Thursday, August 14, 2008

Scooter buying advice and tips - FAQ

Answers to some frequently asked questions about buying a scooter:

1) What brand of scooter is best?

The well-known brands all have their own strong points: Vespa, Honda, Yamaha, Aprilia, etc. I met a lot of people at AmeriVespa who LOVE their Genuine brand scooters -- these are models called Stella and Buddy. I have a friend who rides a Kymco and recommends it to everyone -- very low price, but reliable.

Be wary of buying a used scooter if you are inexperienced or not mechanically inclined. A bad scooter could get you killed. Is it worth a couple hundred dollars?

Think long and hard about buying a mail-order scooter. Can you really build a gas-powered, engine-driven vehicle from parts in a box? This is not a bicycle, dude.

2) Do I need a motorcycle license to operate a scooter?

In Florida, for any scooter with an engine size of more than 50cc, you need to have a motorcycle endorsement on your driver's license. Check the laws for your own state.

Even without the motorcycle endorsement, in Florida the 50cc scooters must have a tag and registration.

3) How fast does it go?

Generally speaking:
  • 50cc = 40 mph
  • 150cc = 60 mph
  • 200cc = 75 mph
  • 250cc = 80 mph
  • 400cc = 95 mph
4) How many miles per gallon does it get?

It totally depends on the make and model. My Vespa LX 150 easily gets 60 mpg -- but the manufacturer claims it gets 80 mpg. The ethanol in U.S. gasoline is reducing the mileage you can expect to get. (Yes, pay more for gas that doesn't take you as far. Grrr ...) Also, the manual says we should use a high-octane gasoline in Vespas, so I'm paying for Super or Ultra. Other scooters will have different requirements.

Still, I fill the tank about once every two weeks and pay less than $8 to do it.

5) How much does a scooter cost?

Again, check the make and model. Engine size is also a factor in price.

A 125cc Genuine Buddy is $2,699 (MSRP).

A Kymco People 50cc is $2,449 (MSRP), and the 125cc is $2,999 (MSRP). Only $500 difference.

A Vespa LX 150cc (if you can find one!) is $4,399 (MSRP), and the smaller engine, 50cc, is $3,299. Yeah, a big price difference there!

Meanwhile, a 250cc motorcycle, such as Honda's popular Rebel, goes for $3,199 (MSRP) -- new. Honda's Nighthawk (250cc) is $3,699.

6) So why not just buy a "real motorcycle" instead?

Ahhh ... that's a very good question. Let's just say that there are plenty of people who have ridden motorcycles, and loved riding them, and now they ride a scooter instead. There are people who got on a scooter and never wanted to ride anything else. There are even people who sold a scooter, bought a motorcycle, and ... then sold the motorcycle and bought another scooter.

It's not about shifting gears. I used to ride a Honda Shadow 750cc, and shifting gears was no problem at all. My Vespa is lighter, more nimble, more responsive, and -- best of all -- more fun to ride!

Some more advice:

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Blogger Chris said...

This is a great Q&A. I just purchased an LX 150 and this answers nearly all the questions I had. In the end, it was between what I purchased and a Genuine, the green one with 150ccs. I found that once I was at a certain price point, justifying the cost of the Vespa was easy. It will pay for itself within 2 years (or sooner) just from the gas I will save with my pickup.
A further point to someone considering purchasing a scooter or motorcycle. If you've never ridden a motorcycle, but are determined to be on two wheels - for gas savings or whatever reason - take the MSF (or equivalent) course in your area. Loads of common sense advice and skills building in just a few days and you can usually skip the driving portion of the DMV test. Well worth the money. Also, a scooter is a lot easier way to get immersed in the ways of two-wheel conveyances. 45 or 50 or 60 mph on a scooter gives you the same sensation of speed as it does on a motorcycle, but lets you concentrate a lot more on the road ahead, rather than the operation of your ride.

August 24, 2008 9:56 AM  
Blogger Mindy McAdams said...

I agree with you, Chris -- the MSF course is a must. They will teach you how to ride defensively on two wheels, and that is very different from what car drivers are used to.

August 24, 2008 11:42 AM  

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