The Economics of Owning a Motor Scooter Vs. a Car

How Much Does it Cost to Own a Motor Scooter (Moped)?

A number of years ago, I sold one of our two cars. My wife and I were both riding the bus to and from work, and rarely both needed a vehicle on the same day. So we got rid of a car. It’s saved me over $300/month. As fate played out, not long after my wife lost her job and when she started working again, she had a 60+ mile daily commute. Needless to say, she needed a car Monday through Friday. Meanwhile, I was still busing and biking to work.

I’m happy to take the bus to and from work on a daily basis. The problem lies in that without a vehicle during the week, I have no way to get myself around to doctors appointments or anywhere else that the bus or my self-powered bike won’t take me. As a result, I need some way to get around town. I don’t want to spend the cash required to get a new vehicle when I will rarely use it, so one legit option that I’m considering is a motor scooter (aka a “moped”).

motor scooter vs car

Motor Scooters are Still Cool, Right?

Wait. Were they ever cool? Ah, who cares. I’m married, and stopped caring about cool a few years ago. I’ve started to price these bad boys out, and it looks like you can get a relatively new used motor scooter for around $1,000 on Facebook Marketplace, fairly easily. Even if you were to get a cheap car that you paid about $200 a month for, for 5 years, you’re looking at a payoff of about 5 months for a motor scooter, in comparison.

What Costs are Involved with a Moped?

I’m sure insurance laws vary by state, but here in Michigan, you don’t need insurance to operate a motor scooter. Of course, if you get in an accident, there probably won’t be much left of you to pay for any damage or lawsuits. Additionally, scooter registration is cheap. Just $5 per year (versus $120 for a motor vehicle) in Michigan. Your state may vary.

How About Scooter Gas Mileage (Fuel Efficiency)?

Depends on the scooter’s engine size. But a 50cc engine will get you about 100 miles per gallon – about 4 times the average fuel efficiency of a gas-powered motor vehicle (see my list of the most efficient vehicles or cheapest electric vehicles, if fuel efficiency is your thing).

Total Cost Savings of a Moped Versus a Car?

Let’s say you could buy a used car for $12,000 and get a 0% 3-year loan or get a $1,000 scooter instead and pay cash. These are patchwork assumptions at best, but it should give you a rough estimate on monthly cost savings:


  • Car: $80/mo.
  • Scooter: $0


  • Car: $80/mo.
  • Scooter: $20/mo.


  • Car: $333/mo. for three years
  • Scooter: $1,000 up front = 3 months of car payments, or one-twelve the price of the car.

After 3 months of ownership, you’d be paying $493/month to operate the car, and $20/month to operate the scooter. Add in maintenance costs, car washes, and more, and you can see that I’m being very generous on the cost of owning the car.

Any Downsides to Owning a Scooter?

Other than the safety risks, I can’t really think of any. If you don’t like the scooter and decide it’s not for you, you can probably sell it for about what you bought it for. Are there any downsides beyond the obvious pride-less shame of being seen on a scooter?

At the very least, a motor scooter can be great as a secondary household means for transportation, when paired with a vehicle.

Moped Discussion:

  • Have you owned a scooter? What are you experiences?
  • What is the recommended maintenance on a scooter?
  • Any scooter buying advice?

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