Scoot in Style: Life with a Scooter in China

Scoot in Style: Life with a Scooter in China
Feb 03, 2016 By Trey Archer ,

Riding a scooter has definitely changed my life in China. It’s quicker than taking the bus, cheaper than buying a car, less annoying than chain-smoking taxi drivers, and more efficient than crowded subways. I’m actually to the point now that I cannot even imagine what life would be like without my beloved scooter, I absolutely love it! For those considering a new method of transportation, here are some tips on life with a scooter in China.

Deal or no deal?
Every town has their go-to scooter guy, and every mega-city that permits scooters has a shop on just about every corner. Once you’ve found the place, it’s time to consider a price. One of the most popular brands amongst expats these days is the Vespa-style from Yatian (this is the one I drive). The standard battery that comes with this model lasts about 40-60 km per full charge, and it costs 2,500 – 3,500 RMB, depending on factors like seat length, storage, tire size, etc.

Another popular brand is the Vespa model from Benzhou. The price is more or less the same as the aforementioned style, though some bigger models can go up to 4,000 RMB. The battery power and quality is also on par with Yatian’s. A cheaper option is the 500w Vespa scooter from Yongkang Flade Motor. It runs from 1,500 RMB and up, but the battery doesn’t get you as far and it’s smaller than some of the other types out there.

Helpful hint: No matter which one you pick, always bargain to knock off the price, and be sure to give it a test run around the block before handing any money over.

Pimp my ride
You’ll need to purchase a few other items as well, like a helmet, lock and charging chord. It’s not required to wear a helmet, but it’s most certainly recommended (no matter how dorky they look). They run for about 100 kuai and it’s best to have one that covers the entire head and face with a visor. The charging wire is absolutely necessary so make sure not to leave without one. The salesman should give you the proper chord that matches your battery type, and it should never be more than 100 kuai.

The lock is also an absolute must. As safe as China may be, scooter theft is incredibly common. If fact, my friend just got his brand spanking new scooter stolen after two months of owning it. He even had a lock on it! Get a lock long enough to tie to a pole and park it in a garage or off a main street when leaving it overnight. During the day, some busy areas of town have an area where you can park your scooter with a security guard. It costs one kuai or less to leave it for the day, but you should still place your lock on it. Unfortunately, there is no insurance you can place on a stolen scooter, so be careful!

The most important accessory is the battery, not just because it’s what makes you go, but also because they come in different modules. You’ll have to choose between a removable battery or built-in one. If there is a charging dock near your house, a built in one might be a nice option. If you’re like me and don’t, you’ll need a removable one that you can take out and bring into your room for overnight charging.

To ride or not to ride
If you’re living in Chongqing or Shenzhen, stop reading this article. These major cities have outlawed scooters, as it’s nearly impossible navigating the steep streets with an electric scooter in Chongqing and they’re responsible for 15% of road deaths in Shenzhen. In Guangzhou, the city proposed a ban in 2014 which enraged some citizens so bad that they attacked local police stations. The decision has been put on hold indefinitely.

In Shanghai, authorities are looking to gradually phase scooters out of the city within a few years. In accordance with this new policy, when you purchase a scooter you’ll also need to obtain a license number – it’s a little blue box the size of a thumb that they tie around your handle bar. If you don’t have this and are stopped by the cops, or if the patrolmen see your ride parked outside without a tag, they will confiscate it. It’s also worth mentioning that gas powered bikes are illegal in Shanghai (despite still having quite a few on the road) and there are certain streets in which you cannot drive – take Huaihai Lu for example. Ask your local friends about specific scooter laws in your town.

On a more humorous note, you’ve probably seen entire family generations on top of scooters – mom, grandma, two kids, dog, husband and random stranger all pilled on top of the same scooter. This is illegal. If you have the intention of carpooling your entire neighborhood around town, it may be better just to get a car. The max amount of people you can have on a scooter is two, nothing more.

Safety first
If you get into an accident, there are a few things to keep in mind. If it’s your fault and not too serious, you will most likely have to pay the other person for damages. This happened to me not to log ago: I was riding in the opposite bike lane about to turn into a shop and some guy blindsided me. I refused to pay because he was the one who hit me, so he called the police to arbitrate. After he explained his story, and I explained mine, the cop along with a few bored bystanders decided that it was indeed my fault. I ended up paying 500 RMB. 

If you are the victim, the odds are stacked against you as an expat. You can try to demand money, but with Chinese street justice, you’ll be lucky if you can persuade the onlookers that you were truly not in the wrong. I’d suggest asking for a few hundred kuai, nothing too much if it’s a small accident, then get on your way. If it’s something more serious and you’re truly in the clear, then by all means argue your case. This happened with my friend, and he was able to get 2,000 RMB because his suit was ripped and scooter severely damaged.

A good piece-of-mind measure to defend yourself against accidents and injury is insurance. You should always have medical insurance, especially if you have a scooter, period. Scooters can be very dangerous and repairing broken bones at an international hospital can cost an arm and a leg (no pun intended). It may also be a good idea to get risk insurance that will reimburse you if you have to pay for the damage of someone else’s scooter. Talk to your financial advisor or insurance provider for more options, you’ll thank me later.

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Keywords: getting around China scooters China


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A good piece-of-mind measure to defend yourself against accidents and injury is insurance. You should always have medical insurance, especially if you have a scooter, period. Scooters can be very dangerous and repairing broken bones at an international hospital can cost an arm and a leg (no pun intended). It may also be a good idea to get risk insurance that will reimburse you if you have to pay for the damage of someone else’s scooter. Talk to your financial advisor or insurance provider for more options, you’ll thank me later.

Apr 16, 2020 03:23 Report Abuse



I would like to buy one

Apr 15, 2017 15:58 Report Abuse



I used to ride my electric scooter here in Xiamen, but it's just too dangerous. Motorists don't give a damn about you and will gladly push you and your plastic vehicle into the kerb or guard rail, that includes buses, you know, the tons of steel that typically always win? The days that I'd blindly get on 2 wheels and just go, no matter the risks, are behind me. I'm a father and would like to see my boy grow up. Save the 2-wheeled trips for safer environments.

Apr 21, 2016 10:43 Report Abuse



why are 98% of people on this site a bunch of wankers,who continuously try to bully (as a group) to any person who has an opinion? Possible answers: A. They are weird,sad and pathetic loosers in their own country and since arriving in China they think they are the shit? B.They have gained alot of confidence in China from all the false compliments from Chinese folks and this has turned them into self obsessed retards? or D.They have very little socail skills (no friends) ,they spend alot of time on their computer and the 20 regular's that are on here 24/7(you know who you are)have become close friends( who have never met and will never meet) So they stick together like a pack of dogs and wait for someone to ask a genuine question and then they try to belittle them.

Feb 18, 2016 20:18 Report Abuse



Chongqing hasn't banned scooters... Shops are everywhere and I have several friends, both foreigners and locals, who ride them.

Feb 05, 2016 22:20 Report Abuse



It depends on the local 'crackdown.' I had a scooter in Zhongshan while they were banned and being confiscated; never affected me at all. It was that dam patient thief who drilled holes into my shed, disabled the alarm and cut both U-locks that did me in... In GZ they're tightly regulated in the city core, but mostly allowed in the suburbs. Motorcycles are also illegal there but allowed because police are nowhere to be found.

Feb 09, 2016 11:33 Report Abuse



Stick to the rules, don't drive too fast and you will avoid injury and liability for damages.

Feb 04, 2016 14:23 Report Abuse



that is actually the only way...

Feb 04, 2016 15:49 Report Abuse



the article said should bargain and your tip is 2500-3500 for buying a standard ebike?? i bought here was much cheaper

Feb 04, 2016 10:01 Report Abuse



actually you should visit the local shops..and start works.. orbuy a used get it around 1000-1500...

Feb 04, 2016 15:52 Report Abuse



been in stunt riding competitions and also give classes....i broke 17 bones here in china...doesnt mean im gonna stop riding...just buy an international insurance (whih is slightly expensive and means spend less in bars). cook at home (which is healthy- tubware diet)...and ride..there is no other feeling that can match riding a motorcycle...its the closest you come to flying...

Feb 03, 2016 20:36 Report Abuse



Double wanker.

Feb 03, 2016 20:59 Report Abuse




Feb 04, 2016 15:48 Report Abuse




Feb 06, 2016 18:16 Report Abuse



cuz some people find it had to understand with a big space and dots...

Feb 08, 2016 20:13 Report Abuse



well..riding here is just like riding anywhere...its just a stupid excuse..i cant count how many time foreigners came to me interested in my bikes and asking about license plate...ofcourse i dont have plates...either make bank and go buy a new one...or else dont ask for just sorry to say but the foreigner here are a bunch of pussies...grow some balls ..ifyou like motorcycles it ...and ride...i have more than 50000 miles all round china clocked riding motorcycles without plates...never had a problem....i still have 7 motorcycles including harley davidson, ducati , a honda and 2 suzuki's and 2 yamaha's...never had a problem...just dont stop where you see the police...but you need a little bit of balls to go about...riding here is not worse than riding in london...i would say london is worse...

Feb 03, 2016 20:32 Report Abuse




Feb 03, 2016 20:58 Report Abuse



awwww....someone got their feelings hurt....dude what do you ride?...unless you dont know how it feels...its easy to stand on the sidelines and i think skateboarders are idiots...but doesnt mean they are....its their choice, they like it...they do you??..

Feb 04, 2016 15:55 Report Abuse



It's not about balls; its about risk. Obviously you scoff at the law and enjoy it, but that doesn't make you tough. It just makes you a douche for mocking those of us who've already learned to be careful.

Feb 09, 2016 11:28 Report Abuse



i never said i was tough. and neither is it about the law, its about doing what you love. getting up every morning is a risk, not just riding a motorcyle. tell me, do you go clubbing?..well you are a douche for consuming fake alcohol, and trust me its fake everywhere. Do you eat out all the time? well you are a douche for doing that cuz once you go and look at the kitchen and how they make it you are taking a basically anything you do puts you at risk and makes you a douche for it...yet you say im the average person spends 1000-2000 rmb on bars in a week...thats 50,000-100 000 annual...does that number feel logical??..i dont and i use that money to buy a motorcycle...simple...which is an asset that i can sell later...that doesnt make me a douche, its me investing in what i love...can you sell your piss or headache after a party? basically you have wasted 100% of your funds and i hardly 20% on depreciation value..

Feb 11, 2016 17:46 Report Abuse



I didn't say you are a douche for liking to ride bikes. I've owned several myself, and they're great fun. Until one day I realized I'm mortal and I made a decision to be more careful. I called you a douche because you are mocking those of us who do choose to be careful around motorcycles. That style of peer pressure may be common in grade school, but we are adults now. Respect others and they'll be more likely to respect you. I don't drink and I cook my own food. I'm saving my money for a house. A 100K hospital bill in China is a scary thing to me. Bless you.

Feb 17, 2016 16:43 Report Abuse



well i wasnt mocking those who dont wanna ride, and respect you for saving for the mocking those stupid people who come up to me and say they want one but think its not rich.. but i save for it..simple..if you love something, go for it. jumping off bridges and planes is just as scary, isnt it.?... Im sorry if i dont respect someone who doesnt respect themself... motorcycles are not dangerous, its how you ride them. same goes for cars or even a pedestrian on the street. Are you sure someone wont crash into you while you are walking on the street?...Or lets talk about love, would you break up with your gf because someday she will fight with you and you will be unhappy? dont stop laughing because of the fear of crying..everyone is afraid, me too, but one step over fear is amazing. Isnt passion the source of progress? or should everyone be a robot without feelings and living in fear?

Feb 17, 2016 22:15 Report Abuse



I can definitely see the safety issues, but taking business away from other transport "services" could also motivate the bans

Feb 03, 2016 14:09 Report Abuse



Foshan bans scooters and ebikes altogether in the entire urban area and it's one of the few rules to be strictly enforced, some friends both Chinese and Foreign got their 2 wheeler seized by the cops when the ban entered in application, problem solved for me.

Feb 03, 2016 13:26 Report Abuse



Also, who is so self-absorbed they think their opinion on scooters warrants an entire god damn blog entry?

Feb 03, 2016 10:16 Report Abuse