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Scooter economics

May 1, 2017

Flat tire

I walked out to the More Expensive Ford Taurus with a Different Grille and this caught my eye. Crap.

Goodness knows, there were many times when I went to hop on the PX or the GTS and found a rear tire in a similar state. And I was somewhat prepared for this—for whatever reason, my late aunt only replaced three tires, and this was not one of them. The tread was close to failing the penny test, but I’d been putting off buying a replacement.

The space-saver spare fitted, it was off to chill in the tire store for a few hours. Just the way I wanted to spend a Saturday morning. 😦

The new tire, a Toyo Eclipse like the other three, cost $120 plus mounting, balancing and sales tax. You’ll notice that a Michelin or Pirelli rear tire for a Vespa GT/GTS lists for about the same. Yes, you can get them cheaper; yes, there are cheaper alternatives for a Mercury Sable as well.

But the Toyo comes with a 70000-mile treadwear warranty. A rear tire on the GTS was usually done at about 4000 miles. Unless it got punctured. The tire store, part of a chain with locations throughout the western United States, will repair a puncture for free. A scooter shop will sell you a new tire, because they don’t patch scooter or motorcycle tires. Somebody sued somebody else, apparently.

Lots of people, myself included, bought scooters with the idea that a scooter is cheaper to own than a car. However, having been a financial-systems analyst in my Dilbert days, I came to realize that isn’t true.

Purchase prices for cars and scooters are all over the map (I bought a car with my debit card not so many years ago).

Yes, scooters get much better gas mileage, and insurance is much cheaper. But those savings are more than offset by the cost of parts, service and repairs.

Avarice is not the reason for that. Well, not usually.

There are approximately 253 million registered cars and light trucks in the U.S. As you might guess, there are nowhere near as many scooters, or motorcycles. Such a large customer base makes it possible for many (many) auto repair businesses to exist. Lots of repair shops means competition, which drives prices down. Large volumes make parts cheaper.

Last time I had the GTS serviced at a Vespa dealer, the tab for an oil and filter change was about $130, which included an hour’s labor. Changing the oil and filter on a GTS is a pain in the butt; at Jiffy Lube, they drive your car over a hole in the floor, where a guy or gal in that hole removes the drain plug and spins off the old oil filter, waits for the oil to finish draining, then replaces the plug and spins on a new oil filter. Add oil, all done. Total tab is half an hour of your time and $29.95 (or less if you opened the Val-Pak envelope and found the coupon).


Here’s a picture of money. Because… well, just because.

Ford recommended a service visit every 5000 miles for 2002 Tauri and Sables. An oil/filter change was called for at each visit; a “major” service (not so major, actually… spark plugs, air filters, lots of “inspections”) every 30000 miles. Things like coolant and transmission fluid changes were based on the calendar, not the odometer.

The GTS needed to be seen every 3000 miles. Services recommended alternated between oil/filter change only and oil/filter change plus adjustments and replacements. The tab ranged from the aforementioned $130 to $300. I put a lot more than 3000 miles on it every year. The PX needed an $89.95 service every 2000 miles, which included such things as cable adjustments and lubrication. Again, the PX was no garage queen, so the running cost added up quickly.

The ET4 did result in considerable savings, but on the dear, departed Escape, which only had 27000 miles on it when I sold it in 2009. The scoot was my default mode of transport, and there was a bus stop at the end of my block, so the Escape only got used when it was really needed. Ford recommended major service on the Escape at 50000 and 105000 miles, and since it was under warranty I would’ve had those services done at a dealer, just because it makes life easier if there’s a warranty issue.

There are lots of reasons to own a scooter, most of which have nothing to do with finances, and everything to do with fun. But a scooter may not be the cheapest way to get around. Did you know I have another blog? You’re invited to have a look.

One Comment
  1. May 3, 2017 8:35 pm

    My thought was to avoid the high cost of Modern Vespa ownership by riding a P200, a scooter that has no filters, only a half cup of gearbox oil and split rims that make tire changes simple jobs at home…$35 a tire delivered and installed by myself. Easy peasy. Except the old scooter couldn’t keep up with traffic and modified it couldn’t stay running reliably…My air cooled modern automatic 150 is fast fun comfortable but not cheap! It keeps up with 60mph traffic but as I put at least 1,000 miles a month on it belts tires and oils will not make this a cheap option.

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