Scooters For Everyone
The Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) says sales of new scooters in the U.S. last year represented 33,528 units, down 3.5% compared to 34,742 units retailed in 2013 likely due to a long-lasting winter and falling fuel prices.
Those statistics, however, only include sales figures from brands that are members of the MIC (Aprilia, BMW, Honda, KYMCO, Piaggio, Suzuki, Vespa and Yamaha). Missing from the tally are model sales from Genuine Scooter Company, SYM, and a host of other brands – all of which likely experienced sales trends that mirrored those of the MIC member companies.
Despite last year’s sales downturn, the scooter market has remained relatively stable over the past decade, with sales generally hovering between 30,000 and 40,000 units annually. A recent outlier appeared with sales of 41,000 units in 2012, when the final throes of The Great Recession and high fuel prices had folks flocking to dealerships in search of low-priced, efficient transportation.
The scooter market can be divided into three groups by vehicle size: Small, Medium and Maxi. “Small” scooters feature engines smaller than 50cc in size, “Medium” scooters are represented by models badged up to 250cc in size, and “Maxi” scooters include models labeled from 300cc to what is currently the largest, 700cc model.
Power Products Marketing (PPM), a research firm based in Eden Prairie, follows the scooter market. According to PPM, of the 113 scooter models sold in the U.S. by major manufacturers in 2014, the top 10 best-selling were the Honda Ruckus 50, Yamaha Zuma 50 F/FX, Honda Metropolitan 50, Honda PCX150, Yamaha Zuma 125, KYMCO Agility 50, Piaggio GTS 300 Super, Honda Forza 300, Piaggio LX 150 and Yamaha Vino 50 Classic.
As you can see, Honda in 2014 had four of the top 10 best-selling scooter models, compared to three from Yamaha, two from Piaggio and one from KYMCO.
Further, five of the top 10 best-selling scooters were 50cc models, three were medium-displacement models, and two were light maxi scooters.
APRILIA – Aprilia’s top-selling scooters in the U.S. last year were the SR 50, Sportcity 125 and Scarabeo 100.
BMW – BMW in 2014 retailed nearly three times more C 650 GT than C 600 Sport.
GENUINE SCOOTER COMPANY – Genuine continues to see success with its Buddy 125, Buddy 50 and RoughHouse 50.
HONDA – Honda’s three best-selling scooters in the U.S. are the Ruckus 50, Metropolitan 50 and PCX150.
KYMCO – KYMCO’s best-selling scooters in the U.S. are the Agility 50, Like 200i and Agility 125.
PIAGGIO – Piaggio’s best-selling scooters in the U.S. are the BV350, FLY 150 and Typhoon 50.
SUZUKI – Suzuki’s best-selling scooters in the U.S. are the Burgman 650, Burgman 400 and Burgman 200.
SYM – SYM’s most popular models include the Fiddle II 125, Mio 50 and SYMBA 100.
VESPA – Vespa’s best-selling scooters in the U.S. are the GTS 300 Super, LX 150 and Primavera 150.
YAMAHA – Yamaha’s three best-selling scooters in the U.S. are the Zuma 50 F/FX, Zuma 125 and Vino 50 Classic.
Which Scooter Should I Buy?
By David Harrington
This is the question 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 (my opinion). That being said, most vintage scooters are nothing like as practical as modern scooters. 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 willing 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.
Do you have or are you willing to get a
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 scooter?
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? 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 maxi-scooters.
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).
Find a Good Local Dealer
All other elements being equal – go with a scooter model that is supported by a good 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.
Even the best quality scooter from a great dealer won’t be a good choice if it doesn’t fit YOU. 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 don’t fit different body types. If allowed by your dealer, test-ride the scooter prior to purchase.
Some of My Favorites
These are some of my favorite scooters. Remember, these are my opinions and what I like may not be what you like. 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 out-the-door price and may well be different from the total cost in your area.
About $2,500 – 50cc – No Motorcycle Endorsement
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 astounding.
About $2,500 – 50cc – No Motorcycle Endorsement
The SYM Mio looks similar to the Honda Metropolitan, but I consider the Mio a better machine. It’s not easy to find a moped-legal 4-stroke scooter that will haul my 220 lbs. around, but the Mio is one that can.
The Kymco Agility 125 is 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
There are two “winners” 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 you’re 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 bothersome hump at the base of the pilot’s section. The close 2nd would be the Genuine Buddy 170i. It’s fuel injected and about $700 more than the 125cc version.
Maxi-Scooters – Up to 400cc – $6,200 – $8,500
This category belongs to the 300cc – 400cc highway capable machines. In 3nd place, we have the Kymco Downtown 300i that has excellent quality, value and performance but limiting ergonomics. Then there’s the Suzuki Burgman 400 ABS, which is VERY expensive, and my favorite in this class: the Yamaha Majesty 400.
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. Right now, the reigning champ appears to be the Suzuki Burgman 650. It works incredibly well and is a wonderful touring mount.
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 Piaggio BV350 rules this classification. It’s got the power to see 90 mph, the big-wheel stability to ride the highway all day, yet it’s light and nimble enough to be a great around-town scooter. The seat has been changed for 2015 to get rid of the oft-annoying hump at the front of the pilot’s seat.
There you have it – my “answer” to the which-scooter-should-I-buy question. I hope this information has been helpful, and remember – buy a well-supported scooter and BUY WHAT YOU LIKE!
Yes, it’s a Vespa. Yes, it’s $5,000
By David Harrington
If $5,000 seems like a lot of money for a scooter, don’t look at the Vespa large-frame GTS 300 series. It’s not hard to get in the $7,000 – $8,000 price range there. The $5,000 Vespa is a 150cc. La dolce vita (the sweet life) doesn’t come cheap.
In my experience, this can apply to any number of powered Italian conveyances, to say nothing of some Italian clothes, leather accessories & luggage, and so forth. For those who enjoy Vespa, Ducati, Moto Guzzi, Maserati, Armani, Gucci and others, there is something more than the sum of the total of the parts involved that drives the value of these products and brands. For me, as it concerns Vespa, it’s history, design and desire.
The time is just after the Second World War. Italy was a shattered country. The Piaggio factory in Pontedera had been bombed (they built fighter planes among other things) and Enrico Piaggio (his father, Rinaldo Piaggio had founded the company) knew that the key to the survival of his family’s company was switching from wartime to civil production. But what to make? Italy was a country deeply damaged and had no viable public transportation system. Enrico saw that economic private transport would be key to the revival of his country. A bicycle just wouldn’t cut it for any distance and cars were an impossible dream for most. Enrico would rebuild his factories and he would make scooters.
Piaggio still had invaluable resources in the form of people like Corradino D’Ascanio, a skilled engineer and designer who had done much to bring about the modern helicopter. D’Ascanio didn’t know anything about motorcycles or scooters and yet Enrico Piaggio thought he was the perfect person to create a new product. “Only you can tackle the problem with a wholly new outlook,” he reportedly told D’Ascanio. The new scooter had to be easy to mount and drive, as maneuverable as possible, ridden without taking one’s hands off the control bars, easy to maintain, clean (not dirty grease on one’s clothes), and built utilizing as much existing tooling as possible. Whew! Not asking for much, are we? D’Ascanio gave us a monocoque chassis (think uni-body car, no sub-frame) hand shifter, a chain-free inline gear-box and other innovations. In late 1946/early 1947 the Vespa scooter was born. Vespa means wasp in Italian and it is said to derive from the look of the chassis.
Through the late 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, Piaggio’s Vespas came to symbolize the revival of Italy and the growing youth movement throughout the world. Though the model lines evolved and technology improved, much of the original 1940s design remains to this day. Yes, Vespa popularity waned as European economic conditions improved and more people could afford cars, but by that time the Vespa mystique was well established. We forgave them their flaws because of what they represented to us. Even after they left us without so much as a “Dear John” letter upon their exit from the U.S. market.
In 1981, a combination of product liability lawsuits, competition from technically superior Japanese products and laws restricting two-stroke scooters caused Piaggio to pull an Eric Cartman on the USA (screw you guys, I’m going home). Twenty years later, they came back with the new ET line of scooters and boutiques that sold Vespa scooters along with everything from wristwatches to personal care products. The boutique idea faded away, and now Vespa scooters are available from powersports dealerships. The evolution of the products has continued just as the design has stayed true to its origins. Sure, today’s Vespa have fuel-injected liquid-cooled powerplants with automatic transmissions and offer such enhancements as anti-lock brakes, but the overlaying design, and ergonomics, of a modern Vespa are as wonderful today as they were astounding in 1947.
It’s so beautiful that we forgive and forget that nastiness from 1981. The hard starting of the old ET2? Water under the bridge. The paint sparkles, the leather seat beckons, the controls feel just right. When you ride a Vespa, you’re part of an un-broken line that started in Italy nearly 70 years ago. If you’re near a Vespa dealership, go ahead and take a look at all those new time-machines with Vespa logos. Tell me they’re not worth whatever they cost.
A 150cc Scoot … Is it Enough?
Anxiety, we (North Americans) seem to suffer from many forms. Is my house big enough? Is my car/truck/SUV big enough? Is my flat-screen TV big enough? Is my paycheck big enough? My scooter …? The very word, “scooter” seems to connote inadequate size.
Yes, there are many choices in Scooterdom. There are small scooters, medium-sized scooters, and even size-anxiety crushing maxi scooters in today’s marketplace. But lets take a quick look at the often-overlooked 150cc class of scooters. Can they really get the job done?
If that job is getting around the Twin Cities, the answer is “Absolutely.” There. Finished. Why this has got to be my shortest rambling yet for Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly. They should be thrilled, usually they have to try and trim my 3,000+ words down to something that will fit the space in the paper.
Seriously, though, if your riding needs include mostly surface roads with occasional short jaunts on a highway, a 200ish pound machine that gets 70 – 90 MPG and can see nearly 65 mph could be just the thing. I was riding a BMW R1200 when my wife took to scooters and wanted to ride parkways and Grand Rounds frequently. Hauling almost 600 lbs. of motorcycle around for hours at a time on 25 mph parkways just wasn’t all that much fun. I ended up purchasing a scooter from Bob Hedstrom at Scooterville in 2004 and haven’t looked back. For how my wife and I actually ride the majority of the time, 150cc models are just fine.
I’d like to take a glance at four scooters that are shining examples of how capable 150cc machines can be.
The Paiggio Fly 150 (the new fuel-injected version) costs about $3,000 and I saw an honest (GPS verified) 58 mph on it. I should probably mention that I weigh on at 220 lbs. – frequently heavier than the machine I’m riding. The Piaggio has broad ergonomics that can easily accommodate larger riders, great Italian looks, and is vastly more reliable than many Italian motor products of just a few years back.
The Honda PCX 150 brings us modern form and function including fuel injection and liquid cooling for around $3,500. I saw 63 mph on the PCX and was very impressed with the handling, comfort, and utilitarianism of the as-far-from-retro as one can get design. I liked it so much that I bought one.
Then there’s the Genuine Buddy. Introduced to the USA marketplace in 2006, the Buddy has become a scooter phenomenon. It’s bullet-proof reliable, has a great many available accessories and is cute. I’ve owned several versions over the years and can attest to the quality and performance of this line of scooters. They don’t offer a 150cc version right now (50cc, 125cc & 170cc choices), but the current 125cc will out-perform a lot of 150cc competitor machines (I have seen 62 MPH on a Buddy 125) and it’s priced at about $2,700.
Our Italian friends at Piaggio who bring us the excellent Fly 150 also give us several Vespa choices in the 150cc class. OK, they don’t “give” them to us. It fact, they’ll want about $5,000 in exchange for one of their Vespa scooters. The Vespa LX line is on the way out, being replaced by the Primavera, while the Vespa “S” gives way to the Sprint. I have GPS verified 58 mph on an LX 150 and suspect there may be a bit more on tap in the newer models. They are all fuel-injected now, still make use of a metal monocoque chassis and they are gorgeous.
So there you have it – four 150cc class scooters that are all light, nimble, responsive, quick and capable of limited highway runs. They all are incredibly fun at surface road speeds and will give you excellent fuel economy, low maintenance costs, low insurance costs and impressive commuting performance.
No need to be anxious, 150cc is enough in a lot of cases. Just relax, turn the key, press the starter, and roll out into fun.