A while ago, on a trip to Canada, I missed my bus. It wasn’t a big deal, except that I was twenty miles from where I needed to be, and I only had half an hour to get there. I didn’t want to rent a car and I didn’t think that I could ride a bike that fast, so after looking around I decided to rent a scooter. I’d never ridden a scooter before, but it had always seemed fun. And it was.
When I got back from my trip, I kept thinking about scooters — a lot — until I finally bought a used 2003 Genuine Stella. In the time since, I’ve learned that a scooter can be a practical, exciting, and stylish way to get around — and with the warmer spring weather, this is the perfect time to start cruising on two wheels.
So, if you’re thinking about getting a scooter, here are some things to think about first.
Lets face it, for the college student on a budget, this might be the most important factor. The thing to keep in mind is that while you can buy a scooter on the side of the road for $800, to get a decent bike that’s going to be safe, you’re going to need to spend around $2000 or more. That may seem like a lot, but it’s a bargain compared to the damage and injuries that cheap scooters often cause. On the plus side, name-brand scooters have long life spans, and occasionally you can find small, old ones on Craigslist or KSL.com for under $1000.
More or less, there are two kinds of scooters: Chinese imports and everything else. When it comes to Chinese imports, stay away. Dave Hurtado, owner of the Scooter Lounge in Orem, has seen Chinese scooters catch on fire, front wheels fall off (while moving), and a variety of other safety issues. So do yourself a favor and avoid suicide by sticking with respected brands like Honda, Yamaha, Kymco, or Genuine. In the long run, they’ll be cheaper and won’t fall apart while you’re going 40 mph in traffic on University Ave.
Scooters are classified by their engine size. The smallest is usually 50cc and they go up to 250cc and higher. (The “cc” stands for cubic centimeter.) If you just want to run around town and maybe pick up groceries, you’ll probably only need a 50cc scooter. If you’ll be on major streets or travel more than a few miles, a 125cc or 150cc will be better able to keep up with traffic. Only scooters that are 250cc or more are freeway legal.
The kind of scooter you ride can be as much of a fashion statement as you want it to be. Some, like the Genuine Buddy, Yamaha Vino, or Kymco People have a retro look. If you’re going for a more aggressive, off-road aesthetic, the Genuine Rattler or the Honda Ruckus might suit you better. I went with the Genuine Stella because it’s the only metal-bodied, manual shift scooter currently being sold new in the United States. (Basically it looks like a vintage Vespa.) In any case, there’s probably a scooter out there with just your style — and doing a little research can help you find it.
There are three basic laws you need to know: you have to get a license, you have to register your scooter, and you have to get insurance. Though some people will neglect to do these things, getting pulled over without any one of them can result in big fines. (Trust me, I know.) Luckily, they’re all relatively easy and cheap to do. Getting your license and registration work the same way they do for any other vehicle. Insurance will usually be less than $200 a year and Dairyland, Geico and Progressive all offer motorcycle coverage. (Legally and as far as insurance companies are concerned, a scooter is just a small motorcycle.)
Though there are no helmet laws in Utah, wearing some form of head protection is a really, really good idea. When buying a helmet, the most important thing to check is that it’s DOT-approved. DOT approval means that the Department of Transportation has safety tested it and ensures that it can actually protect you. A helmet that is DOT-approved will say so on the back.
Hopefully, these tips help you find the scooter that’s right for you. There is a lot of information out there, so talk to people. Visit the Scooter Lounge or other reputable dealers in the area. And once you do, look me up and we’ll go riding together.
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