by Stephen Heller
What is my scooter worth? This is a question that I get asked all the time, and the quick smart answer is; whatever someone is willing to pay for it. This answer is always correct, but not what the person asking wants to hear. Some people are willing to pay more money than others. This article will keep you from paying too much.
First, raise your right hand and repeat after me, “I will not buy a scooter from SE Asia”. Congratulations. By taking this advice you have saved yourself from the biggest money sucking pitfall in purchasing a scooter.
It is very tempting when looking for a scooter to see what is for sale on Ebay. There are some beautiful bikes on there; shiny two-tone paint jobs, lots of chrome, matching seat covers and maybe even a sidecar. These scooters are most likely a Vietnamese restoration. All of these scooters have run their course and have served the people riding them very well. But instead of sending them to the crusher where they belong, they are painted and sold to unsuspecting Americans.
Do not fall into this trap, and do not believe that you are getting the only good one out of the bunch; they are all junk with a nice paint job. I have personally seen SE Asian “restorations” that have every inch covered with body filler, so much so that a magnet will not stick to any part of the supposed metal frame. I have also seen engines that are so messed with to keep them running that there is absolutely no useable parts when they need to be worked on.
Secondly, just because a scooter is old, doesn’t mean it is worth a lot of money. For example, there are tons of Red 1964 Allstates around Minnesota. They are a 125cc scooter that was made by Vespa and sold through Sears. The Allstate was an economy scooter when it was made and only has a spring for a front suspension. When the front brake is engaged, the scooter dives violently making it dangerous to ride at all, much less in street traffic.
Rusted out shells of scooters, and basket cases (a disassembled scooter in boxes), are regularly selling, because they will make a great restoration. I recently got hooked playing Texas Hold’em, and one of the first things you learn, or lose a lot of money, is to throw away a bad hand. The people selling the shells of scooters and basket cases are throwing away their bad hand. So why would you want to buy it? It will be a costly loser.
Don’t get me wrong. I love scooters and want everyone to have a great experience on them. Having a great experience doesn’t mean throwing money at something that should be trash or is dangerous. You should be having fun riding, not worrying about when the scooter will fall apart or when you hit the brakes you may fly over the handlebars.
To get back to buying an old scooter; just because it is old doesn’t mean it is worth buying. Another example, the Vespa P125, a 125cc two-stroke, has been made since 1978. A 150cc version of this scooter can be bought new today with a disk brake, a warranty, and the piece of mind of knowing that its owners haven’t messed with it for the past 20 years. I think it is worth spending $3000, or even $4200, for peace of mind and updated features like brakes that actually work.
If you are looking at a scooter and wondering what you should offer, start at $500. Add to the price if the answer is yes, subtract if the answer is no.
• Does the scooter have a title?
• Is the scooter complete? Every missing part is more expense for you, potentially adding up to a lot of money for some parts.
• Is the engine free?
• Does the scooter run?
• Is the electrical working?
• What is the engine size? The larger the engine, the more useable the scooter is.
• Is the scooter rare? The only way to tell is to do some research before hand and know what model you are looking at. On the other hand, if it’s so rare that you cannot get any parts for it and it is not running or missing a lot of parts it could be worthless.
• What is the scooter’s history? Explained before: SE Asia, run away. An Italian import may also have a ton of miles on it and need parts that don’t usually need replacing on scooters that have just been in the US, like the gears and the transmission.
The best way of finding an old scooter is to tell people you are interested in getting a scooter. Tell everyone. You just don’t know who has one sitting in the back of his or her garage or may know someone who does. The Internet is also a good resource but be very wary. Scoot.net classifieds, ebay.com motors, craigslist.com, minnescoota.com, and websites for the different scooter shops around the country are all the places I would search for a scooter.
The last Scooter Du was an amazing success. I had a great time and would like to thank all of the people who volunteered over the weekend to make it the fun time it was. Especially Matt. 196 people registered throughout the weekend and there were 140 scooters on the two Saturday rides. Both were a record number from the previous years. Sadly, this will be the last year for the rally in its current incarnation. Matt will be stepping down as the rally coordinator. But if the attendance is any indication, there will most likely be another scooter rally on the same weekend next year, under a new name.
This column is pretty Twin Cities centric, but that is because there aren’t many Scootering activities happening outside the metro area. This is changing; a new scooter club has formed in Mankato called the Substitutes. Welcome to the scooter community, Substitutes!
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