Give a hoot, ride a scoot
July 25, 2011 3:48 PM   Subscribe

Going to buy a scooter! Yes! But where do I start researching? What advice do you have?

Greetings mefites. So, I just spent about $1,000 in auto maintenance this month and I'm done. Through. I want to get a 50cc scooter to get to/from work. (11 miles round trip)

Ok, now what? Where can I research reviews, and how do I make a purchase? What should I know before making a purchase, and what should I ask, inspect, or test?

Not personally knowing anyone who owns a scooter, I would love to hear your personal anecdotes and/or favorite models of scooter. I know nothing, but I am willing to study. I am here in the states and live in a city that has great roads, and scooters are common for commuting around. Thanks so much for lending your wisdom.
posted by yoyoceramic to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'd want a Whizzer. Disclaimer.. I know nothing about scooters or whizzers. OK I need to stop posting.
posted by notned at 4:22 PM on July 25, 2011

I commuted on a 2006 50cc Genuine Buddy for about a year, 8 miles each way.

Pros: Fuel economy! 60+ mpg. The Buddy has under-seat storage so I could bring my lunch or whatnot under the seat (I also wore a backpack most of the time). Fun to ride!!

Cons: The Buddy did not like cold mornings. When it rains you get very wet. You can't go very fast (I commuted on roads with a speed limit of up to 45mph, which the Buddy could *barely* do, and people like to go faster than the posted speed limit).
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:45 PM on July 25, 2011

Best answer: The problem I found with a scooter is riding around drops the temperature like ten degrees or something. So even a nice warm day can turn cold on your scooter. Moral: budget money for the right clothing. Get a rain jacket and something put on your ears. That is, if you live somewhere where it gets cold at all.
Budget for a helmet and a neon vest. Scooters are pretty small. You don't want your last minute on earth to be driving to work and get hit by a truck because you couldn't be seen.
I didn't do this but...I wish I had bought insurance for it that covered my injuries. I realized that you could easily get in an accident that would hurt you, and no one else.
It can be very nerve racking if you have to drive on some high traffic roads. I had a 50cc scooter and it just barely kept up with the traffic was going at least 40mph.
Depending on your weight, you may need more than a 50cc. My Yamaha was working hard sometimes when it had to haul around my 150lbs body. Hills can be tough for a 50cc. avoid going up hills in heavy traffic you will slow to a crawl.

As far as scooters. I would skip the cheap Chinese scooters. IMO Japanese and Italian scooters are superior. I owned a Yamaha c3. It was really fun to drive around. Had plenty of storage space under the seat.
I really wanted a Vespa, but they are pretty expensive. You can get an older one, but sometimes they are high maintenance.
I think you'll find either Yamaha or Honda will have great scoots to meet your needs. If you are buying new, expect to pay no less than $2500. Scour your classifieds for a used one. Typically they have light use and are in good shape. You can save a lot of money being patient and waiting for an excellent used one to show up in your local classifieds.

tl:dr- wear the right clothes. Increase you visibility. Japanese scooters are your best bet. Be safe, It's not if but when you'll get into an accident.
Oh, and have fun.
posted by hot_monster at 4:46 PM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've had a few scooters, most of which were 80cc. I'm big (6'4", 200lbs), so a 50cc would barely get me up a hill. 80cc scooters will permit you a smaller passenger (wife, girlfriend) since they have the power to do so and room on the seat as well. My last one was in Tucson, and I had about a 5-mile commute. 11 miles is certainly doable, but obviously you can't just sit back, turn on the radio and AC, and just enjoy your commute. You have to be extremely aware of your surroundings, sit up straight and hold on to both handles like your life depends on it. Because, obviously, it does. It's exhilarating, but it can be tiring. And of course, it's not much fun in inclement or very cold weather.

The gas factor alone is incredible. You fill it up once a week (or every two weeks) since you get about 100 miles to the gallon. Maintenance- my last scooter was a brand new Honda Elite 80 and didn't need anything but an oil change, and I will admit I was shocked at how much that cost. Apparently, it's not as simple as they do it at the Jiffy Lube for your car; this took a while and cost about $100. That's enough incentive to learn how to do it yourself the next time. Other brands/models might be easier to work on; the expense of having work done or the difficulty of doing it yourself is something to consider asking when shopping around.

The ability to park almost anywhere is also fantastic. Wear a full helmet. Get your learner's permit/license lined up; if you're buying from a dealer they won't let you take a test drive unless you're licensed.
posted by holterbarbour at 4:52 PM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd say stick to name brands like Vespa, Honda and Yamaha. Genuine Scooters seems to be developing a good rep. Newer Honda and Yamaha models with water cooling and fuel injection are likely to be the most reliable. If you're not mechanically inclined, buy new.

Don't skimp on safety gear. I see people wearing shorts and flip flops on scooters all the time, and it never fails to make me wince. Take a motorcycle safety class, too.

50cc scooters are good transportation for many urban areas, but keep in mind that 40mph is about top speed. Sometimes 35 is a more realistic expectation for constant speed and time budgeting.
posted by 2N2222 at 4:55 PM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ok great, thanks for the feedback so far.

What is the typical mileage for one of these things. What I am getting at is, how do I judge whether the scooter has 'many' miles or 'not so many' miles for its age.

Thanks for the tip on the oil change. I will consider the labor required to manually change the oil.

I welcome continued feedback! Thanks for everything so far.
posted by yoyoceramic at 4:56 PM on July 25, 2011

Best answer: You said 50cc but I'd recommend a 150cc+. You can't generally take anything else (even briefly) on the highway and the extra power will give you passing ability to get out of emergencies. It doesn't really hurt the mileage all that much, either. I had a Kymco People 150 (under 3k new) and would recommend it, as Kymcos tend to need less maintenance than some more expensive brands - it's a respected Taiwanese brand, not the Chinese/Russian knockoff crap.
posted by kcm at 4:57 PM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

And yes, you're most likely to break your ankle at 0mph than anything. It's easier than you think to fall over at a stoplight when a car in front of you suddenly turns left. Get good boots and a jacket.
posted by kcm at 4:58 PM on July 25, 2011

Response by poster: KCM, thanks for the tip. I suppose the only reason I am considering a 50cc scooter is because I will not have to register my rig with the DMV or get a motorcycle license. The thinking there is that I will avoid registration costs and not have to deal with DMV nonsense on getting a motorcycle license.

Considering I am not interested in going on the freeway at all, would you still recommend a 150cc?
posted by yoyoceramic at 5:01 PM on July 25, 2011

Good question about mileage. I see used Ruckuses and C3s with less than 1000 miles on the clock all the time. And these might have been owned for several years. Draw whatever conclusion you'd like from that. It seems to me that many folks buy a scooter with the exact same thinking that you have, and in practice, find it to be not as dandy as it looked on paper.

I'd say anything over 10,000 miles is on the high end. Also keep in mind that scooters and motorcycles are not quite on the same plane as automobiles when it comes to routine maintenance. Tires may need to be replaced every 5000 miles or less. One needs to be more vigilant about things like oil levels and changes. Getting these things done is typically a bit more of a hassle than for an auto, since there are fewer scooter mechanics around.

And of you want to reliably go any faster than 40mph, you'll need a bigger bike. If the reason for limiting yourself to 50cc is lax regulations, there may be a false economy. There are some skills that should be mastered, and are best addressed by a motorcycle safety class. Around here, the class costs much more than the license and registration on a used small bike.

That's not to talk you out of a 50cc machine. It may be perfectly suited to your needs. It's just that many folks outgrow them very quickly when used under real world circumstances.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:14 PM on July 25, 2011

Ha! I just came here to ask a question about scooters, and here you just asked one! Crazy.

Well, I'm curious if there's anything smaller than the Piaggio Fly. My wife can hardly reach the ground on it, which isn't necessarily safe, considering how heavy and awkward it would be to try to keep it up when at a stop light.

Any ideas if there are smaller scooters floating around?
posted by purefusion at 5:16 PM on July 25, 2011

Honda Ruckus seems to have a fairly low seat height, but I don't know how it compares to the Piaggio.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:22 PM on July 25, 2011

Best answer: A low-hp scooter is interchangeable with a bicycle. They serve the same purpose, short trips in good weather. Depending on what state you're in, if your scooter is over 49cc it's considered a motorcycle with all the attendant licensing issues. My recommendation, as a person who has owned scooters, (a couple Hondas, a Yamaha) and motorcycles (Suzuki 80, Norton Commando, Honda 450SS) I'd say get a motorcycle or ride your bike.
posted by Floydd at 5:22 PM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you weighed the differences between a motor scooter and a motor bike?

You'll want to use it for trips to the supermarket so check into storage options. Especially if you think you'd be running a bunch of errands and need to stow your purchases.

Also, finding an honest mechanic who can service your bike should be a priority.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:28 PM on July 25, 2011

Questions like this on AskMetafilter make my day.
I've been driving a 2006 Vespa LX50 since December of 2005. I ride in most weather, excluding thunder and lightning, ice storms, or snow on the roads.
A 50cc will get you beautifully to and from your workplace. I chose a Vespa, because, at 5' 3", I wanted to sit up tall in traffic. The Vespa's seat is something like 31" from the ground; almost all other scooters sit lower than that.
I keep a Gore-Tex™ pair of rainpants and a waterproof jacket stowed in the ample under-seat storage. I wear a half-helmet with a face shield for bug and flying gravel protection. I obey almost all traffic laws.

Things to remember when driving a scooter:
1. Every day is a windy day.
2. Until it's about 72° outdoors, every day is a chilly day.
3. Wearing a flapping white shirt is an excellent attention-getter for the car drivers. Make sure they see you!
4. The bigger and badder the motorcycle is, the more likely its rider is to wave to you.

I shall now leave the field for other advice-givers. I'm afraid of sighing and waxing rhapsodic to excess. In the meantime, feast your eyes on this.
posted by BostonTerrier at 5:57 PM on July 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Hi! I'm a motorcyclist. You're thinking of joining my ranks. What's that you say? Just a scooter? The engine might be in a different place, but you're still talking about a two wheeled vehicle with handlebars, and that means motorcycle. Please don't ever forget that. You're going to be as invisible, in as much peril, and just as in love with life.

To that end, I highly recommend that you take one of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's rider courses. They even have one dedicated to scooters! It will teach you valuable techniques for managing situational awareness, staying safe, knowing how to listen to your bike, and how to predict all the dumb things cagers do that might kill you.

30 mph is fast. 50cc scooters, by law, are designed not to exceed 30 mph on level ground. You'd have to fall from a great height to reach 30 mph, so please: imagine you're preparing to fall off a tall building when considering what you're going to wear as you ride. A full-face helmet, gloves, and an armored jacket are ABSOLUTELY REQUIRED. I know, not many people do that. You're smarter than they are.

As to picking a scoot, the above commenters have most of it right. Japanese and Italian makes are best, with Taiwanese and Korean coming up second. Chinese and other scooters are cheap, but don't be fooled - saving money on the purchase price won't get you to work when you have a meeting. 1000 miles per year is a very good average for a scooter that gets used in nice weather, doesn't sit all year rotting, and doesn't get ridden into the ground. Any proper motorcycle shop will happily charge you for an hour of their time to do a pre purchase inspection. It'll be money well spent.

Have fun riding, and remember: everyone else on the road wants to kill you, and they would... if you weren't so maneuverable and aware!
posted by TheNewWazoo at 6:47 PM on July 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm nthing the right gear. Warm gloves, a good jacket, mine is bright which makes for good visibility and the one thing I wish I had - rain pants, but I'm holding off because I really want a scooter skirt/ lap blanket.

We've had a wet winter, so I haven't ridden as much, because it's just plain dangerous with the tram tracks. YMMV.
posted by WayOutWest at 6:52 PM on July 25, 2011

A low-hp scooter is interchangeable with a bicycle. They serve the same purpose, short trips in good weather.

I commuted 15 miles day and night (drove to day job, drove from day job to night job, drove home from night job at 10 pm) in every weather possible except heavy snow and ice on a 49cc Scooter (Honda Metropolitan) for over two years. I carried groceries and assorted other items (including a 25 lb bag of gardening soil) on it, and once I drove it 35 miles to visit a friend (and 35 miles back to work). I got over 100 mph mileage, and I loved loved loved that machine every day I owned it.

However, I was also in a very serious car vs. scooter accident (80 year old man ran a red light), which totaled the scooter and broke my right knee. I also slammed my head into the side of his car, and had I not been wearing proper gear (full face helmet, gloves, armored jacket) it would have been much worse. I often see scooter riders helmet-less, in shorts and tee-shirts riding blithly around our city and I want to step off the curb and yell at them for being so reckless.

I highly recommend the metropolitan. Easy to ride, good pickup, carried a lot of stuff, carried 250 lb + me up and down the big hills in my city. I also highly recommend getting the same gear as if you were riding a big, big motorcycle and wearing it religiously. Some people will scoff at you, but don't let them - all it takes is one jackass who thinks the red light isn't meant for him and your life could be very different. Wearing a helmet saved my life, despite the fact I was only going about 20 mph at the time. It might save yours too.
posted by anastasiav at 7:28 PM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Courtesy of my brother's recent scooter-buying research, I have learned that the most expensive helmet is not necessarily the best. The expensive ones with bells and whistles (retractable windscreen, etc) often offer reduced protection in the areas your head needs the MOST protection.
posted by jessicapierce at 9:28 PM on July 25, 2011

I just purchased a used 150 cc cheap Chinese scooter for very little money. I'm so glad I have the 150 cc rather than the 50 cc.

The fuel savings might be a false economy, particularly is you will still keep a car around. I will need to use it for over 150 days for it to pay for itself.

It is so much fun I highly recommend getting one for that reason. Go ahead take a class, practice, dress appropriately.
posted by Classic Diner at 6:16 AM on July 26, 2011

I once rode a classic Vespa 200 miles between cities, which I wouldn't recommend. But it was great for commuting once I arrived. Wish I had it now.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 7:24 AM on July 26, 2011

ive been riding a 2004 aprilia mojito 150 since...'04. and before that i was on a 49cc honda spree. ive also spent a lot of time on a 49cc kymco people. have to say that i love the extra added ommph the 150 gives you, but if youre looking to stay out of the local dmv radar, 50's can get you there. please, no chinese scoots. they will fall apart in minutes. i would suggest a honda vino or met or met II scoot. if you can find a kymco used, buy it. they are a quality scoot that any mechanic will work on. parts and service are plentiful. the biggest issue i have with my bike is that parts take forever to get and the shipping from italy is horrendous. this wont be the same with a honda or a kymco. n'thing safe gear. full helmet, tough jacket, boots or ankle supporting shoes and gloves dont hurt. i have dumped my bike in the middle of a busy intersection and credit my safety gear for my continued presence on this planet. even on my 4 stroke 150, i get about 80mpg. 50's will get equal or better mileage. ive gone distances of 100-150 miles in a trip (meaning i get out of town) and im only at about 7k on my OD.
posted by ps_im_awesome at 9:25 PM on July 26, 2011

Response by poster: I bought a hybrid roadbike! Thanks everyone.
posted by yoyoceramic at 4:02 PM on August 30, 2011

But that's like 0cc and negative horsepower! ;)
posted by TheNewWazoo at 9:22 PM on August 31, 2011

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