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For years, driving was the only way to get around in most major cities. Then Uber and Lyft became popular and everyone’s vision for the future of transportation changed.
And now, there’s a new scooter in town.
Bird Scooters came onto the scene with gusto earlier in 2018 when they dropped off their dockless electric scooters in cities all over the nation.
Like its competitor, Lime, Bird scooters are changing the way people commute. Users can download a smartphone app, input some information, and cruise around the city quickly and efficiently.
Plus, the eco-friendly nature of these scooters makes them even more appealing.
In this article, we’re going to look at the Bird pricing structure to see if it’s worth the cost. We’ll also discuss the various extra fees you could be charged and how pricing compares with other transportation options.
- Bird Pricing Structure
- Other Bird Scooter Fees
- Are Bird Scooters a Good Deal?
Bird Scooters Pricing Structure
Just like Uber and Lyft, all payments are handled through the Bird app. When you sign up for an account, you’ll need to enter your credit card information. After you complete a ride, that amount is withdrawn from your account.
To “unlock” a Bird and go for a ride, renters need to pay a base fare of $1. After that, riders are charged $0.15 per minute.
Unlike Lyft and Uber, there is no additional mileage fee, so the price you pay is the same no matter the distance you cover. There is also no Surge or Prime Time pricing. Time is the only variable that will affect your total scooter-sharing bill.
To get an idea of how much a trip will cost at this minute-to-minute rate, we need to discuss how fast Birds can go. The electric scooters max speed is right around 15 mph, but for these estimates, we will assume an average speed of 10 mph throughout your journey.
Renters that need to travel four miles start their rental charge out at $1. At ten mph, it will take about 24 minutes to cover those miles. That comes out to $3.60 when you multiply 24 minutes by the 15 cents per minute rate. After you add in the base fare, your total trip comes to $4.60, which is less than the minimum Uber fare in most cities.
To give you a better idea of the pricing, here are some more examples:
Other Bird Scooter Fees
The base fee and the per-minute fee are the only costs that most scooter riders need to worry about. But if you break the rules outlined in the Bird User Agreement, you could find yourself facing additional fines.
The first fee is if your rental becomes lost or stolen. Bird considers any scooter that’s not returned within 48 hours to be lost or stolen, if this happens, the rider “may be charged up to $500 and a police report may be filed.” If you don’t return a scooter after 24 hours and the scooter is not considered lost and stolen, you could be charged $25.
The lost and stolen fee protects Bird’s assets; it’s also a great way to remind people to properly park and stop your ride using the app when you’re done.
The last fee that you should be aware of is the pickup fee. The pickup fee is assessed if you finish your ride on private property, making it impossible for a charger or fellow rider to locate the scooter. If this happens and a Bird employee has to be dispatched to retrieve the scooter, you will be charged up to $120.
All of these fees are put in place to encourage Bird users to follow the rules, which are pretty simple: don’t steal or damage a scooter and don’t park scooters in unreachable areas.
Are Bird Scooters a Good Deal?
To determine whether Bird is a good deal for renters, we have to compare it to other options in the transportation marketplace. By comparing the price of a scooter rental to other alternatives, we hope to provide a better picture of the cost so you can make an informed decision.
What is Cheaper, Bird or Lime?
Lime scooters are currently the biggest competitor to Bird. There are a ton of other scooter companies out there, like Spin, but these two have secured the most VC funding and expanded into the most marketplaces.
So what one is cheaper?
Well, neither of them, really. Bird and Lime use the exact same pricing structure, meaning that both of them are $1 to start and $0.15.
Personally, we suggest that you have both apps on your phone. That way, you can check both of them and see what scooters are closer. Having both of the apps also means that you can take advantage of two sign-up bonuses instead of just one.
What is Cheaper, Bird or UberX?
The best way to compare UberX and Bird is to look at the payment breakdown for UberX. Currently, UberX passengers are charged a base fee, a per mile fee and a per minute fee. If your total ride cost on Uber does not meet a minimum amount, you will be up-charged to match the minimum.
The amount Uber charges for the base fare, per mile fee and per minute fee varies by city. So for the sake of an example, let’s look at the fees for the city of Chicago using the Uber Fare Calculator. When you enter in Chicago in the city based prices, you’ll get these numbers:
- SEAT CAPACITY: 4
- BASE FARE: USD 1.79
- PRICE PER MINUTE: USD 0.21
- PRICE PER MILE: USD 1.00
- CANCELLATION FEE: USD 5.00
- MINIMUM COST: USD 4.85
Now that we have these numbers, let’s go back to the 4-mile trip example we used above. Let’s also assume that a 4-mile Uber trip takes about 20 minutes (there’s a lot of traffic in Chi-town). Using these numbers, out broken out total will look like this:
- Base Fare: $1.79
- Price Per Minute: $0.21 x 20 minutes = $4.20
- Price Per Mile: $1.00 x 4 miles = $4.00
- Total: $9.99
Remember that our scooter ride only cost $4.60 to cover the same distance? That means that taking a scooter would save you over $5 in this example.
There are other factors that you need to consider which can make Uber more affordable than a scooter. Namely, the seating capacity. An UberX can fit up to 4 passengers, meaning this same ride would be $2.50 per person if split evenly. So if you have a group of people, it makes more financial sense to split an Uber.
Bird vs. Driving Yourself
If you own your own car, it is probably cheaper to drive than to rent a scooter. For example, we’re going to use the average cost to drive a mile as defined by the IRS.
The IRS mileage rate is a number that contractors or employers use to determine tax deductions for using a personal vehicle for work. The rate determines how much it costs to drive a mile when you factor in gas costs, vehicle registration, driver’s license fees, insurance, depreciation and a ton of other factors.
At the time of writing this article, the average rate is $0.545 per mile. That means that every mile you drive costs roughly 55 cents.
Using this rate, it means that driving 4 miles in your own car costs you $2.18. This number obviously can change based on your vehicle. For instance, if you drive a hybrid or electric vehicle, your cost per mile would be much lower. If you drive a gas-guzzling SUV, it would probably be way higher.
At the cost of $2.18 for a 4-mile trip, driving your own car would be less than half the price of renting a scooter. Keep in mind, you don’t have to pay for parking with a scooter.
One other thing to note: the cost per mile as determined by the IRS does not include the cost of purchasing a vehicle. The price of the vehicle is another significant cost that can’t be ignored. Could you imagine how many scooter rides you could take for the price of a car payment?
Just for fun, let’s do the math. According to CNBC, the average monthly auto loan payment was $371, which is a record high. At that price, you could take 80 four-mile trips on a Bird scooter!
What About Public Transit?
Public transit, like the bus or train, is pretty hard to beat when it comes to prices. We looked at a variety of cities in the U.S. and found that most cities have a one-way ticket price of about $2.00.
For $2.00 you would only be able to ride a scooter for about 6 minutes, which wouldn’t get you very far. In fact, you would only be able to travel 1.5 miles if you went the max 15 mph the whole journey.
Even though it is super affordable, public transit has some major downsides. It can be crowded, you need to follow a strict schedule, the pickup and drop off locations aren’t flexible, etc.
On a sunny day, we would opt for a scooter over a bus for short trips 99% of the time.
We could compare Bird scooters with other modes of transportation until the cows come home, but one thing is clear: the scooters are a pretty good deal.
Driving and taking the bus is cheaper, but they both come with downsides. Even UberX can be less expensive if you’re in a group.
Regardless of cheaper options, it’s pretty hard to beat the fun and convenience that comes with cruising around on Bird electric scooters.
What do you think? Are scooters a viable mode of transportation in your area?
Brett Helling is the owner of Ridester.com. He has been a rideshare driver since early 2012, having completed hundreds of trips for companies including Uber, Lyft, and Postmates. In 2014 he acquired Ridester.com to share his experiences with other drivers. His insights are regularly quoted by publications such as Forbes, Vice, CNBC, and more. He is currently working on a book about working in the Gig Economy, expanding his skill set beyond the rideshare niche. Read more about Brett here.