Tell me about scooters, please

I have always wanted a scooter, and now that I live only about 16 miles from where I work, don’t have to go over 45 on any of the roads to get there and gas costs about a frigging arm and a leg per gallon, I am seriously considering buying one.

Now, I come from a family of bikers. My brothers both are tried and true Harley owners. No one with scooters, though. I need advice. How do I go about picking one out? Should I take a motorcycle safety course? What’s my price range for a decent, street-legal one? How should I expect a scooter to affect my insurance rates? Is this even a valid thought-process? I mean, I have a car for trips that would involve more than me going out or a need for space (such as grocery shopping), I want the scooter just to cut down on the average day-to-day gas usage to and from work.

Any advice or other information I haven’t thought of, please feel free to throw in here. Thanks!

I would highly recommend a motorcycle safety course before picking out a scooter. The place where I took my course also offered scooter training - with a loaner scooter.

Link for the Motorcycle Saftey Foundation courses in Tennessee.

I chose a motorcycle over a scooter, so I can’t help with how to pick out the scooter that’s best for you; my motorcycle insurance is about $11/month, and I would imagine scooter insurance would be even cheaper.

Edited to add: Please please please wear a helmet and gear, too - just because you can’t go that fast doesn’t mean you can’t die.

I’m certainly not what anyone would consider an expert, but my wife and I owned a scooter for about three years before it broke down on us. We bought ours used – it’s an '85 model Yamaha Riva, 125cc. In California, at least, 125cc is just below the freeway legal level, but fast enough to keep up with traffic on all but the busiest LA streets.

I would highly recommend taking the MSF course. In fact, if you’re going to buy a scooter, get it and take it to the course with you (although I think you have to have a minimum number of CCs on the scooter in order to qualify). Even if the scooter is easier to manuever than a motorcycle, you will learn things about being seen in traffic and spotting certain dangers that apply to any two-wheeled vehicle.

I don’t see why your commute wouldn’t be ideal for scooter riding, but choosing the type of scooter should really depend on the type of roads you’re going to be traveling. Make sure you buy enough power to stay with traffic and not get blown off the road.

If you scroll to the bottom of this page and this page and this page, you can start to get an idea of how much you might pay for a decent scooter.

If you’re really looking for cheaper, there seem to be a lot of Chinese brands making their way to parts of the US now that sell for under $1,000. I have heard that repairs on those scooters are difficult because parts are hard to get, but perhaps that will change if they get more popular.

Hope that’s of some help to you. Good luck and have fun!

And on preview…despite my contradictory advice above, I don’t disagree with Vevila. Taking the MSF course may help you decide what you want to buy. The course I took in California didn’t offer scooters for loan, though. YMMV.

Ditto to all of this. A motorcycle safety course is your best bet, and depending on the laws in Tennesee, you will need a liscense for anything over 50 ccs.

The problem with the small “twist and go” ( no shifting, just turning the accelerometer) is the inability to get out of the way.

What is your budget? For about two to three grand you can get a 150cc scoot that will top out at around 45-50 mph, which should be big enough for you.

I loved loved loved my 180cc Yamaha scooter in college. It did 65 mph easily and got maybe 75-80 mpg. I still have it, hoping that we can someday rip it apart and solve the starting problem it developed (which after some Internet research appears to be a known issue with this model).

We bought a couple of vintage (1978) 50cc German mopeds, which are fun to toodle around on but not practical for quick errands, as they don’t go much over 30 mph and we’re 5 miles from town.

I’d recommend that you get one with enough oomph to go at least 45 mph, and maybe even 55 just so you’re less limited as to which roads you can use.

Seconds on proper helmet and gear. I still wear my full-face helmet even on the mopeds, because I value my head. And I did have to get a motorcycle endorsement for the 180cc scooter; I took the state motorcycle safety course on it as well. Good stuff there.

<wistful>someday we’ll get a proper pair of cycles again.</wistful>

+1. When you fall from a two-wheeler going 45 mph, the pavement (and any other hard and immovable object you collide with) isn’t going to care whether your ride had 10" or 18" wheels. And definitely take the MSF course first. What they teach there is completely applicable to riding a scooter: watching for left-turning cars, knowing how to execute an emergency stop, leaning on turns and countersteering, etc.

There is a wide range of scooter types these days, from the traditional small framed, small engine and small wheeled scoots with a manual transmission, to “maxi-scoots” with 500cc or 650cc engines and as large as 16" wheels and CVT (twist-and-go) transmissions. It sounds like your primary reason for going with a scooter is for the mileage over a short commute, so a 150cc sized engine and a CVT transmission would be a standard configuration for your needs. If you would like the option of going faster (highway speeds) look into a 250cc or bigger scooter.

I myself currently ride a Piaggio BV500 for my commute, which has a 16" front tire and is capable of going at least 80mph on the highway (which I have done) with power to spare (not that I have often done so, but it’s nice to have the option). They cost a fair penny when new ($6300 MSRP), but I got a used one with 1400 miles on it for $4700, not a bad deal. In contrast, a used Vespa GT200 (a 200cc “modern” CVT scooter with traditional styling and 12" wheels) would go for around $3500-4000.

The next question would be how much you want to spend and what kind of styling you want. There are “mail order” scoots that are very cheap but have a reputation for poor build quality, while “name brand” scooters like those from Vespa/Piaggio, Honda, Suzuki or Yamaha (just to name a few) will cost more.

BTW the same advice for a new motorcycle rider equally applies for someone whose first bike is a scooter: think about getting a used one to use for the first couple of months, 'cause you are likely to do something stupid that dumps the bike, like getting the kickstand/centerstand thing wrong at a parking lot or gas station, or using too much front brake while going around a curve/turn at low speed, etc. Or else resign yourself to the thought of scratching or denting it eventually.

OK wiseguy, was that a deliberate swipe at me? :smiley:

I have a Suzuki Burgman 650, and I love it. I’ve had bikes for years–everything from hardcore sportbikes (Suzuki GSX-R1000, BMW K1200, Kawasaki ZX-6) to a Harley (Softail Custom) to sport-tourers (Yamaha FZ-1, BMW R1100) and the Burgman is one of the best two-wheeled investments I’ve ever made. I feel totally comfortable and safe riding it (which I didn’t, necessarily, on some of the others, whose riding positions were a bit too extreme for comfortable riding) and it’s plenty fast enough to get out of its own way and keep up with the local 80MPH freeway traffic. Also, you can fit two helmets or a helmet and a jacket under its locking seat, so no more lugging gear around on hot days! It seems like a small thing, but for me it’s huge.

If any of your riding will include freeways, I highly recommend getting one of the “maxi-scooters” (at least 400cc) rather than one of the smaller ones. Yeah, they’re freeway-legal, but the experience most likely won’t be a lot of fun, just because they don’t have the kind of power you need to keep up with traffic. This is doubly important if you’re a larger person or if you’re going to ever be carrying a passenger.

Heh heh. Not really, though I did just read your thread; the first time I dropped my Vespa was in a similar situation, in a parking lot where I stepped into a dip/crack in the pavement with my foot while dismounting, rolling my ankle and dropping the scooter onto myself. I instinctively jumped out of the way of the falling bike :rolleyes:
allowing it to hit the pavement instead of my ankle.

Thanks for all the links and advice guys. Motorcycle Safety Course is a definite. I have been surfing the web this morning looking for some in my area. The roads I take to work are all smallish roads. Only one of them has a speed limit over 35 (it’s 50) and they’re all paved roads. I will be checking out the information as I get time (I am doing data-entry today at work, so not as much intarweb time for me as usual).

As for helmets, etc – like I said, I come from a family of motorcyclists. Both brothers have laid down their bikes more than once – I know just how important safety is. I will definitely take the MSC prior to buying the scooter – I think that is some great advice.

Keep the info coming, if you think of other things I should know/consider.

I don’t have a scooter myself, but my mom has a 2005ish Vespa ET4 and loves it to death. I’ve “ridden bitch” on it a few times, it’s quite fun in this area.

Look into your local insurance and AAA policies on scooters. Some of them lump in motorcycle/scooter coverage with RV coverage for some reason, which can be kind of pricey – but on the other hand, I’ve heard many horror stories of towing companies charging ungodly rates to tow scooters that have broken down.

However, depending on your scooter, you may be able to get it “towed” by a friend in a pickup truck if the need arises. (This is a two-edged sword, as it also increases the possibility that it can be stolen by some schmo in a pickup.)

Since you come from a motorcycle family, I’m sure you don’t need to be reminded that many drivers won’t see you or pay attention to you.

Of course, this is true, and makes me hyper-sensitive to cyclists on the road.

To go back to whomever mentioned buying used – that was my plan. It’s both a financial and practical concern. I figure if I do end up wrecking, I’d rather wreck a $2K scooter than a $6K scooter. Not to mention preferring the price in and of itself.

Does one need to know how to ride a bike to be able to ride a scooter?

Scooters have automatic transmissions, so you don’t have to know how to shift. You should be comfortable with the controls, though (front and back braking, countersteering, etc). Knowing how to ride a motorcycle helps, but learning on a scooter is probably easier due to the lack of need to shift.

Uhhh, I actually meant a bicycle. One of the requirements for taking a motorcycle safety course I found is “the ability to ride a bicycle.” Sadly, this is one requirement I do not meet.

Well, yes. You need to be able to balance while seated on something with two wheels in motion while holding on to handlebars. If you can’t do it on a bicycle you won’t be able to do it on a scooter or motorcycle, at least I don’t see how.

If this is a showstopper for you, well, I guess there’s always the Piaggio MP3 “scooter” that has TWO front wheels for exactly your type of rider. And as one person who test rode an MP3 put it, “it can still split lanes like any other scooter, as the two front wheels are narrower than the width of the handlebars”.

At $7,000 MSRP not counting delivery, prep and registration fees, this isn’t really an economical choice. Then again I should say that buying a scooter or motorcycle to take advantage of the mileage to save on gas should not be the primary reason – except maybe in a “save the planet” kind of way. The money you shell out for even a $3000 used bike will take a LONG time to earn back in money saved for gas, even comparing (say) 65mpg to 20mpg at $3 a gallon.