From my book: “In the past few years, I’ve seen more people riding those little Chinese 49 cc scooters. I looked into it. In this area anything less than 50 ccs doesn’t require a motorcycle license. And even better, as long as you wear a helmet you don’t have to have insurance. They supposedly get eighty to ninety miles per gallon and cost around $800. This is the least costly vehicle with a motor that I’ve yet heard of. . . . In July 2013, I bought a cheap Chinese 49 cc trike.
The scooter had a top speed (with a tailwind and downhill) of forty mph. After every stop, there’s a long slow process to return to speed. Even traffic on residential streets would build up behind me. I went to a bicycle shop and bought an orange flag and some bright orange stickers to make it visible to other drivers. I needed them to realize that wasn’t as fast as it looked. (It actually looked very cool.)
The expected life of the motor is about 20,000 miles if you change the oil every thousand miles. A long trip puts a strain on the motor. These little scooters are best for short local trips, maybe up to five or six miles from home. I could buzz over to the library or to any nearby store whenever I felt like it.
The gas gauge was inaccurate and stopped working within a week, and so did the headlights. I kept track of the miles and bought gas about every 65 miles–it’s a one gallon tank. The chain guard broke and a fender came loose within the first 600 miles. I bought some black duct tape. Later I had the fenders removed altogether. The ignition had to be replaced because it wasn’t designed to keep water out. After several more expensive repairs, I sold it to a mechanic. Only a mechanic could love that scooter.
I think it would have been better if I had paid about three times as much for an Italian-made version of the 49cc scooter, or for a Honda. I believe that would have spared me the expense and trouble of having so many repairs. Please talk things over with a motorcycle expert before you buy.”
Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and paperback versions.