These are questions that get asked more than any other. We wish we could say that there is an easy answer.... there isn't. Many factors come into play, but we hope this information will help to narrow your field of choices. We've included some of our opinions on specific models as well.
The "Coolness" Factor - Vintage vs. New
Nothing, we mean nothing, is as cool as a vintage scooter (opinion). That being said, most vintage scooters are nothing like as practical as modern scooters. Sure, there are vintage scooters that are fast enough for freeway use, that have adequate storage capacity, that are reliable.... but the odds are stacked against you. Dealing with manual shifting, two-stroke engines, tube-tires, and just plain AGE can add up to more work than a lot of people are willing to put into their scooter. If you are not prepared to either "do" or "have done" frequent mechanical work, a vintage scooter is probably not the best choice for you. There are a few options that will give you a metal body, manual shift scooter that is new, or at least "newish":
- The Vespa PX - Last produced for the US market several of years ago, the Vespa PX is still available in the previously owned marketplace.
- The Genuine Stella - This scooter became an instant cult classic when it was introduced by Genuine Scooter Company. Manufactured by LML (a former Piaggio Licensee in India), the Stella is still available new at Genuine dealers. As of 2011, the Stella is available with a 4-stroke engine and a 4-speed manual or CVT automatic transmission. I suspect that before long it will be ONLY the auto-Stella. There are still some 2-stroke Stellas in the market.
- The Bajaj Chetak or Legend - Another company from India, Bajaj makes a very nice metal-body, manual shift, FOUR-stroke that is more environmentally friendly than the traditional two-stroke engine. This model is no longer available new, but is out there in the previously owned marketplace.
Ask Yourself a Few Basic Questions
Before you do this, two things: be honest with yourself and understand that your answers may change over time.
Do you have or are you willing to get a motorcycle endorsement?
In order to (legally) operate a scooter that has an engine larger than 50cc, or more than two horsepower, or can go faster than 30 MPH, you will need to get a motorcycle endorsement added to your driver's license (in many states including Connecticut). Before we leap ahead to your plans for how you will use your scooter, this needs to be addressed. Here in good ol' Connecticut, one can get a motorcycle permit with a written test that is good for one year which should give ample opportunity for training and practice before taking the road test for a full endorsement.
How are you planning to use the scooter?
Are you going to ride alone or with a passenger? Will you be on city streets in an urban area or will you need to have highway capabilities? Will you need to be able to ride on unpaved surfaces? How much storage/hauling capacity will you need? These are the elements that will likely change over time. I know MANY people who started out thinking that they would only ride in town and after a year or two ended up with touring maxi-scooters.
How much are you willing to spend?
Your "scooter budget" should include not only the cost of acquiring a scooter, but things like accessories, riding gear, insurance and maintenance. As a general rule, scooters are VERY cost-effective modes of transportation (the idea of 50 to 100 miles-per-gallon can be quite appealing). If you are looking for a new scooter that will be reliable daily transportation for $1,000.... you're going to be disappointed.
No, REALLY, how much are you willing to spend?
Recently, a fair number of you have been emailing us with horror stories of maintenance costs on scooters. Apparently, some newer scooters from the land of the rising sun need fairly frequent valve adjustments and performing said adjustments requires several hours of labor removing body panels to get at the valve-train. We have also heard of high costs for other regular maintenance items that require a lot of labor. Ask about future maintenance costs BEFORE you decide which scooter to buy. If you want to do some or all of your own maintenance, good for you but be sure you can get a complete shop manual, NOT just the owner's manual for the scooter you are considering.
How much "grief" are you willing to put up with?
If you are planning to use your scooter for daily transportation and the model you buy has parts availability issues or reliability issues, you will be unhappy with your purchase.
Find a Good Local Dealer
This is probably the single most important factor in selecting the best scooter for you. The ongoing support of a good dealer can go a long way to making scooter ownership a pleasant experience. All other elements being equal - go with a scooter model that is supported by a good dealer.
Make Sure the Scooter is a Good Fit
Sit on the scooter, if you will be riding with a passenger, take that person to the scooter dealership with you. Make sure that the ergonomics of the scooter fit you. There are a lot of very fine scooters that just aren't a good fit for some people. Even the best quality scooter from a great dealer won't be a good choice if it doesn't fit YOU. If allowed by your dealer, test ride the scooter prior to purchase. There are certainly lots of things that can be done to customize a scooter but be sure and add the cost of those modifications to your budget.
Do Your Homework
Find out about things like warranty coverage, parts availability and known technical issues BEFORE you buy your scooter. Ask questions at one of the ScooterZ Social Club meetings as well as online forums for first-hand information. There are some wonderful "enthusiast" sites like www.modernbuddy.com to help you in your homework.
Do You Like the Scooter?
Yes, a scooter is practical. Yes, a scooter can be reliable. It's also supposed to be FUN. The best scooter for you is one that will meet your needs, is within your budget, is well-supported.... and that you LIKE! No question about it - a scooter can bring a big smile to your face.
Buying a Scooter Online or From a Non-Dealer
Don't do it. If there really was a reliable, well-supported $895 scooter out there, don't you think that legitimate scooter dealers would carry it?