Scooter or Motorcycle - Which is right for you?
There's not a lot of price difference between a new Chinese scooter and a used motorcycle that's only a few years old. For example in the images below on the left is a Chinese Roketa-72-150 150cc scooter, purchased new in 2008 for around $1400 (delivered). On the right is a 2006 Kawasaki 250 Ninja, purchased in 2009 for $2000 with about 2250 miles on it. A new 250cc scooter would probably cost about the same as the used Kawasaki Ninja 250, around $2000.
Of course prices are all over the map. In 2007 a new Kawasaki Ninja 250 was $2999, in 2008 it was redesigned and sold for $3499 and in 2009 it's now $3999. Right now a new Chinese 150cc scooter sells for around $1400 (including shipping) and new 250cc Chinese scooter sells for around $2000. A new Honda SH150i scooter (153cc) sells for $4499 and a new Aprilla 250 Sportcity sells for $4699. So a scooter can be either cheaper or more expensive than a similarly sized motorcycle, depending on what you buy.
|Scooter - Roketa MC-72-150 (2008)||Motorcycle - Kawaskai Ninja 250 (2006)|
|$1400 new||$2000 used|
|150cc Single Cylinder||250cc Parallel Twin|
|2 valves||8 valves (4 per cylinder)|
|9.5 HP (7500 rpm), 7.4 N-m torque (6000 rpm)||36 HP (11000 rpm), 18 N-m torque (10000 rpm)|
|$1400 new (some assembly required)||$2000 used (no assembly required)|
|1.3 gallon fuel tank||4.8 gallon fuel tank|
|75mpg - 95 mile range||60mpg - 280 mile range|
|Top speed 55-60 mph||Top speed 95-100 mph|
| 0-60 acceleration...forever (or seems like it)
0-50 around 16 seconds
| 0-60 acceleration - under 6 seconds
0-50 acceleration - under 5 seconds
|13" Dry weight - 230 lbs||Dry weight - 304 lbs|
|13" wheels||16" wheels|
|Brakes - front/disk, rear/drum||Brakes - front/disk, rear/disk|
|Air cooled||Water cooled|
|Automatic transmission (CVT)||Manual transmission - 6 speed|
|Underseat space - lots||Underseat space - none to speak of|
|Rear carrier and top box standard||Rear carrier and top box custom installation|
|Quality control - Chinese||Quality control - Japanese|
|Easy to ride (no clutch, no gears)||Requires more skill and training to ride|
|No dealer network (chinese scooters)||Extensive dealer network|
- A scooter is (or can be) cheaper, especially if you get a 150cc scooter.
- A scooter has more underseat carrying capacity and either comes with a rack and top box or can easily be fitted with one.
- A scooter gets a little better gas mileage (especially a 50c or 150cc)
- A scooter is easier to learn to ride. There's no clutch to operate and no gear changing.
- A scooter is more manouverable. The smaller wheels and lighter weight allow it to turn quicker.
- A motorcycle such as the Ninja 250cc has a greater range before needing refueling.
- A motorcycle is faster and accelerates quicker (good for highways)
- The larger wheels and heavier weight of a motorcycle make it more stable at speed (but less manouverable at low speed)
For local commuting and negotiating city traffic there's no doubt that a scooter is the more useful vehicle. It can carry groceries under the seat, it's very manoeuverable, it gets great gas mileage and there are no gears to change. The engine and transmission are somewhat easier to work on than the equivalent parts on a motorcycle which makes things easier for the home mechanic. However it may be harder to find professional mechanics to work on a scooter (especially a Chinese scooter).
On the other hand, for longer commutes, particularly those involving highway driving, a motorcycle is probably more useful. It's more stable at speed, it can keep up with highway traffic at 65-70 mph and it has a longer range before refueling. Underseat storage is practically non-existent. Maybe enough room for the manual but not much more. You can add a rack and top box, but this may require some custom work. It's pretty easy to find professional mechanics to work on motorcycles and the major brands have an extensive dealer network (though don't expect professional servicing and repairs to be cheap!)
Comparing the engineering quality of a Chinese scooter with a Japanese motorcycle, the Japanese motorcycle is likely to win every time. The finish of the parts is better, the wiring is neater and everything is just better engineered. The scooter may be good enough, but typical Japanese motorcycles are very well built.
The final choice comes down what type of riding you do and what type of rider you are. There's no doubt that it's easier to learn to ride a scooter than a motorcycle, so if it's your first experience on 2 wheels and your main reason for owning a 2-wheel vehicle is short distance commuting and saving on gas, then a scooter is ideal. If you want to ride longer distances and you want to ride just for pleasure, then perhaps a motorcycle would be a better match then a small scooter, though a larger capacity scooter is certainly also an option.
In terms of safety I don't think there's much to chose between a scooter and a small motorcycle. In each case the skill and sense of the rider is the most important factor, followed by wearing the right helmet and protective clothing. Small scooters may be "safer" simply because they won't go as fast as larger scooters or motorcycles, but there's nothing that says you have to ride fast just because you can! Really small (50cc) scooters may be less safe than larger (150cc) scooters because the small scooter may not be able to keep up with traffic and so will constantly be being passed by cars. With a motorcycle like a Kawasaki Ninja 250, you'll be faster off the line than most cars and easily be able to keep pace. Even with a 150cc scooter you should have no trouble accelerating as fast as most cars normally do and riding at the same pace as the traffic, except on the freeway.
- What's the difference between a scooter and a motorcycle?
- Are Scooters Safe?
- Helmets and Riding Gear
- Wheel size - does it matter?
- Scooter maintenance