How to buy a used scooter?
August 21, 2012 12:32 PM   Subscribe

How should I go about buying a used scooter?

I'm enrolled in a one-year graduate program in a small city. I live six miles from school, and the parking situation isn't good. There is ample scooter parking though, and I'm thinking about getting a 50cc scooter for the commute to and from school.

However, I don't know much about scooters and I haven't found too much objective information online. I don't want to sink a ton of money into something that I'll only use for another 9 months, so I'll be looking to buy used, and I've read that chinese scooters should be avoided (although I don't know if this is accurate).

So when I find a scooter on craigslist or wherever, how do I go about determining its condition and value? Is taking a scooter to a mechanic actually useful (this is what I would do with a used car)? Will he/she be able to tell me the condition of the components, or just take my money? Can I determine anything with visual inspection?

Assuming the scooter is in good condition, how do I determine what is a reasonable price? I've found that Kelly Blue Book gives value for some models, but I'm not sure if I should be skeptical of the prices they list, or how to adjust for private party transactions. Yesterday I found a 2006 Honda Metropolitan for $800 (kbb value 1150) and a Yamaha Zuma for $800 (kbb value 1410), so I'm not sure to think that these are really great deals or just that Kelly Blue Book prices are inflated. Is there a good way to estimate the value of used scooters?

Do you have any more used scooter buying tips?
posted by btkuhn to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Moped Army has classifieds. The forums are extremely friendly and helpful though it does tend to be young.

Your question here can almost be asked as is there and receive great input and advice.

fwiw I bought my 53cc moped from 1977Mopeds but that was new.
posted by infini at 12:35 PM on August 21, 2012

Chinese electric bicycles are also a good option. One of my grad school classmates had one. Last I heard they retail at $600 or so, brandnew.
posted by infini at 12:36 PM on August 21, 2012

Find a scooter club in your area. Here's one in Chapel Hill. If you can find one with a facebook page, even better. Just post your questions on their page and you will get tons of great advice. They can answer all your questions, AND send you to the best mechanics. Sometimes they even have personal knowledge of the scooters for sale on Craigslist. The Metropolitan sits pretty low to the ground, so if you're tall it might not be comfortable for you. I don't have a Zuma, but several of my friends do and they seem to be dependable and affordable, but you need to be careful buying a used one. I would most definitely have it looked over by a mechanic before buying.
posted by raisingsand at 1:55 PM on August 21, 2012

You should also check out the laws in your state. In North Carolina, for instance, anything that can go over 30mph is considered to be a motorcycle. I'm pretty sure the 49cc scooters usually have a top speed around 35mph, so you would need to get a motorcycle license and follow their helmet law (a good idea anyway). Regardless, you should probably treat even a small scooter with the same deference and concern for danger as you would a motorcycle — which a scooter effectively is. This means taking an MSF class, getting properly licensed, and learning about and using proper safety gear.

That being said, a scooter is lots of fun and very convenient! Good luck!
posted by stopgap at 3:11 PM on August 21, 2012

As a follow-up, Honda used to sell a speed-limited version of the Metropolitan cleverly called the Metropolitan 2, which couldn't go over 30mph so it would meet most states' legal definition of a moped. If you can find a Metro 2 then you probably wouldn't need a motorcycle license. On the other hand, there may other rules that would apply, like needing a giant orange reflective flag sticking off the back, though I'm not sure how many states require this. Also, the loss of the top end could make a big difference depending on your terrain. I used to have a 125cc scooter in a hilly area and I needed all of that power to handle some roads with a 35mph speed limit where traffic usually moved at 40mph.
posted by stopgap at 3:17 PM on August 21, 2012

The Honda Metro, assuming it's in good working order, is a nice option. Most Honda scooters are decent (you might also look at the Ruckus, which comes in a 50cc model. In most states (check your laws!) anything under 50ccs and you won't need a moto license or special insurance. And 50ccs is a good option if you don't plan on taking the scooter anywhere near a highway.

I also recommend finding a scooter club in your area, because scooters are fun, but I have a few caveats. A lot of long-time scooterists were turned off by the fact that a lot of people "became" scooterists suddenly when the economy went sour, because they're cheap and run on less gas. If you want help from them, don't be a fair-weather scooterist.

Also make sure you are finding an all-makes club. Some vintage scooterists (those who appreciate metal (not plastic) Italian-styled scooters that have gears and shift) look down upon those who ride twist-and-gos. But a lot of vintage scooterists are all-makes friendly. Just make sure you find the right crowd.

One last thing: take a motorcycle safety class. It will help you immensely.
posted by Brittanie at 3:25 PM on August 21, 2012

Don't overthink it. I've owned a bunch of scooters from rusted out chinese machines to badass 300cc vespas - they are all fun. The used metro's will be a great choice, or the chinese things will work fine too honestly - just let the machine do the talking - if its unstable at 30mph, dont go that fast.

As for reasonable price 800 for a metro seems very reasonable. Wear a helmet, keep the tires inflated, and have fun.
posted by H. Roark at 3:31 PM on August 21, 2012

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