Monday, May 18, 2009

Buying a used scooter...

I was just speaking to an old friend a few hours ago, and he indicated that he is thinking of buying a used 150cc scooter for $750. I looked up the brand name that he gave and and found that, sure enough, it is a Chinese Scooter imported by a company in Texas.

So, here are my thoughts on the purchase of a used scooter. Some may disagree with me, but these are merely my opinions based upon my own reading and experiences.

When purchasing any vehicle, the only way to ensure that no one else has abused the vehicle is to purchase new. On the other hand, purchasing a new vehicle has its own issues, most particularly, depreciation.

With a scooter, as with any used vehicle, it is a good idea to have the vehicle gone over by a qualified mechanic prior to purchase. It's also important to look at things like mileage, model year, and make.

For the most part, a Yamaha, Vespa, or Kymco (to name a few), with low mileage (under 2000) would be interesting. I would be cautious of Chinese scooters of any age or mileage, but a used Chinascoot with extremely low mileage would be suspect. The reason for my suspicion would be that many folks purchased Chinascoots last year through the Internet or through brick and mortar dealers that were not properly prepped prior to riding, or that were simply junk from the outset. Unsurprizingly, these scooters show up on Craigslist for temptingly low prices with sometimes less than 100 miles/kilometers on them. They should probably be avoided, unless the buyer is either willing to waste several hundred dollars, or is very sure of his or her mechanical abilities. It can be very difficult to find support and parts for Chinascoots as well. Few motorcycle shops will service them.

I'd recommend that if you are buying a used scooter, look for a well known brand with a proven track record. I'd also recommend that if you are not mechanically inclined that you should look for a brand that has a good dealer support network, with a dealer or mechanic in your area who will service the scooter for you. Honda, Yamaha, and Suzuki have dealers all over the country. Dealers for other brands, such as Genuine, Kymco, and SYM, are becoming more common.

As time passes, support for Chinese scooters may become easier to obtain. Resources like can be invaluable, but may not be enough for a mechanical neophyte.

To sum up, my recomendation is simply that if you wish to purchase a used scooter, you should know what you are getting yourself into.


kz1000st said...

I have to say that most of your advice is fairly solid but have this to add. Many owners of China scoots have gotten them repaired at small engine repair and lawnmower repair facilities. Afterall a place that can fix a lawn tractor can handle a Roketa. As for parts, simply knowing can mean everything. They have most parts for a China scoot. In the case of your friend, knowing where the scoot came from can be valuable. I can buy all the parts I need from my online seller as he has an extensive parts department. If you have the parts, all you need to do is to take them to a repair place and then let them do the work.

cpa3485 (JIM) said...

Far be it for me to call myself any kind of expert, but have a couple of thoughts.

First, I like to differentiate between Taiwan made scooters and mainland China scooters. I believe there is some difference. Some of the Taiwan scooter companies have been in business for many many years and in my opinion build a pretty nice scooter. My impression is that some of the scooters that come from mainland China may not be up to par. Of course, If you like to do your own tinkering and can get the parts you need, then almost any scooter could be a good deal.

Secondly, I think finding a good dealer is almost If not more important than the brand of scooter. In my case, I have very little interest in getting my hands dirty and prefer to have my maintenance done by someone else. It's not that I am totally lazy, but I know very little about how these things work mechanically and prefer to have someone that knows more about it that I do to actually turn the wrenches on it. For what it is worth, I bought my scooter from the best guy in town when it comes to knowledge about scooters.

As a side note, just wanted to tell you that I have been enjoying your blog for awhile now, and to let you know that I recently started a blog of my own.

Check it out If you get a chance, Thanks

bobskoot said...

One thing I have noticed is that there are few scooters taken as trade ins at your local dealer which just adds to the uncertainty with your purchase. You were dealing with unknown sellers and accept with face value what they are telling you (true or false). and being a neophyte, means you know nothing but generally you get what you pay for, as with most everything in life. I would rather have the assurance of a dealer standing behind me, or purchase from a friend who is "upgrading".

I have also found that some dealers will NOT do prepurchase inspections as it may turn off their customer (who owns the scoot/bike), and also the liabilities of the machine breaking down if they give it a clean bill of health.

In the end it boils down to dealer service and parts availability, and the hours they keep to get you back on the road

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

John McClane said...

My scooter mechanic here swears by Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki. Don't buy Chinese, he says. I had to point out to him that my Suzuki is made by a mainland Chinese firm and not in Japan by Suzuki. Having said that, it's a great ride and I've had no problems getting parts.

kz1000st said...

After what I've gone through with my Bashan I can honestly say it's the simplest machine I've ever seen recently. Replacing the valve springs did require removing the motor but it wasn't that bad and removing the head is not a near death experience. I had the head refurbished, but I could have replaced the whole thing with a new one, valves and all, for $50. Having all the plastic off allowed me to see its inner workings and it's not that mystical and all the componenets are easily accessible. As I said to someone recently I can get the parts online and not have to wait weeks for them to come from Europe. AND at a fraction of the cost.

Paul said...

Scooter engines are admittedly quite simple, as engines go; however, for someone who knows absolutely nothing about mechanical things, the thought of ripping apart an engine and changing out the head could seem a little daunting.

The note about small engine shops may be helpful, and it is true that finding parts for Chinascoots is getting easier.

Bear in mind that this post was specifically aimed at those who may know little to nothing of engine design, and are simply looking to save money by buying used.