Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Why we...Scoot!

Our Vino
...with our old landlord's Land Rover in the background
We bought our scooter in San Diego when gas first shot over $4 a gallon back in 2008.  My wife found a little 125cc Yamaha Vino on Craigslist, advertising an amazing 80+ mpg.  It looked immaculate and seemed to be gently used.  So we met the seller in a drug store parking lot that weekend before realizing, hey, we don't actually know how to ride this thing.  Luckily, riding it around the parking lot was about as easy as riding a bike, and we realized immediately that riding on two wheels is a lot better than riding on four.  So we tried negotiating a lower price, but it turned out we were dealing with a savvy seller.  Given that gas prices were at historic highs, he was showing the scoot over the weekend before taking offers that Monday.  With the situation as it was, we ended up being in a multiple-offer scenario. Our full price offer was trumped by another, but the seller asked if we were willing to beat it. Thinking this might be a ploy, I said we'd match: and he could choose who he wanted to sell the Vino to.

Later that night, we were the proud owners of our first two-wheeled, motor vehicle.  Later that week, we were at the DMV getting our M1 permit.  By the end of the first month, one of us was riding the scooter to work every day.  Sure, it had trouble getting up really steep hills and even the mild San Diego mornings felt cold at a windy 50 mph, but it was fun!  Getting to work over winding local roads was fun!  Going shopping for groceries was fun!

Sure it's fun, but what about the costs?

Car - $4 every 30 miles
Scooter - $4 every 80 miles

Car - $25 every 5000 miles
Scooter - $35 every 2000 miles

Car - $400 every 30,000 miles
Scooter - $120 every 5,000 miles

Insurance (liability only):

Car: $435 per year
Scooter: $38 per year

The costs of body work or other maintenance are harder to compare, but suffice it to say that it's much cheaper to repair a scooter than a car, whether you're doing it yourself or taking it to a shop.  And we've found the Yamaha Vino to be fairly bulletproof: it's needed nothing but gas, oil, a brakepad, and tires in the past 4 years.  (Kymco and Genuine owners have told us the same thing: these scooters cost very little maintain over the years.)

Using the figures above, we save $247 for every 5000 miles we shift to the scooter from a car.  Nothing to get rich off of, though I suspect the avoided maintenance on a car could increase the savings quite a bit if those costs were factored in.  Nonetheless, the savings you'd see from adding a scooter to your vehicle fleet, as we did, aren't nearly as great as replacing a car with a scooter.  Nor would  you save as much (or get nearly as badass) as you would with a bike.  But for people looking for a way to reduce their car usage, but aren't quite ready to start cycling around town, a scooter is a fun way to save a little money.

Want to learn more?  Check out...
Just Gotta Scoot
Provo Scooter
Mr. Money Mustache


  1. We too rock the scoots when we need a motorized vehicle (still prefer the biking if at all possible). I enjoy the analysis and recommend scooters as well!

    One of the key aspects that is not included is depreciation (one of the most expensive parts of driving a car). Scooter, if running, don't really depreciate. In our area, a good condition honda scooter will sell for $600 no matter what year or mileage.

    According to our estimates, we end up paying about 11 cents per mile with the scoots and average vehicles cost about 56 cents a mile to operate (federal calculations). Loves the scoots and the avatar!

    1. Hi fellow scooterer!

      That's a good point about depreciation that I omitted. Though as you know, scooters go for fewer miles before giving up the ghost than a car. A car might go for 200,000 miles but a scooter often will go for a small fraction (maybe only a tenth or fifth) before requiring a replacement. Assuming about $1000 for a scooter on average and $5000 for a similarly good used car, I'm not entirely sure which vehicle comes out ahead on depreciation/replacement. I'd have to run the numbers...

      Maybe a follow up post!