Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.
When you shop through retailer links on our site, we may earn affiliate commissions. 100% of the fees we collect are used to support our nonprofit mission. Learn more.
They’ve become a common sight in urban areas across America—those dockless electric scooters you can rent with an app and then leave at your destination for the next customer who comes along. Perhaps you’ve ridden one yourself, or maybe jumped back as one zipped by on the sidewalk.
Most of these e-scooters are rentals, part of a niche industry providing solutions for short-distance urban travel—say, from a bus stop to your workplace.
But if e-scootering has become more than a quick solution for you, there are a number of models on the market that you can purchase. CR tested a handful to see how they would perform and to give you a sense of what you might consider if shopping for one.
“E-scooters are fun, efficient, and fast, but they should be operated with care, a helmet, and possibly pads and guards,” says Bernie Deitrick, CR’s senior test program leader. “And they should always be ridden with caution and consideration in areas where others are present.”
Most of the electric scooters CR tested can travel across flat pavement at about 15 mph, or more than four times the average human walking speed of about 3.5 mph, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. It’s also a little faster than most people would pedal on a conventional bicycle.
We tested four models: the Gotrax GXL V2, Razor E200, Segway Ninebot ES3, and Xiaomi Mi Electric Scooter Pro. The electric scooter reviews are below, including information on how we tested and rated them, and ratings for range, braking, acceleration, and more. They are presented below in rank order.
If you’re a CR member, this article and the e-scooter ratings are available to you. If you haven’t signed up, click below and become a member and access all our exclusive ratings and reviews for each product we buy and test, including cars, electronics, and appliances, among others.
Meeting an Unmet Need
As e-scooter ridership (and injuries) have climbed, the two-wheeled runabouts are changing the urban transportation landscape. That’s because there are so many places in America where it’s impossible to connect the dots using public transportation. The walk between a bus stop and a train station—or any place where you are and where you need to be—might be a little too far to walk. There might be no bike-share rental docks nearby, and your own bicycle might be too cumbersome to take with you.
That’s where e-scooters could come into play for you. Of the four CR tested, three have foldable frames and were reasonably easy to carry, if a bit heavy. Even folded, they didn’t make good candidates for overhead storage on a bus or train, but they could be—with some effort—stowed upright between one’s legs or stacked in a wall-mounted luggage rack. A foldable e-scooter fits inside most automotive cargo areas without too much trouble, and could be a good solution for someone who has to park his car far from his final destination.
There’s also the potential fun factor. Whatever stress comes from carrying and stowing a battery-operated e-scooter can evaporate once you have a chance to experience one on smooth pavement. (Rough pavement and seamed sidewalks make for a bumpy ride.)
Before you go out and buy an e-scooter, know that the rules governing their use vary from place to place. At the federal level, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration doesn’t consider stand-up scooters without seats as motor vehicles, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission hasn’t issued rules for them, so there aren’t yet any federal safety requirements. But that hasn’t stopped states and municipalities from regulating them.
Most recently, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wrangled with state legislators over regulating e-scooters in New York City. Cuomo said in a statement in January that “we need clear laws and regulations that put the safety of riders and pedestrians first.”
The legislature passed a law that allowed e-scooters and e-bikes, but it regulated speeds, banned them from sidewalks, and required helmets for certain riders. Washington, D.C., this year increased the number of dockless rental e-scooters it will allow in the nation’s capital. San Francisco; Austin, Texas; and other cities also have been active in regulating the e-scooters that seemed to appear on their streets overnight without forewarning.
If the legality of e-scooters is still a gray area where you live, there’s a chance you could get a ticket from riding one in the wrong place. So make sure you research the rules.
If you’re considering buying an e-scooter, it’s a good idea to think about where you will be riding. Keep in mind that most cities do not allow operation of electric bicycles or scooters on sidewalks, although in many places, streets filled with fast-moving traffic are not safe for e-scooter riders to use. Ideally, you will be using dedicated bicycle lanes.
Finally, look at the different e-scooter models and see which one has the setup that works best for you. Among the models we tested, there were three with electric braking on the front wheel—two of those had disc brakes on the rear wheel, and one had a rear foot brake—and the fourth had only a rear drum brake. They all behaved differently and would undoubtedly suit different tastes and abilities. Methods of delivering power varied, too, as did range, speed, and portability.
Wear a Helmet
There’s also the safety component to consider. “E-scooters’ smaller wheels mean they don’t react as well to bumpy surfaces, when compared to bicycles,” Deitrick says. “A high center of gravity and stubby handlebars also give scooters—electrified or not—less stability than a bicycle, especially in an urban environment.”
Helmets should definitely be worn while riding any scooter—especially one powered by an electric motor. A study conducted in 2017 and 2018 by the University of California, Los Angeles, found that most e-scooter riders didn’t wear a helmet, and 40 percent of the injuries recorded in the study were head injuries.
CR recommends that if you’re buying, or even renting, an e-scooter, you should wear a helmet that fits properly. CR investigated e-scooter injuries around the nation and found that injuries—and fatalities—were increasing, in large part because riders are unsure of what safety measures they should take when riding.
Consumer Reports considers electric scooters to be one of several promising new transportation options that give people a convenient and affordable way to get around and that may be more efficient than a car for traveling in densely populated areas. At the same time, safety must always come first, and CR thinks that much more should be done to help keep people from getting hurt or killed when using e-scooters and similar products.
“Policymakers should make sure everyone who uses our roads can do so safely,” says William Wallace, manager of safety policy at Consumer Reports, who notes that more than 7,000 pedestrians, cyclists, and other non-occupants die from car crashes in the U.S. each year. “As more people walk and use scooters, bikes, and other lighter vehicles to get around, it’s critically important for our laws and infrastructure to keep up.”
According to a Consumer Reports nationally representative survey [PDF] of 2,007 U.S. adults conducted in September and October 2019, more than 8 out of 10 Americans think there should be laws dictating where electric scooters can be used, such as on the sidewalk or in a bike lane. Almost three-quarters think there should be laws regarding helmet use. Among younger individuals and those who say they have used an electric scooter in the past two years—and especially among frequent riders—fewer are supportive of these types of regulations.
How We Tested
For all tests, different test riders were used equally for each scooter, to average out the difference in performance due to variations in weight and riding style. For our tests, we used the highest speed level available.
We fully charged the scooters’ batteries, then rode a hilly loop course on our test grounds. We maximized the power used by the motors, and the loop included stops and starts, full-speed stretches, U-turns, a long uphill, and a sharp downhill. The score for this test is based on the number of miles each scooter covered before the battery was depleted.
We timed the scooters on a set course, starting from a standstill and accelerating to the highest speed.
We measured the distance required to come to a stop from the highest attainable speed under assistance or throttle.
We timed each scooter as it climbed a short, steep hill.
Testing covered four models that ranged in price from $200 to $680. The three commuter-style scooters powered by lithium-ion batteries had the longest range and the highest top speeds—all three topped out at 15.5 mph. The electric Razor scooter—which was designed for youthful riders—has a weight capacity of only 154 pounds; the other three have 220-pound capacities. Powered by a lead-acid battery and a noisy chain drive, the Razor’s top speed was only 12 mph, and it didn’t have a foldable handlebar. The three commuter e-scooters featured button-activated mode selection that can be used to limit their top speeds.The full article is available to ConsumerReports.org subscribers. Sign in or subscribe to read this article.
Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2020, Consumer Reports, Inc.