If you need to take a quick trip through a major city, college campus, or just about any congested area, an electric scooter rental might be the fastest and cheapest way to get around.
Bird’s popular dockless electric scooters are easy to find and use, but with so many competing scooter companies and ride-hailing options like Lyft and Uber, is the Bird scooter cost worth it?
We’ll take a quick look at how to use Bird scooters, as well as how to check for prices and find competing electric scooter companies in your town.
And if you’re a frequent user of Bird scooters, you might consider saving some money in the long run and buying your own scooter.
What Are Bird Electric Scooters?
Bird is an electric scooter service founded by CEO Travis VanderZanden in 2017 that allows riders to quickly grab the handlebars of one of their scooters and ride for a small fee.
All you have to do is use the Bird mobile app on your smartphone and register as a user.
Once you’ve created a profile and provided a form of payment, you can look for an available Bird scooter, scan the code on it, and start your ride.
Bird scooters are Xiaomi M365 Electric Scooters made by Ninebot Technology Company.
There are multiple models available depending on the city, including the standard Bird One and the more rugged and durable Bird Zero.
When you’re done with your trip, simply drop off the dockless scooter in any safe area and the app will charge your credit card based on the distance you traveled.
Bird scooter sharing is just part of the company’s electric vehicle ridesharing strategy.
You can purchase a Bird One scooter or use the Bird app to rent a Bird Cruiser, the company’s new seated electric bike.
How Much Does the Bird Scooter Cost to Rent?
The Bird scooter cost depends on what city you’re in and how long you used it.
Every ride requires $1 to unlock a dockless scooter using the Bird app and then charges for each minute used, not how far you actually travel.
However, the per-minute fee is different depending on which city you’re riding in, so be careful.
Bird started with a flat fee of 15 cents per minute, but in 2018 the company started raising rates in certain cities.
If you’re a scooter rider in a major American city like Los Angeles or Washington D.C., you could be charged up to 25 cents per mile for a Bird ride.
Meanwhile, riders in smaller towns — especially near colleges with cash-strapped students — have seen rates drop as low as 10 cents per minute to appeal to younger consumers.
Depending on the availability of competitors, you might see a drop in rates as more companies like Lime enter your local market.
To check Bird scooter rental fees, you can check out this guide.
If you’re in a major city, you might want to use multiple apps to compare current per-minute pricing for electric scooters in your immediate area.
Bird Scooter Fees vs. Other Scooter Fees
With Bird charging as much as 33 cents per minute in some cities, it’s good to check out the entire market for electric scooters.
Luckily, there’s plenty to choose from: In addition to Bird, companies like Jump, Lime, Skip, and Spin offer the same electric scooter services.
And in some areas, ridesharing apps like Lyft offer electric vehicles.
With competitive rates across the board, location is the best way to determine which electric scooter is best for you.
You can download any of the ridesharing apps for free on your smartphone.
Once you’ve registered, use each app’s GPS system to locate the nearest Spin, Bird, or Lime scooter.
Lime is the biggest competitor to Bird, and available in almost every city you’ll find Bird.
Just like Bird, Lime scooters use a scannable QR code to activate, offering an almost identical scooter experience.
Scooter Rentals Are the Cheapest Ridesharing Apps
Because the Bird scooter cost is only $1 to unlock and a fraction of a dollar per minute, electric scooters are a much better choice for your wallet when you’re looking for short-distance rideshare options.
Most rideshare services start with a minimum of $5 plus fees and tips.
And if you’re traveling in a congested urban area, you’ll rack up per-minute charges gridlocked in a car that you could’ve completely avoided using an electric scooter service.
A Bird scooter certainly can’t take you 30 miles to an airport, but if you’re trying to get around town for a few miles, taking a Bird scooter that runs 10-15 mph is a fraction of the cost of an Uber or Lyft car ride.
Plus, electric scooters can cover more ground in a shorter amount of time when traffic is bad.
However, if you’re not traveling alone or need to haul anything more than a backpack, Bird isn’t a great option.
Bird prohibits more than one person riding on a single scooter at a time, and warns against riders putting excess weight on handlebars, such as a large package or groceries.
The Social Costs of Electric Scooters
Electric scooters are very useful for riders, but they’ve become a burden in many cities, including in Santa Monica, California, where electric scooter culture started.
Cities like San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles have put strict restrictions on electric ridesharing vehicles after scooters were found clogging bike lanes and causing car accidents.
Rider responsibility has become a major area of concern for Bird and its competitors.
The more often Bird and Lime riders disregard rules and leave scooters in inappropriate areas like private residences, bike lanes and city streets, the more pressure is put on local legislators to ban electric scooter use completely.
Each major city has their own requirements for scooters, and some have outright banned electric scooters from their streets.
Bird scooters are still available in over 100 cities in the United States.
To check availability near you, simply turn on your Bird app.
You’ll also be informed if particular areas of a city are off-limits to electric scooters and if there are restrictions on parking areas.
Companies like Bird can be charged by city governments if scooters are found parked in restricted zones — in certain cases, even customers can be charged fees for leaving scooters in unsafe areas.
You should also check to see if your city and state have age requirements to use electric scooters, as well as local helmet laws.
Depending on where you live, it might be mandatory to wear a helmet while using an electric scooter.
Bird Scooter Rental vs. Buying an Electric Scooter
If you find yourself using Bird scooters on a frequent basis, those $4 and $6 rides can add up, and it might make more sense to buy your own new scooter.
In fact, you can own your own Bird scooter since they offer their scooters for sale.
The best way to determine if you should buy or rent a scooter is simple math.
The standard Bird scooter is a Xiaomi M365, retailing for $400.
If you’re spending around $50 a month on scooter rentals, you could pay for your own new scooter in well under a year.
But unlike renting a scooter, owning a scooter brings added responsibilities.
You’ll have to monitor the battery life, charge the scooter, and securely park it whenever it’s not in use.
That can be a big hassle if you’re attracted to the carefree nature of scooter rentals that can be left just about anywhere.
Bird Scooter Cost: Worth It for Quick Trips
If you’re looking for a way to commute every day or travel with more than just a small backpack or messenger bag, ridesharing vehicles or public transit are better choices to get around than renting a Bird scooter.
Weather, long distances, and traffic safety can often rule out electric scooter travel completely.
But if you’re looking for a quick trip in a crowded city, a Bird scooter is a much more affordable and faster option than ordering an Uber or Lyft.
Even if you’re in a high-fee city, the worst price for electric scooter rentals is only a fraction of traditional rideshare. Just be sure to park somewhere safe.