We Know: All About Buying a Scooter

What exactly is a scooter?

Scooters are generally roadworthy vehicles similar to motorcycles, but with much smaller wheels, and designed so that you are seated with both legs in front of you rather than straddling the machine, as in motorcycles.

Standard Scooters have wheels less than 14 inches in diameter, automatic transmissions, and small (under 125 cc) engines. Larger scooters with engine sizes over 250 cc are growing more popular today; these are called maxi-scooters. Because of their exceptional fuel economy and excellent portability, scooters are growing more popular for recreational and for medical use. All scooters are more popular in Europe and Asia than they are in America, but this is rapidly changing.

What are the different types of scooters?

  1. Road motor scooters are the basic scooter, with wheels between 8-14 inches diameter. The engine is usually of the small 125cc size, but some are made with up to 500cc engine sizes, and go up to 165 mph. Most have air-cooled engines. High-powered electric scooters will soon be competitive with gasoline-powered scooters. Among these scooters, the Vespa is the Harley-Davidson of scooters, at least outside the US.
  2. Kabinenrollers are German road motor scooters with enclosed cabs, making them basically microcars.
  3. Assistive electric motor scooters are growing in popularity for those with mobility problems everywhere. The US is the fastest-growing segment of the market for these. These generally have a comfortable upholstered seat and are steered, like other scooters, with handlebars. They often have a basket on the front to easily carry a variety of items. These scooters are not built for road use, though they can be used in many campgrounds and on sidewalks.
  4. Powerchairs, or electric wheelchairs, are generally classified with motor scooters. The user controls speed and direction by operating a joystick, and the powerchair is often custom-designed to accommodate the owner's handicaps.
  5. Motorized one-axle stand-up scooters like the Segway may soon be used on city sidewalks in the US.
  6. Nonmotorized scooters are generally similar to skateboards with handlebars, and are most often used by children for transportation and recreation.

What should you look for when you buy a scooter?

Your primary consideration should be the use to which your scooter will be put. If you're interested in a cheap alternative form of transportation to and from work, a standard road motor scooter or a German Kabinenroller is the best choice for you. Segways are great for some types of transportation, but before paying the high cost for one of these, be certain that your local regulations allow you to ride it legally on the sidewalk; unfortunately, laws are written so that Segways are just expensive toys in most circumstances, though this is slowly changing.

The fastest growing segment of the scooter market today is the assistive electric motor scooter. Commercials run day and night guaranteeing you a scooter if you pre-qualify; these are, in general, telling the truth. A loophole in Medicare and Medicaid laws allows the marketing of these scooters directly to you, and if the company prequalifies you, Medicare will almost certainly qualify you as well. When you depend on a scooter to get around, you're probably going to be depending on it for the rest of your life, so be sure to get one only if you really have no other alternative.

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