Imagine driving a vehicle that gets 115 miles per gallon that can be parked almost anywhere and costs about $2,000.

No, we’re not talking about some microcar available only to the masses in India, but something like the Yamaha C3, a scooter that is drawing a lot of interest from people who live in crowded cities and students on college campuses.

If you’re willing to switch to a two-wheeler — even as a supplemental vehicle — you can squeeze more miles from a gallon of fuel with a scooter or motorcycle than even the most economical sedans. Apparently, many people are. The Motorcycle Industry Council, or MIC, reports sales of scooters and economical motorcycles are at their highest levels in 20 years. Mike Mount, spokesman for the MIC, says sales of name-brand scooters in the first quarter of 2008 were up 24 percent over a year earlier, and sales of small and medium-size motorcycles rose 7.5 percent. Sales of larger bikes were down 11 percent. Another indication of increased consumer interest was the rise in sales of accessories, gears and parts, says Mount.

Ty van Hooydonk, director of Discover Today’s Motorcycling and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, says that for the last five years, motorcycle and scooter says have topped 1 million sales a year, and there are more than 23 million people riding cycles.

“There’s a lot of motorcycles out there that get between 50 and 70 miles per gallon; scooters get 60 to 80-plus miles per gallon,” says Van Hooydonk. “You can double your fuel economy by switching over to a motorcycle. You need to be in a hybrid or something like that to approach the fuel economy of a motorcycle.”

Looking at the range of what’s in the marketplace, motorcycles — including scooters — generally fall into five categories.

5 basic bike categories  



For anyone who’s interested in taking the plunge into two-wheel travel, there are some other things to know:

  • Financing: Motorcycles are financed much the same way as cars and trucks. Most manufacturers offer in-house finance deals that often include 90 days’ grace on the first payment, or cut-rate interest on the life of the loan.
  • Insurance: Costs are generally lower than for a car, but several factors will determine your rate, chief among them being how long you’ve been riding. Novice riders may at first pay as much as a 30 percent premium over what a rider with five or more years’ experience might pay.
  • Licensing: Most states require a special motorcycle license, particularly for riders of more powerful bikes. Some states don’t regard scooters as motorcycles, so no special license is needed.
  • Training: Whether required by state licensing agencies or not, everyone associated with the motorcycle industry strongly recommends taking riding classes, which can cost upward of $100.
  • Safety gear: You’ll need to invest several hundred dollars in a helmet and appropriate riding clothes.

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