This is a guest post from Stephen Popick, administrator for the Get Rich Slowly discussion forums.
Two years ago when I bought my People 150cc scooter, I was teased ceaselessly by my car-loving friends. It wasn’t so long ago that gas was under two dollars a gallon, and the need for more efficient wheeled transportation wasn’t as â€œin your faceâ€ as it is now. Today, when my friends talk about my scooter (or my wife’s) it’s to ask where I got it, for how much, and how much we save by having them.
J.D. recently mentioned he was thinking of forsaking his dream of a Mini Cooper for a scooter instead, but he had some questions. How much money would he save? Could we quantify with some certainty the impact of a scooter on one’s budget? Here’s my attempt based on my experience.
First, I’d like to talk about a few misconceptions. Scooters are not necessarily slow-moving vehicles. Your speed depends on your engine size. I’d think of them more generally as small motorcycles. You’re exposed to the elements (more so than a car), and you’re giving up the â€œsafetyâ€ of a steel box, but you are getting a more maneuverable vehicle.
I’d strongly encourage anyone riding a scooter to take a motorcycle safety course, such as the one given by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. Safety, either in a car or a scooter, depends greatly on the operator. In my opinion, driving a scooter is no different (in terms of safety) than driving a motorcycle.
In my four years operating a scooter, I have not been involved in any accident. I’ve been able to avoid unsafe motorists better than I would be able to in a car. I don’t feel any more unsafe operating my scooter, but I’ve had many years of experience, and that confidence can create a noticeably different ride. I would expect first-time riders to be much more nervous.
But the big question here is: How much can one save if you go from a car-centric lifestyle to a scooter-centric lifestyle?
First, purchasing a scooter will cost significantly less, even for models that can keep up with highway traffic. The average new four-door sedan costs about $20,000. A scooter that can achieve a constant speed of 70mph and legally be driven on interstate highways will cost around $3,000. Costs for used vehicles of both classes can vary by large degrees, but the scooter will always be an order of magnitude cheaper. Thus, a scooter can more easily be financed directly out of pocket, avoiding an expensive car loan.
Operating a scooter — gas, insurance, maintenance — is also much cheaper than operating a car. Astonishingly enough, the difference in just one year represents a brand new Buddy 125 (a scooter I highly recommend).
Not quite car-less
However, transferring to a scooter is just one lifestyle choice. We can choose to locate ourselves so that we can walk to work and shop using a rolling cooler. We can locate near bike-friendly areas and strap storage racks to our bikes. We have many choices. None of these choices allows for long-haul, heavy or large lifting, however.
My wife and I have a car, along with our scooters. While seldom used except for long trips and large item hauling needs, we do need a car for those purposes. But we are better off using our scooters, bicycles, and legs for daily commutes and grocery store visits.
J.D.’s note: After our discussion of high gas prices and alternative transportation, not only did Stephen volunteer to share his experiences above, but Bev Brinson sent me a copy of her book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Motor Scooters. It’s a great introduction to the subject. If, like me, you’re interested in scooters, but don’t know where to start, borrow a copy from your library.