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.

Yamaha MPG throwdown

Autobloggreen noticed that Yamaha has added MPG estimates to its website. They claim 124mpg for the Zuma, 110 for the Vino, 115 for the C3, all of which are 50cc models (the Zuma is a 2-stroke). Even their Barcaloungers pull over 50mpg, with the Morphous at 56 and the Majesty at 51. All those numbers seem pretty unrealistic in the real-world, and likely to spark even more exaggerated claims from other makers.

Cackalacka News bits: 4/3/08

A bunch of stories to block out election coverage:

100mpg 115mpg at Scooterville?

From WCCO in Minneapolis:

Bob Hedstrom’s Minneapolis store Scooterville is struggling to keep up with demand as customers brag to their friends about their gas mileage. The scooters, whose prices start at $1,800, get 100 miles to the gallon.

Bob Hedstrom is probably our second- or third-favorite scooter shop owner in the United States, and, to be fair, he’s not directly quoted as saying the Buddy gets 100mpg, but this is the fifth story this month that implies that the Buddy gets 100mpg. I like and trust Bob a lot, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and believe that the Buddy can get 100mpg, but it certainly doesn’t get that in real-world conditions, and 80mpg is surely worth bragging about. Despite Vespa’s claims of 60mph on most of their bikes, I saw a story this morning (Link to come later) where a Vespa owner claimed to get 80mpg. Again, I just think it’s the small gas tanks, the inaccuracy of scooter odometers, and lack of careful record-keeping that convinces people they’re getting better mileage than they are. 100 miles per tank? sure, but not per gallon.

UPDATE: Here, sandwiched between two Hedstrom quotes, KARE says scooters “get anywhere from 50 to 115 miles per gallon.” WTF?