Americans getting on 2 wheels in favour of 4
By avalon on May 27, 2008
In a story titled "No Radical Change Yet", Jim mentioned that Americans are still getting to work the same as they have been. Alas, there is already a change in the works: people are buying scooters to replace the car as the means to get to work. While there has been more coverage of this recently (see below), the issue first popped into the papers back in 2004 - "U.S. Scooter Sales Thriving With Gas Prices High".
So change is afoot, as evidenced by just this story, Vespa sales are on the rise, where a local Vespa dealer (in Ohio) has sold as many scooters in one month (April 2008) as he did in all of 2007. And it is happening throughout the country - Milwaukee: Vespa Scooter Sales Soaring On High Gas Prices.
But there's one other catch here: the sales, at present, are all occurring during the American spring/summer. In some of these states, such as WI and OH, use of the scooter during the colder months comes with additional challenges: the roads are more slipery and you're more exposed to the elements.
All figures below are in US Dollars.
So what are the economics involved? If the car is kept and the scooter added to the stable, there's an outlay of around $2000-$4500, depending on the model of scooter and local taxes. You may also need to get a motor cycle licence (add in some lessons plus the cost of the test.) For the sake of simplicity, lets say that the new price of super-inflated fuel for your car is $4/gl and the old "ok" pice is $2.50/gl. Some people report spending $80/week (vs $50) with the new prices, for me, it is now around $50 (vs $31.) For those now spending $80, the additional outlay is $1500/year. Given that the price will not go down between now and 2016 (8 years), the simple math is to say $32,000 is the cost of fuel over the that period. If a Vespa can do a week of travelling for $10 where the car is $80, that's a saving of around $3500/year, assmuing that maintenance costs are the same (and they may not be) - see below. Insurance also needs to come into play here, but I have no idea what this will be nor do I have any worthwhile references. To cut to the chase, the $4500 scooter may take upto 2 years to break even in cost effectiveness if the price of fuel remains the same. If the price of gas continues to increase, and there is no reason to suspect it won't, then the time frame for cost recovery comes in. If you can sell the car and live with only a scooter, then the equation shifts dramatically in favour of the scooter. (Corrections made)
But it isn't necessarily a bed of roses either, as one owner in San Francisco has found out, with their blog "Vespa Lx150 total cost of ownership". And lets not forget something else very important - safety.