From the Forum – Looking for Advice on Buying a Scooter

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Advice on Buying a Scooter:

“I’m thinking of getting my wife a scooter to commute to work. Would only be in and around DC, mostly Northwest DC with occasional opportunities to cross the mall to SW or around the Hill. Any suggestions on what I would need to get her in terms of size, brand, store, etc or what I should be looking for. The way her commute works, it would be a very short scooter ride or a very loooong walk. Metro isn’t really an option because of the way the lines intersect.”

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49 Comment

  • While I don’t have any helpful scooter info, why not just bike to work?

    • Today’s weather is a perfect example of why a scooter is superior. It’s all the advantages of a bike, without getting into the office looking like a red-faced, sweaty mess.

      • Fair point, but I’d still be a red-faced sweaty mess even on a scooter in weather like this.

      • Disagree. When it’s really hot I hate my scooter because it’s best if you wear pants on it and a jacket in case you fall. When there is traffic you are sitting in between cars with their exhausts all over you. And the helmet is SO hot. Gloves are also essential. On the flip side, when it’s really cold, you are moving at 35 mph in freezing temps. I won’t drive mine if it’s less than 50 out. But when it’s beautiful out (10 days of the year?) it’s amazing and SO fun. Low maintenance, cheap gas, stares… Also highly recommend she get her motorcycle license just to learn how to be a better driver.

        • Can’t argue with the gear in hot weather, but it sounds like you just need some warmer winter stuff! Balaclava, windproof gloves, etc.

        • Will second the recommendation to get her motorcycle endorsement on her license. Even better, take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Ridercourse. Some places even offer scooter-specific ones and several companies offer them in the DC area. Completing the class automatically passes you for the riding test part of the license.

    • Carrying stuff? My bike has a rear basket, which I filled with groceries once, and it weighed down the on back tire so much that I had to take everything out and carry it home.

  • Get a vespa.

    • the hipster Harley! Seriously, don’t get a vespa. Vespas are gay.

    • Vespas are good for resale, but my Genuine Buddy cost much less and has been great to me. I have the 150 international, they sell them at 9th and V, Modern Classics.

      • +100 Get a genuine scooter – I owned one for 4 year (before it got stolen) and it paid for itself in savings when compared to a car and metro (gas, parking. time/convenience). A 125cc should be more than enough to handle most traffic through DC. Modern classics sometimes have used ones for sale. And get her a kryptonite lock and use it ALL the time. Scooters can be stolen fairly easily, all you need is two able bodied people and a van or a thief that can hot wire one and ride it away.

  • Buy used. Someone will vandalize and/or try to steal it at least 2 or 3 times per year. Unfortunately, it’s just the nature of the beast. People will f#ck with a scooter before they mess with a car.
    When parking your scooter for the night, put a cover over it. Definitely deters vandals. If you have private parking (a yard, garage, etc.) use it.
    MPD gives zero shits about scooter enforcement. If you park it on the sidewalk in the CBD (like me), make sure you have velcro on the license plate so you can stash it away. Otherwise you’ll get a ticket.

    • I will second this, the MPD will not lift a finger if your scooter is stolen / vandalized… if you get hit while riding it they will probably blame you no matter what the cause was.

  • I have a Honda Metropolitan. It’s my 2nd one (the first was stolen – my own fault), and I absolutely love it. It gets me everywhere I need to go in the city, runs well and is quite comfortable. I highly recommend it. I bought both used for approximately $800.

    Anonymous, though I love biking too, the scooter suits me for work (despite helmet hair) because I don’t show up sweaty, and I can carry more things on it (like my computer, etc.).

  • you should look out for a used Bajaj Chetak. It’s an Indian brand. They’re usually cheaper than Vespas, but look about the same, and they have four stroke engines, rather than two stroke engines, so they’re way better for the environment.

    • You know nothing John Snow.

      Don’t get an Indian Bajaj. It’ll break and you wont be able to get spare parts. And, Vespas are four stroke. I own one.

  • Hit up Modern Classics on V St NE. Great guys, have new and used scooters and all the gear to get you started, and they all can help you with all of your maintenance.

    I’d choose at least 150 CC Vespa, Stella or Buddy. The extra power helps in tight situations were you need to get out of trouble.

  • I have two Vespas and they are amazing little bikes. They are sturdy, quick, efficient and always turn heads. I enjoy that I can carry stuff under the seat, on the seat hook or in the glovebox. I can also carry a passenger easily. Vespa of Arlington has FANTASTIC customer service. Riding it puts a smile on my face (it’s a great way to commute to work).

    Be careful about theft, though. Luckily I have an underground garage that keeps them safe from theft. I have heard horror stories about people lifting them into trucks and stealing them. Get a strong chain lock if you park on the street or in an exposed driveway. Definitely insure it.

    Out the door cost is around $4,400 for the 50cc models. Insurance is $250 a YEAR for each bike.

    • Buy a used Honda for the best value and most reliability. Metropolitan or Elite depending on your style and availability. On Craigslist Or possibly a Yamaha Vino. Vespas are good quality and iconic but unless you have money to throw around, they are also very vulnerable to theft and damage in this town.

  • I’ve got a used Vespa ET4 150cc that I’d sell for $1300. New tires, modern classics checked it out and gave it a thumbs up.

  • check out modern classics ( their buddy models are great for the city, cute design, cheaper than a vespa, and pretty reliable (i’ve had the 125 for more than two years and 2,000 miles and haven’t had any problems ). the staff can help you find the right fit for your needs (though it sounds like a 50 would be fine for just short hops).

    keep in mind you’ll need to get a motorcycle license and insurance. don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you don’t need a motorcycle license and registration for a bike whose engine is under 50cc – it’s just not true. the easiest way to get the motorcycle license is to take the motorcycle safety foundation’s basic ridercourse – offered by nova and a few other groups (cheaper at nova, but you have to travel farther and reserve your spot sooner). that will get you a waiver for the dc motorcycle road test (you’ll still have to take the written test) and a discount on your insurance.

    also, get a good lock and run it through your back tire. modern classics recommended this, and i’ve found it easy to use:

  • I’d love advice for owning a scooter in the city with no driveway/garage. I live in a rowhouse, should i just keep it in my front yard chained to my fence? Is that legal? Or do i keep it parked on the street? I don’t even know where to look these things up…. If someone has experience/knowledge to share, that’d be great!

    • I chain mine to a sign post outside my apartment (Columbia Heights) and haven’t had any real problems since the very first night it was there (someone stole my cover and jammed a screwdriver in the ignition). I suggest an all-weather cover (if you can cable it to the body that’e even better) and a big-ass chain with a good lock. If you have the chance to place a chain anchor in your front yard, that would be ideal since chain-link fences can be easily cut. Two methods of lockup are better than one – big chain through a u-bar or back tire and a disc lock.
      Good luck! 🙂

      • Thanks for the info! I will definitely look into installing an anchor in the yard if I get a scooter. That’s a great idea!

        I’m also curious… my backyard has 3 steps to enter it… do you think it’d be possible to get a scooter up them for if I were going to keep it there for long-term (winter) storage? I have no idea how unwieldy they are. I guess maybe I should go to a dealer and try one out…

        This thread has inspired me to look into getting one. My office has secure motorcycle/scooter parking and metro has been making me crazy lately!

        • yes; 3 steps would be possible pretty easily with a buddy; and possible but difficult on your own. They’re heavy, but not too bad.

          • If your office has secure scooter/motorcycle parking can you store it there long term over the winter? Picking it up 3 steps could be tricky. Also in addition to a heavy duty chain, all weather cover etc you might also want to get a xena disc lock – locks the front wheel and gives off an ear piercing sound if the wheel is moved while lock is engaged. I’ve also heard of people signing up for a pet gps chip and placing it in a discrete part of the scooter/motorcycle that way if its stolen you call up the GPS service and they can help locate your “pet”

  • I love my Modern Buddy, which I got used . Although Vespas are awesome, they are a bit overpriced. Whatever you do, DO NOT get a Chinese scooter (Tao Tao, etc). Parts are hard to come by and cost as much as you paid for the scooter. The guys at Modern Classics are wonderful, go in there and have a chat. Even if you don’t buy, they’ll give you some solid advice. I suggest a Honda Metropolitan or a Modern Buddy for a first scoot.
    For some good advice, checkout the scooters subreddit.
    Stick with a 50cc to start, and get insurance, too.

  • If you plan on getting around in DC and not visit highways in MD or Va., get a moped/scooter that is less then 50cc, in DC anything higher then 50cc you need to have a motorcycle endorsement. Get it insured and registered with the DC plates and clip them on or like someone recommend velcro them on. Be warned plates issued by DC DMV say “Motorcycle” and are favorite targets with thieves looking to put them on stolen or ‘outstate crotch rockets’ aka motorcycles. I have DC plates for my scooter but when I park I take off the plate and take it with me or store it in the rear trunk. I also have 2 kryptonite locks, I keep one stored with the scooter and second I leave at home, and use it to double-up security when parked in my rear driveway. I also use a cover, which is a great deterrent. I purchased a used vespa and use it to get around town and use it almost like a second car but without the hassles of a having a car in the middle of the city.

    • Wrong. You need the endorsement anyways.

      • i second anonymous’s comment on needing the endorsement, but i also second 13thstreetfan’s comment about removing your license plate when parked. it makes them harder to steal (and to ticket).

        • anonymous at 4:18pm. actually you don’t -49cc and under and you’re okay (its the size of the wheels that are the problem) they changed the regs about a year ago. i came with the documentation to the dmv and schooled them.

  • Shouldn’t your wife get it herself? It’s not just that there’s something 1950’s in this, but also fit is very particular, and that’s a big ticket purchase that will be a long term source of consternation if she decides that she doesn’t really want to or feel comfortable riding a scooter. It could be a nice joint shopping venture, though.

  • Also, has she ridden a scooter much in the past? I’m an avid city cyclist but when I got my scooter I realized riding in traffic is much different than riding alongside traffic and it seemed much more dangerous.

    • wrong; scooters have decent head/brake/signal lights, a horn, and generally obey traffic laws; unlike your average bicyclist in DC.

      • you managed to vent your own issues without actually addressing the post you were replying to. well done!

  • I had the same issue – metro being a challenge. I went to Redline Motorsports in Takoma (on New Hampshire) and the salesman went through all the options he had in stock. I ended up getting a Tao Tao Chinese – because this was my test case. My building has a bike rack, so I store it there (though with all the snow this winter, I ended up getting a storage locker in Wheaton, MD). I love having mine and I definitely suggest going to a couple shops to test your options. I went with Redline bc they also FIX the machines (and are very close to my house). If something happens to the tao tao, I might trade up to a better brand and higher than 50cc. But for now, even in the heat, I am glad to have my zippy little scooter to get me where I want to go.

  • A full face helmet! everything else is optional.

  • I’ve been scooter-jacked while on a 50 cc and have owned a Honda, Yamaha and now a Vespa. Vespa’s are very hard to steal as everything is electronic and you can’t get a new key without a code. Honda was stolen as was the Yamaha. Get a 150cc as start to a decent speed on a 50 cc (actually 49cc) takes forever and if you ever need to get away from a dog or someone trying to harm you, they can easily run along a 50cc or even hop on once you start to move. 150’s have very fast pickup. Quality wise, I would choose the Vespa hands down as there is so much plastic on the Yamaha and Honda model. As far as where to go…Coleman PowerSports did not want to honor the warrantee on their locks when my Honda was stolen. I have had great luck buying at Chesapeake Vespa and received great service at Vespa of Arlington. Good luck!

  • I would check out You can get something nice for under $1000. AND they deliver and offer 24/7 roadside assistance.

  • another vote for modern classics. truly the nicest guys around and they know their stuff.

    i had a genuine buddy 50 for about a year and LOVED it. the quality of the genuine buddy is STELLAR. the 50 means you won’t need a special license, can park on on the sidewalk legally, etc. if you get the governor taken off it can go pretty fast.

    ps stay away from tao tao.

  • Definitely don’t rely on just a chain lock alone if you plan on spending thousands of $$$ on a Vespa…get a beefy disc lock that goes through front wheel and brake disc. Abus is a German lock manufacturer that is pricey, but makes the gold-standard of motorcycle/scooter disc locks–certainly worth the money.

    Other advice to your wife parking downtown…try to find an indoor location like a parking garage where you car park the scooter. Sometimes the garage won’t charge you to park there, if you put the bike in an out of the way location….if that’s not possible change-up where the scooter gets parked every day, so a passing-by potential thief assumes you’re lazy about how you protect your property.

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