Friday, September 2, 2011

Buying a Motor Scooter

What You Need to Know About Motor Scooters
Updated 2/22/14

Buying your first motor scooter?
When you're buying your first scooter, there are several items to think about. Because there are so many brand choices on the market, the key is to know what your needs are. If you don't know where to start, this simple check list will help to guide you in making an intelligent decision.

Let’s start with you! 
What would you like to use the scooter for?
Recreation? Will it be a scooter used for weekend riding? For riding the back roads or just short rides around the city? 

Commuting? A commuter will want to consider a scooter which might offer a nice selection of on board  storage such as under the seat storage or racks where you can put all your groceries. A side-car, is always a great solution for tasks like these.

Do you have a motorcycle license? 
Some states may not require a motorcycle license for a 50cc scooter where scooters are in fact deemed as mopeds (i.e. Maryland is this way). Some see this as a benefit to owning a 50cc. However, having your MC license will make you a smarter/safer operator, and you may even get a discount on your vehicle  insurance. I highly recommend it. If you can’t get registered for a safety class, don’t let that stop you from reading the book and taking the test. Often you can find a scooter club in your area. Finding a local club is great. This gives you a chance to learn from others who have been doing it for some time or will simply be there to assist you with any questions, or just to follow you around while master your scooter.

Maryland law as of 2012 requires all 50cc scooters to wear a helmet, have a sticker-(for a tag) and insurance.

What speeds would you like to reach?
50cc scooters reach speeds of 30-40 mph. Note: 2 stroke scoters will always be fastern then a 4 stroke.
125cc scooters travel around 45-55 mph.
150/170/200cc scooters travel 55-65 mph.
250/300cc (and up) scooters travel above 70/80 + mph.

What speeds do cars travel on the roads that you’ll be traveling on? 
Test drive the roads you plan to travel.  Though the speed limit may be posted at 30mph, you may find that frequently cars are moving at higher speeds.  Can the scooter you chose, keep up?  Once you become comfortable with a two wheel machine you will find yourself driving everywhere. You will also find for those longer trips having something that can really move out can be a plus if you are riding with a group or commuting longer distances. You will not be limited as to what streets you can travel. So, if you’re looking at a 50cc scooter make sure it fits your long term needs.

Would you like to carry a passenger? 
If so, some scooters offer back boxes/top-cases and passenger foot pegs. Be sure to have your passenger
sit on the back of the scooter in the show room once you narrow down your choices.

Will you be riding with other scooterists?
Club rides or events you’ll find a larger displacement scooter will offer you more comfort and flexibility. 

Riding with a Motorcycle(s)? 
You need a machine that can keep up. Ie at least 250cc or larger.

What kind of styling do you like?
Modern? I consider modern more with their styling. Examples would be the Genuine Roughhouse 50 or Hooligan 170ie

Retro? Retro scooters tend to be more classic. Examples would be the Genuine Buddy 
50 / 170ie or the Genuine Stella 125 Automatic

What’s your budget?
If the scooter you really want is out of your price range, perhaps you could consider buying used.  Buying a used bike is also a great way to get started in scootering…you can always resell and buy newer.  Most shops also offer financing. 

Get to know your local scooter shop. A good scooter  shop will be able to really lead you into the right direction. Look for someone who’s going to understand your needs. I like to educate my customers believing I have helped to make them an educated consumer now they can make a smart choice with my recommendations for their needs.  Make sure the person selling you a scooter is asking YOU questions.  They should be suggesting the scooters that meet your needs.  

You want to feel comfortable with the shop. If you don’t you may want to find another product that fits your needs or another shop. You’ll need to build a relationship with this company you should feel good about that relationship.

If you’re looking to purchase a specific brand and there is no shop in the traveling area to service the machine. You really should choose another brand. Just  because you have to have brand X doesn’t mean you want to travel 100 miles for every service. Unless a local shop is willing to service it for you or you can service it yourself. But, be careful with self service, it could very well void your warranty.

Don’t always buy on price alone.  Don’t let a couple hundred dollars destroy your
chance to have a good relationship with your local shop. If you ever need any thing and you bought from someone in another state, you very well may find yourself low on the priority list for service and warranty related matters.

Does the shop you’re buying from offer on site service?  If not, don’t buy there.  IF they can’t service what they sell, they should not be selling it.  You’ll also want to stay clear of flea  market vendors, or auto parts stores. Most of these shops will surely sell you a product, but they don’t offer warranties, parts or service.

Motor scooters are not Cars.
If you need service it can take some time to get a scooter in for service or in and out for service. The reason for this is mainly that  if parts are needed they have to be ordered. Not like cars where an automotive dealer can call their local parts supplier and that supplier will show up the same day. Because of the volume of cars needing parts, they are produced in mass quantity.  Same can be said for the cost of the parts along with accessories. Unlike car parts suppliers, scooter parts suppliers are producing smaller quantities; prices are often more than you might pay for a similar item on a car.

Once you do buy your scooter, learn about it. 
If you own a vintage scooter or a new Stella, learn what the fuel tap does and why you should turn it off after you ride.  Scooters are not only fun to ride but fun to learn the basics. Learn how to fix a flat or change a cable.  If you’re interested in a vintage scooter you MUST learn about it. You must also have the cash flow and the time to get involved.

How do you identify a basket case? 
If you’re buying a classic scooter such as a Vespa beware if the scooter looks great. I see so many 1960-70 Vespas on the internet being sold with nice paint jobs and lots of chrome. Dead give away these are most likely from Vietnam. Most dealers will not even look at Vietnam bikes if you bring them to their shops. Consult your local shop before making such a purchase. A true American restored scooter should start at $4000 and up. Vespas from Italy can be identified typically with high mile speedometers in kilometers not miles per hour. The bodies are rough. If you purchase a true vintage  Vespa, be sure to budget for a new engine. American Vespas or Lambrettas are easy to spot, they have miles per hour speedometers and paint looks shot or good and should have a title. If they don’t, don’t worry, most likely they’re still American. As long as the engine is not locked up, you can plan on spending about $1,000-1,500 to get one of these types of machines back on the road again. If you’re dying for a classic; buy it, but be ready to pay to play. If you want an everyday drive, buy new, because it’s nice having a warranty and being able to get parts.

Artical's about asian scooters -


There are so many to choose from. Reading through the latest Scoot Quarterly Magazine can help guide you with many of the brands in the USA. Products are produced in a global community these days. Italian/Japanese scooters are not always produced in their country of origin.  Taiwan, and India are really becoming forces to be reckoned with. Some examples of these products would be: Tawain?  Kymco, Genuine Scooters = PGO...  India? Genuine Stella = LML.  

Once you’ve purchased your scooter, there are still a few more things that you should be aware of.

Riding gear- whether you are on a 50cc moped or a larger scooter/motorcycle, wearing a helmet, riding glove and a riding jacket are key to safty.  Our general rule about choosing what gear to wear is that you should prepare for the worst but hope for the best.

Most accidents happen not because the scooterist made an error but because the driver of the car didn’t see them. For the best protection in the event of an accident (most new riders have one within their first 6 months) you should also consider gloves to protect your hands; a jacket to protect against “roadrash” and boots to protect your feet and provide stability when you are stopped at traffic lights, etc. Open toed shoes are STRONGLY discouraged.

There are countless choices with respect to gear so there’s something out there to fit everyone’s comfort level and protection concerns. At the end of the day, the choice of what protection you decide to wear is your decision; we hope that you choose wisely.

Two wheeled motorized vehicles handle differently than bicycles. Don’t assume that because you’ve mastered bike riding that you’ll be able to hop on your new scooter and be a pro within minutes. This is especially true of manual shift scooters but also applicable to automatics as well. We recommend that your first riding experiences be in a controlled environment like an empty parking lot, a quite side street etc. This will give you time to get used to starting, stopping, turning, weaving, etc., skills you need to be comfortable with before moving out into traffic.

When you do go out into traffic, it’s a good idea to ride along with other people or have someone in a car follow you to give you a buffer from traffic until you get the hang of it. With every mile you put on your scooter, you’ll find your confidence, comfort and enjoyment level improve.

If you have an Internet connection, you should sign up for some scooter discussion boards or join a local club. This is the best way to get your “newbie” questions answered by people who are experienced. Joining a club will also give you opportunities to ride with other scooterists, keep you informed about local and regional scooter events, and above all be a great resource for you while you get acquainted with your new hobby. You’ll probably have a ton of questions and having a network of people that you can go to will make the hobby that much more enjoyable.

Now that you’ve made the investment, protect it by making sure that you lock you bike securely every time you leave it. We recommend the Kryptonite Fagheddaboutit chain and lock.  Whatever you decide to use, make sure that you are chaining you scooter carefully and only to an anchor point that cannot be easily removed (street signs can sometimes be pulled out of the ground, etc). Scooter theft is a problem nationwide so make sure you’re keeping you scooter safe and securely locked whenever you leave it unattended.

I hope this article has given you some food for thought in buying your first scooter and I hope that you take these recommendations to heart and make the best choices.

I wish you many years of safe riding and enjoyment.

Mark J.
Owner Moto Strada 

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Moto Strada

Founded in 1993 as Baltimore Vespa & Lambretta, Moto Strada is the Washington and Baltimore area’s largest scooter sales and service dealer.

Moto Strada is a full-service scooter repair shop servicing the greater Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area as well as Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. We specialize in service, sales, mail order, and restoration.

Tel: 410-666-8377
9918 C York Rd. (across from Target)
Cockeysville, MD 21030
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