About a year ago, I had jury duty. And rather than fork over $15 in parking fees to do my civic duty, I asked my wife to drop me off.
She was still at work when I was let out — and I didn’t want to splurge on a Lyft or taxi — so I decided to try out one of the newfangled scooters I was seeing all over town.
If you live in a city, you know the ones I’m talking about. They come from plenty of different companies — Lime, Bird, Jump (owned by Uber), Spin, Bolt — and today, I’ll reveal how you can use them to make money.
I won’t tell you which company to invest in — they’re all private for now, except those that are parts of larger organizations.
That’s not our beat anyway.
I will tell you that most of these scooter companies are paying people to work for them as a side hustle — with some folks earning hundreds of dollars a night doing only a couple hours’ work.
And we like the sound of that.
What’s the Difference?
When I left the courthouse, the closest scooter I found was a Bird. So that’s what I rode.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t the first rider that day and the scooter ran out of juice before I got home. (Don’t worry — it got me within walking distance.)
The issue, it turns out, was the distribution network.
Bird scooters all operate out of central hubs — called nests. Every morning, those nests get loaded up with scooters. If you aren’t near a nest, you’ll never grab a fully charged scooter.
Lime, on the other hand, doesn’t have centralized hubs. Instead, it uses an algorithm to guess where scooters will be in most demand and places them there.
Jump, Spin and Bolt don’t disclose how they place scooters… From limited observations, their approaches seem to be closer to the Lime method.
There are pros and cons to both. With Lime, there is — theoretically — a better chance you’ll find a fully charged scooter where you need it. But the placements can be haphazard and unpredictable, leading to frustrations when scooters aren’t where you want — or expect — them.
Bird, on the other hand, will often make you go a little further afield to find a fully charged scooter. But you have the reliability of knowing exactly where to find one when you need it.
The costs of all these scooter services have been fairly similar, though volatile.
All of them start at $1 to unlock the scooter. They all used to charge about 15 cents a minute on top to use one. But those rates are currently fluctuating…
Bird, for instance, just raised its rates to 29 cents a minute in some markets.
Bottom line — this baby industry is changing fast. You’ll have to check each time you use it to figure out what the cost is that day.
As for the scooters themselves, they’re more different than you’d think…
Lime is using what appears to be a standard electric scooter made by Segway. The Bird scooter is similar — but a higher-quality build and ride.
Bolt scooters, on the other hand, appear more substantial — and have greater options.
For instance, you can get the electric scooter version of an SUV from Bolt — with storage space for hauling groceries. They go faster, too, but are higher off the ground and require more athleticism to use.
There’s one other major difference: backing.
Lime and Bird are stand-alone companies trying to make it on their own. They have plenty of experienced rideshare minds on staff — Bird was found by graduates from Uber and Lyft, for instance — but they’ll rise or fall on their own merits.
Jump has the full backing of Uber. So if Uber decides it wants to compete hard in this area, it can.
While Bolt is the first one to pull in a major celebrity endorser: The Fastest Man on Earth.
Let’s hope for Bolt’s sake that endorsement contract pays off. For the moment, the company’s website is down, which doesn’t bode well. But the app is working — you can put it on your phone today.
How to Cash in on the Competition
There’s no way to know which scooter company is going to win the market — or how many of them will survive and thrive. They’re all popping in and out of markets all the time. And as cities increase regulations around this nascent field, they’ll continue to do so.
The important thing is — they’re all competing. For us, that’s a great thing.
Because they aren’t just competing for market share… They’re also competing for freelance workers. And as long as they’re competing, pay will be good.
You see, at the end of every day — usually around 9 p.m. — all these companies “release” their scooters.
Which means they can be claimed to be charged up by someone.
If you’re that someone, you get paid for every scooter. Sometimes a lot, sometimes a little, but certainly enough to make it worth your while.
Most scooters pay at least $5 for a charge, provided you get the scooter back on the street by 7 a.m. the next day.
Some pay much more, depending on how low the battery is and how difficult it is to find the scooter.
If you’ve got a vehicle that can grab a lot of scooters — a typical sedan can hold six, while SUVs, pickups and vans can hold many more — you can spend a half hour in the evening collecting a bunch of scooters…
Then plug them in overnight — they generally charge up in three–four hours…
And get them back on the street the next day. That’s it.
Again, the average pay per scooter is right around $5. The average cost of electricity to charge it is (at most) 25 cents.
Sure, there’s also gas and wear and tear on your vehicle to consider… But even maxing those out, you’re making a huge profit on each scooter.
Begin just charging up three scooters a night — the number most of these companies start at — to see how you like it and go from there.
Even if three scooters a night is all you ever charge, that’s an extra $75 a week (assuming you still want to enjoy your weekends).
If you decide to fill up your sedan with six scooters (and still give yourself two nights off), you could bring in $150 a week. That’s an extra $600 a month.
Not bad for a side hustle.
Editor-in-chief, Unconventional Wealth
P.S. Of course, scooters aren’t the only type of rideshare companies making waves today. Our favorite play remains Turo — the company that lets you easily rent out your car when you aren’t using it. Check out how to make Turo work for you here.
Ryan Cole is the editor-in-chief of Unconventional Wealth. He’s been covering the alternative investment space for nearly a decade and writing about finance and investment for almost 20 years.
Ryan has walked the walk for years, living a very unconventional life. He’s led snowmobile tours through the mountains of Colorado, settled in Japan for five...