The Brainalist wrote:
If you really want a scooter, you can generally pick up a previously owned Chinese scooter for as little as 400--sometimes with almost no mileage whatsoever. Somebody bought it a year ago for $1000-1500 with good intentions and now it's taking up space in the garage. It won't last as long as a good Japanese-branded scoot, but for that price for a near-new scoot, it might be worth it. I ride a few year old 50cc Yamaha, and I love it, but I've ridden a few 150cc Chinese scoots, and I'd take the power over reliability any day.
I'd recommend a 49cc yamaha zuma or a vino or a honda metro, which you can find for 800-1500. It is worth it for reliability, IMO, and you aren't going to need to go faster than 40mph anyway. Plus resale value will more than make up the difference. The smaller ones have other legal advantages, too. In a lot of states, you don't need a special motorcycle license for 49cc scoots, although I think you do in California if you want to take it over 25mph. In a lot of cities you can lock them to bike racks. You also won't have a problem taking it up the elevator for winter storage. I had a scooter through most of undergrad, and it was pretty ideal. Also, I do think girls liked the scooter more than my sportsbike, or at least more girls are going to approach you about the scooter. It was like having a puppy dog.
Or just spend about 2.5k to buy a low-mileage vespa/piaggio. There is no reason you can't be fashionable and euro-cool and efficient as well.
I do think the motorcycle is a lot less safe just due to freeway riding. Otherwise, I was riding my bicycle in berkeley and san francisco traffic before that, so the scooter isn't really any more dangerous. Probably safer.
I think most states require full certifications even for 49cc bikes now. Like I said, I love my Vino 50cc, but you can't ride it on a lot of streets. It tops out around 33 on flat ground. That allows me to ride 30 mph streets with some comfort, but makes it scary to ride 35, and rules out anything higher than that. The ability to go around 50 mph gives me a lot more comfort and makes me feel safer. Plus there are a lot of hills right around campus, and steep hills are pretty much a no-go with 50cc.
My Vino is reliable too, but a cheap Chinese bike should get you through law school, anyway. (There are two 2008 Roketa's on my local craigslist right now under 500 miles--$300). At 300 bones, resale value isn't even a consideration. That's less than six months of car insurance even if the thing craps out on you in a year.
If I were to go back (and I got my 2003 Vino for $350) I would have bought a 150cc Chinese scoot.