Last year's soaring gas prices sent drivers scrambling for alternative modes of transportation.
Some opted for carpooling and public transit, while others went the cool route, leaving their SUVs parked in the garage and hopping on two-wheeled, European-flavored motor scooters.
Fueled by price-weary consumers trying to avoid the pump, sales of motor scooters jumped 66% in the first half of 2008 compared with the same period the previous year, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council. But as gas prices cooled at the end of last year, so did sales of motor scooters, which have since leveled off or fallen from their mid-2008 highs. However, sales remain brisk, retailers across the country report, and interest remains strong.
It's easy to understand why. Most motor scooters will get 60 to 70 miles per gallon or more, compared with 20 to 25 mpg for most cars and 15 to 20 mpg for most SUVs. If you travel 1,000 miles a month to work and around town, you'll need about 66 gallons of gas for your SUV (at 15 mpg) and about 50 gallons a month if you drive a sedan (figuring 20 mpg), for monthly costs of about $122 and $92, respectively (at a national average of about $1.85 per gallon of gas). But if you drove a motor scooter that same distance, you'd use only about 16 gallons of gas and pay only about $31 at the pump monthly.You'll also pay less for parking, especially if you live in the city, and you'll tread lighter on the environment. And did we mention the cool factor?