This is the questions I get asked more than
any other. I wish I could say that there is an easy answer.... there
isn't. Many factors come into play, but I hope this information will help
to narrow your field of choices. I've included some my opinions on
specific models as well.
The "Coolness" Factor -
Vintage vs. New
Nothing, I 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 will 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.
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
previously owned 2-stroke Stellas in 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
Ask Yourself a Few Basic
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 Minnesota). Before we leap ahead to your plans for how you will use
your scooter, this needs to be addressed. Here in good ol' Minnesota, one
can get a motorcycle permit with a written test that is good for one year
which should give amble opportunity for training and practice before
taking the road test for a full endorsement.
How are you planning to use the
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
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. Check
our podcast archive for several "What Do
Scooters Cost?" episodes.
No, REALLY, how much are you willing to spend?
Recently, a fair number of you have been emailing me 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 labour removing
body panels to get at the valve-train. I have also heard of high costs
for other regular maintenance items that require a lot of labour. 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),
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. I really like the
Buddy scooters from Genuine, but they probably won't work for you if you
are very tall. Conversely, the Kymco Xciting is a very nice maxi-scooter,
but shorter riders might find it uncomfortable or intimidating. 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
Do Your Homework
Find out about things like warranty coverage, parts
availability, and known technical issues BEFORE you buy your scooter.
Check out local scooter clubs and groups as well as online forums for
first-hand information. There are some wonderful "enthusiast" sites like
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?
of My Favourites
Whew! You've either read through a lot of stuff or just
scrolled down to this section. These are some of my favourite scooters.
Remember, these are my opinions and what I like may not be what you like.
Also, I can't over-state the importance of good support. If you don't have
access to a dealer for one of the brands I mention, look at something
else. For example, it's no secret that I like the
Genuine Buddy more than the Yamaha Vino.
That doesn't mean that the Vino isn't a damn fine scooter. If you have a
good local Yamaha dealer, but no Genuine dealer, then the Vino is probably
a better choice for you.
UPDATED March, 2015 - Once again,
it's update time. Some of our favourite
scooters haven't been available new in the USA for over a year now -
boy, we miss the Kymco People 50! Others are back (SYM Mio 50cc) and
it's worth mentioning that one line is showing remarkably consistent
quality and longevity - Genuine Scooters and the Buddy. You may notice
that some classifications have more than one scooter listed, sometimes
this is because I have multiple favourites and sometimes there's a
"close second place" scooter. For the first
time since we started this site, a Kymco People does NOT hold the Best-Do-Everything-Scooter crown. The new Piaggio
BV350 is an outstanding scooter, and it just enough better than the Kymco People GTi 300
to take over my top spot. 2015 appears to be the year of the improved
seat. The Honda PCX 150 and Piaggio BV350 have both improved their OEM
seat, removing that often-annoying small "hump" at the base of the
pilot's position. Prices shown
are based on MSRP and Minnesota taxes, freight, dealer prep, license and
so forth. These are meant to give you an indication of the
price and may well be different from the total cost in your area.
About $2,500 - 50cc - No Motorcycle Endorsement Required
remains unchanged as do our recommendations. The Genuine Buddy 50 and
the RoughHouse 50 continue to be excellent machines and a great value.
The number of accessories available to customize a Buddy remains truly
About $2,500 - 50cc - No Motorcycle Endorsement Required
The SYM Mio was "off"
this list for a while due to importation/distribution issues. It's back
in the US market and great choice if it fits you. The Mio looks like the
Honda Metropolitan but is a better machine in my opinion. It's not easy to find
a moped-legal 4-stroke scooter that will haul my 220 pounds around, but
the Mio is one that can.
$2,700 - 50cc - Endorsement Required
This classification has
undergone a lot of change. My former favourite, the Yamaha C3, is no
longer offered in the USA. If you can find a good used one, snap it up.
If you're out looking for a new scooter, consider the Yamaha Zuma 50F.
It's nothing like as much fun as the "old" Zuma 2-stroke was, but it's a
pretty decent machine overall. I like it better than the new Honda
Inexpensive 125cc - About $2,250
The Kymco Agility 125
is still my choice for an inexpensive new 125cc scooter. It's not cute,
it doesn't have a lot of extra features, there aren't many accessories
available for it, but it works well and is a great value - often less
expensive than a used scooter.
About $3200 - 125cc
Nothing else in the
125cc class provides the combination of performance,
value, quality, accessories and just plain fun that the Genuine Buddy
125 does. Since its introduction in 2006, the Buddy has grown to become
a true scootering phenomenon.
$3,600 - $3,900 - 150cc - 200cc
are two ďwinnersĒ and a close 2nd place here. The Piaggio Fly
150 3-valve is fuel injected, has bigger wheels and roomier ergonomics
than the Genuine Buddy and its reasonably priced. The Fly 150 still
retains some traditional scooter looks. If youíre more into the modern
look, the Honda PCX 150 is an excellent choice. For 2015, Honda has
changed the OEM seat to get rid of the often annoying hump at the base
of the pilotís section. The close 2nd would be the Genuine
Buddy 170i. Itís fuel injected and about $700 more than the 125cc
Maxi-Scooters - Up to
400cc - $6,200 - $8,500
Looking for a 250cc
scooter? Better start looking in the used scooter classified ads.
Honda's Reflex has been gone from dealerships for a while, Yamaha &
Suzuki have nothing in the 250cc size here, and Kymco is dumping their
250cc models like stock in a typewriter company.
This category belongs to the 300cc -
400cc highway capable machines. In 2nd place, we have the
Kymco Downtown 300i that has excellent quality, value and performance
but limiting ergonomics. The winners are the Suzuki Burgman 400 ABS
which is VERY expensive, and my favourite in this class, the Yamaha
Maxi-Scooters - More than
400cc - About $11,500
Here we have a group of one with a potential up-and-comer. BMW's
C650GT is supposed to be a wonderful machine, but I don't have any
firsthand experience with it. The Honda Silverwing has just never done
it for me. Right now, the reigning champ is the Suzuki Burgman 650. I
think it's kind of ugly but it works incredibly well and is a wonderful
My Favourite Do-Everything Scooter -
300cc - $6,000
Want ONE scooter to do
it ALL? Run around town or take you away for the weekend? The
BV350 rules this classification. Itís got the power to see 90 MPH, the
big-wheel stability to ride the highway all day, yet itís light and
nimble enough to be a great around-town scooter. The seat has been
changed for 2015 to get rid of the often annoying hump at the base of
the pilotís section.
Not-Quite-a-Scooter World Bike $2,500
Sometimes I completely zone
out on scooter things and rely on you, our website visitors, to bail my
backside out. That's the case with this category. Nate Dahl, known to
many as the Grand Poobah of Honda Cubs, reminded me that the most
popular powered two-wheeled conveyance on the planet isn't quite a
scooter. The Honda Cub has been genuinely loved for fifty years in over
160 countries. Of course we don't get them here in the USA, but we DO
get the SYM Symba. If you want to see what the rest of the world is so
excited about, go out and buy a Symba.
There you have it - my "answer" to the
which-scooter-should-I-buy question. Of course there are many more
classifications than I listed above and I would be glad to hear your
feedback on my choices. I hope this information has been helpful, and
remember - buy a well-supported scooter and BUY WHAT YOU LIKE!
Responses From Friends of Just Gotta Scoot
Apparently some of you DO think I'm nuts.... hmmmm, must be the smart
You have forgotten to mention the most famous scooters ever, the
For me still the one and only scooter ever. And the only one (O.K.
Lammy's also) with pedigree & history.
I'v now my fourth Vespa and wouldn't even think about buying another
I see you are a Kymco fan. After 18000 miles on the 250cc Yamaha
Morphous I cannot recommend it highly enough. In a three week period in
'06 I traveled both ways across the country including 9 days on the
Scootercannonball where the throttle was wide open almost the entire trip.
My biggest maintenance was deciding whether to remove my daily bug
collection in the evening or the next morning prior to the days ride. The
250 Kymcos seemed to all suffer some mechanical breakdown during the ride.
Several brake failure, muffler brackets breaking and other things that
hopefully Kymco has addressed after reviewing their machines performance.
I also own a Burgman 650 and except for two up riding can see no reason to
ride a scooter larger than 250cc. The Morphous is a more comfortable ride
then the Burgie.
That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.
I'm totally biased on this one. As far as I'm concerned, the best
overall scooter in the world is the Stella. It's everything a Vespa should
be, at about $2K less. And now, it would appear that they're going back in
production again. Hallelujah! Of course, "Which scooter should I buy?" is
as subjective as "What should I have for dinner?" You should buy what fits
your size, lifestyle, needs, budget, etc.
What you should NOT buy is anything you can not try out first, or anything
that is not serviced within a reasonable distance of your home. The
Chinese crap that's sold on the Internet at bargain prices is a snare and
a delusion. The Vespas that are rebuilt in Vietnam are totally scary. As
we used to say in the '60s, know your source or you're going to have a
really bad trip!
Quite a few people have emailed, asking about
cheaper choices for scootering. I thought it might be a good idea to
post a few thoughts about this topic. Then I thought I should offer some
suggestions of brands and models to look for. After that, I threw in a
couple of thoughts on gear and other expenses. Pretty much goes without
saying that this ended up being one LONG tirade on the topic of
cheapskate scootering. DO NOT bother with this
if you are easily bored.
My wife and I recently decided to get down to one car.
We have scooters (more than any sane person would have) and just
weren't using the second car very much. Getting our insurance renewal
probably had a lot to do with this decision. We are lucky to live in a
metro area with a very good public transit system and I ride a scooter to
work as often as I can in any event. Click on the image above to open a
spreadsheet to help you see if this might work out for you.