What is a Car with 3 Wheels Called? [Explained]


Cars with 3 wheels are often called autocycles, three-wheeled cars, or simply three-wheelers. The first model was introduced in 1885, and since then many different models have appeared and disappeared. But it’s safe to say that just like trike motorcycles, autocycles have always existed on the market.

If you want to find out more about these unique vehicles, this post is for you. We at PowerSportsGuide have compiled the basics of three-wheeled cars under one roof!

Can a Car Have Three Wheels?

Yes, cars can be manufactured with three wheels. What’s more, it’s a fun fact that the first motorized automobile actually ran on three wheels! This famous vehicle was built by Karl Benz in 1885. Although the “Benz Patent-Motorwagen” looked like a trike motorcycle, it was considered to be the first production automobile.  

However, as you will see the boundary between trike motorcycles and an autocycle is not always clear. The majority of autocycles on the market are actually classified as motorcycle trikes due to legal issues.

Before we check the currently available autocycles, let’s talk about their pros and cons in a nutshell.

Why Did They Make 3-Wheel Cars?

Although the design has many advantages, the reason why so many 3-wheel cars were manufactured is their affordability. After World War II there was a huge demand for cheap simple vehicles. This was the time autocycles came into play.

Compared to motorcycles, these machines offered greater capacities and more protection from the elements. They also had lower price tags and running costs than standard cars.

They were easier to manufacture as well since they had fewer parts and a small body. Because of their small dimensions, these vehicles were also known as microcars.

Thanks to these advantages, many 3-wheeler cars were sold in Japanese and European markets. The most popular models were the Mazda K and T family, the Messerschmitt KR, or the 3-wheeler BMW Isetta.

Besides the lower costs, 3-wheel cars are lighter and feature a more aerodynamic design than their 4-wheel brothers.

But unfortunately, vintage autocycles had many disadvantages as well. The main drawbacks of these machines were their instability and poor traction. These resulted in less security in the corners.

They were also much smaller and featured less storage and seats than regular cars. Many people say that these vehicles combined all the disadvantages of cars and motorcycles!

Because of these concerns, 4-wheel cars became more prevalent and 3-wheelers were increasingly pushed out of the market.

But surprisingly you can still find some autocycle manufacturers on the market. However, many of them are smaller startups that offer a small series of vehicles.

Although many of these autocycles look like cars, they are usually classified as motorcycles. This way they can avoid the costly and strict crash tests and many other pitfalls during the legalization process.

Are you wondering how much a 3-wheel car costs today? Keep reading!

How Much Does a 3-Wheel Car Cost?

Unlike the “economical” vintage three wheelers, today’s autocycles are considered to be power sport vehicles and are not designed for daily use. Thus, they come with hefty price tags! As a rule of thumb, a 3-wheel car costs about $20,000-$70,000 depending on the make and model.

The most well-known three-wheeled car manufacturers are as follows:

  • Vanderhall
  • Morgan
  • Polaris
  • Campagna
  • Electric 3-wheeled cars

How Much is a Vanderhall 3-Wheeler?

One of the most well-known autocycle manufacturers is Vanderhall. The American company offers three different models, Venice, Carmel, and Edison. These sporty vehicles feature 1,400-,1500cc engines and a seat for two passengers. The prices of Vanderhall 3-wheelers range from $25,000 up to $70,000.

How Much Does a Morgan 3-Wheeler Cost?

Morgan Motor Company is a small car manufacturer located in the UK, Europe. The company offers 4- and 3-wheel cars and produces about 800-900 vehicles per year. Since each Morgan car is assembled by hand, if you are considering buying a Morgan you have to face a long waiting list and massive price tags. According to Car and Driver, the official MSRP of a Morgan 3-wheeler is no less than $59,000!

Polaris Slingshot

Although a Polaris Slingshot looks like an autocycle, the manufacturer identifies this vehicle as a “three-wheeled motorcycle.” This is because the Slingshot doesn’t meet car safety standards, so it must be registered as a motorcycle. The prices of these unique 3-wheelers are about $20,000-$33,000.

Campagna T-Rex

Campagna T-REX is another 2-seater autocycle-like vehicle that features a tube frame motorcycle drivetrain. These unique 3-wheelers are powered by a 6-cylinder BMW engine that delivers 160-200 HP depending on the model. If you want to own one of these gas-powered predators, be prepared to pay about $60,000-$70,000.

Electric 3-Wheeled Cars

It also has to be mentioned that more and more manufacturers have unveiled their electric 3-wheeled cars. Many of these vehicles are still just concepts like the Toyota I-Road, while others are already in mass production.

These tiny cars typically feature a single seat and are designed for everyday commuting.

Conclusion – What is a Car with 3 Wheels Called?

3-wheeled cars are typically referred to as three wheelers or autocycles.

After World War II, these vehicles were quite popular as they were cheaper to manufacture and maintain than conventional cars. But because of their disadvantages, they have slowly disappeared over the years.

Today the available autocycles are more powersport vehicles than cars for everyday use. Not only are they classified as motorcycles, but in most cases, they are used like that.

Ironically, while their vintage predecessors were brought to life due to economic considerations, today’s three wheelers have become barely affordable toys.

This is because the prices of the currently available autocycles range from $20,000 up to $70,000! In contrast, for $10,000 you can purchase a decent motorcycle or even a brand new jet ski!

Therefore, other motorized “toys” are still more popular compared to autocycles. They are not only more affordable and easier to maintain but many of them are easier to store as well.

On the other hand, more and more electric 3-wheeled cars are appearing on the market these days. Will these vehicles represent the future of urban transport?

References

https://www.wired.com/2015/02/well-didnt-work-ridiculous-history-unstable-impractical-three-wheeled-cars/

https://www.caranddriver.com/news/a34788776/morgan-3-wheeler-dead-2021/

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