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My Way of Dealing With Rising Gas Prices

September 4, 2005 Environment, Scooters 14 Comments


Today I took a step toward having more efficient means of motorized transportation — I bought a small motor scooter. A Honda Metropolitan in “Salsa” red to be exact.

No, I’m not giving up bicycling. But there are times when I need to get somewhere faster than my bicycle will take me. I look at it as having multiple modes of transportation: walking, bicycling, MetroBus/MetroLink, scooter and finally my car. I plan to use all of these methods of transportation.

Back to the scooter. I rode it from Creve Coeur home today via the Loop and Central West End. Very fun!!! I was easily able to reach speeds of 30mph and if pushed I could get to 35mph. That is about the limit especially considering that my weight is at the top of the payload. On the ride home I saw a few other scooters including the same exact model.

Meeting clients to show houses and such just takes too much time by bike but by scooter it should be a breeze. I hope to significantly reduce miles that would normally go on my car which, in town, does well to get 20mpg. With fuel economy around 80mpg+ I will be saving money while having fun.

I estimate that given current fuel prices every 5,000 miles I can put on the scooter rather than my car I’ll save at least $600. As fuel prices rise the savings will be even greater. In less than 3 years the scooter will pay for itself in fuel savings. My scooter has a 49cc engine which is an entry level size. The advantage of these small engined scooters is they do not require licensing, special liability insurance or motorcycle license. A regular drivers license and helmet are required by Missouri law.

Not all scooters are created equal. Most people know the classic vintage Vespa scooters from Italy. These and other older scooters were not the best for the environment. Sure, they sipped fuel but lacking modern emissions equipment they would unload hydrocarbons many times that of a car. Two-stroke engines, like used in lawnmowers, are inherently worse than four-stroke engines with respect to pollution. This Honda is a model of efficiency with both four-stroke and liquid cooling (vs air cooling). Modern Vespa scooters and some others have environmentally friendly two and four-stroke engines. Unfortunately, many others on the market are not so kind to the environment.

Scooters with engines greater than 50cc are required to be licensed and have liability insurance. A motorcycle license is also required. Honda offers an 80cc scooter as well as models with 150cc and up. Most manufacturers go from 50cc to 150cc. Most 50cc models are two-stroke (again, the Honda is an exception) while the larger 150cc models are four-stroke. I’m considering taking a motorcycle safety class.

High fuel prices are here to stay. The US cannot continue to sustain our sprawling habits and SUVs. What are you doing to live in a more sustainable manner?

[UPDATE 9/5/05 @ 7PM – Be sure to check the laws in your state as some do require licensing and motorcycle licenses even for 49cc scooters. – SLP]

– Steve


Currently there are "14 comments" on this Article:

  1. Ron says:

    Inspired by your post, I went out and bought one today!! Can’t believe there’s no licensing requirements!

    [REPLY – Great! As I indicated in an update above, be sure to check the requirements in your state before making a purchase. -SLP]

  2. Chris says:

    That is great news — congrats on the new vehicle!! In fact just Saturday I was doing some research on where to get that very model (Metropolitan) in St. Louis. Might I asked where you purchased it, and what are the price ranges for the 49cc models? If a car-sharing company ever sets up shop in St. Louis, I plan on using it and a scooter, in addition to biking and walking.

    [REPLY – The “Metropolitan” link in the first paragraph above will take you to Honda’s scooter site. Use the dealer locater to see where you can get a scooter in the St. Louis area. I bought mine second-hand with 235 miles on it. Mine was purchased from Donaldson on St. Charles Rock Road. Dave Mungenast on Lindbergh. List price is $1,849 for new ’05 models. – SLP]

  3. Matt says:

    One of those scooters would be oh so nice, but alas, I don’t have the money to spend on one being a poor college student. But I do ride my bike to school 2 of my 4 days a week now. It’s only a half hour commute by bike, and I think I come to class more relaxed when I come by bike. I also use Metrolink to get from SLU to downtown, instead of driving after class. I think being forced into alternative transport forms has worked out well for me. Plus, I still have a half tank of $2.39 gas. (I never thought I would be happy to have gas that is $0.65 cheaper than current prices.) Maybe I can save up enough from not buying as much gas to be able to afford something like a scooter or other more efficient ride.

    [REPLY – Back when I was a poor college student – in the 80s – I too would ride my bike often. Be happy that you are able to ride a couple days a week and that you can take MetroLink. Alas, MetroLink does not serve my house — nor will it ever. – SLP]

  4. rick says:

    Back in the day, I had a sweet Peugeot moped. Under the right conditions, it could get up to 40 mph.

    It only got around 50 mpg, but it was a lot of fun riding. I put around 5,000 miles on it before it pretty much died. And it cost about $450.

    Just under $2,000 for a scooter is a lot of jack. But it looks more comfortable than the moped I used to ride – appropriate in the saddle for a more aged posterior.

    Has anyone priced mopeds lately? I was thinking about a scooter, but at $1,800(+) for a 49 cc engine, I’m not so sure it’s worth it…

    Steve, did it come with an “x” year(s) or “y” thousand miles drive train warranty?


    [REPLY – Apparently Mopeds have changed over the years – no longer do they have pedals. They are also not $495 anymore. Tomos is a brand I’ve seen often – click here for a local dealer page with prices ranging from $1,099 to $1,724. A neighbor two blocks from me has one of these.

    Some cheaper mopeds can be found on the internet but like some scooters not all are EPA/DOT certified – buyer beware!

    The warranty on mine is pretty good – basically a year. The emissions warranty is 5 years or 7,456 miles (that is 12,000 kilometers). A friend in Seattle has a used ’86 Honda 150cc scooter that is still going strong.

    Scooters range in price from about $1400+/- for a TN’G brand model to in the $3K range for a new Vespa to in excess of $5K for some larger models from various brands including Honda.

    The scooter is now my primary vehicle. Car & bike are secondary to the scooter so it is totally worth it. – SLP]

  5. Jon says:

    I’m so jealous of you guys! I checked the Ontario Ministry of Transportation site and it states that they require a M (motorcycle liscense), insurance (toronto insurance is INSANE), and be registered with plates.

    The insurance alone would be more then the value of the moped for most living in the city. Too bad.

  6. awb says:


    What are the general rules of the road for your scooter? I’m guessing it’s like bike rules. Can you ride it on all non-highways? If so, what is the definition of a “highway” for the purpose of a scooter? Is a standard bike helmet sufficient, or is a motorcycle helmet required/recommended? What advice can you offer for other safety equipment or gear?


    [REPLY – The basic rules are the same as any vehicle – bike, motorcycle or car. Scooters are motor vehicles so the rules are the same as motorcycles – a motorcycle helmet is required. You must be 16 years old and have at least a regular drivers license.

    “Scooter” refers basically to the style – that is having the foot rest area so the riding position is different than a motorcycle. Some expensive scooters on the market have very large engines and are capable of cross-country highway trips. It mostly comes down to engine size and speed to determine if you can operate the vehicle on the highway.

    Other safety gear is eye protection, gloves, good boots and leg/knee protection. Although you can sustain severe injuries or death bicycling at 12mph it is also true that the faster you go the more protection you need. – SLP]

  7. Richard Kenney says:

    I wasn’t really interested in scooters until I was given an old ’86 Honda Elite 150cc scooter last year. Its a blast! This thing has amazing acceleration, even as I’m ascending Seattle’s steepest hills. Its capable of freeway speeds (although you’d be a fool to ride it there). Its a great commuting tool and it seems like I rarely have to fill the tank, given the great mileage. When you become a motorcycle/scooter driver, you are MUCH more aware of traffic around you and you become a better, more defensive driver.

  8. Brad Mello says:

    Steve, you’re the only man I know that can respond to higher prices at the pump with more consumerism! I love it. I could see me trying to get to work through DC traffic on one of those things — think of all the Republicans who would try to run me over. I’m just opting for the metro.

    [REPLY – Well one must do his part to keep the economy going! Funny thing though, I’m losing my will to shop for most things. Not much I don’t already have. I wish I had mass transit as close as you do! – SLP]

  9. Michael Allen says:


    What’s the closest projected MetroLink station to your place? Just curious.

    [REPLY – Good question, the closest MetroLink station would be 1.2 miles away on Itaska between Spring & Gustine. I’m only two blocks from Broadway — a direct and old route to downtown. Yet with MetroLink I’d have to go West to get to the station and then travel even further West as the line will run through The Hill and other places. It would not be a time-efficient way for me to get downtown. A street car line on Broadway, where one used to exist, would be awesome! – SLP]

  10. Scott says:

    Brad, I live in the DC area and have noticed scooters everywhere downtown. They aren’t for the beltway, but I’ll bet they actually make it easier to get around DC traffic and parking. They tend to scurry past the gridlock. (Easier than driving a car, not easier then Metro) Steve, I could see you taking your scooter to a Metrolink station and then Linking to U City, Belleville, Clayton, elsewhere. That is, if you can park your scooter at the station. And yes, they need to get the near downtown neighorhoods linked with streetcars – should be top priority.

  11. Brien Moakley says:

    Just bought the Vespa LX 150 from Vespa St. Louis over Labor Day weekend. What a blast! It picks up speed quickly topping out at a little over 60 miles per hour. Quicker than most cars up to about 45 miles per hour. Have been scooting around town and commuting to work. Will partake in the Ride for Relief happening this Saturday, Sept 18 – starting out at 11 am from Vespa St. Louis and ending up at the City Museum – American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina effort – learn more

  12. Brien says:

    Correction – Ride for Relief is on Sunday, Sept 18 from 11 am to 3 pm


  13. Brian says:

    Unfortunately dude, scooter/motorcycle riding vs. driving a car to save money is a false economy. The most glaring of which in your analysis is that you are assuming a Honda Metro will even LAST 5,000 miles. Motorcycles/scooters require more frequent maintenance, more expensive service, tires every few thousand miles, higher insurance costs, the cost of proper safety gear, greater wear/tear, and not to mention the initial purchase price and subsequent depreciation. Even with a $300/mo car payement my 2002 VW Beetle TDI came in 2c/mile CHEAPER to operate than my best scooter – a 2003 Bajaj Chetak. (6c/mile vs. 8c/mi)

    [REPLY – I seriously doubt the maintenance on my Honda scooter is going to be higher than my car. Have you priced service on a German turbo-charged car with all wheel drive? Trust me, not cheap! Replacing the clutch on my car is more expensive than the entire scooter by about $500. My friend’s ’86 Honda scooter still performs quite well so I figure I can get many good miles out of this one. – SLP]

    Then of course you have to consider the fact that here in Amerika – except for Kalifornia – they’ve criminalized the very behaviour which could possibly tip the scales in favor of motorbikes slightly – which would be lane splitting and filtering (to the head of the queue at the traffic lights). No, instead we have to sit in the queue like any other chump in a 7,000lb SUV.

    [REPLY – good points. When I’m bicycling I’m able to pull up next to cars and avoid the queue except on the narrowest of lanes. I’ve noticed if I take major roads all the sitting at traffic lights wasting gas. At least with the 4-way stops I can keep moving. – SLP]

    And that’s not to mention the general perception of the public that motorbikes are nothing more than recreational vehicles not to be taken seriously. and thus – YOU may not be taken seriously. Especially if you get into an accident. A car could FALL FROM THE SKY and land on top of you, and there’s not a jury in North America that would not still consider it your fault. Ask a lawyer. Did you know that group health plans can – and have – declined medical coverage for injuries due to motorbiking – as an “elective” high risk recreational activity – and yet will still freely cover injury/death if you were to say, crash a car while driving drunk or high? It happens mate.

    [REPLY – As a serious bicyclist I completely understand what you are saying. Lots of attitudes need to change in our society around bicycles and motorbikes. – SLP]

    I am a bit of an exreme rider – over 15,000 miles/yr and 2x Iron Butt member, ride to work 90% of the time. But I do so because I ENJOY it – not because it’s cheaper.

    Do yourself a favor – or rather 2 – 1) go enroll in and take an MSF class (www.msf-usa.org) and then join the AMA and start reading about the “And Justice For All” programme.

    [REPLY – as I mentioned I was fully intending to take a safety course offered by the MSF – I’ve heard very good things about the experience and training. – SLP]

    Be careful out there,

  14. Brian says:

    Steve, I cannot reccomend the MSF classes enough. No matter how good you think you are, you WILL learn valuable skills/lessons there. They fill up VERY quickly though, so good luck getting into one! I’ve taken the BRC and the ERC (several times), and try to take the ERC as a refresher every 2 years or so. It’s not only a good thing to do, but very fun!

    It’s still not as intensive as what you need just to get a PERMIT in the UK, but it’s the best you can do as a civilian in the states w/out enrolling in like a Keith Code California SuperBike racing class or becoming a moto-cop or something.

    I still doubt the scooters ability to reach 5K w/out major overhaul or complete engine replacement though. It’s 4T so you’ve got that going for you, but that small of a motor is sure taking a beating to haul itself around.

    I’ve just recently purchased a ’87 VW Vanagon Syncro Camper, so fully understand the high cost of German parts. One day, when my viscous coupling decides to give up the ghost I’m just going to curl up in a ball and weep for several days. I could probably buy 2 or 3 Metros for the cost of that part! 😉

    A 4T 50cc in StL traffic… you’ve got bigger ones than me, and I’m a friggin’ lunatic! lol


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