When I first moved to Portland almost three years ago (!!!), I was awash in extra cash from the sale of my first house. One of the things I wanted to do at the time was buy a scooter, so I could be mobile without paying a ton for gas or parking. Of course, my savings ended up dwindling quickly after I purchased a home here (Home Depot definitely benefited) and I ended up forgetting all about my Vespa dreams. I still have scooter envy from time to time (usually on sunny days when rain and wind are but a fading memory), but this is a purchase that will probably need to wait until I'm completely financially secure---and maybe living in an area that gets more than 100 or so days of sun per year.
However, since some of YOU may be living in warmer and drier climes, and since I love daydreaming about this particular topic, I decided to do a little research on scooters. Here are some of the issues to consider if you're downsizing to a cute little Vespa, as I'd like to do someday.
- Think about where you'll be riding the scooter. If your commute or your drive to the grocery store requires a freeway jaunt, a scooter may not be for you. Even though many scooters these days have the juice to drive at freeway speed, think about safety---do you really want to be exposed to the elements with only a helmet and a leather jacket between you and the SUV driving 65 mph behind you?
- Speaking of grocery shopping, think about space issues. Do you make one giant trip to the grocery store each month, bringing home 20 bags of groceries at a time? A Vespa---even one with a storage box---isn't going to do it for you. Same for trips to Home Depot, Target, Ikea, or any other stores that you regularly haunt.
- Check with the DMV. Depending on how 'large' the motor is (e.g. 50cc versus 150cc) you may need to get a motorcycle license.
- Find out about parking. I, for some reason, assumed that scooters could park for free--simply because they don't take up much room. Unfortunately, it turns out that even scooter and motorcycle riders are charged for parking, whether it's on the street or in the university parking garage.
- Purchase insurance. As I cruised the internet trying to find information about scooters, one of the issues that arose more often than not was theft. Apparently, it's pretty easy--and common--to steal one of these babies. The upside is that scooter insurance will cost much less than auto insurance.