Post by 90GTVert on Feb 14, 2010 15:23:50 GMT -5
Information For Potential Scooter Buyers
If you are thinking about buying a scooter, it's very important to gather all the information you can before making a purchase. Sure, scooters can be a lot of fun and save you money on gas. They can also be a headache and dangerous. Making an educated scooter purchase is the only way to get started on the right foot. Buying the wrong scooter can turn you away from scooters forever, but finding one that suits you could have you hooked for life!
Should You Be On Two Wheels?
To start off, I suggest seriously considering whether any two-wheeled vehicle is a good choice for you. Scooters and motorcycles require a bit of sacrifice compared to cars and trucks. They can also be more dangerous and physically demanding. In some situations, they just aren't practical.
If a two-wheeler is going to be your sole means of transportation, you've got a lot to think about. Can you perform the tasks you need to on a scooter or motorcycle? Where there's a will, there's a way. That sounds great, but practically it's not always that simple. Carrying the soccer team on a scooter just isn't going to happen. If you can pile all the kids on the scooter, you'll likely end up with a whole team on the injured players list. The same goes for large and heavy items. Heavy items can exceed the weight limitations of a scooter. Large items are often awkward to carry and leave the rider compromising their safety.
A rainy day in most vehicles means nothing more than turning on your headlights and windshield wipers and going on about your business. Scooter riders must either wear a full face or other helmet with face and eye protection along with rain gear or be willing to feel the sting of raindrops at speed. Cold days mean bundling up. Hot days can have you sweating or even lead to exhaustion or heat stroke in extreme cases. Snow and ice is a no go for most two-wheelers and very dangerous for anything but experienced riders with the proper gear and tires. Are you willing to deal with these situations?
Perhaps you are only interested in a scooter for fair weather riding as an alternative to another mode of transportation. Well, there can still be downsides to two-wheelers. Riding a scooter or motorcycle can be more strenuous than driving a car. You need to move your body to help you maneuver in certain situations. The ride can often be more rough than that of many cars and trucks. You must support some of the weight of the scooter when stopped. You also need to be able to lift and/or push a scooter onto it's centerstand or kickstand. Sharp reflexes are an important tool for scooterists and motorcyclists to possess. If you have any doubt that a physical condition may keep you from riding a bike, consult your physician before going any farther.
There are some three-wheeled scooters (trikes) available. They may be a good choice for people looking for the freedom of a two-wheeler without some of the risks. Some trikes even offer protection from the elements in the form of a canopy or cabin, making them more comfortable to operate in bad weather.
Which Scooter Is Right For You?
Alright, you've decided a scooter is right for you... but which one? Is a scooter going to be your sole means of transportaion or will it be an alternative to your car or truck or other form of transit? Will it be a hobby or a way to get out on fair weather weekends? Where will you be riding? How fast do you want or need to go? Are you able to do repairs and maintenance? Answering all of these questions is essential to picking the right scooter.
Let's start out by deciding which engine size suits your needs.
Pros And Cons
+ 49cc scooters don't require a motorcycle endorsement in most states. Some states require only a moped license, while others require no license at all to operate a 49cc scooter.
+ Many states don't require insurance to operate a 49cc moped or scooter.
+ 49cc scooters are the most affordable choice. Add in the afore mentioned possibilities of not needing insurance or special licnesing and they only get cheaper.
+ Some states don't require helmets on 49cc scooters (even when they are mandatory on motorcycles). I encourage helemet use whether it is the law or not, but some people don't like wearing them. Of course not needing a helmet can cut back initial cost as well.
+ 49cc scooters are the smallest and lightest scooters available. This makes them easier to lift, haul, store, and maneuver.
+ In many areas, 49cc scooters and mopeds can be parked like a bicycle. This can mean no parking fees and more convenient parking.
+ Some 49cc scooters can get around 100 miles per gallon.
- 49cc scooters are not very fast in stock form. It's not uncommon for a 49cc scooter to top out at only 35MPH. They can be a chore to ride in hilly areas because of their lack of power. Even mild headwinds can decrease your cruising speed. There are different engines available for 49cc scooters as well as gearing configurations and other variables, so speed and power varies. Any lack of power is made worse with heavier riders or carrying passengers.
- In many states 49cc scooters are not allowed on some roads, even on the shoulder. This can make traveling long distances difficult and more time consuming.
I believe a 49cc scooter is an excellent choice for someone on a tight budget that does a lot of in-town commuting. They can also be a good choice for people living in areas where they can travel on roads with large shoulders or low traffic backroads. Be careful traveling on roadways with speed limits greater than 30MPH without shoulders though. It doesn't take much to aggrevate drivers of cars and the last thing you need is to have the driver of a 4,000lb car or truck angry at you on your 200lb scooter.
A 49cc scooter can also be an excellent choice for those who wish to modify a scooter. Some models have lots of aftermarket parts available such as big bore kits, exhausts, carburetors, transmission tuning parts, and more. Modifying 49cc scooters tends to be a little cheaper than modding 125cc and larger scoots, though not always. Some 49cc scooters can be modified to cruise at speeds of 50MPH or above. Do your research and choose the right platform to modify, because others may never make it above 35MPH without extensive and expensive work.
49cc scooters are available with both two and four stroke engines. For more information on the differences between them, CLICK HERE.
Pros And Cons
+ 125-150cc scooters can be found in small frames that are lighter and more nimble like 49cc scooters. The larger engine is heavier though, so they are not likely to be as light as a comparable 49cc.
+ 125-150cc scooters offer plenty of power for city and town commuting. It is usually much easier to keep up with traffic than on a 49cc scooter.
- 125-150cc scooters are defined as motorcycles, and therefor require a motorcycle endorsement on your driver's license.
- 125-150cc scooters often lack the power and speed to be operated safely on roadways with speed limits of 55MPH or above. Most of them can reach 55MPH, but a headwind can easily knock a few MPH off of their cruising speed. Many 150cc scooters will have very little power left over when cruising at higher speeds, which can make evasive maneuvering more difficult.
125-150cc scooters are excellent scooters for getting around town as well as short trips. They can be taken on long trips, but leave a bit to be desired for extended highway use. These scooters can be very affordable. Some models are similar in price to many 49cc scooters. They do need to be registered and insured, but insurance is usually very inexpensive for scooters.
If you are hoping to modify your scooter at some point, there are lots of tuning parts available fro the GY6 engine platform. Big bore kits, stroker crankshafts, CVT tuning parts, you name it.
Pros And Cons
+ 250cc scooters have more power to achieve greater cruising speeds. This makes them easier to operate on roadways with 55MPH or greater speed limits. The added power also gives the operator a little more ability to make evasive maneuvers if necessary. Hilly areas are not as much of an issue with 250cc scooters.
+ 250cc scooters are generally heavier than 49cc, 125cc, and 150cc scooters. The additional weight can help to make them more stable at speed and when dealing with crosswinds or even the wake of a tractor trailer passing by.
- I've listed weight as a pro, but it is also a con. The heavier 250cc scooters can be less nimble in town and require a little more effort to support while stoppped in traffic. Of course they're also a bit harder to pick up from the ground, should you ever drop one.
- 250cc scooters are defined as motorcycles, and therefor require a motorcycle endorsement on your driver's license.
250cc and up scooters are great for scooterists who will see the open road. They are often more touring oriented scooters that are larger and heavier. 250cc scooters tend to offer more storage space, more comfortable seating, and some even offer accessories such as stereo systems. The higher price and heavier frame and engine makes them less practical for people spending lots of time in town.
Steer clear of 250cc scooters if you wish to extensively modify a scooter with aftermarket parts. There are a few parts around for 250cc scooters, but very little compared to 49cc to 150cc scooters.
Everyone looks for power and torque, but they often overlook the braking system. Scooters commonly come with either front and rear drum, front disc/rear drum, and front and rear disc brakes. In general, front and rear disc brakes provide the most stopping power, followed by front disc/rear drum, followed by front and rear drum brakes. Not all brake systems are created equal, but I suggest only purchasing a scooter with front and rear drum brakes for in town riding or around 35MPH max cruising speeds. Some front disc/rear drum systems can provide braking good enough for around 60MPH cruising speeds. If you plan to cruise faster than 60MPH, front and rear disc brakes would be optimal. A select few scooters even have dual discs in the front for even more braking power. Whatever choice you make, I suggest not skimping on the brakes.
Before deciding on any scooter you need to determine if it is meant for people of your height and weight. If you are over 250 pounds or if you plan to carry additional riders or heavy luggage you will want to look for scooters with weight ratings to suit your needs. Models with dual shocks may be a good choice for very heavy riders. If you are under 250 pounds and don't plan on carrying much or having passengers pretty much any scooter should work for your load demands.
Short and tall riders should take a close look at the measurements of potential scooters. Short riders will want to pay great attention to the seat height. You want a scooter that will allow you to put at least your tip toes on the ground or ideally both feet flat on the ground.
Tall riders will have a little harder time finding specifications to help them choose the right scoot. Tall riders may have trouble fitting on some scooters comfortably. Your knees may touch the handlebars and impede steering and use of the controls or it can just be uncomfortable. Larger models and longer models tend to have more leg room.
Typical scooters have underseat storage that will allow you to carry a half to three-quarter helmet or a six pack. Some scooters have underseat storage that can even fit a full face helmet. Other models have only enough storage for a small tool kit or a pair of gloves. Some scooters have a glovebox or tray for convenient storage of small items. You may find scooters that include a truck that can offer quite a bit of extra storage space. If your scooter doesn't include a trunk, but you wish to have more storage, you can install one later. Make sure you know what you need to carry and choose a scooter that can accomadate your needs.
Wheel size is about way more than cosmetics for two-wheelers. Wheels with a smaller diamter will ride more rough than those with large wheels. The small wheels can fall into potholes and other imperfections in road surfaces that larger wheels may not. Small wheels will also make a scooter respond to steering faster and feel more nimble. Larger diameter wheels make a scooter more stable at speed. Common wheel diameters for scooters are 10, 12, 13, and 16 inches. I have found that scooters with 10" wheels can be very maneuverable and fun for around town riding, but they don't always feel very safe at cruising speeds above 40MPH. Scooters with 12 and 13 inch wheels are still quite nimble and usually feel safer for cruising at speeds of up to 60MPH. The big 16 inch wheeled scoots feel very heavy to steer and less responsive at lower speeds, but they feel much more stable for higher cruising speeds.
Even if you don't plan on working on your scooter, it's a good idea to check parts availability for the scooter you are interested in purchasing. If you can't find brakes, body parts, engine parts, lights, or other parts now you may not be able to find them if you ever need them. In rare instances parts can only be found overseas, and then you must pay high shipping charges. If you purchase a scooter powered by the most common engines (139QMB, 1E40QMB, 1P57QMJ) stock and performance parts are usually easier to find.
Is a Chinese scooter right for me?
One of the great debates is Chinese vs big name brands (Yamaha, Honda, Vespa, etc..). Chinese scooters usually sell at much lower prices than comparable big name scooters, but don't run out and buy one just yet. The low prices do come with consequences.
Chinese scooters often suffer from defects that are not as common in big name scooters. Chinese scooters are manufactured with cost effictiveness (for the manufacturer) in mind. This means they may use parts that are not of good quality, production is fast, and quality control is often poor. I'll explore those points farther in just a moment.
Quality can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but in general don't expect to get a scooter up to par with the big name scoots. Doing your homework by searching our forum and other online resources for experiences with certain brands can help you make a more educated purchase.
I mentioned that Chinese scooters don't always use the best parts. Let me give you some examples. I have four Chinese scooters sitting in my garage right now. I own three of them and one belongs to a friend. Three out of four of them have issues with the tail and brake light. The sockets are poorly made and can cause only the tail light or only the brake light to work at times. Sure, they can be fixed, but some people don't want a fixer-upper. Another example is the plastic used to make body parts and lights. Some scooters are constructed from a plastic that can become brittle and break off. I have seen headlight housings with locator tabs broken off, so the light just jiggles around. It is sometimes difficult to remove fairings without breaking or finding broken off mounting tabs. The metals used for some parts is also a low quality cast metal that is not as strong as quality metal and can be difficult to repair if damaged.
Building scooters as quickly and cheaply as possible causes many issues in Chinese scooters. Some of the things to expect are loose, stripped, or cross-threaded nuts and bolts, loose electrical connections. loose hoses, cracked or broken moutning tabs, and cables out of adjustment. In some cases, owners have even reported scooters being shipped without engine and/or transmission oil which could cause catastrophic failure if not noticed before initial startup.
Purchasing from a reputable dealer can alleviate many of these issues. When you purchase a scooter such as a Yamaha, you can expect that a technician at the dealership did a PDI (Pre Delivery Inspection). Even big name scooters are subject to quality control issues from manufacturing, but big dealerships do PDIs to check the scooters for these issues and eliminate them before they reach the showroom. If the same PDI was performed on Chinese scooters, they would be likely to provide the owner with much more trouble free ride time. A reputable Chinese scooter dealer will do the same sort of PDI or at least offer it as a service. If your scooter comes from a dropshipper or a dealer that simply passes the crate along to you, you can expect to find issues like the ones I mentioned earlier.
Purchasing from a reputable dealer can help you avoid headaches down the road as well. A lot of dealerships and shops refuse to work on Chinese scooters. Parts can be hard to find and they know the problems they may be facing. Many shops just feel it's easier to turn away Chinese scooters because it can be a bad experience for them and the customer. Even if you aren't going to buy from a local brick and mortar dealer that will provide service, it's a good idea to make sure the company you buy from stands behind their products. A good dealer will stand behind their warranty and provide parts covered under warranty in a reasonable amount of time.
If you can't find a local dealer and do not wish to work on your own scooter it is a good idea to find a mechanic in your area willing to work on Chinese scooters before purchasing. I've talked to people and read complaints from people because they have an issue and no one is willing to look at their scooter. That's not a situation you want to be in. If you can't find a good mechanic and you don't want to work on your scooter you may want to consider something other than a Chinese scooter.
If you are mechanically inclined and willing to put some time into a scooter for maintenance and repair a Chinese scooter may be a great way to save some money. Do your own PDI before riding, use quality fluids, stick to a maintenance schedule, and you could have a reliable scooter at a low cost.
There are scooters besides Chinese and big name scooters. Scooters made in Taiwan tend to have good dealer support and are often manufactured with much more attention to detail and often better quality parts than the typical Chinese scooter. You still want to research the dealer you buy from, but it should be easier to find quality scooters and quality dealers when dealing with Taiwan made scooters compared to Chinese scooters. The prices of these scooters are usually somewhere between comparable Chinese and big name models. A couple of examples of scooters from Taiwan are TGB and Kymco.
There are tons of different scooters to choose from. If you want to get the best bang for your buck on a scooter that suits your needs and wants you need to spend some time researching the scooters that interest you the most. A little bit of time spent choosing the right scooter for you can save you a lot of headaches in the future.