Engine technology has moved on so much that even the humble 50cc engine makes a surprising amount of power.
They’re clean, reliable and most of all they’re affordable .
You’ll notice that all of these scooters are well below the $1000 mark, which makes them a great low-cost transport solution.
The ATM50-A1 is a mass-market commuter from TaoTao which they’ve been selling for more than a decade with little change. In terms of looks this is about as generic as you’re ever going to find. It wouldn’t stand out in and of the East Asian countries where scooters are the main form of transport.
It’s not ugly, just not distinctive. They make these in quite a few colors though. Including pink, if that’s your thing.
The scooter has a top speed of 42 km/h , which is just enough for local commutes that don’t go on any highways.
Braking is provided by a front disc and a rear drum. Usually I’d say avoid drum brakes like the plague, but with such a small and slow vehicle it should be perfectly fine.
The scooter comes with a small top box. It’s fully automatic, as a scooter should be and has a maximum weight capacity of about 100kg. So while the seat has room for two, in practice this is a solo endeavour. There’s an electric and kick start option, which means a dead battery should never leave you stranded.
A solid local commuter at a fantastic price and it’s compliant with California’s emission laws to boot.
At first glance the Thunder 50 and ATM50-A1 seems to be the same on paper. The top speed is identical at 42 km/h and this also has a disc in the front, drum in the back and comes with a small top box.
However, this scooter has 3.2 HP compared to the ATM50-A1’s 1.8 HP . Although this has made no difference to the top speed, it should have a strong effect on acceleration and the ability to go up inclines.
The Thunder also has a much funkier design and doesn’t look quite so generic. It’s only a little more expensive and also has California’s emission blessing, so if you can stretch your budget a bit, this one is a better overall choice compared to the ATM.
All the other scooters in this roundup are street legal and meant to be used on the road. The Evo 2x on the other hand is a toy, pure and simple. You can’t use it on the road at all. Which means this is a sidewalk and parking lot scooter.
The big advantage of this is that the “powerboard” is not weighed down by road gear, fairings or anything boring like that. It’s a plank, engine and some wheels. Theoretically this makes for more speed and more fun.
It’s got 2 HP on tap and will hit about 55 km/h if you crank it all the way. Knobbly tires make it suitable for rough terrain, although with it’s small ground clearance and tiny suspension “rougher” means sidewalk or flat dirt patch.
It’s NOT an automatic scooter but has two gear which are operated with a thumb shifter. They claim you’ll get about 20 miles out of each tank and obviously refueling takes second, which makes the Evo 2x a real competitor to electric powerboards, for people who don’t care that much about emissions. Although for what it is worth this engine is EPA approved.
The Zummer is the funkiest looking scooter here and I don’t think that’s only an opinion. It’s styled to look like a naked streetfighter. The the front of the bike strongly resembles the Kawasaki Z series, especially the Z650. The rake of the front shock absorbers make this even more apparent.
It’s a bit cheeky, but no one can say it doesn’t look good! Front tire also looks the business and the scooter is almost 50% black. Overall I really like it.
The engine has a peak output of about 3.2 HP and a stop speed of 42 km/h . In other words, it performs pretty much the same as the Thunder model above. It also still has a drum brake in the back, so no improvements there. It lacks the top box of the other TaoTao scooters, but looks better for it.
So if all you care about is the numbers it’s hard to justify the extra money for the Zummer. In the looks department however, this is worth every penny.
What to Consider When Buying 50cc Scooter
Some places have a special category for 50cc scooters, which has less onerous requirements. For example, you may be able to register it as a moped.
If the routes you want to ride on have relative steep hills or sections that have speed limits well above the top speed of the scooter you might want to consider a bigger engine or a different route.
Weight capacity is very important, since these engines have so little power to begin with.
Tips for Riding a Scooter
The most important tip for any scooter rider is to respect the machine. Too many people treat small-capacity scooters like toys and this attitude can easily lead to death and injury. Always wear a helmet and don’t allow yourself to become complacent.
Scooters such as these tend to have drum brakes in the rear. Be sure to practice an emergency stop when you first get your scooter. Learn the feel of a drum brake and how best to balance between the front disc and rear drum.
Scooters usually have the engine integrated into the swingarm. This means they have relatively high amounts of unsprung mass. This makes them poor at handling bumpy surfaces and significantly reduces grip on bumpy surfaces. Keep this in mind and take it slow in such situations.
FAQ for 50cc scooter
For many people a 50cc scooter will be their first gas-powered vehicle. Let’s tackle some common questions.
I heard I have to mix oil into the gas. Is this true?
Do I Need a Licence?
You’ll have to get in touch with the local traffic authorities. Some places in the world don’t require a motorcycle licence for small capacity bikes, as it’s covered by your car licence. Other places let you register it as a moped or mobility-type scooter. There’s not way to give one answer, so pick up the phone and have a chat with the traffic department.
What Sort of Maintenance Do I Have to Do?
Apart from breakages, there’s very little maintenance to do on a modern four-stroke scooter. You can service them yourself quite easily and it only takes about 30 minutes, Change the spark plug, replace the oil and clean or replace the air filter. You do need to regularly check that the drive belt is in good condition. Once a month should suffice. Follow the manual’s instruction to know how much slack it should have.