Imagine filling up your gas tank for less than $15. Some Americans are doing it — and they're doing it on two wheels.
Motorized scooters have emerged as the new transportation of choice for some Americans fed up with gas prices that have surged past $4 a gallon. Though the small, zippy vehicles aren't ideal for every purpose, some owners say they're great for short trips and running errands.
Chris Maxwell recently purchased a Yamaha Majesty scooter to ride around the small town of Natchez, Miss.
His wife, Emily Maxwell, appreciates how much the couple saves on gas purchases.
"It gets 50 to 60 miles a gallon in town and a full tank lasts two to three weeks," she said. "Right now it costs under $12 to fill it up, so we immediately get a $200 a month 'pay raise' from the lower fuel costs."
Shawn Pointer, of Kenosha, Wis., said he often straps in his four-pound Chihuahua, Missy, for rides down to a local river on his 2007 Honda Metropolitan.
Pointer bought the blue and white scooter for $1,600 but pays only about $10 a month to fill its 1.2 gallon tank.
The scooter gets roughly 100 miles a gallon so he can travel 120 miles for $4. The same trip in the typical car would cost nearly $18.
"It's very cheap to ride," he said. "The only downfall is that you can't take it out on the freeway or highway. But, to take it out on the town is one of the best investments I ever made. I could ride that thing forever and the gas gauge barely moves."
Joel Metter, 51, the general manager at the New York Motorcycle shop and a scooter owner himself, says that these days, people who walk into his store are "totally green" – they're new to scooter purchases and are excited about saving some money.
"Everyone's coming in complaining about gas prices," he said.
Crystall Hadjimina, general manager and co-owner of a family-run New York Vespa dealership, said that since gas prices began surging, sales have at least doubled to about five scooters a day.
Overall sales of Vespas and other name-brand scooters such as Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki rose 24 percent in the first quarter of the year, said Mike Mount of the Motorcycle Industry Council, a trade group.
Hadjimina said her most popular scooter is a Piaggio three-wheel model known as the MP3. Customers like it, she said, "… because you don't have to put your feet down at the street light." The scooter sells for $7,199.
With prices on most scooters in the four-figure range, buyers usually have to wait before they see their fuel savings match their scooter's purchase price. Errol Kody, 60, says he doesn't mind.
Kody, who works on boats in San Francisco, purchased his Vespa GTS 250 for $5,800. Now, instead of taking out his 1990 Nissan Stanza, he rides the scooter to work — a 58-mile roundtrip — and enjoys some fresh air on the way.
"People are always interested in the scooter. They wave at me while I drive," he said. "It's going to take me a while to get my money back, but it's a lot of fun to drive."
The best part of owning the scooter? Kody said it's the feeling he gets when he finally has to pull into a gas station after getting about 75 miles per gallon.