What is the best scooter for me?
June 30, 2008 2:24 PM   Subscribe

I would like to buy a scooter to save money on fuel costs, and to limit the miles I put on my relatively new car. I don't want a bike, even though I know the Honda Rebel is $3k. I weigh 165, for reference. What scooters should I be looking at?

My Commute:
I drive 30 miles round trip on the highway, but another possible route is along a roadway with a varying speed limit. It tops out at 45. I won't have to deal with traffic for half the commute, because one of my shifts will be either early morning or late night.

My Requirements:
I need the scooter's top speed to be 50 MPH or above. I'm not aware of any 49cc scooters with this capability, so I may have to go larger. In Massachusetts, anything over 50cc needs a motorcycle permit and insurance, which is fine with me. I would think 125cc is fine, larger than that seems too expensive for me. I would like to avoid the Chinese throwaway scooters, I need this to be reliable. I don't need a top name, just reliability and availability of parts. 80 MPG is good, but more is obviously better. Styling is up for debate, I'm open to anything, huge bonus points to anything that resembles a Honda Ruckus. I wish that thing was faster. I would like to spend as close to $2,000 as possible.

My Candidates:
Genuine Rattler 110 - $2,799
Pros: Styling, speed, reliability.
Cons: Cost, availability.

Yamaha Zuma 125 - $2,999
Pros: Styling, speed, reliability.
Cons: Cost

Qlink Achilles 150 - $1,899
Pros: Cost
Cons: Availability

Qlink Siena 150 - $1,999
Pros: Cost, styling
Cons: Availability

Xtreme Atlantis 150 - $1,999
Pros: Cost, styling
Cons: Availability

I need help with determining what is a cheap Chinese scooter, and what is not. I'm not worried about the Genuine Rattler, it's a rebranding of PGO, which appears to be a fairly reliable Taiwanese manufacturer. The Yamaha is fine too, but I'm not sure about the others. Is nearly $2k for a 150cc scooter too cheap to be quality?

Also, what kind of additional costs are usually associated with purchasing scooters...dealer fees, assembly, and such. CBXMAN seems to be pretty reasonable in that department, but 3-4 weeks delivery time, yikes. I'm 340 miles away, might even think about renting a truck and going to get it, would cost me $200-300 in fuel, but I'd have it a month sooner.

Anyway, I'd like people to suggest some other scooters I should look at, the ones I listed are the best ones I found so far, but I'm sure you guys know of others. Kymco seems to be a decent brand as well. This is my first post here, this looks like to be a cool place. Thanks very much.
posted by santaliqueur to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Two points:

1. $2000 buys a lot of gas.
2. If you're considering spending $2000, a motorcycle might be a better idea than a scooter. They're faster, generally more reliable and easier to find parts and service.
posted by electroboy at 2:53 PM on June 30, 2008

I would strongly suggest that you buy a scooter that has a local dealer who can provide parts and service. Second best is a brand (say, Vespa or Piaggio) that may not have a nearby shop but is well-established and can be trusted to sell you some parts in two years, and makes bikes that are of decent quality and easy to work on. Resale on the very new and untested Chinese scooters isn't good right now, because no one really knows which are the decent ones and which are terrible.

Yamaha makes at least one other 125cc scooter (the Vino), which might be a hair cheaper than the (new and in high demand) Zuma 125. If you can find a used Honda Reflex (about 250cc, I think; they stopped selling them as of this year so with looking you may even find a new one still on the floor), they have a super reputation for quality; ditto the Honda Big Ruckus. Piaggio, Vespa, and other name-brand scooters are all good value for the money; some of the newer brands to the US like Kymco and Sym have long histories and good reputations elsewhere. I would definitely suggest that you take a look at the current Kymco lineup; they have several scooters in more or less the size you are looking at.

Cost-wise, you will pay the price (which like all motor vehicles is negotiable, although scooters are in hot demand right now so there is unlikely to be much movement on the price); sometimes assembly/setup is included and sometimes it is a separate item on the bill, around $200 is pretty normal; and then you will pay tax/title/licensing depending on where you live. Assuming you are buying locally, the easy way to deal with all of these shifting costs is to ask each place what you "out the door" price is, giving you easier to compare figures.

On top of those costs, you have insurance, training (which is a smart idea, though not mandatory in most places), and safety gear -- yes, it's a scooter, but falling off at 50mph is not a joke. Helmet/gloves/jacket/boots are pretty much the minimum at those speeds; for year-round commuting add rain gear, perhaps a windscreen and trunk, etc. These things add up, and mean that it will take longer before you see those gas savings.
posted by Forktine at 2:58 PM on June 30, 2008

Oops, just read that you didn't want a bike. The difficulty is that scooters in that price range generally can't perform the way you want them to. Once you start getting into the ones that can, you're up in the $5000 area.
posted by electroboy at 3:02 PM on June 30, 2008

30 miles round-trip is a long way on a scooter. Which is why I'm going to recommend a Kymco People. They've got bigger wheels, and ride much better (and safer) than the smaller-wheeled scooters. There's the People S 125, the People 150, and a few others.

Don't be discouraged by the high price tag - at a dealer you can find them much cheaper. Someone I know who has one got the previous year's model for $1900 out the door.

Also, make sure you're checking craigslist - a lot people buy scooters, realize they don't want them, and then sell them inside a year. There's usually a big sell-off (and corresponding depression in prices) in the fall.

Also, everything Forktine said.
posted by god hates math at 3:02 PM on June 30, 2008

To say that you can't get a good, reliable scooter for 3k is crap. Piaggio makes a damn fine scoot, to be sure, but at quite the premium. It's like a Lexus vs a Toyota. Lexus may make a mighty fine car, but will it last that much longer than the Toyota?

I've got a Genuine Buddy and it's treated me pretty well. I got the 150cc "International" model, it was 3k even out the door price. Very slick scooter, with lots of power I've taken it over 70mph without a hitch. 2 year warranty and roadside assistance, you can't beat it. Plus it's got a loud horn, slick whitewalls, and a nice 2-tone paintjob.

Yamaha Vinos and Kymco Peoples are also solid bets. If you read this review, you'll see why I bought the Buddy over the Vino, thoguh I do like the looks of the Vino. Some other good reviews on that site as well. The People would have been my second choice, but since the scoot is my only vehicle, I went with the Buddy because it does handle that much better.

One point though- 2 or 3,000 is a lot of gas. And it's not like these things don't need maintenance. It will take 2 or three year minimum to come close to paying for itself.
posted by piedmont at 3:17 PM on June 30, 2008

I'd recommend a local dealer, as well. Not sure where in Mass you are, but Javaspeed in Providence, RI is a great place. You may want to check out the NEScoots group on Yahoo once you do get a scoot--or even before for more advice. I've heard good things about Kymco and Genuine and only bad things about Chinese scoots.
posted by jdl at 3:30 PM on June 30, 2008

If you get a scooter, you will NOT want to ride on the highway, I ride a Harley 883 sportster and feel a bit insecure at 60 to 70 miles an hour, on a scooter I would be terrified! Expand your consideration to looking at a decent used Motorcycle instead, you would easily find one in the 2 to 3k range.

The advantage to a name brand is established service departments.

And, whatever you do, take a rider's course and be careful, once you are on two wheels everyone on four is trying to kill you.
posted by HuronBob at 3:33 PM on June 30, 2008

See also... this post on reddit which also popped up today...
posted by twiggy at 3:41 PM on June 30, 2008

It's not part of your question, but be wary of used scooters. You never quite know the engine condition with a used scooter.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:46 PM on June 30, 2008

Kymco People 150 is a good beginner scooter. The large wheels will handle potholes better. Honda Helix is a bigger bike (I think it starts as a 250), but a used one (2000-2003) would probably go for $2500. And it's a Honda, so service will be plentiful and parts will be cheap. Genuine is good, as you already know. I know a lot of people who are very happy with their stellas, which is the only model from them I've ridden as well (though their Ruckus look-alike looks pretty cool).

If you're going to be on the highway (freeway) for 30 miles / day, you should get a large windshield for the bike. Especially if it rains where you live. On a scooter/motorcycle, you are *outside* at 65 MPH (and 60 degree air feels like 30ish, because the wind wicks the heat away). Another consideration is that, depending on the climate where you live, you're going to need foul-weather gear. And potentially warm-weather gear. And a helmet. And a lock. I would figure that this will cost you $200 minimum (lock + helmet + jacket + gloves). And then the rain gear and an aftermarket windshield is another $150-200.

I would also *highly* recommend the MSF motorcycle course that your city or state probably offers. Mine was $50 and they loan you a bike (and helmet if you need) for the weekend. It was great and I feel a lot more comfortable out there. This is especially true if you're going to be commuting serious distances. Which 60 miles / day is.

Just think how little you'll pay in insurance ($20 / month!), gas ($25 / month buys 6 gallons, which might just about cover you!), and parking ($0 / month). You'll be ahead in no time.
posted by zpousman at 4:13 PM on June 30, 2008

I'm a huge fan of motorcycles and scooters, so don't read this as discouragement from buying one.

But do the math, and be realistic about the money. Looking at gas savings alone, assuming that your car gets a paltry 15mpg and the scooter gets a superb 90mpg, and gas costs $4.25/gallon:

Car gas per day: $8.50

Scooter gas per day: $1.42

Scooter savings per day: $8.50 - 1.42 = $7.08

Let's say you ride to work 100 days a year (could be more, could be less, depends on your willingness to ride in the rain, etc), totaling 3000 miles, so your gas savings this year would be $708.

Pretty good, no? But then that scooter needs some minimal maintenance (oil changes every 1000-3000 miles, depending on the model; valve adjustments probably every 2000; etc), which might run you $100 or so at a shop; the tires will probably be half worn out at 3000 miles, so add in 1/2 of the cost of a new set of tires; standard advice is to replace your helmet every three years so your first year of riding "costs" you 1/3 of the helmet cost in depreciation; basic insurance should run $80 - $150, depending on your driving record; and so on. That's a lot of that $708 gas savings right there, and we aren't even looking at the purchase price of the scooter.

Of course, there is more savings than just gas savings -- cars are startlingly expensive to drive on a per-mile basis. Some of that you will pay regardless of whether you drive it or park it -- much of the depreciation, insurance, etc. But a lot of the maintenance cost comes from driving it; parking costs may be higher than for the scooter, and so on.

So the final number can be tricky to calculate, and depends a lot on your specific situation. My point is that if you are doing this for the savings (rather than the sheer fun of riding a scooter or motorcycle, or convenience, or whatever), you need to be realistic, put in real numbers, and not forget about all the costs that come with riding the scooter.
posted by Forktine at 4:27 PM on June 30, 2008

30 miles round trip is not a bad commute on a scooter. I ride a Piagio Fly150 to and from work and it's about a 10 miles ride one-way along a fairly major road (Route 1) with a fair share of overflow traffic off I-95. I get approx. 100 mpg on the Fly and it's a fun ride to get to work and run to the local shopping center on. It cost me just around $3000 so not cheap, but looks nice - very retro Italian styling. Piaggios and most Vespas now are all made in China, but if you buy from a dealer you are at least assured of after-sales back up.

Another one to look at might be the Aprilia Scarabeo which comes in 100cc and 200cc. It looks more like a motorcycle, but is a twist-and-go transmission. Pick up a copy of Scoot magazine at your local Borders. The current issue has the 2008 Buyers Guide in it so you can do some comparisons. Buy from a dealer not from some place on the Internet - the cheap chinese scooters will run OK for the first 100 miles or so and then crap out on you... and its hard to get it serviced at an internet dealer.

Whatever you do, take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Riders Course. It is the best time and money you will spend before taking to the roads and dealing with all those crazed drivers who just won't see you. Don't take any notice of the nay-sayers, I am saving a bundle from not having the wear and tear on my car, services, gas, etc. Last week I went to Dunkin' Donuts and bought six bagels and filled up with gas on the way home. The bagels cost me more than a tank of gas and I still won't have to refuel for another 3 weeks or so. Enjoy the scooter, and be safe.
posted by 543DoublePlay at 5:33 PM on June 30, 2008

The Yamaho Vino 125. They've been making them for years, known technology and reliability. I just got one and love it. I don't ride it on a busy highway or freeway, but on other roads it's great. Best $3k I've spent in a long time.
posted by exphysicist345 at 8:46 PM on June 30, 2008

Response by poster: $2,000 does buy a lot of gas. Probably 15 months worth, for my car. I realize I'll still be buying gas for the scooter, but I won't have to use premium, unlike my car.

Only part of the reason for buying a scooter is to buy less gas. I have a 2007 GTI, which felt like a brand new car for a long time, and suddenly it has 30k miles on it. Still a great car, but right now I'm using it just for commuting. I figure it will take me a little longer than a year to see any financial gains, which is fine by me.

I didn't know about the MSF course, but it seems like a good idea.

As far as servicing, will service departments only work on models that they sell? For example, I like the Xtreme Atlantis. Assuming that is a reliable enough model for me, would I be able to take that to the local Honda (or another) powersports shop, and have them service it properly?

Thanks for all the replies so far.
posted by santaliqueur at 4:40 AM on July 1, 2008

will service departments only work on models that they sell? For example, I like the Xtreme Atlantis. Assuming that is a reliable enough model for me, would I be able to take that to the local Honda (or another) powersports shop, and have them service it properly?

In my experience they probably won't be interested in servicing it. Dealerships have all the work they can handle servicing bikes, scooters, ATVS, water-bikes and whatever else they sell. Parts for a "no-name" Chinese scooter will probably be difficult to come by - if they are available at all. With a name brand scooter you are going to get at least a years warranty and my Piaggio even comes with 12 months roadside assistance.

Do a Google search and see if there are any scooter clubs in your area that you can get dealer advice from, or go to one of the scooter forums and post a few messages there.

Happy scootin'
posted by 543DoublePlay at 5:17 AM on July 1, 2008

will service departments only work on models that they sell?

That depends. Often dealers will only work on bikes they sell -- that's what they can buy parts for, that's what their mechanics are certified for, that's what they know how much to charge for. Some places will work on anything -- the only way to know is to call and ask. But more usefully, pretty much every town has one or two independent shops, not affiliated with any brand. They may still specialize (working on only offroad bikes, or only Ducatis, etc), but often they are pretty willing to work on anything you bring in, especially if you are nice about it.

That doesn't mean that they will be able to get parts for it, though, if it is a brand that doesn't have a reliable US parts supply network. And if that's the case, you are up the creek. This is the real reason people are warning you about buying a brand with no local support and no dealer infrastructure -- it's not nearly as much a reliability question as it is a future maintenance and repair question.
posted by Forktine at 5:58 AM on July 1, 2008

Response by poster: I just visited a local dealer, and they had a Schwinn lineup. I was unaware Schwinn even made scooters. The Sport LX 150 was reasonably priced at $1,999, and only some sort of $79 fee. It's fully assembled, drive away.

If I can get this serviced locally and the parts are readily available, I will likely go with this model.
posted by santaliqueur at 6:57 AM on July 1, 2008

I've never heard anything good about the Schwinns. For 2k go with the Kymco Agility.
posted by piedmont at 7:10 AM on July 1, 2008

Response by poster: Have you heard bad things?

The same dealer carries Kymco, but said they can't get anything above 50cc. I need to find a place around here I can walk in and drive the thing away.
posted by santaliqueur at 7:29 AM on July 1, 2008

I live in Bermuda where everyone drives scooters. The best riding, most stylish scooter around is the Peugeot Looxor. I have one myself and it is solid.
posted by jasondigitized at 8:02 AM on July 1, 2008

The way I understand it Schwinn has just slapped their name on some Chinese imports. I think they are the same bike as Pacific Cycles. The Agility is also made on mainland China, but it's made to Kymco's specs and quality control.
posted by piedmont at 8:21 AM on July 1, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for the replies. I picked up a 2007 Genuine Buddy. The guy bought it for his wife, and they are getting divorced, so it was never registered. It had 2 miles on it, and I paid $2,400. He had a few people offering him a couple hundred more than he was originally asking, so I think I got pretty lucky.

The scooter is a blast. I'm looking for excuses to go places now. 100 MPG is great!
posted by santaliqueur at 11:22 AM on July 23, 2008

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