Gas prices go up, people buy more scooters. • That's how one scooter dealer put it after seeing his sales double for months.
Once again, many drivers are leaving their cars at home and hopping onto more nimble scooters to pinch pennies at the pump. For them, the promise of 100 miles to the gallon is too good to resist when gas is well above $3 a gallon.
"It's so much better to pull up to the pump and spend about $7 vs. $40 or $50," engineer Jim Harper said. "What I save in gas alone pays for the price of the scooter."
Harper, who until two months ago motored around astride his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, now rides a 2-gallon scooter four to five days a week. And that $7 he pays for gas comes around only every two weeks.
Savings for new scooter owners are significant, but the rally for scooter dealers is even better.
"We're some of the few people that don't mind seeing gas prices go up," said Robert Brock, general manager of Vespa Dallas. Sales at his store, which sells the lightweight, agile Italian Vespas, are up about 30 percent over last year.
And even though gas prices have tempered, the turnaround in the industry hasn't stopped yet, he said.
Scooters come in many shapes and sizes, but they're typically two-wheelers, smaller than motorcycles, lightweight and easy to maneuver and accessorize. Many reliable scooters run between $2,500 and $7,000, and scooter riders can buy insurance for just a few hundred dollars per year. Most can go about 55 mph.
In 2005, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed Gulf Coast petroleum industry infrastructure, causing oil and gasoline prices to rise sharply. That was the first time high gas prices coincided with high scooter sales, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council.
Recent Motorcycle Industry Council surveys show that transportation, economics and commuting are becoming more and more prevalent among riders as reasons to buy scooters and small motorcycles, van spokesman Ty Hooydonk said.
"In the economic situation right now, you can be saving $5,000 annually by trading in your car for a two-wheeler," he said.