Scooter Rental vs Scooter Subscription: Which is Better?

Daniel Foley
Written By: Daniel Foley
Published on: 10/2/2020

For a few years, it seemed as if our city streets would soon belong solely to shared electric scooters and bikes. The prospect seemed to enrage as many people as it excited, and there was much wrangling over the new micro-mobility transportation landscape.

Even if you managed to stay above the fray, you surely saw a photo or two of discarded rental scooters piled high, maybe on fire, in an overly aggressive symbol of protest.

Then, bit by bit, many city officials, governments, and share companies started to iron out their differences. This was probably in response to millions of commuters, tourists, and every kind of urban traveller embracing this convenient, fun, and, most of all, affordable transportation revolution.


The rising costs of shared scooters


Shared electric vehicles solve many a last-mile problem at a very reasonable cost that, until recently, rivaled the costs of public transportation. But as Alana Semuels reported at Time magazine, price increases became “part of a larger trend across the sharing economy” just as widespread adoption of shareable electric vehicles took hold in cities worldwide.

She continued by saying that “On-demand services of all kinds have been significantly subsidized by investors as a means of attracting users with low prices,” Semuels writes. “But as companies like Uber and Lyft go public and face shareholder pressure to make money, those subsidies are ending.”

On top of this, a lot of the overheads and rapid expansions of these companies were being supported by venture capitalists, promoting cheap rates to entice a growing number of riders in more and more cities around the world.

Several experts argue that cities should subsidize shared services, which would in turn bolster public transportation systems themselves facing plummeting revenues due to the coronavirus.

But at the moment, “that scooter ride is going to cost you more,” The Washington Post explains. In one example, a Washington, D.C. area commuter found that a ride previously costing $2.80 had increased to $7. “Now I don’t see this as a commuting option at all anymore because it is outrageously expensive,” the government contractor told the newspaper. “It’s more expensive to rent a little electronic scooter than hire an Uber car.”

At that price, he could expect to pay upwards of $280 for a month of round-trip commutes. Annually, that adds up to more than triple the cost for customers of purchasing a premium, high-performance scooter like the Unagi Model One, and more and more commuters are choosing that option.

The convenience and peace of mind of owning an electric scooter for a fraction of the cost of renting has become particularly attractive, especially since the pandemic where people generated a whole host of new transportation frustrations.



Can electric scooter subscription services save sharing

To combat this backlash and bring their costs back down to reasonable levels, and also to encourage ridership again following COVID fears, several share companies like Lime and Bird have recently started offering far more affordable subscription services.


What electric scooter subscription services are there

The LimePass, a weekly subscription service announced by the company in 2019 in cities in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand, waived the unlock fee for rentals for a cost of $4.99 per week in San Francisco. In recent years this has expanded around the world in different iterations, for example, a 24hr day pass in Lisbon, Portugal will cost the user 10 euros in 2022.

This same unlimited day pass in Los Angeles will cost around $14.99 at the time of writing. Subscribers to the service still ride rental scooters and are subject to all the limitations of sharing, including a lack of control over whether a vehicle is available when they need it, and no power over the model of the two wheeler they book on their app.

Moreover, some subscription options come with daily ride limits of five or ten rides per day, which might leave high-use, high-mobility subscribers—those, for example, who use electric scooters to make deliveries—constantly wondering whether they’ve exceeded their quota.

Bird’s first subscription, also launched in 2019, does offer more for less than Lime’s premier option. For a relatively low monthly fee of $24.99, the company delivers a scooter to subscribers that they can use as much as they like until they decide to cancel.

The problem, The Verge found, is that the scooter is a cheaper, inferior model to their rental models, with a smaller battery and slower top speed. “If you want the best scooter Bird provides,” they note, “you’ll soon be able to buy one outright for $1,299.”

Times have changed and subscription services are always being updated, but in just the few years since that first launch, a top-tier commuter scooter like the Unagi Model One will set you back a lot less than a thousand.



Unagi’s Subscription Service

For less than the Bird One, riders who want to own an electric scooter can purchase the dual motor Unagi Model One , one of the best-reviewed, most stylish electric scooters on the market. Its sleek and lightweight carbon fiber frame makes it stand out from other cheaper options on the market, and its the model that comes with the Unagi all-access plan.

Unagi offers incredible incentives for those who subscribe, including a 30-day, no risk, “no questions asked” trial and financing for under $50 a month. So for those not yet ready, or unable, to commit to the cost of ownership, the Unagi subscription service beats the best available options from share companies.

For riders in New York and Los Angeles, it's not new news at all, as Unagi All-Access has been available since early August 2020.

For less than $15 a week (or the cost of one long-distance scooter ride), subscribers can ride one of the top-tier high-performance Unagi scooters —the same scooter they'll find available for purchase—delivered directly to their door within 2-3 business days.

The unagi plans come with full insurance included for riders, and offer a replacement scooter in case of damage until your own model is repaired. They are also fully serviced before being shipped out so there are no worries for the subscriber regarding the maintenance.



Why Unagi trumps other subscription services

Subscribers can choose to pay monthly or annually for their e scooter, with an agreeable $50 setup fee. The monthly option is less than a 30-day unlimited MetroCard in New York City and a 30-day Metro pass in L.A. , and far below the cost of riding shared scooters regularly without a subscription.

While share companies’ subscription services may cost less in your city at the moment, they also offer far less in return. Included in the Unagi subscription is total peace of mind.

Subscribers can ride their scooter as little or as often as they like; the scooter is insured against theft and damage; and if anything goes wrong, Unagi will send a replacement within 24 hours. And if for some reason it doesn’t work out, subscribers can cancel anytime, with no questions asked.

The news of sharing subscription services is undoubtedly welcome for commuters, but Unagi All-Access service offers (in our opinion) the ultimate in flexible, fun commuting, or just riding around town: A fully insured, Tesla-quality Unagi scooter at less than the cost of most monthly subway passes.


Daniel Foley
Daniel Foley

Daniel tests all the latest e-scooters and currently enjoys the Unagi Voyager as a daily driver for it's light weight, good range, and stylish look.

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