A Beginner's Guide to Buying a Scooter Online
If you're thinking about buying a scooter I'd like to give a virtual high five! Scooters are economical, better for the environment than cars, and loads of fun.
This guide can help you if you're thinking of buying online but find the process a bit daunting. I hope you can learn from my own purchasing adventure!
The Pros and Cons of Buying Online
I chose to buy my scooter online instead of going through a brick-and-morter dealership for one main advantage: price. Online scooter stores usually offer better prices because of greater competition. You can also find a larger variety of styles and specifications to suit your tastes!
However, there are some drawbacks to buying online as well. Brand new scooters are usually shipped partially assembled. So, some bravery and research are required to get your vehicle in a ridable condition.
The amount of work your ride will require depends on the model of the scooter you're buying and dealer you're purchasing from. Most models will require you to install your scooter's battery and screw on its mirrors at the very least. Your scooter will also be delivered in a large crate and require a bit of elbow grease to un-box.
If this already sounds intimidating, plan on towing your ride to a reputable scooter mechanic as soon as it arrives.
Pro Tip: If you’re planning on towing your scooter to a mechanic right away, ask about adding towing services when you get your vehicle insured. The money you save on this first tow will pay for the service, and it's useful to have for emergencies too.
Unboxing and Assembling a Scooter
What Specifications To Look For
Scooters can carry a wide variety of features, and I recommend researching the specifications of any model that you’re interested in. As a quick guide, I’ve listed a few key features to consider and how they may change your riding experience.
Automatic or Kick Start
Some scooters have an automatic start, and others feature a manual or "kick" start which can be more physical and challenging for a novice. For my first scooter purchase, I chose a model with an automatic start and I'm glad I did. It allows me to start my scooter's engine by holding a button and revving the accelerator (or quickly turning the left handlebar).
If you’re very inexperienced or intimidated by scooters, I recommend looking for this feature.
Engine Size and Scooter Speed
A scooter’s speed and power is determined by the size of its engine, and this feature can make huge difference in the quality of your scooting experience. When shopping, it's important to note that a 50cc engine or less will not let you reach speeds greater than 30 mph.
This may be adequate if you’re only riding in low traffic or low speed areas. However, if you are incapable of keeping up with the speed of traffic you could cause injury to yourself or other drivers.
The last drawback to a low power engine is that you may need to accelerate to avoid a potential accident like a negligent driver merging into your lane. Buying a scooter with a larger engine can give you the power you need for a comfortable trip and increase your safety. I personally recommend buy a scooter with a 150cc engine or greater.
Note: Your body weight can also affect the speed that your scooter will take you.
Passenger and Weight Capacity
Another important consideration is whether you will only be driving yourself or would like to carry a passenger. Manufactures will usually list the weight and passenger capacity for a given scooter model. Make sure that whatever vehicle you purchase can accommodate your weight and has space for another driver if you intend to give rides.
Helmets and Accessories
Once you’ve bought your scooter there is at least one other item you must purchase. Yes, you must absolutely buy a helmet. They’re required by law and the most important piece of protection you’ll own as a rider.
You can also buy your helmet online as well. There is a huge variety available on Amazon or Ebay. Just make sure your purchase is DOT (Department of Transportation) approved, and use size charts to select the proper fit.
Also remember that you should never buy a used helmet because they are designed to protect from only one major impact or crash. You must be able to confirm that your helmet has never been in an accident before you know that it's safe to use.
Here is some additional gear that you should also consider:
Gloves - These are great because our first instinct in the event of a crash or fall is to catch ourselves with our hands. So, even a "minor" accident can scrap them badly if they're not protected.
Riding Jacket - What gloves do for your hands (see above), a sturdy riding jacket does for your entire body. And scooter-induced wind chill can be pretty terrible, so the benefits from this purchase are twofold!
Tool Set - Some scooter dealers include this with your purchase, but if not, I recommend buying a spare adjustable wrench and screw driver. Keep these tools with your bike in case you need to adjust your mirrors or make quick repairs on the road.
Insurance, Licenses, and Registration
So, you’ve got your beautiful scooter and protective gear. There are just a few more steps you need to take before you’re 100% ready to ride.
Many online dealers will call you shortly after your purchase and work with you to register your vehicle. That way your registration sticker will arrive in the mail before your scooter. This was the process I experienced when working with PowerRideOutlet. If you choose to register your vehicle yourself, you’ll have to fill out the appropriate forms at your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and obtain temporary proof of registration before you ride.
Scooters must be insured before you can ride them legally. Fortunately, the process is simple and similar to insuring a car. Just make sure to call a reputable agency and make sure your coverage is active before you ride.
Licenses and Permits
State requirements for scooter licensing can vary, so I recommend checking with your local DMV to verify which licenses or permits you may need to operate your vehicle. These can differ depending on your age, the size of your scooter's engine, and your vehicle's top speed.
What CARB Safe Means - Restrictions for California Riders
If you’ve decided to buy your scooter online and you live in California (like I do), it’s important that you only purchase a vehicle that California Legal or CARB Safe.
CARB stands for California Air Resources Board, and motor scooters that are CARB Safe pass California’s more rigorous air pollution standards. Fortunately, most online dealers list very clearly whether a moped is legal to drive in this state. If you’re unsure, it’s definitely wise to call your dealer just in case.