Scooter vs Motorcycle: What Are The Differences

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The scooter vs motorcycle argument has entertained riders for as long as both types of two-wheel vehicles have existed. 

Being a massive fan of Vespa scooters and equally loving the big bad V-twins from Indian Motorcycles, I am pretty capable of writing an unbiased assessment of the pros and cons of each. 

To conclude, before we have even got started, I think they both have different purposes and features that make them better than the other at what they do.

Without further ado, let’s look at Scooters vs Motorcycles, and you can be the judge of which one wins the raging war. 

Scooter Pros and Cons


Pros

  • Generally lighter-weight – engine is mounted low to the rear, so feels lighter than motorcycles where the engine is mounted centrally and can be higher up.
  • Easier to get on to, thanks to a traditional step-through design
  • Twist and Go – automatic transmissions are common on scooters, so there is no clutch and gears to contend with, making them easy to ride
  • Smaller engines make for excellent fuel economy
  • When a scooter is going fast, you feel it more thanks to the smaller engine than a big motorcycle capable of 100 plus horsepower, which for some means it is more fun.
  • Scooters are very agile and built for city riding; getting around town and through tight spaces is an absolute breeze.
  • Excellent storage spaces are usually built-in under the seat or in other areas of the bodywork; you can often store a full-size helmet plus extras.
  • Even top of the line scooters are more affordable to purchase than top of the line motorcycles.
  • They are cheap to run. Scooter tyres, for example, last longer than motorcycles and are cheaper to replace; scooters overall are more affordable and easier to maintain
  • Easier to set up for full weather protection than motorcycles with options for leg covers, hand covers, big screens etc. 
  • Insurance tends to be cheaper for scooter riders

Cons 

  • Generally, scooters are smaller in capacity than most motorcycles and so are considered slower and less capable of long distances (there are some exceptions to this)
  • Small wheels that can be found on scooters certainly lack the stability that bigger motorcycle wheels offer.
  • Handling can be a little off when riding at speed on bendy backroads; motorcycles are much stronger at this type of riding.
  • Scooters, on the whole, have a certain stigma that they aren’t as cool as motorcycles or styled as well, focusing more on being practical than stylish.

Motorcycle Pros and Cons


Pros

  • Wider range of engine capacities, bigger, faster, more capable engines for speed and distance, can be found on motorcycles.
  • Motorcycles are naturally just pretty damn cool. 
  • Handling is much better overall; motorcycles are built to be stable at speed and provide endless enjoyment on back road twisty riding.
  • Purpose-built touring motorcycles will soak up the miles far easier than scooters (with some exceptions like the Suzuki Burgman)
  • If you want to race and hit the track, a motorcycle is usually the way forward. 
  • Wider range of types of motorcycle for different purposes such as touring, adventure, dual-sport, supermoto, cruiser, nakeds, scrambler etc.

Cons

  • More expensive to purchase, run and insure
  • Maintenance is more extensive and expensive
  • Motorcycles get judged more harshly than a scooter. Scooters are seen more as an innocent means of transport, whereas motorcycles have a bad reputation as riders viewed as hooligans.
  • Automatic transmission motorcycles are few and far between, so riders need to be able to use clutch and gears to ride.

A scooters purpose


Traditionally scooters were produced as a practical means of transport to get from A to B and carry your luggage easily and efficiently. 

Many motorcyclists will start by riding a scooter, with UK laws restricting 16-year-olds to 50cc mopeds. So many of us have started riding around on a baby scooter, getting our first taste of freedom, before moving up to a bigger motorcycle.

Scooters today are still used heavily for commuting and as a cheap way to get around, thanks to their fuel efficiency and general great economy in terms of cost to purchase, maintain and insure. 

However, we have started to see bigger capacity scooters on the market targeted at taking riders that bit further and even touring. 

What a motorcycle can do, a scooter can do, although it will do it that bit cheaper and that bit slower. 

There are even scooter based clubs that ride around on their 125/150cc Lambrettas and Vespas.

One such club would ride in 25 riders deep every Sunday morning to the bike shop for a coffee. I have to admit seeing their brightly coloured retro Vespas made me want one pretty bad. 

A motorcycles purpose


In the very beginning, motorcycles were a means of transport, economical, practical etc. However, with cars becoming cheaper and easier to get, motorcycles became what they are today, a leisure vehicle. 

Sure, some people ride a motorcycle every day as their means of transport, but more often than not, a motorcycle is ridden for pure fun and enjoyment. 

There are many different types of motorcycles that are built for different purposes. 

A BMW GS is built for adventure and for taking the rider around the world if they wish, whereas a Ducati Panigale V4 will be better off on the track, testing the rider’s limits. 

Which one is better?

Scooter Motorcycle
TouringYou can tour on anything but a motorcycle is better suited to long touring tripsPurpose-built, big engine motorcycles will soak up miles for touring road trips
CommutingScooters are built to get around town, fight through traffic, park in tight spots; their agility and inbuilt storage make them the commuter weaponMany commute on their motorcycles for work, but it is safe to say they have to adapt the bikes more than they would a scooter
FunEqual in this regard, a scooter and motorcycle can both bring an abundance of fun to the rider
SpeedEngine capacities have gotten bigger on scooters, but they cannot compete with motorcyclesMotorcycle engines are faster and more powerful than ever with bikes like the Supercharged Kawasaki H2 on the market; Scooters don’t stand a chance
Carrying a PassengerScooters lend themselves to carrying passengers more efficiently, as they usually have wide seats to accommodate them. However, they make less power, and a small scooter can struggle with the extra weight.Some motorcycles accommodate a passenger incredibly well, like the Honda Goldwing and others have a token seat pad. If you carry a passenger a lot, then the bike you buy will have to be considered carefully.
Cool PointsIt might be a little harsh but let’s face it, scooters aren’t that cool lookingA lot of work goes into the design process of a motorcycle, and they are overall more visually appealing than most scooters (exceptions apply here, there are some ugly bikes in the world)
ComfortScooters are built to be comfortable. With wide seats, natural seating positions, wide bars, a scooter will get you to your destination comfortablyComfort for motorcycles tends to be an afterthought by manufacturers on the whole
Ease of UseThe step-in design of a scooter and the widely used automatic transmission make them win this fightOnce you are trained to ride a geared motorcycle, it becomes second nature. However, nothing will ever compete with the step in, twist-n-go nature of a scooter for ease of use
CultureScooters are more widely accepted as a means of transport; there are also some scooter clubs around for riders to joinOnce you ride a motorcycle, you become part of a wider community, and there are hundreds of riding clubs and subcultures within that community that you can join and get involved with. In terms of a greater impact on the wider world, motorcycles have made a significant mark in history

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are so many pros and cons for scooters and motorcycles. It is quite literally impossible to say which one is better as it comes down to personal preference. 

You can do pretty much anything on one that you can do on the other, albeit in a slightly different way; they serve different markets and purposes, and both do so exceptionally well. 

If it is on two wheels and you love it, then ride like a bat out of hell and do it with a smile on your face; that’s what I do. 

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