Getting Great Gas Mileage on Two Wheels

A growing numbers of Americans have become interested in the money-saving possibilities of motorcycles and scooters. Scooter sales jumped 50% in the first three quarters of 2008, according to the trade group the Motorcycle Industry Council, Irvine, Calif.

Unlike motorcycles, scooters have automatic transmission. Thus you do not have to learn to shift gears; with a scooter you just twist the hand grip to activate the throttle and go.

As a general rule, scooters also cost less—from $800 for very small models to $9,000 or so for more powerful ones that can run at highway speeds. And with generally smaller engines than motorcycles, scooters get better gas mileage. If you want to buy a new motorcycle, initial cost will run from about $4,000 to more than $20,000 for a comes-with-everything Harley-Davidson.

Insurance generally is cheaper for a motorcycle or scooter than for a car—with premiums rising along with the value of the two-wheeled vehicle. For instance, you might pay only $200 a year for insurance if you have an overall safe driving record and an inexpensive ride.

If you want to save money on gas and riding seems like fun, follow these guidelines:

Figure out what bike is right for you

This will depend on the commuting or errands you plan to do on your new vehicle. Probably the best economic deal is getting a scooter if you will drive mostly on town or city streets.

Check state rules

Most, but not all, states require a special license for a motorcycle or scooter—especially if the engine is bigger than 50cc. The Web site for your state department of motor vehicles is likely to set out the full requirements.

Take a training course

You can find a variety of instruction. Schools like the Big Apple Motorcycle School in New York give you individual instruction with one and sometimes two teachers. Group training courses designed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation also are available in many states for about $250 to $300. To find a course near you, visit the Motorcycle Safety Foundation website.

Wear a helmet

This one seems obvious, but motorcycle groups whose members like to ride without helmets have succeeded in derailing mandatory helmet laws in numerous states. About 20 states have full helmet laws, four have no requirements, and the balance have varying degrees of regulation. NHTSA estimates that of the roughly 5,000 annual motorcycle fatalities, around 800 could have been avoided by wearing helmets.



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