68 comments

Guest Posting – Get Rich With: Scooters

Today is an Exciting Milestone in the Mr. Money Mustache blog – our first official Guest Posting!

This Instant Classic essay comes from a reader with alias ‘Poorplayer’. He seems to be an older, East-coast version of me, complete with a similar writing style. Good fun.

Thanks very much for the submission, Mr. P.!

 

Get Rich with: Scooters

Not all of us can be crazydog cyclists like MMM. Some of us are not quite in cycling shape, some of us may be physically unable to bike, some of us may not quite have enough time in our day to bike everywhere, and some of us might just be uninterested in cycling. But we sure would like to find some way to save all that money we waste tooling around town even in our efficient used Toyota. My answer to this dilemma is…get a scooter!

I first got into scooting in 1976 (which shows my age) back when I worked in Queens NY and lived just over the Long Island/Queens border. To commute to my first job I bought a 1976 Puch moped. This was a true moped, a motorized bike with pedals. I rode this about 12 miles one way through the streets and boulevards of Queens. Even back then, when gas was $0.60/gal., I realized gasoline was a limited resource that needed to be conserved. Also the first OPEC oil embargo brought shortages of gas to the US, and gas rationing brought long lines at the pumps for limited supplies of gas. So the Puch was something that allowed me to get through that time more easily than most. That’s what first hooked me.

I bought my next scooter in 1991. A colleague was trying to sell his daughter’s 1989 Yamaha Razz, and I bought it for $600 with very few miles. It was a far cry from my Puch. A flat running board to rest my feet, twist-and-go throttle, a wide seat, and a rack on which to put a milk crate or other carrying case. Not only that, but it mixed its own oil and gas! It had a 50cc motor, so no need to get a motorcycle endorsement. Driving around town was now not only dead easy, it was fun!

My current ride is a 2009 Kymco People S 250. I sold the Razz for $300 (nice return over a 19-year ownership). The Kymco is made in Taiwan, tops out at 85MPH, and gets 65MPG on average. It’s pretty much my principal mode of transportation from mid-March to mid-Nov. (I live in a snow belt region in upstate NY). I went and got the MC endorsement for this – one more off the bucket list!

It’s a real puzzle to me why most Americans won’t consider a scooter as an alternative to a second car. It seems to be some sort of cultural prejudice. In most third world countries the scooter is the most popular form of urban transportation – the streets are filled with them.  I think scooters hit the sweet spot between driving a car and biking in urban areas. A 50cc scooter new costs maybe $1200 on average, with the high end at $2K. No doubt used models can be found on Craigslist or eBay for much less. In most states a 50cc scooter can be licensed and driven on city streets where the speed limit is 45MPH or less (in CA they have to be C.A.R.B. certified, an emissions issue). Even on state highways and county roads they can legally be driven on the shoulder. The cost for insurance is about $5.00, and registration usually costs the same. A 50cc scooter gets about 85-95 MPG, and has a top speed of about 30 MPH*. Add a luggage rack or saddle bags, or even a roomy backpack, and you have the perfect errand-running and commuting vehicle for urban areas.

How much can you save? Well, I’m not a numbers guy, but it doesn’t take too many brain cells to realize that a gas-powered vehicle with an annual fuel cost of about $300/year is going to save a lot of money over a second car. Even a car rated at 30MPG in city driving is using 3x more gas per mile than a scooter. Repairs? Almost nil. Change the spark plug on a 50cc scooter and you’ve done a tune-up. Heck, these things in some ways are as cheap to maintain as a bike.

Now, perhaps some of you guys reading this might think a 50cc scooter just isn’t “manly” enough. Well, I have noticed how Mrs.MM has been urging the ladies to change their perceptions of what it means to appear womanly, so I say to the guys out there – get over your damn macho selves! Know what? My Razz was PINK when I bought it, and I got quite a few stares and laughs over the years riding my Bahama-colored scooter. But I could always laugh back, knowing I was building my ‘stash to send my 3 kids to college debt-free. And I think making sure that your kids start out their lives college-debt free is pretty fuckin’ manly! I’ll let you ponder that shit for awhile, so maybe you’ll give a scooter a second thought.

More information can be found at this fun and breezy web site about scooters. I’ve found scooter riding to be one of the most fun and effective ways to cut down my transportation expenses significantly over 30+ years of scooting. It’s maybe the biggest secret out there to putting more cash in your pocket while maintaining the convenience of motorized transportation and keeping a light footprint on the environment. So if you can’t quite make the giant leap to high-octane cycling, and hypermiling makes you a little crazy, think about investing in a scooter. I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it.

*Rumor has it that a 50cc can go faster than 30 MPH if it is de-restricted. Doing this, however, may make your ride illegal.

 

MMM Note: I heartily agree with this strategy, although you still should eventually throw in as much biking as possible, it’s even better for you. Also check out the electric-powered scooters that are available these days such as this one from e-Moto.  Prices vary widely if you shop around, and with the benefits of zero tailpipe emissions (actually almost zero overall emissions if you use only wind or solar-generated electricity as I do) and no noise, you can feel even more Mustachian about your urban commuting.

  • David Baillieul August 19, 2011, 8:03 am

    Anytime you can drive a vehicle ( scooter even ) for > 10 years for $300 you are doing something right :)

    Reply
  • Jeffrey A. Haines August 19, 2011, 8:53 am

    I’ve fantasized about commuting via scooter (I live in a suburban area and work just inside a small city–too far to bike, unfortunately), but I don’t think I could spare the extra hour each day it would take me to follow a route that avoids the interstate. I think this is great, money-saving advice, though. Maybe someday I’ll work in a location that is more easily accessible by secondary roads.

    Reply
    • marven December 27, 2012, 10:57 am

      There do exist scooters that are in the realm of interstate travel. Just about anything over 150cc is interstate legal (technically, or at least here in CA, it must have a top speed greater than or equal to the highest speed limit), though I wouldn’t call anything less than 250cc smart for more than an exit or two.

      However, several companies do make scooters that are much larger, literally in the realm of some of the mid-size bikes. Suzuki Burgman has 400/650 variants, BMW just put out some new 650cc scooters, and a couple other companies also all produce machines on the larger end. Those bigger scooters do have a bit of an advantage over bikes in that they’re still a scooter, so they have the storage space under the seat and are automatic, which most bikes lack.

      On the other hand, they’re not usually terrific on gas, probably comparable to a Prius. At that rate, about the only plus is that you can find them used for around ~$4000 on craigslist, instead of $7000+ for a decent Prius. Honda does have a new bike out, the NC700X, that manages to get better mileage than most of the bigger scooters (based on what I’ve seen reported on Fuelly). It also has some decent storage as well as an automatic transmission available, which puts it about equal to any other scooter.

      Reply
      • Ryan February 11, 2014, 2:51 pm

        as an owner of the CTX700…so far it’s great!

        60-70mpg, simple to service, oil changes every 8k!

        Reply
  • Naomi August 19, 2011, 8:57 am

    Scooters scare me.

    Reply
    • MMM August 19, 2011, 9:12 am

      They are not scary, they are friendly!

      Now, the idea of using an entire 4500 pound SUV just to transport a single 150-pound person, THAT is scary.

      Reply
      • Kathy P. August 19, 2011, 9:42 am

        Scooters don’t scare me. It’s driving them on the same roads used by hoards of 150 lb. people in in their 4500 lb. SUV’s!

        Reply
      • Kathy P. August 19, 2011, 9:43 am

        Scooters don’t scare me. It’s driving them on the same roads used by hoards of 150 lb. people in in their 4500 lb. SUV’s that scares the livin’ daylights outta me!

        Reply
        • Naomi August 19, 2011, 9:49 am

          Yep, that’s what I meant.

          Reply
          • MMM August 19, 2011, 11:57 am

            You’re right. It is best to think of human society as a battle to survive. I have mounted eight bazookas on my own minivan so I can destroy the other cars to reduce the risk of them crashing into me. My own survival is my foremost concern!

            Reply
          • poorplayer August 19, 2011, 6:29 pm

            My question would be – do you feel the same way about bicycles? Do they scare you?
            The reason I ask the question is that, in this country, if you are on a bicycle, by law you should be riding in the street and following all traffic laws. It’s been my experience that bicyclists seldom do this, but it is the law. When I am driving either my scooter or my car, I am wary of cyclists because I never know if they will stop at the stop sign, run the red light, swerve from the sidewalk (where they don’t belong) into the street, cross the street suddenly, or turn without indicating. I have to drive defensively.
            If you ride a bicycle according to motor vehicle regulations, you are in as much physical danger as on a scooter. I am a defensive driver in every vehicle I drive, and really experience little fear in regulated traffic. I wear a full-face helmet, an armored jacket on most occasions, and for short runs a reflective safety vest. That’s far more protection than any cyclist wears. I think your fear is exaggerated and misplaced, probably for the reasons that Bakari’s research indicates.

            Reply
            • superbien August 20, 2012, 2:28 pm

              “The reason I ask the question is that, in this country, if you are on a bicycle, by law you should be riding in the street and following all traffic laws.” Augh! I hate when people say uninformed things about bicycling laws! Misconceptions about bike laws go around like wildfire.

              In the US, bicycling laws are not universal by country, or by state, and the laws about whether bikes can be on the road or sidewalk vary.

              For instance, in the DC metropolitan area (effectively 1 city — but technically 3 states – DC, VA, MD; and um a whole bunch of counties – DC, Arlington, Fairfax, Alexandria, Montgomery, PG), it is ILLEGAL to ride your bike on the sidewalk in DC, but LEGAL in Arlington and Fairfax (you can ride in both the street and on the sidewalk).

              Still, irate people on either the street or sidewalk like to turn into screaming harpies and tell you that X is illegal – no it’s not, learn the law before you yell at strangers! (and I bike very considerately, fyi)

              That said, the only thing that makes my blood pressure go up more than strangers yelling at me when I’m acting both legally and safely is when I see bikers in the street (where bikes are vehicles) acting like precious snowflakes who don’t have to follow laws like cars, such as blatantly blowing through red lights. They make it so much worse for those of us bikers who follow the laws and drive carefully.

              Reply
              • Mr. Money Mustache August 20, 2012, 3:14 pm

                Sure, they may make it worse and the world is full of assholes, but let’s not forget to focus on the good part:

                We bikers have got it GREAT. Everything is so much better for us than it is for the car drivers, so I celebrate that fact every day and try not to get too upset.

              • superbien August 20, 2012, 3:20 pm

                You’re right MMM – and actually now that I think of it, usually it’s when I’m driving that bikers breaking the laws makes me most angry. I can shrug it off so much easier when I’m actually on my bike and being yelled at. Iiiiiinteresting!

              • Bakari August 20, 2012, 6:54 pm

                It may be legal to ride on the sidewalk in some places, but (unless otherwise specified on a specific road) it is always legal to ride in the street.*
                Given that it is almost always far safer to ride in the street,
                ( http://biodieselhauling.blogspot.com/2012/06/please-ride-your-bike-in-street.html ), whether or not you are allowed to ride on the sidewalk is kind of a moot point.

                Don’t ride your bike on the sidewalk. You are much more likely to get hit by a car if you do. Yes, you will sometimes get irate drivers who don’t know the law, but they will just have to deal with being irate. Not getting hit should trump both law and annoyance.

                *Granted, I don’t know the law of every city in the country. There may be somewhere that bikes are banned from riding in any streets.
                UPDATE: they tried to ban bikes on the street in Johnson County Iowa 2 years ago. Apparently the petition failed. So I’m sticking with my original statement.

              • superbien August 21, 2012, 9:02 am

                Sorry MMM for jacking your scooter post to vent about biking. I swear I did think about scooters, and looked them up on Craigslist, and it’s still perking at the back of my brain. :)

                Bakari – I respect that you have an opinion and are entitled to it, and I also respectfully disagree with your overly broad assertion that people should not take an option that is legally available to them: “Don’t ride your bike on the sidewalk. You are much more likely to get hit by a car if you do.” I think that it is dangerous to allow potential new bikers to pick up this kind of misinformation, just like the incorrect prior statement that in the US bikes can only use the street. Maybe I don’t understand what you’re saying and you can expound on this, because on the face of it, that statement does not ring true to me.

                I have tried biking in both street and sidewalk (as I said before, both are legal where I live), and I know that I have been very literally terrified for my life in the street (I live in an ethnic neighborhood, from an otherwise lovely culture that apparently thinks that bikes should not be in the street at all, and they express their road rage with their 2+ ton steel vehicles). I finally decided to switch to the sidewalk, with a lot of care for pedestrians, and it’s funny how I no longer started the day with a sheer jolt of terror. It’s actually kind of fun to bike! Who knew…

                That’s in my own neighborhood – in DC proper (where one can ONLY ride one’s bike in the street) I saw a bicyclist get hit hard by a bus, while biking responsibly, in the street.

                On the sidewalk, those cars/buses can’t get to me unless they are actually working to do so (curb, light poles, telephone poles, bus shelters) – and while they seem pretty homicidal when a biker is in “their” lane, they don’t care when we’re on the sidewalk. So I can’t imagine them hopping the curb to kill me, just because.

                Maybe you’re referring to some study that cars tend not to see bikes when crossing streets, and so accidentally hit them? Well I still think that’s not applicable to anyone with a grain of sense – and if you’re reading MMM I think we can assume at least a grain. When I cross the street I do so in the crosswalk, slow down first and look carefully, make eye contact with any drivers – and so I really can’t see how you would say that I’m more likely to get hit by a car on the sidewalk, much less “much more likely”. I don’t see how that is possible, unless you are biking on your sidewalk much differently than I do.

                Am I misunderstanding what you’re saying? If not, then I’m going to say that people should continue to make informed choices based on the options that are legally available to them. Every adult bicyclist should know how to bike in the road safely (including signaling, following vehicle laws, and biking predictably), and if it’s an option in their area, how to bike on the sidewalk respectfully of pedestrians. And then choose the better option for their own commute.

              • Bakari August 21, 2012, 10:29 am

                Superbien – I take it you didn’t read the link I posted?
                .
                What I said wasn’t based on my personal opinion. It was based on accident statistics. It is also what any professional bicycling safety organization will tell you (because they also go by the statistics).
                .
                Your fear is extremely common, but it is unfounded. Drivers deliberately hitting bikes is extremely rare (and if they did, it would be attempted murder, not an “accident”)
                .
                However, getting hit at driveways and intersections is extremely common. It is where almost all bike/car collisions occur. On the sidewalk drivers are less likely to see you and less likely to be expecting a fast moving vehicle. It doesn’t matter if you have the legal right-of-way if a driver isn’t expecting you in their path – and the fact that they see you doesn’t guarantee that it registers in their mind. Unless you slow down all the way to WALKING pace at not only every intersection (even when you have a green light) but also every single driveway, you are more likely to get hit by a car on the sidewalk.
                How exactly do you make advanced eye contact with a driver who is coming up behind you and about to turn right?
                .
                Yes, I know riding among cars – especially with aggressive drivers who don’t respect cyclists – feels really scary.
                Just like it feels more scary to let one’s kids walk to school than to give them a ride (kids are statistically 2000 times more likely to be severely injured or killed in an auto accident than abducted by a stranger), it feels more scary for many people to fly in a plane than to drive a car (4-25 times more chance of fatal car crash per mile or hour in a car, depending on how you interpret the data, and from what year), and it feels safer in a large truck or SUV, even though in reality you are safer in a mid-size car (see MMMs “Safety is an Expensive Illusion”).
                .
                In other words, your terror level is an absolutely terrible basis for determining actual risk.
                Our feelings evolved on the savanna 200,000 years before cars existed. They don’t know statistics.
                Trust terror over statistics at your own peril, but know that what I said was not based on my own personal opinion.

              • superbien August 21, 2012, 9:31 pm

                You know what Bakari, you are absolutely right, I somehow read your post and mentally jumped right over your link! So I was responding as if you made an unfounded assertion, when you had already provided your evidence. My humble apologies!

                So I’m going to make an argument for specifics versus aggregates. I do actually slow to walking pace (or a complete stop) when I get to an intersection – don’t all bikers? And I’m not driving in a residential area where there are driveways off the sidewalk. But you’re right, just because I make eye contact with the guy waiting on the cross street does not mean the guy behind me about to make the turn is going to see me — but he wouldn’t see me as a pedestrian either, and I cross streets as a pedestrian too (with the same caution). It would be crazy to suggest I stop walking on the sidewalk either, which is where that argument devolves to (assuming I’m not flying down the sidewalk and across streets, which I’m not). Statistics are well and good in the aggregate – but I know the street I’m driving on, and having done both, my thinking brain has made the determination that it is safer to risk the sidewalk than the street.

                That said, I think long-term, the best solution is for me to move (once my current lease is up) to a less dangerous neighborhood (bike-wise), and then bike in the street.
                I really don’t worry when I’m biking in the street, closer to work… people seem to be much more rational drivers there.

              • Bakari August 22, 2012, 9:09 am

                “I do actually slow to walking pace (or a complete stop) when I get to an intersection – don’t all bikers?”

                hahaha! Very funny. .
                .
                Yup, I totally grant that there are individual exceptions (like streets with long wide uninterrupted sidewalks rarely if ever used by pedestrians.

                I was mostly writing for the sake of new riders who happen to stumble across these comments.

              • superbien August 22, 2012, 9:55 am

                And you’re totally right to do so – I realized this morning that I was getting uber-focused on my own stretch of commuting sidewalk, which kinda isn’t the purpose of commenting on a blog. People really want generalities… so a general message of “ride on the street” is more useful than “ride on the street unless you ride on superbien’s sidewalk” :)

  • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple August 19, 2011, 11:13 am

    Scooters are getting very popular here in So Cal. Of course, we have the weather for it. Why don’t more Americans consider them?

    Well:
    1. People in cars drive like idiots. Really, my spouse and I ride our bikes to work (10 miles) 1-2 days per week (weather permitting). We tend to ride at times when it’s safer (before or after there is a lot of traffic). But still. Dangerous.
    2. Americans like our cars. Many of my friends live in households with 2 drivers and at least 3 vehicles.
    3. What do you do in the winter? If you have two workers and only one car?
    4. Kids. We do drop-off and pick up of our kid, and he won’t fit on the back of a scooter. Since one of us does drop off and the other does pick up…though we could change that. But that puts more of the burden on one parent.

    Reply
    • MMM August 19, 2011, 11:54 am

      Good, good. Mr. Money Mustache LOVES to hear excuses. Keep it up, so I can maintain my firey motivation to keep writing!

      Reply
      • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple August 20, 2011, 7:34 am

        C’mon, you know SOMEBODY was going to make the excuses, so I thought I’d do it for ‘em. You notice that my spouse and I are bike riders, and I see scooters to be in the same vein as bicycles. And probably a bit safer than bikes. If we owned one, we’d probably take the same route we take to work, we’d just get there in 1/2 to 2/3 the time, but without the good exercise. :) I like my 45 min commute a couple of times a week.

        Reply
    • poorplayer August 19, 2011, 7:06 pm

      Marcia,

      Before MMM rips you a new one, let me take your objections on.

      1. There are idiots driving all manner of vehicles, from cars to scooters to bicycles to motorcycles. In my neck of Western NY I have actually seen idiot Amish buggy drivers! No shit, honesty! No matter what manner of vehicle you are in, you will run into idiots. There is no human endeavor that is idiot-proof. Given that reality, the argument is a poor one. Drive aware and alert, drive defensively, and you are no worse on a scooter than in a oversized gas-guzzler. Drive the scooter like you drive the bicycle. There is danger around you every day the minute you walk out the door.
      2. Americans like fast food. Americans like television. Americans like guns and making war. Americans like huge inefficient houses. Americans like Rick Perry and Michele Bachman. Americans like a lot of things that are just plain BAD for them. As a nation, most of us are self-indulgent narcissists seemingly incapable of thinking about our choices and actions as they relate to those around us and our environment. Some of us would like to see a change in that culture for the benefit of our communities and ourselves. The fact that people have 2 drivers and 3 cars in a household is NOT a positive thing – it needs to change.
      3. In the winter I drive a 1993 Saturn that I received from my sister-in-law as a free hand-me-down. But regardless of the season, if the local roads are ice- and snow-free, I put on a few layers, fire up the scooter, and go riding. My scooter is not a “recreational vehicle” to me; it is my main method of transportation. I’ve ridden my three-mile commute in weather as cold as 15º. I am not stupid about it, but if you’re willing to put on a few layers of clothing it’s no real problem. I am not taking 100-mile jaunts in that weather, you know. And if push comes to shove, since DW and I work in the same place but with different hours, we commute together when necessary. It’s really a matter of choice and planning. Your question makes it appear that there are no options – there are always options.
      4. There is no law against kids riding on scooters. 50cc scooters made today are capable of “2-up” riding, meaning they can carry a passenger. The kid will fit on the right scooter. Get the kid a good backpack, a good helmet, a safety vest, and sit ‘em on the back. They will have fun, and you will instantly make him/her the coolest kid in school! My kids got a kick riding on the back seat of my Yamaha when they were young. If they are old enough to ride a two-wheel bicycle they can ride on a scooter with good training and instruction. You can even rig up one of those carriages that I see parents hitch to the back of their bikes to carry toddlers. There is also no rule that you MUST whizz down the road at 30 MPH. Ride on the shoulder, take your time, and save money and gas!

      Reply
      • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple August 20, 2011, 7:41 am

        I have a thick skin. Most of my responses were kinda tongue-in-cheek, because I hear excuses all the time on why people don’t … (fill in the blank) – cook their own meals, exercise, ride their bikes, etc. etc.

        As for #2. And I’ll never understand the fascination with cars. We own two compact paid for cars. I understand the need for minivans for people with 3 kids in carseats. But I have friends who seriously have 3-4 vehicles for a 2 person family. My neighbor in the back (single guy) has an SUV, a mercedes, a motorcycle, and a porsche. Mostly old, but still, 4 vehicles? And a couple of bicycles, because he’s a cyclist. A few of my family members are the same. The money they blow buying car after car…

        The kid concern, well, that’s a real concern. Truly though, we could walk to school and back (0.75 miles each way) and probably should. I’ll get right on that as soon as I get the city to either add sidewalk to one small section of road, get the road changed to one lane, or get them to add speed bumps. I think I’ve got the best chance at #3. I only have one kid, though. I’ve got friends with 2-3 and multiple dropoffs and multiple pickups, and in order to get their 8 hours in when preschool is only 7 hours long, they have to split the duties.

        Reply
    • superbien August 21, 2012, 9:09 am

      Marcia – I’m not badass enough for this yet (but since I don’t have kids yet I dont’ have to be :), but I’ve seen tons of people bike their kids around using those bike kid trailers. We have really great bike trails here, and on weekends probably 1/3 of bikes have a kid trailer zooming along behind, and I have yet to see a kid crying in them (probably a pretty fun time for them). When I bike commute on weekdays it’s more rare to see people with kid trailers, but I do see them – I’ve always figured they were biking their kids to day care or school.

      I think myself I’d be more comfortable with a bike trailer than putting my kid on the seat of a scooter, because of the distance to the ground and because those trailers have at least some structural protection. Kids can be tough, or fragile if they hit something just right. But I think a bike trailer could totally make kid transportation work. Good luck!

      Reply
    • Oh Yonghao May 6, 2014, 8:20 pm

      In Taiwan the scooter is the family car. Just google image search for Taiwan Scooter Family and you’ll see that scooters can hold 4+ and it is very common. They will put a short bamboo stool on the floorboard or they kid just hangs on to the back. My wife and I would do Costco runs on our 100cc scooter and I would ride around town on my 50cc all the time and even carry a passenger once in awhile.

      The most I personally road with on a scooter was three, me, my wife, and my niece on the floorboard when she was about 10, and I think it was just maybe 5-10 minutes.

      Reply
  • Bakari Kafele August 19, 2011, 12:12 pm

    As someone who has tried to encourage people to consider 2-wheeled transportation for many years, I can tell you exactly why more people don’t do it.

    The number one concern is the perception that they are unsafe.

    What people fail to realize is that this is mainly a self-fulfilling prophesy:
    There is a society-wide assumption that motorcycles are dangerous.
    Therefor, only daring risk takers – mainly males trying to prove something- tend to buy them. Not surprisingly then, motorcycle riders as a group have a much higher rate of dangerous behavior than the average car driver.
    I actually did a fiar amount of research on this:
    Motorcyclists are much more likely to speed, drive drunk, drive without a license, drive recklessly, etc.
    So then the accident rate is way higher than average.
    Since the accident rate is higher everyone assumes they are dangerous.
    And the cycle continues.
    Since the accident rate for motorcycles is high, scooter just get lumped in with them, since they don’t have a (psychologically) “Protective Cage” around them.

    The few times studies have been done that try to correct for differences in behavior (by looking only within a specific demographic), it turns out the accident rate for motorcyclists is actually LOWER than for car drivers (although the injury rate is about the same).

    Personally, I have a Kawasaki EX250 – same size engine as yours, but in motorcycle form. Cost is pretty similar, but acceleration and top speed are a lot better. I usually get around 65mpg on it, although I have gotten over 75, and I know of at least one guy who hypermiles his EX250 and gets over 100mpg on it.

    Reply
    • Chris O. August 19, 2011, 6:17 pm

      Totally agree… I bike to work through DC traffic every morning (but have been considering a moped for awhile). I feel safer doing this than driving. I’m totally more aware of my surroundings. You can see all the dazed faces of drivers not paying attention in their mostly sound-proof, artificially controlled mini-climates that separate them from their environment.

      … also I feel pretty manly blowing past traffic. Don’t really see where there’s a macho issue… unless you’re still rocking the cheerleader handlebars ofcoursee

      Reply
    • superbien August 21, 2012, 9:12 am

      I had a coworker who motorcycled to work, and he used to quote studies that said that the accident rates for motorcyclists who take a safety course are really low – it was years ago so I don’t remember how low. (I would google the study but I have to leave shortly) He made similar arguments as yours, about how the ‘average’ motorcyclist has daredevil tendencies and drives unsafely, while people who learn safe driving and take reasonable precautions can be a lot safer. It at least makes sense to me.

      Reply
  • Bakari Kafele August 19, 2011, 12:20 pm

    But I did find one problem with your post – as someone who has also encouraged people to bike all my life…

    I understand that sometimes you have to go too far to bike in a reasonable time. Afterall, I own a motorcycle along with all my bicycles.

    But one reason you gave was “Some of us are not quite in cycling shape”
    and, well, that just does not make a bit of sense!

    I hear that a lot. It is upside down reasoning that confuses effect for cause.
    Nobody cycles because they are on shape. People are in shape BECAUSE they cycle!
    If you are not quite in cycling shape, than that is a reason TO bike everywhere, not an excuse not to.

    Reply
    • poorplayer August 19, 2011, 4:29 pm

      By “not quite in cycling shape” I was, in my head, more referring to people with disabilities or other permanent injuries that make cycling difficult. I did not explicitly say that out of my own personal sensitivities and politeness. I should have been clearer about that. Someone with arthritis or hip replacement or knee injuries may be “not quite in cycling shape.”

      Reply
      • Bakari Kafele August 19, 2011, 5:49 pm

        I see.
        That’s what I figured you meant by “physically unable to bike”.
        I imagine some (most?) of the people who can’t ride a bike for physical or health reasons may have trouble riding a motorbike as well though…

        Reply
        • poorplayer August 19, 2011, 6:08 pm

          If they can sit upright on a seat, put their feet flat to the running board, balance at a stoplight, and twist a throttle handle, they should be able to scoot. Most 50cc scooters are small enough that balancing at a light flatfooted on the pavement is easily done.

          Reply
          • Oh Yonghao May 6, 2014, 8:26 pm

            I don’t know the legalities behind them in the states, but in Taiwan there are a lot of people with disabilities who get modified scooters with a third wheel, and they even have ones with a ramp to give wheel chair access to. I knew a couple people who were in wheel chairs and road a scooter all around town.

            Reply
  • Kathy P. August 19, 2011, 12:26 pm

    Unfortunately, the dominant travel infrastructure (autos) was designed the way it was because we were awash in cheap oil. Until recently, we never saw the need to question a commute of an hour or more because, well, gas was cheap and if I want a big fancy house in the ‘burbs, that’s just one of the things I have to put up with.

    Now, of course, we’re faced with not-so-cheap oil, but whenever the alternatives are contemplated – bikes and scooters or mass transit like buses and trains – we’re faced with the hurdle of the dumb infrastructure we’ve created.

    People do indeed drive their cars like idiots so it’s not really an excuse to say that putt-putt-ing down the road on a scooter is dangerous. In fact, drivers who are impatient – like when said scooter isn’t going fast enough for them – drive even more stupidly. In a contest between a land yacht and a scooter, the land yacht will always win.

    Of course, a very few cities are now improving mass transit, creating bike lanes, and more. Most areas are still not, at least here in NY. Personally, the idea of facing down a snowplow in the midst of a lake effect white-out on a road that’s only 1-1/2 lanes wide due to 3′ snowbanks while riding a bicycle in January makes the whole prospect out of the question. Call it an excuse if you want; I’d call such a scenario insanity.

    The good news here in NY is that the governor just signed the so-called “complete streets” law, which “will require all major transportation projects — either those undertaken by the state DOT or funded and overseen by them — to consider all users, whether they are driving, cycling or walking. Depending on the context, that could mean anything from including a shoulder on the side of the road to building sidewalks and crosswalks to installing traffic calming devices and bike lanes.”

    Reply
    • Mr. Frugal Toque August 19, 2011, 12:39 pm

      Just feeling the need to jump in here:
      “Until recently, we never saw the need to question a commute of an hour or more.”
      I always questioned the idea of commuting more than 15 minutes, even back in 1997 before I cared about the cost of gasoline. The houses back then were chosen for their relative proximity to where we worked and where we got drunk.
      I agree that bike lanes are vital. Most people avoid cycling to work because they’re either lazy or afraid. We can easily cure the fear with nice, safe passages for bicycles. The laziness might require a cattle prod, or $3/L gasoline.

      Reply
      • Bakari Kafele August 19, 2011, 12:55 pm

        ” always questioned the idea of commuting more than 15 minutes”

        in general, I agree with you – but I feel like the equation changes dramatically if its a self-powered commute.
        Now that I have transfered from a bike shop 11 miles away to their other location which is only 2 miles from home, I actually find I miss the commute!

        It took between 1.5 and 2 hours of my day (round trip), but it also combined not only my commute, but my recreation and my exercise for the day all into one activity, so in that since it actually saved me time (compared to, say, a 15 minute commute, spending an hour at the gym, and another hour doing something fun)

        Reply
      • Aleks December 1, 2012, 2:46 am

        I’m one of those workers who has a “reverse commute”. So either I could live near my job in the sticks, and have to drive everywhere other than work, or I could live in the city, where I’m within walking distance to absolutely everything else.

        For me, it’s a no-brainer, especially because my employer is nice enough to provide a shuttle bus that provides nearly door-to-door service. So my commute may be an hour, but it’s a comfortable hour, and it’s better than the alternative.

        Reply
    • Max Schneider June 13, 2013, 3:29 pm

      Actually as is ridicolously cheap in the US. 4 $ a gallon? What a bargain! In most of Europe it is 8 $ a gallon…(but what do I care I cycle…)

      Reply
  • Ginger August 19, 2011, 1:00 pm

    I don’t like the look of a scooter but both my DH and I plan to get motorcycles. We will break even on the cost of buying them by the difference of mpg of the motorcycles vs the car we have.

    Reply
  • poorplayer August 19, 2011, 7:33 pm

    I want to take the opportunity to thank MMM for posting my guest essay on a subject I’ve been passionate about for many years. I’ve cruised a lot of ERE blogs on the net and this one is by far the most approachable, breezy, engaging and simplest to grasp IMHO. It’s way effing cool to be the first guest poster – another one off the bucket list! :-)

    Reply
    • poorplayer August 19, 2011, 7:43 pm

      PS – If you want to read a really well-written blog that comes as close to “The Zen of Scooting” as I’ve seen, check out http://vespalx150.blogspot.com/. Great photos and deep, meditative posts on scooting in the hills and valleys of NW PA.

      Reply
  • Kevin August 30, 2011, 11:06 am

    I just mentioned this article another comment section, but I feel it’s even more appropriate here:

    http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2852/whats-better-for-the-environment-a-scooter-or-a-car

    In a nutshell, scooters are–obviously–much better in terms of carbon footprint than cars/SUVs/trucks. However, the smog-producing pollution from them is many times worse. I don’t relish a city laden with gas-powered scooters…they are noisy and dirty. Think of how bad smog used to be before catalytic converters and were required on all vehicles. My Volkswagen runs more quietly than most scooters, too. I don’t pretend that it’s better on gas than a scooter, but that’s why I walked to the library today. ;)

    Reply
    • MMM August 30, 2011, 1:23 pm

      Hi Kevin – your points about the shittiness of small engines were definitely true in the past, but these are now included in EPA rules in the United States – written in 2003 and finally in full effect by 2010 – check this out for starters: http://www.epa.gov/oms/regs/roadbike/420f03046.pdf .Nowadays, even lawnmowers need to have catalytic converters, much to the chagrin of the anti-EPA crowd. (For the record, I think pollution regulations should be even stricter and gas powered lawn care shouldn’t even be allowed in most cities ;-))

      So, you should embrace the idea of newer scooters, but just avoid the old 2-stroke ones, and continue to educate environmentally minded people that it may be better to scrap an old one, unless they do only a tiny amount of driving.

      There is also an ongoing struggle with importers sneaking in high-pollution scooters, which the EPA is continuing to fight: http://www.epa.gov/oecaerth/resources/newsletters/civil/enfalert/scooteralert0801.pdf

      Reply
      • Kevin September 2, 2011, 9:50 am

        Thanks! I hadn’t heard of that, probably because I’m from Canada. Unfortunately there is no sign of the two-strokes going away up here…I’m in Quebec, where 14-year-olds can get a 50cc scooter license and they’re extremely popular with teenagers throwing off the yoke of parental oppression.

        I did read the articles you read, but to be honest they don’t go far enough for my taste. The first article says that the EPA “projects” that 50% of new motorcycles will be equipped with catalytic converters in 2010. I’m sure this will fall due to people like my father, who insist on making their motorcycle as loud as possible. ;)

        Reply
  • shanoboy September 13, 2011, 6:31 am

    Wow, you have really made me consider a scooter. My only problem is, I live in a suburb or Atlanta and mainly drive on interstates and in heavy traffic. Still, great post and great ideas.

    Reply
  • Bakari Kafele September 13, 2011, 10:32 am

    I wanted to share a true story that happened to me just yesterday, in light of the common belief that bikes and scooters are dangerous.

    I was on my way home from work, on a narrow, windy, hilly road.
    It has double yellow stripes all the way, and no shoulder.

    I came around a turn to find a large, lifted, full-size pickup truck driving about 25mph around a blind turn… IN THE EXACT MIDDLE OF THE ROAD!

    They were straddling the double yellow line, half in their lane, half in mine.

    If I had been in my (6ft wide) truck at the time, there is no possible way I could have avoided a head-on collision right then. There was no where to go.

    Lucky for me, I was on my (2ft wide) bike, and I just quickly moved to the right, easily passing between the truck and the wall.
    Scary, yes, but accident avoided.
    I’m sure my 5500lb truck would have absorbed plenty of impact, but I feel that avoiding the crash altogether was an even better option.

    Reply
  • Jeh October 15, 2011, 8:14 am

    For more “manly” scooters (that are also much more powerful…up to 300cc) check out this site I just found: http://www.scooterdepot.us/

    They have some really kick ass trikes too.

    Reply
  • DTOM November 1, 2011, 3:31 pm

    For those who are too manly for a scooter but still want something reasonable, I recommend a 2008 or newer Kawasaki Ninja 250r motorcycle. They can commonly be had for between $2k-$3k on craigslist and they look just like a normal sport bike.

    Reply
    • Bakari November 1, 2011, 4:53 pm

      and they get anywhere from 60 to 90MPG (depending how you drive)

      and they can go from 0-60 in under 6 seconds (of course, that will put you on the low end of mileage)

      they can carry a passenger on the freeway (top speed 105MPH – don’t ask me how I know that)

      people even use them for fully loaded touring.

      Reply
      • DTOM November 1, 2011, 4:56 pm

        I had an R6 but recently sold it to pay off a chunk of my car. Once I get my car paid off I am considering getting a 250r or some type of mid-sized cruiser. How do you like yours?

        Reply
        • Bakari November 1, 2011, 5:01 pm

          you couldn’t tell from my comment? I absolutely love it. It is the perfect compromise for times I need to go a freeway distance, but don’t need 2500lbs worth of cargo space.

          It was my first motorcycle, bought back in 2001, and I have no intention of getting rid of it as long as it runs (actually, the engine is fairly cheap to replace, so maybe not even then).

          There is a whole community of EX250 enthusiasts: ninja250.org

          Reply
  • Vic December 2, 2011, 5:01 pm

    In some states maybe you can’t drive a scooter on a highway? I live in NC and even though I have not researched it yet and may be way off, I think there are some laws that control how/where you can use scooters in some states. I have always wanted a scooter though, so this is a great idea for when the (paid for and 10 yrs old) car I have now conks out. It takes the stress out of worrying about omg, what will I do when this car fails? (It’s a Saturn and there may be issues with finding parts later).

    Reply
    • Bakari December 2, 2011, 8:10 pm

      I don’t the law in every state, but I believe generally the law is based on speed. Some scooters (most 50cc and under) can only go 40mph or less top speed. Other, larger scooters (esp 250+ cc) scooters can go 50-75mph, and these should be legal on most highways.

      Put simply, if the scooter is capable of going the speed limit of that particular highway, there is little reason it wouldn’t be legal to ride

      Reply
  • Brotherbryan March 27, 2012, 6:28 pm

    I sold my scoot and my motorcycle in a Dave Ramsey induced purge. That was before I started hanging with the mustache fellas. Now I’m wanting my ride with gas at 4.15 /gal.

    http://motorscootermuse.com/scooterbreakeven.php

    Check out the cool calculator here to see how long it takes to pay for itself.

    Reply
  • win May 4, 2012, 11:36 am

    How about a golf cart? There are communities, mostly for senior citizens, where golf carts are popular. You can buy a used one for about $2,000.

    Reply
  • Crystal May 26, 2012, 9:05 am

    My son, who has a lot of school debt to pay off, live as frugally as possible on a teachers salary. He lives 1 mile from work. Bikes or walks and for his trips to grad school he uses his ninja 250. It gets over 50 mpg, under $70 a year for ins, if I remember correctly. Another great part is he can work on it himself due to a great deal of tutorials on youtube from the vast amount of ninja owners.
    Also, my husband has a Honda Shadow 750 that he rides to work, 14 miles one way. Difficult to move closer as it is in an industrial park outside town and would put us away from everything else and increase driving time to anything we may need, including work for me. So his bike saves insurance, gas and time.
    We both have bicycles and due to disability on my part I am having to take it very slow and adjust to being able to ride mine without it putting me in bed for days. This blog is giving me even more incentive to try. I am up to 1.5 to 2 miles a day on my bike. My goal is to start using it to run errands in my “non bike friendly town”. Once I have my stamina built up and my back and muscles do not spasm or shut down I hope to take the motorcycle class next. I have never let being sick get me down and will find ways to outsmart it when I can.

    This is my first posting as I have been lurking and reading from post one to try to catch up. Love this blog MMM.

    Reply
  • Uncephalized June 9, 2012, 10:12 pm

    Catching up from post one since a few days ago, I just got to this post! MMM has already inspired me to do the math on my expenses and start figuring out where I can cut down on spending, and I was stunned to realize I spend $2000 a year on gas alone, just going to work. I am one of those people who is going to make excuses about riding a bike to work–I live 20 miles away from my work, not entirely by choice but because there is simply no suitable housing close by that fit our needs. I also live in Phoenix which means that for a significant portion of the year, 40 miles round trip on a bike would mean a significant risk of death from heat stroke. Pus it would take a minimum of 2 hours and realistically more like 3 to make the trip. I’m just not willing to spend that much time commuting.

    But a scooter… averaging 30mph on a scooter would get me there and back in 1.5 hours a day, a much more manageable time frame. I would not die from the heat, and our roads are generally clear of ice, snow and rain water nearly 99% of the time. Plus I can use it for most of my other, shorter trips for groceries and the like, unless I need to haul something really bulky or heavy.

    Long story short, I just posted a want ad on CL for a used 50cc, running or not. Hopefully I’ll have a new mode of super-efficient motor transport soon!

    Reply
  • Ruth September 2, 2012, 2:14 pm

    I ride a scooter year-round to work, in the midwest. I have a rain jacket and rain pants, and when it’s cold I wear a 70s-era ski snowsuit I found in my parents’ attic. It’s easy and fun and feels very safe, much safer than biking feels to me. And compared to a car it’s cheap cheap cheap. You don’t need a motorcycle license for a 50cc in most states, so I recommend renting one and trying it out. Best decision we ever made was to get a scooter instead of a second car.

    Reply
  • MrsKensington October 11, 2012, 9:02 pm

    Just a quick add to these great posts. I drive a 125cc scooter and am required to have a motorcycle operator’s license and plates, get it inspected, insured, etc. This does cost more, but it was the only way in my state to legally transport my kid on the back. 50 ccs were a no go.

    Mine saves $ in two ways:
    1) I can park for free at my train station vs. $5/day for a car.
    2) I dont pay another $5 per day for before-school care, which I’d have to do if I drove a car because all the auto parking spaces fill up in the mornings long before the school drop off time. This adds up to more than $2,000/year!

    Thanks MMM and gang.

    Reply
  • TheGoyWonder April 26, 2013, 8:53 am

    I don’t think anybody touched on one of the realities of scootering: nickel-and-diming to death. Meaning you have to keep buying little bits and pieces, from gaskets to plastic bits that eventually crack.

    I find it imperative to keep gasoline quality at the highest possible level, as that is what causes your parts failure especially carburetor. Not meaning high octane but Ethanol Free, preferably from a dedicated pump. Many swear by SeaFoam, and I’m getting fantastic carb life using it continually. Finally, Royal Purple synthetic 2-stroke oil gets thumbs up from everybody.

    Reply
  • Emily October 20, 2013, 6:42 pm

    We first had our eyes opened to scooters when we went to Southeast Asia visiting and supporting missionary friends. This was before we ever knew about the Mustachian lifestyle. Yet the mustaches were in our blood so we knew we wanted one. (We’re already frugal, actively saving, and debt free besides about 8k on our second house which will officially be gone by next spring.) So my husband began checking Craigslist weekly looking for a good scooter deal.

    Then I discovered MMM. It was about everything we really were deep down. I got up one morning and told the kids, “We’re biking to school.” Now this is a telling thing. When I tell other adults about biking to school and the plan of biking at least a few days of the week even in the winter they look at me with an odd mix of pity and confusion. You know what the kids said? “YAY!!” They LOVE it. My eight-year-old has taken to telling me every morning when we mount up, “I love you mom.” They just eat up the bonding time and never complain about the extra work or time it takes. We’re up to at least three days a week (the first time I went with my husband’s regular bike seat since his is the only one that accepts the tag-along and my poor bum was not up to it and I had to wait a week until I’d recovered.) They willingly and excitedly get up earlier in the mornings and even with less time in the afternoons due to the riding they seem to get homework done faster. This week the husband is out of town again so this afternoon I utilized YouTube to figure out the mechanics of a bike and repairs, then repaired some gear slipping issues, and cleaned and performed the regular maintenance myself.

    Well, when my husband finally found a scooter (at a GREAT deal) to supplement our already increasingly frugal transportation, my mustache twitched in excitement. It was to be his transportation to work but the first week he was traveling for work in Mexico so during the day it called my name for errands. That first day, cold and spitting rain, with a 24 pack of toilet paper between my legs on the floorboard I wanted to scream into the wind– “let the badassery begin!!” This was before I discovered this article that actually gives the official MMM thumbs up to scooters (when you can’t ride a totally fuel efficient bicycle.)

    We’ve also been excitedly shopping for increasingly cheap LED bulbs together, the husband has been mulling over how to build solar powered light for the basement (with the possibility of expansion later on), I’ve finally decided to firmly pull the plug on the dryer (we’ve always been line hangers except for winter and rainy days, but geeze, that’s what they make racks for! Of which I even already had one), and I’ve made firm plans for having a standard dress-code of at least two layers for everyone in our house this winter. Basically, the badassery is in full swing due to your drawing it fully out of us and we couldn’t be happier. Thank you MMM.

    Reply
  • GeauxBig November 27, 2013, 11:51 pm

    Awesome Emily!

    Reply
  • Ryan February 11, 2014, 2:48 pm

    Scooting is an awesome way to save a lot of $!

    Now, if you do it right, it costs decently getting into it.

    Let’s say you buy a good, brand name, used Scoot for @2k or cheaper but maybe it needs work. You might even score a great deal if you have cash on hand for 1000!

    Also factor in a MSF course, a good helmet, gloves, boots, raingear, and maybe some luggage to carry your groceries. I have spent this a few times over after buying the wrong scoot for my needs.

    Now my commute is 2 miles to work, so I can walk, scoot, or bus! The scoot is the fastest, but when it’s warm sometimes I just plain like to walk. at 85mpg I don’t feel too bad if I use it for transport, since it saves 30-45 min of bus commuting, or 20 min of other. I know I know, spending $4 a month in gas is a luxury!

    We also have a honda helix 250. This will be a ‘spare’ as well as a ‘big’ bike for my wife. She also has a 2 mile commute, and the ‘hood is a bit rough so we prefer that she be able to do that when possible.

    My anti-mustachian purchase of a new Honda motorcycle that gets 70mpgand will carry us on road trips is my only new vehicle. I have tricked myself into justifying it for mileage for a commute 2 days a week. I make $65 week after paying the gas and insurance for the commute, and the payment is @ 2 weeks worth. I urge you not to follow this logic, but as we have no other debt, I’m not terribly worried about it.

    Reply
  • Bicycle Mama March 25, 2014, 9:07 am

    I bought a Yamaha Jog in 2001 for $1800. I had to replace a few parts here and there, but for the most part, it has taken me everywhere I needed to go. I always wondered how it is that not more people have discovered the absolute badassity of scooters. They are so much fun to ride. Park anywhere. Take groceries align and even 1 extra person. There is NO NEED for a car!!

    Oh and the best part is? Filling it up at the gas station for $2.50 and getting jealous, incredulous stares from the soccer moms filling up their gas guzzlers!

    Reply
  • Jessica July 17, 2014, 3:46 pm

    This is great… until your scooter gets stolen. I had a 50 CC 2006 Honda Metropolitan that I got from Craigslist for $900. It got about 80 MPG on average (pretty hilly area here in Atlanta). I loved it and it was great! Just remember they are super light and the police won’t care about your stolen vehicle when there’s no tag for them to look out for. I would definitely say that you should have some sort of secure parking (mine was chained up, but the thieves cut right through it).

    Reply
  • Alia September 11, 2014, 1:54 pm

    For those of you who ride already – with a 50CC, what speed limit streets would you generally stay at? I’m seriously considering one after reading this, but I have to take some country roads where the speed limit is 45MPH every day. Then again, there’s always bicyclists on those and very little shoulder, and they seem to do fine.

    Reply

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