Do the scooter math

Based on these sources (1, 2) and a little bit of guesswork, the average American uses about 500 gallons of gas per year. That means the difference between $3/gallon gas and $4/gallon gas is costing the average American roughly $500 this year. I realize $500 is a lot of money to some people, and budgets are tight, and some people have to drive a lot more than others. And I love scooters and think everyone should ride them, for lots of reasons. But is buying a scooter really the best way to save money on gas?

If you’re considering a scooter in place of a second car, or to entirely replace your decaying gas-guzzling SUV, then it probably is. But if you’re thinking of adding a scooter to your existing fleet, please do the math. calculate how much gas you use in a year. calculate the REAL mileage of your car, and the REAL mileage of your proposed scooter, and what percentage of the time you’ll really be using the scooter. Calculate the title and tax fees for the scooter, and financing (if any) and insurance, safety gear, and maintenance. Chances are, your helmet, jacket, and topbox will cost more than than the extra dollar per gallon you’d spend on gas if you just kept driving your car.

Spending money to save money is a popular American pastime (e.g. buying a Kitchen Aid mixer reasoning you’ll eat out less, or the scary trend of “Earth Day Sales”). Numbers can be twisted to make you believe anything, but don’t trust them unless you’re the one doing the math, filling the blanks with your own, honest, real-world, data. Change your lifestyle and your consumption over time and you’ll see savings, but don’t go out and finance a $5000 60mpg Vespa at 28% APR to ride on sunny weekends, because your interest on the loan is going to cost you more than the few hundred bucks you’ll save on gas. If you want it and you can afford it, get it, it’s goodtimes, believe me, but don’t blame the Saudis for your attraction to Italian industrial design.

If you really want to save some money, look at your cable bill. It’s fair to say oil companies are reaming us and the government needs to step in, but no one seems to mind paying $1000 a year for television.

* one source says 464 gallons a year in 2004, the other says 431 in 2003, I added several gallons under the assumption that consumption has risen on the same pace in the past four years.

6 thoughts on “Do the scooter math”

  1. thanks for this. even though i am pretty new to the realm of scooters, i have to say that all of this hype about gas prices is a little crazy. i mean i understand it, but it’s been amusing to see the mpg and mph get higher and higher with each passing story.

    they are fun. they make you smile. if they save you money then that is just icing on the cake. but it’s just the icing, not the cake.

  2. Dude, get rid of cable TV?! I think the thoughtpolice are heading over to your place as we speak…

  3. Even for daily riders, maintenance is way higher than for a car costing several times as much. I’m coming up on a year of owning my scooter, so I decided to run the numbers in Vespa LX150 Total Cost of Ownership. It ain’t pretty. I wonder how the scheduled maintenance prices in Chicago compare to SF?

  4. Shhh, don’t you know we’re all going to snap up those cheap GTS in a few years after gas prices fall back down to their their right (and godly ordained) price of $1.499 per gallon?


  5. What waiting Becky? People are already starting to dump their GT 200s for MP3s and GTSes and bigger scarabeos.

  6. Thanks, Justin, I linked to your story in this one, and added a new post about it, too. I think you had a little bad luck, your service is a bit more expensive in SF, and Vespa service is more expensive than most brands, but it’s fairly typical for someone putting a few thousand miles a year on a modern Vespa.

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