Miami Scooter Buying Guide

Miami Scooter Buying Guide

If you have ever envied the open air sensation of riding the streets or  the open highways in and around Miami, and your budget won't handle a convertible, a scooter may be an option worth considering. A scooter has appeal due to its low relative cost, ease of parking, flexibility, and elan. Whether the purchase of a scooter is a first-time experience or a repeat, it is worthwhile to take the time to do a thorough review of the features, advantages, and disadvantages of each machine under consideration. It is not enough to simply check the features on any given scooter. The dealership and the performance of follow-up care are also important for potential buyers. Here is a brief Miami scooter buying guide to assist in your buying experience. 


Use of Scooter 

Before making a buying decision, it is important to think about the ways in which the equipment will be used. A scooter is typically used for a single person rather than a couple. There are some characteristics to consider before deciding on a specific model or brand. The distance and type of typical ride is a major factor. Consider the experience of the rider in using a scooter. For some sizes, additional training and licensing are needed.


A customer should think seriously about the type of riding which will be done. There are three major types of riding. The first of these is local short distance riding for errands, school or commute. Longer commutes where roads like US1 are used is the second type of riding. Finally, highways, where the speed limits are 55 to 65 mph, will require a third category of a scooter.


*Local – Buyers who will use the scooter strictly in local Miami back-roads traffic for commuting to and from work or school, or perhaps only for errands should consider a scooter with an engine size of 49cc. This level of power is plenty when most of the riding will be done on streets with speed limits no greater than 35 mph. A 49cc scooter operated on public roads in the State of Florida will not require insurance or a motorcycle license endorsement.


*Long commute – Buyers who need a scooter which can handle long-range commutes across town requiring travel on US1 which has speed limits of 45 mph will need a scooter with a larger engine. The minimum capacity in this instance is 150cc. This engine size will allow for keeping up with traffic and have extra speed when necessary. Typically 150cc scooters have a max speed of 55 mph. For scooters which have an engine size larger than 49cc, it is important to realize that it will be necessary to complete a training course and to ensure the scooters to legally operate in the State of Florida.


*Distance riding – If you plan to use the scooter for long range commutes across town requiring travel on highways such as 826, 836 and I95, and speed limits of 55 to 65 mph, buyers should consider a scooter with at least a 250cc engine. With an engine of this size, most scooters will be able to travel at speeds of up to 70 mph or more. For such scooters, it is important to know that it will be necessary to take a training course and to ensure the scooters in Florida.




Budget Considerations 

For most people, the major factor that will be affecting the buying experience is the price. The price is more than just the initial cost. Other elements which apply include the expected life of the scooter, warranty, potential for repair costs, and possibly resale value.


*Equipment cost – For buyers who are on a limited budget and who only plan to use the scooter for a short time, such as one to two years, an economy type scooter, which is priced at around the $700 level, will be a thrifty option.


The downside to these scooters is that they carry a limited six-month warranty. Over time, they tend to wear out quicker than the more expensive high-end brands. If up-front money is not a severely limiting factor, a high-end scooter can be the solution. High-end scooters carry a longer two-year warranty and they don't wear out as quickly. The best high-end brands are made in Japan by Honda, Yamaha, and Suzuki. The cost of these scooters can range from $3000 to $10,000.


Taiwanese scooters are also exceptionally well-made and carry two-year warranties. The best high-end Taiwanese brands are SYM, KYMCO and Genuine.


*Insurance – The engine size of the scooter will be the deciding factor as to whether or not insurance will be required. In Florida, the State requires that scooters with an engine size greater than 49cc must be insured. Many owners will choose to insure their scooter even when it is not a legal requirement. Insurance costs come in a wide range, depending on factors such as age, location, driving record, type and displacement of a scooter. Before finalizing a purchase, obtain a specific quote from the agent or carrier.


*Warranty – Even though the lower-cost models tend to have shorter warranty periods, the potential for repair costs is something that should be factored into the buyer's budget. Once a warranty period runs out, the owner will be responsible for any repairs or maintenance fees which are accrued. A factor that may affect the buying decision is that of distance to the nearest reliable repair facility.


*Repairs and maintenance – Maintenance costs will be dependent upon the type of scooter, the miles which are ridden, where the service is performed and whether the owner is able to do any of the maintenance work. As with automobiles, dealer service will often be the most expensive option. Independent mechanics can be a more cost-effective option.


Maintenance for a scooter may be even more important than that necessary for an auto or truck. Before each ride, it is advisable to check tire pressure and condition. The careful rider will also perform a safety inspection of cables, wheels, lights, suspension, controls, hoses, brakes and drive chain before operating the scooter.


*Housing – Owners will need to consider the cost of housing the scooter. Of course, it could be left out in the weather, but it would need to be covered to protect the finish. A good cover will cost from $35 to $200. A safe location to park the scooter, such as a garage, is necessary for night storage. A way to lock the bike to prevent theft is another must-have.


*Fuel – One of the major reasons for purchasing a scooter, other than the lower initial cost, is the cost of fuel. The mpg figures should be checked before making a final decision, but it may not make a great deal of difference between one model or another within the same engine size range.



*Experience – Although it can be tempting to look at one of the online outlets which are available today for most products, including scooters, it is also critical to check out the information about the dealerships before making a final buying decision. Use the information online to do in-depth research about specific models and brands. You can also learn much about the various dealerships by spending time reviewing reputation, consumer reviews, and business associations.


The length of time which a dealership has been in business helps to judge the ability of the firm to offer good service. This is not to say that new firms are unable to provide good service to customers, but a more lengthy time in business gives more opportunities to review the experience which previous customers have had with the dealership.


*Brands – When choosing a brand, it is linked to the dealership which carries the brand. Some dealers focus on their own brand, while others depend upon the branding provided by the manufacturer. Potential customers should be able to identify the branding of the dealer as well as that of the brands which are carried at the dealership. When a buyer is unable to determine the experience in a particular market or brand which is available at the dealer, it may be cause for concern about the ability of the dealer to offer after-sales customer service. It can also reflect a dealer who is new to the marketplace.


*Social media - A dealership which is not visible or has zero or negative reviews on directories such as Yelp, Google or Facebook should be questioned about their reputation. If they don't have a business review page at all, it is a good indication that the firm doesn't have a good system in place to deal with after-sales service, or they simply do not care to support the products after the sale is completed.


*Sales staff – It is people who represent the dealership to its customers. Professional and experienced sales staff and service staff should be available at the dealership. Knowledgeable sales people are necessary to provide complete and accurate answers to buyers' questions. False, incomplete or misleading information provided by sales staff can quickly cause customer resentment and failing reputation.


*Top brand authorization - A dealership will carry authorization for the top brands. Some of the manufacturers that are well known in the scooter world are Lance, Sym, Kymco, Genuine, Vespa, and SSR. Authorized dealers must meet the high standards which top brands demand in order to be allowed to represent the products and manufacturer. If there is no indication that the dealer is recognized by the top manufacturers, it may indicate that the quality of the location and the personnel are not considered good enough.


*Motor Vehicle Dealers - A legal difference exists between a shop that can only sell 49cc scooters and a “Motor Vehicle Dealer”. Florida regulates the sale of scooters over 50cc. Some of the stipulations for this type of business license include garage liability insurance, a background check, a bond or surety deposit and usually a credit check. A licensed dealer requires a physical location and regular business hours. These dealers must complete the documentation for the tag and title, by law. A “Franchised Motor Vehicle Dealer” has a specific state-protected territory to sell a specific brand. Licensed Motor Vehicle Dealers tend to be more professional and serious about their dealership. 


*Physical space – The appearance of the physical space is another hint of whether the dealership is one that cares. If a shop is not clean, or if it is not well organized, it is a good indication that the dealer is overwhelmed, under-staffed, or simply doesn't understand the importance of a good impression. Most customers would not want to purchase a scooter from a dealer who is housed in a dirty store-front. Dirt or grease on the floors, windows, counters or worse yet, the inventory, is a real turn-off to customers. A sales person who is unkempt or unprofessional is also not a good indication that the owners care about their business.




Online Sales 

Most high-quality brands are rarely sold online. Manufacturers who are legitimate care about their dealer networks and product liability. A local dealer must have the skills to assemble and inspect scooters for safety before delivery to a customer. Local dealers must be there to provide quality service for the scooter as needed. For all of these reasons, purchasing a cheap scooter online may turn out to be a more expensive option.





Brand reputation is a key element to consider before picking a brand. It can be difficult to distinguish between the reputation of the brand and the reputation of the dealership. Looking at online review sites is a method which is utilized by more and more individuals who are considering purchases. Some of the major review sites are Yelp, Google, and Facebook. Simply enter a brand name into the query box of your favorite search engine and it will typically bring up dozens, even hundreds of results.


*Online forums – There are multiple places to look for reputation information. Most brands, both manufacturer, and the dealership will have information available about the experience of previous customers with a particular product. The comments from customers may be called testimonials or may be part of a forum associated with the website. Such comments are almost always favorable if the customer comments are described as testimonials. A forum format will be more likely to have some balance of positives and negatives.


Another type of forum is likely to be negative. These are usually from customers who have had a bad experience with a dealer or brand and are willing to expend the effort to complain loudly and not always accurately. A reputable dealership will have procedures in place to monitor its online reputation and apply brand reputation management measures.


*Word-of-mouth reputation is another way to check whether a particular brand or dealership is a good choice for the customer. When people who are known and trusted have knowledge of a brand or dealer, asking questions about the performance is an excellent approach to making buying decisions. Social media networks can provide this type of reputation promotion.



Used vs New 

For some prospective buyers, a used scooter might be considered. Many dealerships offer used equipment. If you do not know the seller, be sure that a reliable scooter mechanic inspects it and provides a written report. Unfortunately, there are at present no scooter reports which can be ordered, unlike automobile reports. A mechanic's assessment is the only defense against buying a lemon. Purchasing a scooter online and unseen is simply not recommended.




Standard Features 

Although there are some standard features which can be found in each of the general engine sizes. Looking at the features and characteristics of engine size is an effective way of identifying some standard features.


*Small scooters – These scooters are the smallest, lightest and easiest models for a novice rider to handle. They are the most efficient, with a cruising fuel economy of as much as 100 mpg under test conditions. Small scooters with engines of 50 cc or less are among the least expensive to purchase, with prices in the $1000 range. All models have automatic transmissions and electric start. The riding position is similar to chair seating. Their top speeds are limited to 35 to 45 mph. They cannot be ridden on highways and are best suited for short trips on city streets. They do not require special licenses or insurance in Florida.


*Mid-sized scooters - Scooters in the 125-to-150cc range provide more power, making them better choices than 50cc models for keeping up with traffic, carrying a passenger and for all-around use. Even so, they should not be ridden on freeways and interstates. Like smaller models, they're easy to maneuver and ride, with electric start and automatic transmissions. Fuel economy is not as good as that of smaller models, but some mid-sized models returned close to 80mpg in tests. Models ranged in price from $2,800 to $4,400.


*Large scooters - Combining the seating position, shift-free driving and on-board storage of a scooter with the highway capability and range of a cruising motorcycle, large scooters (engines 400-650 cc) can be a good choice for travelers who prefer the look and feel of a scooter. While larger, heavier, and less maneuverable than smaller scooters, large models provide brisk acceleration and easily can carry two at highway speeds. Prices range from about $7,500 to $10,000.




Style and Handling 

For those buyers who are not familiar with the riding position while on a scooter, taking the time to actually sit on various models before riding may help with a purchase decision. Scooters allow the rider to ride in a natural seated position, rather than by straddling an engine. Since scooters offer an automatic transmission, riders won't need to learn how to operate a manual clutch. The flat floor is more comfortable for many riders.


Pick a scooter which allows a new rider to place both feet on the ground while the machine is stopped. Beginners should avoid a machine which is too powerful for their riding ability.


Scooters offer only limited storage and generally are not the best choice for transporting passengers. Expert riders will enjoy taking a larger model on long distances, but new riders should stick to short commutes and local rides. Riding in a major urban area requires a level of concentration and experience which neophytes don't comprehend until they experience it. 


Many people considering the purchase of a scooter look for style and image, but these should not be the major points. Pop colors or plenty of chrome may set an image that is exciting, but the serious buyer should put their emphasis on other features, such as safety and confidence level, as well as the location and type of riding that is planned.





Before taking a new scooter out into traffic or even uncrowded country roads, professional instruction and practice are a must-have. Often, instructors will provide entry-level scooters so that prospective customers have time to sample the feel of various sizes and power output of scooters. Even for experienced riders who have not operated a scooter in a while, a refresher course is an excellent idea. Classes can be arranged for every skill level.




Licensing  and Registration 

When choosing a scooter, a new rider will need to think about whether or not a motorcycle endorsement is required. The smallest sized scooters, up to 50 cc engines do not require a special license. For scooters larger than this, a motorcycle license will be necessary. This involves both a written and a road test.





One element which riders considering the purchase of a scooter may not think about is that of the gear which will be needed. Two considerations are part of the process of picking gear: comfort and safety. A rough estimate of the costs of gear is around $1000, depending upon the quality of the items and the physical characteristics of the rider.


*Comfort – Weather is an important consideration for scooter riding. When it rains or blows, the rider will be exposed to it. If arriving at a destination impeccably groomed and with every hair in place is important, a scooter will be a less attractive choice than an enclosed vehicle. When the weather is inclement, riders should be prepared to arrive at a destination wet or rumpled, or both, even when wearing protective gear. Wearing a helmet affects the hair style in a negative way.


Wind chill is a factor that neophyte riders may not understand until they experience it. Exposed skin, particularly on the neck, face, and hands can be injured when the temperature drops. Even relatively low speeds can make the rider feel much colder than the actual temperature. Gear which protects against wind chill is another must-have.


*Safety gear – At a minimum, riders will need to invest in safety gear. These items include a helmet, gloves, and boots. This gear is the only protective element for the rider in the event of a crash. The only protection from road burn and head injuries is often a good jacket and a helmet manufactured according to approved standards.


Road rash can be a painful result of even a low-speed spill. The rider who is wearing leather or reinforced jacket, gloves, full pants and over-the ankle footwear, even in summer is better protected than a rider in shorts, sandals, and shoelaces. Overheating in full gear can be prevented by specially designed jackets that feature vents and meshed material.


Studies have shown that riders in a crash with no helmet are forty percent more likely to be killed by a head injury. Non-helmeted riders are three times more likely to suffer an injury to the brain, which can have lifelong effects. A full-face design will not only protect the head but will also help to protect the eyes. Department of Transportation safety standards can be relied upon when choosing a helmet.


Eye protection is a critical element when riding. A full-face helmet with a visor will help the rider avoid flying insects and road debris. Excessive drying due to moving air is another consideration for better eye health. For riders who wear eye glasses, check the fit of a helmet before purchasing.


Wearing brightly colored clothing may help automobile drivers to better see riders. A colorful scooter will also help the rider to be more visible to others. 




*Economy Brands – Peace, Tao Tao, Icebear, Wolf Brand Scooters, Bintelli, Puma, RSS. These tend to be Chinese brands with a VIN which begins with an “L”. An economy/Chinese scooter will often have an Americanized name.


*High-quality brands – KYMCO, SYM, Lance (SYM), Genuine (PGO), Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Vespa, Piaggio, TGB, Hyosung, Adly, and Eton are examples of scooters of Japanese, Taiwanese, Korean, European quality. The VIN starts with a J- Japan, R-Taiwan or K-Korea.


*Hybrid brands – Brands such as Piaggio/Vespa Fly, KYMCO Agility 50, SYM/Lance Cali Classic, and the CPI Oliver are good quality brands which may be built in China, in order to lower the production costs. These models are built according to higher quality standards than those built for Chinese manufacturers.


*Standard Features – Whether economy or high-end models, most scooters have the same or similar features offered as standard. These include fully automatic transmissions, an electric start and under-seat storage with a steering column lock for security. Most models are equipped with front disk and rear drum brakes. A speedometer, fuel gauge, turn signals and head and stop lights are part of the standard package.


Similar speed capabilities are available, depending upon the engine displacement. 49cc models top out at thirty to forty mph, while 250 and larger models will handle 75 mph speeds. The fuel economy will be similar, usually, a 49cc model will offer 70 to 100 mpg.


*Engine type – Scooters are available with two-stroke or four-stroke engines. Two stroke types burn oil and have been called glorified weed eaters. Two-stroke engines are slightly more powerful than four-stroke models and have lower maintenance costs. Almost all are air-cooled.  Four stroke engines use an oil bath and valves regulate the intake and exhaust. This type of scooter will typically be more economical and are quieter to operate. Most four-stroke models over 200cc will be water-cooled. 


*Pros and cons economy brands – The positive features include the lower price, usually in the $599 to $1400 range, with cheap and readily available parts. Most parts use the same engine so that the parts are interchangeable between brands.

On the downside, economy brands are less reliable, with a shorter lifespan, typically in the two to four-year range. Economy brands may rust more quickly and are subject to yellowing of lenses and dash. Paint will fade and peel more quickly and plastics are more subject to cracking. The warranty may not cover labor costs and may have loopholes. More frequent maintenance schedules are required. The cost of ownership over four years is typical $600 annually, excluding gas.


*Pros and cons high-end brands – When compared to economy models, these brands are more dependable with a better warranty. The expected lifespan ranges from four to ten years. The paint lasts longer and there is better protection against rust. Thick plastic parts are far less likely to split or crack. The dash and headlights are unlikely to yellow. The metal is of a better quality with more dependable welds. The dealer support network is more extensive. The annual cost of ownership over four years is $500, other than fuel costs.


A negative point to be considered for a higher quality scooter is the higher upfront cost. Typically, a cost of $1499 to $2500 is expected. Some of the parts are brand specific.


*Pros and cons hybrid brands – These scooters tend to provide good value for the cost. The price range is mid-range and the products are backed by major manufacturers. The warranties are better and are valid at a network of dealers. The units are more reliable and better-built than the economy models and are less subject to UV and rust damage.


The prices are somewhat higher than the lowest quality scooters and the quality may sometimes be lower than the high-end scooters.





Riding a scooter is not for everyone. It is a high-risk transportation mode and requires coordinated adults who are able to focus their attention. They must be willing to spend the time and effort to master the skills and have good vision. An understanding of the relative danger to a person in an enclosed vehicle and a rider on a scooter should be a sobering thought.

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