the extra to ride only one way and leave the bike at your destination. Your butt will thank you for it.

The Case for Scooters

Lightweight: Compared to motorbikes, scooters are a lightweight option. The rear-located engine that sits lower than that on a motorcycle helps to create this perception to the extent that even the larger scooters with the bigger and heavier engine seem to still feel quite lightweight.

Affordability: There’s no getting around the fact that scooters are the more affordable mode of transport. From the purchase price to repairs and maintenance to daily running costs, scooters come in first in every category.

Easy to use: With a scooter, it’s a case of jumping on and riding. The automatic transmission makes it easy for riders of all abilities. Motorcycles, on the other hand, usually require the rider to be content with a clutch and gears, which can take a little getting used to.

Agility: It’s easy to see why scooters are popular in the big city. They are easy to zip around on, weaving in and out of traffic. Parking is easy, which in the big city is an added bonus.

The Case Against Scooters

Capacity: Scooters are smaller than most motorcycles, in most instances, which adversely impacts their ability to travel long distances and at high speed. In fairness, it must be noted that some of the larger, newer scooters are bucking this trend.

Stability: One of the key problems associated with scooters is that the small wheels contribute to issues relating to stability.

Handling: While scooters are ideal at slower speeds weaving in and out of traffic when you get them out of the city, handling often becomes an issue. On bendy back roads or unsealed roads, scooters frequently begin having stability issues.

Motorcycles – The Case for and Against

Motorcycles Which One Is Your Best Choice

The motorcycle has evolved notably since its invention back at the turn of the 20th century. Known for their fuel economy, they became a popular alternative to the car, although as the fuel economy in cars improved this reason has faded. In recent times, many have come to view motorcycles as leisure vehicles.

The Case for Motorcycles

Capacity: The large engine means that motorcycles have the capacity to comfortably travel at high speeds and for long distances. Depending on the style of bike, the journey can be a relatively comfortable experience.

Versatility: There is so much more to motorcycles than one design. Motorcycle manufacturers actively design bikes for speed and performance, off-roading, and touring to name just some of the different markets. Scooters simply can’t match this versatility.

Handling: Motorcycles are designed to be ridden at fast speeds and out of the city. They handle well in these conditions with their performance far superior to what scooters offer in the same conditions.

The Case Against Motorcycles

Cost: The cost of a motorcycle can set you back a decent whack and when ongoing maintenance and repairs are added into the equation, the cost of your motorcycle can start to look noticeably less attractive.

Passengers: This is more of a half-mark reduction rather than a full one, as an increasing number of motorbikes do accommodate a passenger, but there are an awful lot where riding as a passenger is a less than comfortable ride. Most scooters, on the other hand, accommodate passengers well.

Bad reputation: This is another borderline negative and probably to a large degree historic, but motorcycles have in the past been associated with those who have less than desirable reputations.

The Verdict

At the end of the day, for us, it comes down to one factor, motorcycles are cool. Let’s face it, your average scooter just isn’t that cool. I can see the doubters out there, so let me ask you one thing, you’re standing on the street corner, and you hear that rumble coming down the road. You turn to look, the thought running through your head, wow what a cool bike. Honestly, when was the last time that rumble came from a scooter? I’d bet on never. Come on, even the nerds of the world can’t argue that one.

In the words of any good attorney, I rest my case.


Information for this article was partially sourced and researched from the following authoritative Government, educational, corporate, and nonprofit organizations:

Riding a motorcycle, moped or motor tricycle

Motorcycle and scooter riders

Motorcycles Information


Picture of About the Author:

About the Author:

Michael Parrotte began his illustrious career in the motorcycle industry by importing AGV Helmets into the U.S. market. He then went on to become the Vice President of AGV Helmets America for 25 years, during which time he also consulted for KBC Helmets, Vemar Helmets, Suomy Helmets, Marushin Helmets, KYT Helmets, and Sparx Helmets.

In 1985, he founded AGV Sports Group, Inc. with AGV Helmets in Valenza, Italy. And for over 38 years now, the company has quietly delivered some of the best protective gear for motorcyclists in the world.

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