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Complete Guide for Buying a Used Scooter

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This guide is for those would-be scooterists looking to get the best bang for their buck. You’re looking for a solid scooter or moped that does NOT require any initial work on it if you can help it. This blog is all about the scooters for newbies viewpoint, so this guide will not help you if you are looking for the right project scooter. I’m too excited to hop on and ride, personally!

If you are comfortable with a little bit of work for the right deal, this guide will still work for you. The questions you’ll be asking the seller will just help you ask the right questions to know exactly what you’re taking on.

Are You an Experienced Scooter Rider?

If you have not yet ridden a scooter or some other form of 2-wheel transportation, I would not recommend going out to buy a scooter without taking someone more knowledgable in this space that you also trust. It needs to be ridden, and if you don’t know how to, you are not the right person to make a judgment.

I’d really recommend getting your bearings by taking a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course as a full-on introduction to riding before proceeding. Scooters are not ridiculously different to ride than a dirt bike or motorcycle, but if you haven’t ridden anything like this, seriously. Take a course.

Is Buying a Used Scooter Worth the Cost Savings?

It can be. The good deals I have run across usually involve a seller that didn’t end up riding as much as they had thought they would. Also, a new scooter rider will spend what they think they need to get the minimum scooter size only to realize how great it would be if they could use it on faster roads. I’m personally considering selling and upgrading to a 300 myself. Both situations can lead you to solid savings for a scooter that is gently used.

If the scooter is on the market because it needs work that the owner is tired of dealing with, the cost savings might not be what you think. Even if you are willing to do some base level of work like a carb clean and fuel flush, is that really all it is? Unless you’re qualified or bring someone else with you that can help distinguish between smaller and larger scooter repairs, you may be unpleasantly surprised. It better be a good deal for the larger issues!

Reasons to Buy a Used Motor Scooter

I won’t beat this point because it is a bit obvious, but hello cost savings. Let someone else pay for the depreciation from buying new.

Some people really like the look of a vintage scooter or a model that is no longer produced. If your heart is set on a scooter like this, just be patient in your search to get one that has been well-loved and/or restored to a solid-state for you. I wouldn’t necessarily expect a good deal for one lovingly restored, but you could find the scooter the perfect scooter for you that makes your heart sing!

A value deal is like happening upon a like-new scooter for less than the new price tag. However, you could be looking at just trying one a scooter out for a longer period than you can feasibly rent a scooter. I was hesitant to buy used initially because I was worried I would not ride very often. If I didn’t ride often, it would be a waste. I just wanted to spend as little as possible to get a feel for how I’d use it. I was still looking for a good scooter, but I also needed to get out as cheap as possible to make sure I made my money back on resell. Used definitely helps here without resorting to the brands that aren’t known to last.

Optimal Mileage Ranges for a Used Scooter or Moped

I’m assuming you are looking for good value in a used scooter. You want to drive it today, and you want it to last you a reasonable time frame. In essence, you are looking for a scooter that has low mileage from occasional use versus sitting for years on end in someone’s garage.

How Many Miles Can You Expect a Scooter Last?

To know what to look for, the general rule of thumb is that a well-maintained scooter will last you 25,000 miles, and there are plenty of scooters out there with over 30,000 miles. The key here is well-maintained. A scooter that has the maintenance performed on it when it is supposed to be is just running more optimally than one that has not. It’s like every other piece of machinery, so keep that in mind with whatever scooter you decide on. Keep it well-maintained.

Just a caveat to throw out there, but this applies to the more reputable, well-known scooter brands. If you know that the scooter cost under $1,000 when it was new, I would keep my expectations much lower on how long it will last. Statistics are tough to find on this, but scooter forums are full of situations where the scooters make it to just beyond the warranty before breaking down. It’s an awful feeling.

Where to Find a Used Scooter

You can find used scooters at dealerships and online marketplaces like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. There are not a ton of used scooters in my area to choose from, so you might have to get a bit creative here.

Below is a screenshot for me on Facebook marketplace. I see a Buddy 50 with 15,000 miles, a Lance that has no carburetor and has sat unused for years, and then a variety of things that are not a motor scooter I’d be looking for. That little ride on is pretty cute, but it won’t take me beyond my driveway.

used motor scooter moped example facebook marketplace listing
Facebook Marketplace Screenshot of available scooters within 40 miles of big ol’ Houston, Texas

Ok, so I do not see any scooters to look at here, but check your other forums for selling and buying used items in your area. I could Craigslist it next, but I’m going to move to the next idea.

Check out any scooter dealerships nearby. The dealers I have met through scooter riding tend to know a guy that knows a guy with a scooter available even if they do not sell used scooters themselves. There is a dealer within about 90 minutes of Houston that has a good selection of used scooters, so this leads to another idea to scout a good scoot.

Can you expand your search to a bit further out? The Houston area is really a region of about 6 million people and quite large. There aren’t a ton of scooters riding around, and there are quite literally 4 dealerships. One is about an hour south of Houston for Wolf and Lance scooters, another is about an hour and a half northwest that sells Kymco, Genuine, Wolf, and Lance, and then there is a Vespa and a separate Genuine/Kymco dealer actually inside the city limits. Even if a large city, you may need to drive. Scooters are more common in Austin, so if I have a way to get the scooter back to my home, I’d be willing to go there to find more used scooter options. That’s about a 3 to 4-hour drive for me, so think outside of your area if it is possible to help you find the right deal.

Dealer versus Private Seller

If you are familiar with buying cars, the same rules apply here. I feel like you stand a chance of getting a better deal if you go with a private seller over a dealership, but that is not always the case.

I find the dealer experience to be a low-pressure experience compared to cars, though. The dealers just love scooters, and the size of their staff is smaller than the gigantic car lots we have. The staff they have really are enthusiastic about scooters, so it is almost a fun experience if I dare say so!

If you decide to buy used, you’ll want to be sure you take some safety precautions. Meet in a public location. If I do not have someone to go with me to look, then I meet at a local police station. I also let someone know where and when I’ll be doing the meetup and do a check-in before and after. Just use some common sense here so that everyone feels comfortable with the transaction.

Scooter Brands to Steer Clear of (pun intended)

How about brands you should be looking to instead? That’s more fun. The more reputable brands of motor scooters that I’d be willing to go look at used are below.

  • Vespa
  • Genuine Scooter Company
  • Kymco
  • Sym
  • Honda
  • Yamaha
  • Suzuki
  • Lance

Questions to Ask the Seller Before Meeting

You can save the seller and yourself some time by asking a few questions before going too far into the process. You’re going to be asking a lot more questions if you decide to go see the scooter, and that’s truly when the game of 21 questions begins! These questions will just warm you up for the full plate of questions you’ll arrive with if you decide to proceed past this point by going to meet the scooter.

  • Does the scooter have a clear title? This can be a pain to deal with if the seller just lost the title, so if you’re planning on driving this scooter on a road you want to see it. If you plan on keeping it in your garage for eternity, by all means! The annoying part I have to mention is that no title could mean it is a stolen scooter. Don’t get caught up in someone else’s scooter misfortune!
  • If the year, make, model and mileage aren’t clear in the listing, this is the time to clarify. If it is older than 10 years, parts might be trickier for you or your scooter mechanic to source.
  • How long has the scooter been sitting? You’re really looking for a scooter that has low mileage from occasional use and not from long-term sitting. If it has sat for an extended period, just expect a new battery, new tires, carb cleaning, and a fuel flush to even get going.
  • Are there keys to it? Again, don’t buy a stolen scooter.

These are just some preliminary questions to ask. Throw in anything of interest to you. If you are happy with the answers here, then it is time to set up a meeting to see it in person. Don’t forget to bring your safety gear – bring your helmet at a minimum!

Fully Inspect the Scooter

OK. First things first. Yes, you asked the questions above before even heading over to meet. Think through the questions and answered you already went over with the seller. Is there anything fishy? Did they say they ride it all the time, and it hasn’t been idle for long yet you see a 2-inch layer of dust settled all over it? Approach this like a skeptic, and don’t get too excited yet. I’m not saying you’re being scammed, but I’m trying to help you take some of the emotion out of the picture and feeling your gut or vibe.

My favorite thing to do is get the seller talking. You’re going to ask questions, and then you’re going to start circling and interacting with the scooter. Leave dead air in the conversation. It’s fine. This tends to make the seller more likely to talk, or else it is just quiet. Either way is fine.

  • How long has the seller had the scooter, and why do they want to sell it? Remember, you’re looking for low mileage from occasional use versus years of neglect.
  • Has the seller made any aftermarket modifications to the scooter? Has it been wrecked?
  • How many miles do they have on the oil and spark plugs? Get them to talk about the last bit of maintenance they’ve done.
  • Do they sound like they know what they’re talking about when they open their mouth? Do they sound honest about things like maintenance?

Pre-Start Inspection

While you’re still getting the seller to talk, you’re inspecting things with the scooter still turned off.

  • Pop open the seat to check out the under-seat storage box, move switches and buttons and throttles and levers, oh my! You just want to feel that everything works.
  • Do you see visible rust around the exhaust?
  • How are the tires? Are they holding air, dry-rotted, flat?
  • Squeeze the brake lever again. If they are hard to squeeze, you might just need to have them bled or adjusted. It could also be something more like a stuck cable.
  • Straddle the scooter and apply the brakes. If the wheels still turn with the brakes activated, they don’t work. Good, quick test before you decide to give this baby a go!
  • Are the tags current on the plate? You don’t want to pay for the prior year for the seller, and this varies from state to state about responsibility, but is there a reason the tags aren’t current?

Stop!

If you at this point you don’t feel good about the scooter, thank the seller for their time and move on. If you are ok with what you’re seeing so far, then keep going.

Time to Turn it On

Now it’s time to turn the scooter over. At this point, you’re not going to hop on for a ride. You are going to pay attention to the sound of the motor while running.

  • Do you hear any rattles or grinding noises?
  • Now rev the engine. Does it respond to the throttle quickly and idle back down quickly? If it doesn’t, something is sticking.
  • If it is a 4-stroke, does it have a nice, smooth sound? You should NOT see smoke from a 4-stroke.
  • If it is a 2-stroke, does it sound like a healthy weed-eater? You should see smoke.

At this point, start tinkering with the components you can see with the scooter on. Do the lights and blinkers work? Does the horn work?

Ride the Scooter

Decision time! If you made it to this point, you’re now time to hop on to make sure it rides well. Wear your safety gear, but at this point, you’ll ask to take it for a spin. Ease into it to get a feel for the scooter. You’re listening and feeling for a smooth ride. Don’t go right out and dog it. It’s rude and unsafe. Just ease the speed up to find the limits of the scooter safely.

How does it ride? Now you get to decide! Is this your scooter? The right one for you?

One last note here for after a ride but before you decide. I ran across a VIN check on Genuine Scooter Company’s website to check for recalls. Here’s the link for that, but I have also reached out to other manufacturers to suggest this feature. We’ll see what happens, but give a quick Google search to see if you can find anything about the specific model you just rode.

Time to Decide if You Should Buy the Used Scooter

Repeat this process until you do find the right scooter for you and then make the deal. I’d rather wait for the right scooter than rush into one that isn’t a good fit or feels fun.

If you aren’t happy enough to buy it, you may look to expand the search circle before, especially if you find yourself excited to get on your very own scooter.

If you’re ready to negotiate, I feel like a good rule of thumb is to offer up about 20% below the asking prices to hopefully land about 10% off or more in the end. This is all assuming it is ride-ready. If you are comfortable with making some repairs that may be needed, that 20% or more might be more realistic based on what you find during your inspection. Negotiations are nuanced, so you will have to go with your gut here.

If it all works out, get a Buyer’s Order, sign the title over to you, and ride off into the sunset on your new-to-you scooter!

As always….

Be Seen & Be Safe, Scooter Friend!

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