Here are answers to questions which people frequently ask us. Click on the question to get to the answer. Hopefully we’ve included questions in which you are interested.
What exactly is a scooter?
The word “scooter” is confusing because it is used for several unrelated things.
- There are scooters for kids which might have a small electric motor (top speed 10mph) or might be entirely foot-powered (you know – you stand on it and push it along with your foot.) These “sidewalk scooters” can be either “stand-up” or “sit-down” scooters. These are wonderful toys for kids but not what we offer.
- Then there are “mobility scooters” which you’ll see advertised on late night TV. This is a terrific aid for a handicapped person but is not our business.
- Some people call their motorcycles “scooters”, especially Harleys. This is sort of a “pet” name for their beloved machine and adds a bit more confusion to the mix.
High quality vehicles for adults to ride on the street are made by the best scooter companies in the world – Vespa, Piaggio, Kymco, Genuine, SYM – which have excellent US distributors and provide excellent warranties. These scooters have top speeds from 35 mph to interstate speeds, depending on the model. Most have fully automatic transmissions. Great scooters are made in Italy, Japan or Taiwan.
By the way, to add to the confusion, you’ll hear people using the words “Vespa” or “moped” to refer to scooters. For “Vespa”, see the next question. In New Mexico a moped is legally a vehicle which his less than 50 cc engine size, has an automatic transmission, and does not exceed 30 mph. We sell some scooters which are legally mopeds. Most of the ones we sell are bigger than a moped and fall under different laws.
What is a “Vespa”?
You’ll hear people using the word “Vespa” as a generic word to refer to scooters. Vespa is a brand name like Chevrolet or Toyota. Americans actually invented the scooter – one of the earliest being Cushman. During World War II Americans dropped Cushman scooters into Italy for the use of the soldiers there. The Italians were quite taken with the little, fuel efficient things and Mr Piaggio used this model to invent the Vespa (from Italian for wasp). Another classic Italian brand was Lambretta. Vespa and Lambretta competed strenuously for years. Vespas have been made and improved ever since. During the 60’s a lot of us rode Vespas and Lambrettas (see the pic under About Us), an all steel scooter which had a 2-stroke engine and manual shift. Then the EPA banned smokey 2-stroke engines so Vespas were unobtainable in the US for about 20 years. Lambretta gave up and stopped making scooters. Now Vespas are back – beautiful, sexy, with modern engines and automatic transmissions. Please visit our Vespa page.
How fast do these scooters go?
The scooters we sell range from top speeds of 30 mph to 90 mph depending on the model.
The ones which have an engine size of 49cc come from the factory restricted to 30 mph. This is because most states have laws that make a scooter less than 50cc legally a “moped” which can’t go faster than 30 mph. In New Mexico, a moped does not need to be registered and does not require a motorcycle endorsement on your license. All these scooters can be de-restricted so they can go 35 to 40 mph and we’re happy to perform that service for you. Most of the 49cc scooters we sell have 2-stroke engines because a 2-stroke is a good bit quicker than a comparable 4-stroke (which is what’s in your car). 2-stroke engines generally do not get quite as good gas mileage as 4-strokes of the same size.
Mid size scooters are between 125 to 150cc. This is the size that meets most people’s needs. They will top out at 55 or 60 mph.
Maxi scooters are the biggest ones. We have 200’s, 250’s and even a 500cc scooter. These will cruise on the interstate topping out at 70 to 90 mph. These scooters generally are physically bigger than the other scooters.
What sort of gas mileage do they get?
They all get great gas mileage! The gas mileage depends on the size of the scooter’s engine. The 49cc scooters generally get about 80 mpg. Most of the 49cc scooters we sell have 2-stroke engines because a 2-stroke is a good bit quicker than a comparable 4-stroke (which is what’s in your car). 2-stroke engines generally do not get quite as good gas mileage as 4-strokes of the same size. So a 4-stroke 49cc scooter will get even better mileage (but go slower).
The mid size scooters (125 – 150cc) get from 70 – 90 mpg depending on the model.
And the maxi scooters get from 50 – 65 mpg.
All the scooters get way better gas mileage than an average car. And take much less of the earth’s precious resources to produce.
Do I still have to mix oil with the gas?
In modern 2 stroke scooters you do not need to premix the 2 cycle oil with the gasoline. The scooter does it for you automatically. All you need to do is pour the 2T oil in the proper reservoir and then the engine injects the right amount of oil at the right time. Be sure to use high quality 2 stroke oil which has been designed for motorcycles. It makes a tremendous difference to the life of the engine.
With some older model scooters, this is not the case. The older the scooter the more likely it is that you will have to pre-mix the oil and gas. There are special cups available that indicate how much oil to mix with a gallon or half gallon of gasoline.
2 stroke (or 2 cycle) engines burn oil (special 2 stroke oil) and must have oil mixed with the gas. This is the oil that lubricates the engine. 2 stroke engine demo.
4 stroke scooters are just like cars and do not mix oil with the gas. Most of the scooters we offer have 4-stroke engines. 4 stroke engine demo.
Do these scooters come with warranties?
You bet! All the manufacturers whose products we sell provide excellent warraties (either one year or two with unlimited mileage) as well as parts availability. It’s important to keep your warranty intact by having the scheduled services performed at the suggested intervals.
Where do I get my scooter serviced?
Right here ar Centaur Cycles & Scooters! We’ve been servicing motorcycles and scooters here in Santa Fe since 1980!! We work by appointment so please call for one (505 471-5481505 471-5481). We’ll get you in just as soon as we can. We’ll handle any warranty work you might need plus maintenance of your scooter. Hopefully you’ll never drop it but if you do, we can take care of that for you too. We give priority to our own customers, but we work on almost all other scooters and motorcycles too. Visit our Service page.
Do I need a drivers license to rider a scooter?
In New Mexico, scooters over 49 cc’s are considered “motorcycles” by law. They require insurance, a motorcycle license plate and a motorcycle endorsement on your drivers license. (see the question below on “How do I get a motorcycle endorsement” for more info.) If the scooters fall below the 50cc category, have an automatic transmission and go no faster than 30 mph, they are considered motorized bicycles, just like mopeds, and you do not need a motorcycle license plate or the motorcycle endorsement. You still need a drivers license to ride any vehicle on the streets of New Mexico.
Do I need insurance?
New Mexico state law says that for any motorized vehicle that goes faster than 30mph or is over 49cc you DO need insurance and registration. You cannot register a vehicle without liability insurance. Most larger insurance companies offer motorcycle insurance. Shop around for scooter insurance since the price can vary widely.
How do I get a “motorcycle endorsement” on my drivers license?
It’s really not difficult to get a motorcycle endorsement. You need at least a restricted endorsement for any scooter that is smaller than 100cc and goes faster than 30 mph. If the scooter has an engine size over 100cc you need the full motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license.
There are two ways to get a motorcycle endorsement in New Mexico. First, you can go to the MVD and take the written exam. The only study book NM MVD provides is the same one that is used for car licenses. The motorcycle questions are near the end. Here’s a link to the NM Driver’s Manual. When you pass, you’ll be given a six month permit to ride your scooter legally. Before the six months is up, you need to take the driving portion of the test. The MVD employee will ask you to perform a number of tasks including cornering and making stops. If you fail the driving test, they’ll give you another six months to practice before you take the test again. MVD only gives this test at certain times so be sure to inquire. It’s first come, first served here in NM.
The other way to get your motorcycle endorsement (and we highly recommend this) is to take a course given by the New Mexico Motorcycle Safety Foundation. This is a 15 hour course that consists of both classroom instruction and hands-on (motorcycle) instruction. They provide the motorcycle and teach you, from the very beginning, how to ride and respond to emergency situations. Defensive driving is a must when you’re on two wheels. If you are under the age of 18, the class is required and is significantly discounted. Also, mentioning that you’ve completed the course can decrease insurance costs. Visit MSF for more information. Here is a website with Motorycle Safety Tips.
How do I learn to ride my scooter?
We recommend that you take a course given by the New Mexico Motorcycle Safety Foundation. This is a 15 hour course that consists of both classroom instruction and hands-on (motorcycle) instruction. They provide the motorcycle and teach you, from the very beginning, how to ride and respond to emergency situations. Defensive driving is a must when you’re on two wheels. If you are under the age of 18, the class is required and is significantly discounted. Also, mentioning that you’ve completed the course can decrease insurance costs. Visit MSF for more information and to enroll in the course. Please sign up early since MSF has very limited facilities in Santa Fe. MSF gives the class much more often in Albuquerque if you can manage to take it there. We are told that if you request it, you can take the course on your scooter, thereby not needing to learn to shift a motorcycle transmission.
Can I take a test ride?
Yes you can. In fact, we’re not sure how you’d be able to figure out what to buy without doing just that! We want you to have the scooter that is the best fit possible. If you’re not ready to ride a scooter by yourself, we can arrange for someone to take you as a passenger. You must have a drivers license and (for bikes larger than 49 cc) a motorcycle endorsement to take a test ride. We require that you wear closed toe shoes and a helmet (we have some loaner helmets if you don’t have one. We also have plenty of helmets for sale.) We may require you to provide proof of financial means by letting us charge a credit card or giving us documentation of financing from a bank. We do reserve the right to refuse a test ride for any reason.
What is the difference between a vintage and a modern scooter?
Vintage scooters are scooters over 20 years old, which in most cases have an all metal body and manual transmission (clutch and gears) as well as manual choke and gas control. These are old Vespas and Lambrettas. They’re cool and they’re beautiful. But a vintage scooter is a hobby, not everyday transportation.
Modern scooters are the wonderful brands scooters that have become available in the American market in the last 8 or 9 years. These generally have a CVT automatic transmission and automatic everything. Scooters have improved a lot in the last 10 years in terms of fuel efficiency, reliability, performance and emissions. Of course we’re discussing quality scooters, not crummy ones from China.
There is an exception to the previous paragraph about modern scooters having automatic transmissions: Stella! This lovely creature from Genuine Scooter Co. is a manual shift, 4-stroke, 150cc, metal bodied vision of loveliness (see above picture). And also see her at Centaur Cycles & Scooters.
And beware of Vietnamese Vespas!! There is a “cottage industry“ in Vietnam of fixing up old, totally worn out 40 year old Vespas so that they look really nice and selling them in the US for a substantial price. The paint is beautiful but the welding is scary (so poorly done the frame may break in half while you’re driving it! Really!). And it’s probable that they made engine parts from coke cans. Really. You do not want one of these scooters at any price.
What is the difference between a scooter and a motorcycle?
A motorcycle usually has an exposed engine located midway between the front and rear wheel. The engine’s power is delivered to the rear wheel by a secondary driveline such as a chain and sprockets, belt drive or a driveshaft. You climb on to a motorcycle by swinging your right leg over the back, straddling the machine. They typically have standard transmissions which are operated with a foot shift and hand clutch.
A motor scooter’s engine is mounted in front of the rear wheel. It is connected directly to the wheel so no secondary driveline is required. The engine is concealed by the bodywork, much the same as in a car. The most obvious difference is that scooters have “step through” frames and you sit on it more like a chair. Your feet rest on the floor plate and your legs are protected behind the front of the bodywork. Your clothes tend to stay cleaner on a scooter than on a motorcycle. In general, scooters have a lower center of gravity and are easier to handle than motorcycles.
Scooters are generally much easier to ride and maintain due to their many “user friendly” features. The best example is the automatic CVT transmission found on most modern scooter designs which delivers seamless power to the rear wheel at the twist of the right grip.
It’s hard to go beyond these few generalizations. Scooters used to all come with tiny wheels, but now some of them have wheels as large as those commonly found on motorcycles. Scooters used to be thought of as chiefly around-town putt-putts. But now many models are available with the power, suspension, brakes, comfort and carrying capacity needed to cruise effortlessly on interstate highways, even on longer coast to coast journeys, and even with a passenger! So motorcycles are not necessarily bigger and faster than scooters, just different. Take your pick and ride whatever you like the best!
Do you guys sell used scooters?
We are happy to sell good quality used scooters or motorcycles when we can get them. Usually they’re gone pretty soon after they arrive so if we have one you want, don’t hesitate too long. And if we don’t have what you want today, check back because a wonderful used scooter or motorcycle could show up unexpectedly any time.
Are these things made in China?
Nope. We do not sell any scooters manufactured or sold by a Chinese company. We have tried scooters from several supposedly reputable Chinese companies only to be bitterly disappointed in their quality, reliability and warranty. We continue to watch Chinese scooters with great interest but everything we hear is that they still are in no way comparable to the high quality scooters we sell. Like you, we’re wary of China after all the stories in the press about poisonous pet food, toxic toothpaste, terrible toys, beastly baby food, and sulphuic acid dry wall.
The scooters we sell are made by Italian, Taiwan or Korean companies. We have found that Taiwan has ethics similar to Japan – they stand behind their products and are in business for the long haul, not just to make a fast buck and leave customers stranded. That said, Kymco and Piaggio both own factories in mainland China and manufacture their less expensive scooters there. We were wary at first until we learned that other dealers were satisfied with their quality. We now offer these scooters and we and our customers are pleased with their price and quality.
Here are 2 articles about “quality” in China you might want to read. These articles will give you a good idea of why we are so very wary of Made in China.
Why shouln’t I buy a cheap scooter on the internet?
Let me count the ways! OK, there are 2 main reasons NOT to buy a scooter on the internet. Reason one is that you probably will receive a piece of junk. Reason two is that you may receive NOTHING! Read on…..
Reason one: Why junk is available on the internet.
Unfortunately some very bad scooters are being imported into the US from China. Unscrupulous companies are exploiting a temporary loophole in US importation laws. They get these cheap Chinese scooters past customs by claiming that a scooter is for off-road use only. That way they evade the rigorous and expensive testing required by DOT and EPA. This testing ensures that legitimate companies comply with all the applicable safety and environmental standards required by law. Untested, inferior scooters are “illegal” if they are used on public roads. It is unlawful to sell these scooters as street legal vehicles. They are not! (Of course they also are not any good for off-road use since they have street tires and very little ground clearance.)
More often than not, these cheap scooters are also unable to perform as advertised, that is if they start and run at all! We have seen a number of sad cases where some innocent person buys a cheap scooter on the internet only to find out the hard way that it is basically a non functional machine. Our technicians’ best efforts cannot make these dreadful scooters run decently. When the luckless owners try to contact the company they bought it from they find that their “warranty“ is virtually worthless and they have lost their hard earned money.
The best of the Chinese scooters are disposable machines. They’ll run for a while but when they break they can’t be fixed. A reputable shop will not be willing to incur the liability associated with trying to repair these unsafe scooters.
You can rest assured that every vehicle on display at Centaur Cycles and Scooters is the finest of its kind, made by highly reputable companies who stand behind their warranties. We only carry scooters that have passed DOT and EPA tests and which have the appropriate certification stickers to prove it!
Reason Two: Why you may receive nothing!
There are fraudulent websites out there in cyberspace! No! you say. You don’t mean that those offers I get from Nigeria are misleading! Anyone can set up a website to promote their products. You are reading ours right now, so how can you tell the difference? We are inviting you to come into our store to see these fine vehicles in person, get to know them and meet us before you make your purchasing decision. But when a website asks you to send them money DIRECTLY without visiting their (non-existent) store, grab hold of your wallet and run!!! Simply put, there are no reputable vehicle manufacturers who allow their products to be sold and shipped directly to the consumer from the internet. None! This is true for Toyota or BMW or Yamaha, as well as all reputable motor scooter manufacturers.
There’s lots of worthwhile info on the web about these vehicles and about the dealers who stock them, sell them, and service them, and that’s great. But when it comes time to make a purchase, the consumer must go directly to the dealership. This assures you that your vehicle will be properly uncrated, inspected, tuned and delivered to you in proper condition. It assures you that your valuable warranty will be activated for your peace of mind. Good quality manufacturers know that they are ultimately responsible for providing a safe operating vehicle to the public. They insist on good quality control as well as multi-million dollar liability insurance. That’s why the vehicle MUST be sold through a trained professional dealership. Any dealer found selling direct to the public through the internet will be terminated!
NO REPUTABLE DEALER WILL SEND YOU A MOTOR SCOOTER IN A CRATE.
After all, you would not expect to get a brand new Ford truck in the crate delivered to you by some shady internet company would you? Any internet vendor who offers to sell you one of the fine vehicles we sell in our stores is at best doing so on the gray market (reselling vehicles) without the knowledge and consent of the manufacturer and without warranty protection! As quickly as these resellers are prosecuted and eliminated more seem to spring up to take their place. Even worse, some of these websites are simply criminal enterprises. Don’t be seduced by promises of low price or free shipping. They take your money and send you NOTHING!
We welcome your help in our efforts to raise the standards of professionalism in the wild and wooly world of the scooter business! If you find any websites offering to sell you any of our brands direct to your door, please let us know! Please! Help us stamp out fraudulent scooter dealers!
How do I know which scooter is the right one for me?
We’ll do our best to help you determine the best scooter for you. It will come down to a few basic questions that you can think about when you are shopping around.
1. How far do you intend to ride each day?
2. How fast do you need to go?
3. Do you intend to use this scooter as a daily commuter or for fun on the weekend?
4. Are you going to carry a passenger?
5. What are your preferences regarding the mechanical workings of the scooter? Are you the kind of person who prefers an automatic transmission so you can hop on and go? Or, do you prefer to shift the scooter yourself, and enjoy the process of turning the fuel on, and using a manual choke?
1 & 2 & 3. If you’re only going a mile or two on city streets, a 49cc scooter may be the right choice for you. They’re less expensive, fairly small and easy to handle and they beat the heck out of taking the bus!
However if you need or want to ride on bigger streets where cars are travelling at 50 mph, you’ll need a mid size scooter.
If you think you’d like to take longer trips, especially if traffic is hurtling along at 60 mph or more, you’ll need one of the bigger maxi scooters – 250 to 500 cc.
4. If you plan to take a passenger (please ride your scooter for several months before doing so) you’ll want a scooter which can handle 2 people at the speeds you need to attain.
5. Most people enjoy the completely automatic scooters which covers most of the scooters we offer. However we also have Stella which is an old fashioned 2-stroke, manual shift all metal scooter like an old Vespa. People who have them, love them.
We’re always delighted to discuss all these issues with you. We can take you for a ride on a couple of models so you can feel the differences. Or if you have a motorcycle endorsement you can ride a couple yourself. We genuinely want you to be satisfied with your scooter and to get the one which you’ll enjoy the most.