Savings or Speed? The Choice is Yours

Aaahh, cars. Promoting your independence to drive anywhere, anytime, from the Colorado mountains to the Florida beaches to the California forests. Just fill the tank. And again. And again. And again. Is there a cheaper alternative to using this car all time? 

The vast majority of our time and money on transportation comes within a few miles from our home, self-evident by vehicle crashes that occur within a few miles of it[1].

Most people use cars to get from home to work, even if they don't have a long commute. And it adds up as gas prices and insurance costs continue to rise. So what are the pros and cons of purchasing a moped?

Moped Pros

Savings on Two Wheels

Red MopedCredit: www.maine.govVehicles are almost always a liability, not an asset - they're not going to earn you any profit. Buying a moped (scooter) won't make you money, either, but neither will it break the bank. Most cost in the range of $750 - $2,000. Many cost above that price range, but the added expense usually goes toward:

  • More power (capable of hitting 50 - 80 miles per hour)
  • More comfort (better seat cushions, more room for passengers)
  • More style (street bike look; sleek and sexy)

Is it worth the extra money? Perhaps, but if you go too far, you're getting rid of your economical advantage: You can easily purchase a moped without applying for a loan. When in doubt, go the cheaper route and forget the bells and whistles. Car loan interest payments dry up your monthly budget.

Simple Bike, Simple Maintenance

Scooters demand little maintenance beyond the standard oil change and tire pressure checks. In comparison with cars, mopeds have just a few moving parts, battery operated accessories and a simple motor/engine. Less complex parts means a longer-lasting, quality experience for years to come. 

A Gas Guzzler no More

Because the definition of mopeds has increased over the years to include scooters with step-through and step-over designs, gas mileage has also broadened, depending on the type. Many mopeds average around 80 - 100 miles to the gallon, depending on the amount of cc's of the engine[3]. Compared to cars, scooters can boast five times the gas mileage.

Many mopeds use an electric motor, so you can just recharge the battery instead of having to refuel, saving additional costs on transportation. Keep in mind that electric mopeds are much more limited in speed, so don't try hitting the highway with your cycle.

License Lacked: No Problem

A motorcycle, normally defined as possessing an engine of 50 cc or above, requires passing a driving test and buying a separate motorcycle license. Mopeds typically contain an engine under 50cc; therefore, you can kiss that separate license goodbye. Only a few exceptions to this licensing rule currently exist, so it's good to check with your state DMV.

As always, though, keep your regular driver's license on your person while driving a moped - it's legally required.

60 Minutes could save 60% or more on Moped Insurance

If you decide to purchase a separate insurance for your scooter, you will find much cheaper prices than either a car or motorcycle. As with cars, you're only legally required to carry liability insurance on your moped, amounting to a fraction of the cost of other vehicles you might own. Check with your insurance provider, but you can probably roll your insurance costs into one package, providing a smaller and more convenient payment. As with anything, you can spend as much or as little as you would like - it all depends on the financial risk you're willing to take.

Moped Cons

Wave Goodbye to Coolness

Even with a bright red, slick street-bikeish moped, your street cred will drop significantly once you drive that thing out of your garage. Expect it to happen. Ignore the long, awkward looks from car drivers and the toothless, teasing smiles from motorcyclists. Mopeds attract unwanted attention, and few people think they're cool. Remember: Mind over matter, budget over bad-A.

A Company of One

In most states, you won't be able to carry another passenger on your moped, so no one can share in the open air downtown. But getting back to the coolness factor, maybe that girl you're trying to pick up doesn't need to no you have a moped - not yet, anyway. It might destroy your chances for a date. Motorcyclists win here - states allow an extra rider as long as your motorcycle is built for the capacity.

Scotty, We Need More Power!

Old Moped StyleCredit: www.werd.comLarge, steep hills mean trouble for mopeds. Their engines (or motors) don't always have enough juice to take you all the way up. If you live in a mountainous or hilly area, you may want to reconsider buying a scooter or at least find one with more power behind it. Or maybe this is just your moped's way of telling you to lose weight.

Life's not a Highway

Along with less horsepower, mopeds just don't have the same speed capabilities as motorcycles and cars, limiting their use to streets in town. Don't expect to hit above 35 miles per hour unless you've purchased a higher end model. If you try to use the highway, you'll not only annoy other drivers but endanger yourself.

You Decide

You've checked out the pros and cons of mopeds, and although there are other pros to be considered, we're focusing on your transportation needs as they relate to finances. If you're willing to sacrifice style, speed, and power, you'll find a much better cash reserve by the end of the year. Without an extra car loan, gas, insurance, and maintenance expenses, your savings will add up to thousands of dollars (keeping in mind actually have save that extra money, not put it toward other expenses that aren't needed).

As with motorcycles, I don't recommend you replacing your car for a moped; both are needed for different occasions. However, using a moped for the warmer months and in-town driving will provide you with the savings you need to take that extended vacation.