The first step in buying a used scooter is to figure out what model of scooter you want. That’s a tough question, but this entire site is here to help you answer it. Start by reading What Scooter Should I Buy? and keep those criteria in mind when you browse this site. Once you’ve decided on which model(s) you’re interested in, it’s time to get shopping which is where this article comes in.
Step 1 – Finding listings and asking preliminary questions
By far the best bet for locating potentially good used scooters are online classifieds websites like Craigslist and Kijiji. If you find an attractive scooter, send the seller an email asking for higher quality pictures since sites like Craigslist drop the photo quality a lot. How the scooter looks in the photos is important because a scooter that has been neglected on the outside has definitely been neglected internally as well.
Also ask the seller about how the scooter runs, what is the maintenance history and if there have been any performance modifications. Scooters that are owned by someone that knows the history and hasn’t made too many modifications are the best. I like modifying scooters, but I almost always regard modifications by others as a negative because they are commonly done poorly and even if done right they still typically shorten the life of the scooter. If the scooter lacks maintenance, that’s not a huge deal if the price reflects it. Most scooters can be pretty neglected and still resuscitated for a few hundred dollars. What is important here is buying a machine that matches your willingness to work on it. Sometimes simple maintenance issues like a bad spark plug or a gummed carb can cause the scooter not to run, and thus you can get it cheap. Conversely, if you’re going to pay a shop to do all the work then you don’t want to start off with a long list of fixes.
Step 2 – Looking at the scooter in person
If you set up a time to visit, the first thing I like to do is check if the seller has recently fired up the machine. Sometimes sellers will fire up the machine before you get there just to make sure everything is okay or to move it out to the driveway, but it’s also a technique that is used to hide an issue like tough cold starting or idling. Touch the motor somewhere to see if it’s hot. If it is, ask the seller about why they fired it up.
Next I like to ask the seller some basic questions about it (how long he’s had it, why he’s selling, how does it run, any mods etc). The best seems to be scooters of moderately low mileage that have been used occasionally rather than sitting for years at a time. While the seller gives you the story of the machine, I half listen and half look over the scooter looking for anything amiss that I’ll also want to ask about. Do a hands on inspection of the scooter. Twist the throttle, pop the seat, move all the switches and look for parts that are missing. Also keep an eye out for any modifications and ask about any that you see. It’s pretty common for incapable but inspired owners to do a pretty poor job of modifying the scooter, like adding a performance exhaust but not checking if the air/fuel mix is still okay afterwards. If you do see modifications ask about them to get a sense for the owners ability to do a good job. Do they know what they’re talking about? Or did they just slap parts on?
If everything is looking positive, I turn my attention to wear items like the tires. I don’t normally break out wrenches, but I do ask how many miles are on the drive belt, oil, roller weights, spark plug etc. Don’t worry too much about the brakes as most scooters never accumulate the miles to wear out the pads/shoes, so if they work on the test ride then they should be fine.
Most scooters never accumulate enough miles to seriously wear out the brakes or the rear clutch. The main components that need servicing are the roller weights in the front clutch (aka variator), the drive belt, spark plugs, air filter, tires and oil changes.
My dream machine is a scooter that has only been owned by 1 or 2 people, the current owner knows the history and knows the machine, no performance mods have been made and the seller seems knowledge and honest about the maintenance.
Step 3 – Price
If everything is still looking good, or even if it’s looking a bit questionable, it’s easy to get a bit excited and agree to a higher price than you should. If there are any red flags about how it runs then the price should reflect that.
Make sure you’re buying a scooter that matches your willingness to work on it. If a scooter turns out to be hard to start or won’t idle, you’ll want to pay a few hundred less than you otherwise would. If the performance doesn’t seem right (do some reading) then you might want to pass on it.
The actual selling price is tough to advise on, as it varies wildly from year to year and in different areas. Your best bet is to browse other Craigslist postings nationally (do a Google search for scooter make + model + “craiglist”) and figure out a rough average. From there, bargain as best you can and if the machine is older than 5 years make sure you’re leaving yourself some financial room for a few surprises that inevitably will creep up.