Buy a scooter… don’t be afraid
While I’m fully aware a lot of people think driving a scooter is wimpy, dorky, etc., I’ll also challenge those closed minded, old-fashioned opinions as being too concerned with what others think.
It makes sense. Our ability to think outside the box has been beaten out of us by a consumeristic culture and persuasive advertising.
Despite numerous benefits and few draw backs – unless you’re a college student – owning a scooter is relatively uncommon in most parts of the United States – not so in other parts of the world. When considering the pro et contra, buying a scooter can stack up quickly into an economically wise purchase.
Scooters, moped, and motorcycles
In the interest of this article, scooters are synonymous with mopeds and defined as follows: a 2-wheeled vehicle with a saddlelike seat mounted on the footboard and being propelled by a motor – and for the purpose of economy let’s focus specifically, but not entirely, on scooters of the 50cc motor variety (to be further explained later in the article.)
A scooter ≤ 50cc and a motorcycle ≥ 51cc. CC = cubic centimeters and refers to engine size (volume of air and fuel mixture intake in a cylinder bore.)
Although some states differ, most states consider any motorized bike 50cc or less to be a scooter and any bike 51cc or higher to be a motorcycle… a very important distinction because many of the benefits below do not apply to motorcycles.
Since scooter/moped laws differ from state to state be sure to check your applicable state laws pertaining to helmets, insurance, registration, etc.
Let’s take a look at some benefits, along with a few buying tips, as seen through the eyes of this fledgling scooter owner; but first, some helpful details about my scooter.
My scooter is a 2009 JCL model MP50B. I purchased it in mid April 2010 for $600 despite a KBB value of $710 at the time of purchase – I love a good deal. The bike had been driven only 385 miles, was in pristine condition, and ran like a top. One month and 450 miles later… everything is on the up and up and I couldn’t be more pleased with my purchase.
Save money on gas
Driving a scooter will save you a boat-load of cash on gas. Let’s look at the specifics of how much I have saved in just one month.
Since purchasing my scooter one month ago (at time of writing) I have driven 450 miles on 4 tanks of gas. The tank is 1.32 gallons and the scooter gets 100 mpg, using an average gas price of $3.00/gallon I have spent $13.50 on gas compared to the $90 I would have spent driving my 2000 Jeep Cherokee Sport, which gets a mere 15 miles to the gallon.
Conclusion? My scooter gets 6.667x better gas mileage than my Jeep and should pay for itself in one driving season in gas savings alone.
Save money on vehicle maintenance
Every mile I drive the scooter means one less mile on my Jeep. Maintenance and parts for my Jeep are much more expensive than for my scooter. I can perform maintenance on the scooter myself and replacement parts are much less costly.
Save money on insurance and registration
Again, although some states may differ, in Michigan a 50cc scooter does not require insurance coverage. The only cost associated with driving my scooter, other than gas, maintenance, and repairs… is the registration tag. Michigan charges $15 for a 3 year registration sticker. That’s it folks, $5/year.
Save money on a helmet
In many states a 50cc scooter rider is not required to wear a helmet. While many choose to wear a helmet anyway, they are not required to by law. This could obviously draw a lot of comments, but putting aside all that debate, the fact remains… many state laws do not require a helmet on a 50cc scooter.
Buy a scooter used
Just as purchasing a slightly used vehicle is often a better decision than buying new, the same is true for scooters. Here are my tips for those looking to buy a scooter used:
- Do not buy a scooter from a college student. No offense young’ens… but I was a in college a few years back, which is precisely why I’m telling people not to buy a scooter used from a college student. Sure, there are always exceptions to the rule but there is a reason their insurance premiums are high, so use common sense. 🙂
- Buy a scooter from older folks. Many RV’ing retirees buy scooters for buzzing around RV parks and campgrounds while traveling. The truth of the matter? They don’t usually end up using them much and tend to take great care of their possessions. This means low miles, routine maintenance, fewer wipe outs, and no beating on the scooter. Find a good price and you have yourself a recipe for a good buy.
- Use KBB to estimate buying price. Before you go test drive a scooter, be sure to check out the Kelly Blue Book Motorcycle Retail page to determine a solid buying price. Simply pick your year, make, model and size to reveal what a low-mile bike in excellent condition is worth. Print the page and take it with you as a bargaining chip (unless they’re asking less than the bike is worth of course.)
- Use Craigslist. Beyond the obvious benefit of using Craigslist, I recommend using a CraigsList search/notification app. Said application will allow you to input a search term – like “scooter” – and set up alerts for all newly placed relevant ads so you can be the first to contact the seller. That is precisely how I found my, virtually brand new scooter for such a great price. I was the first to call, first to visit, first to make an offer, and it paid off.
- DO NOT FINANCE. If you don’t have the money saved and previously budgeted… don’t buy anything. Period.
Wear a helmet
Yes, even if you don’t have to, and yes, even though I listed it as a possible money saving benefit above. If you’re not going to wear a helmet, consider purchasing a windshield, and a the very least be sure to wear some type of eye protection like eye glasses, sunglasses, or Dumb and Dumber scooter goggles. 😉
Perform regular maintenance
To ensure optimal operation and to extend the life of your scooter be sure to follow the maintenance schedule supplied by the manufacturer. Most everything is routine like checking/replacing engine oil, gear oil, air filters, tire pressure, etc. You will not need to hire a mechanic unless you’re diametrically opposed to elementary mechanical maintenance.
Dress warm and carry extra clothing
Even in a northern state of Michigan, I can easily get 7 months of ride time each year, but not without proper winter gear. If you choose not to wear a helmet, when it’s chilly out you’re well advised to wear a winter cap; while you’re at it… don’t forget the gloves. Be sure to wear a jacket that seals off your neck and wrists, since failure to do so can turn a cool ride into a freezing cold ride really quick.
Scooters are cool
Don’t let anyone fool you. When you drive a scooter you save money hand over fist, you get to ride down the open road, and of course… chicks dig guys on scooters. Just ask my wife. 😉
What are you waiting for? Go open an Capital One 360 savings account, label it “Sweet Scooter Fund,” and start saving for your soon purchase!