If you live in the US, you might remember the consistent and somewhat steep rise in gas prices we saw immediately following the housing crisis of 2008. Using data from Trending Economics, we see that average gas price was $2.27 in 2008. By 2015, it had reached about $3.79!
When that happened, everyone was looking for cheaper ways to get around. After peaking in 2015, though, gas prices started to fall. They haven’t reached that level since, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still save on transportation!
One potential option is a moped. These bikes are much smaller than cars and are thus much cheaper. They also use quite a bit less fuel. But is that really all there is to it?
Mopeds vs. Scooters
I’d like to briefly clarify the difference here, because many people (myself included) may not have realized there is a difference. Luckily the difference is fairly simple, so the explanation is brief.
Simply put, the vehicles are very similar. The biggest difference is in the engine size. The engine in a moped can go up to 50cc. That engine gets you a top speed of 28 MPH – relatively low, but enough to get around town.
Scooters, on the other hand, have much larger engines. The engines in scooters can go up to 150cc. Research seems to vary a bit in terms of what that means for top speed, but it seems to be anywhere from 50-100 MPH. Because scooters have much larger engines with higher top speeds, they also cost more. So, if your primary goal is to save money, a moped is your best bet.
Are Mopeds That Much Cheaper?
Yes, you are probably wondering whether mopeds are that much cheaper. After all, wouldn’t everyone be using them if they were? For some reason, research on the cost to own a moped is much slimmer than that of owning a scooter. I can only infer the reason; my best guess would be the limitations of a vehicle that tops out at 28 MPH, as mentioned above.
All that said, a 50cc moped can be purchased pretty cheaply. I found several listings under $1,000 just by doing a simple Google search. Only a few were priced above $1,000, so it’s fairly safe to say that buying a moped outright will be significantly cheaper than buying a car.
Moped Life Expectancy
To find anything resembling a definitive answer to this question, I had to delve into some forums to find answers from real people. Millions of people drive cars in the US, and so there is extensive data on things like how long they last. When it comes to mopeds, though, there isn’t quite the wealth of information out there.
Even when trying to find my answer, I did notice a lot of people using “moped” and “scooter” interchangeably, despite the clear difference I noted earlier. Thus, this thread seemed to give the best answer. Although even then, the original poster called it a “50cc scooter.”
Nevertheless, some commenters cited relatively low mileage numbers; one mentioned he would expect maintenance to be necessary after about 10,000 miles. On the other hand, one mentioned his having over 20,000 miles and yet it “runs sweet.”
Moped vs. Car
While it is difficult to ascertain precise numbers, based on the forum linked above I am going to use ballpark figures and say that a $750 moped will last about 20,000 miles before needing repairs. Similarly, I would expect a $20,000 car to start needing repairs around the 100,000-mile mark.
Again, these are approximate figures, and your mileage may vary (literally), but if these numbers are anywhere close to accurate, it’s easy to see a moped would be a lot cheaper. Even if we multiply the $750 by five, since that is how many more miles I’m using for the car, we get $3,750. Still a whole lot cheaper than the car.
Not only that, but a 50cc moped will get about 100 MPG. Again, that offers significant savings over the typical gas mileage of a car. Additionally, at least some states don’t require insurance. Some states do, but it is still going to be less than car insurance.
So, indeed, it does appear that mopeds are cheaper than cars.
Cost vs. Convenience
One last point here is the obvious one of convenience. Although mopeds are almost certainly cheaper to use than cars, let’s not forget that cars have several advantages of their own.
Cargo is one of them. I did find several moped drivers online who mentioned they mount packs to their mopeds that allow them to carry quite a bit. Some said those packs are sufficient to carry their weekly groceries comfortably. Still, one cannot deny the fact that a car can haul more.
There are other considerations, too, such as riding in the rain. In yet another show of rebuttal, I found moped riders who mentioned they have things like rain pants and other rain gear that makes riding in the rain easier. But, again, it’s hard to imagine this beats being a cabin that always stays dry.
Wrapping it Up
In conclusion, I would say that mopeds are clearly cheaper to run than cars. They cost less, are better on gas, and in some states do not even require insurance (though this varies).
Just remember that even though they are cheaper, you are very possibly sacrificing some niceties offered by cars. Top speed is low at under 30 MPH. Driving in the elements could prove to be a pain, as could hauling a large amount of cargo.
In the end, it really depends on your individual needs. Do you want to have the wind whipping against your face at a brisk 28 MPH? If so, a moped could be the right call. But if you regularly have a lot to haul or live in harsh conditions, a car may still be the best choice.