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With $3-per-gallon gas a reality, some drivers are looking at downsizing from cars and trucks — at least part time — to scooters as a way to save money.

As a scooter commuter and enthusiast who has owned a few bikes over the past 20 years, I can attest to the great fuel savings, the speedier trips in the car-pool lane and easy parking.

There are, however, a number of myths about scooters that should be dispelled:
  • Riders do face the same dangers as motorcyclists.
  • They do need to wear helmets.
  • Their clothes won't stay entirely clean in bad weather.
  • Wearing dresses or skirts isn't practical.
So before running out and buying a bike, let's look at the pros and cons.

Money-saver? According to the Motorcycle Industry Council, sales of motor scooters have more than doubled since 2000. “The motorcycle industry as a whole has seen 13 years of consecutive growth,” council spokesman Mike Mount said. According to council figures, 42,000 scooters were sold in 2000. By 2004, that number increased to 96,000.

Will you save money riding a scooter? Say your car gets 20 miles per gallon, and you have a 30-mile roundtrip commute. If you're buying gas at the national average of $2.94, you're spending just over $22 on gas every week — just for commuting. That's an annual fuel cost of $1,100.

On a $3,000 scooter that gets 60 miles per gallon, you could save more than $700 per year. If you pay $100 per month for car insurance, you'll save an additional $1,000 or so by switching to a scooter.

Factoring in the cost of a helmet and other protective gear, it will take about a year and a half to recoup your expenses.


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