Should I buy a Vespa?

Ok, so here’s the deal: Valerie and I are getting on in years, and… No, the problem is that we’re getting settled. We’re counting the cost and determining what kind of lifestyle it’s going to take for us to see everything through in New England that we need to do.

Both of us need to get places. Debt levels are pretty high, and they show every sign of getting higher. Valerie has one semester left of classes before she needs to be working full time. This semester is scheduled so that she can look for real work starting in January, but at the same time, little part-time public health work opportunities keep popping up that look very appealing. The problem is getting to them.

I on the other hand have just accepted a part time position at CBD. I wasn’t even quite sure I was interested when an opportunity appeared. So I applied, and before I knew it, I was employed. I will have a 16 hr/wk position starting sometime late September. The benefit is that it’s a call center position, which will give me structure for reviewing my Hebrew between calls, and I’ll get a 15% discount on all materials, which will serve to support my uh… little habit.

But then there’s the complication: We only have one car. The plan so far has been that Valerie takes the train to her school (the station is only blocks away), while I drive to mine. But what of the looming event where we both need separate transportation? There’s a health office position in Essex opening up that pays $2.50 more than what I’m going to be getting. Should my employment trump hers?

Theoretically, with the income from extra work, we should simply ante up and buy a second car, but there’s the second complication: We live in New England. Parking is horrendous here because various special interest groups have banded together to ban development. Our town is titleholder to thousands of acres of undeveloped property because certain parties in Massachusetts have felt a shortage in hiking trails and unexploréd vistas. The attached two-door garage is a mere chimera in a town that has successfully warded off the 20th century for a full 100 years in hope of better things in the 21st.

Our apartment is a converted 3-storey house: three storeys, three apartments. Amazingly, there is actually parking for three cars. There isn’t parking for a fourth. If we bought a second car, where would we put it? I have heard of a space on the street around the corner, but only a rumor of it has reached my ears.

One possible solution: Vespa, the original motor scooter. This is not a motorcycle. This is an important feature to point out, since anything that may be described as a motorcycle is an immediate dealbreaker with my wife. It’s also important because I just don’t fit the biker meme. But *this*: it has a motor and wheels, it’s fuel economical, and it has a small storage compartment. Additionally, it was designed with a clean look in mind, and with a concern for staying clean while driving it: note the giant fender for the legs.

This is a vehicle which could get me to work or school in a pinch, leaving the car for other purposes, which would use hardly any gas, and which could easily fit in the same parking space as the car.

However, there remain, two concerns for my hypothetical purchase: The first is price. Vespas sell new for around 4-6 thousand dollars. A search on Ebay reveals most used Vespas still selling for around $2000. For this kind of money, you could buy a decent used car. And if you can buy a car with that money, it begs the question why you should interest yourself in something that won’t block out the rain.

The second concern? WINTER.

9 thoughts on “Should I buy a Vespa?”

  1. Not that I have an answer to your delima but I do have a comment: If I’d known earlier about your discount I would have had you make my purchase this week and then mail it to me.

    Obvious question you left unanswered — how’s mass transit? [get it MASS transit]

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  2. Our father is wearing off on our mother, Kyle.

    I think Vespas are kind of funny, but I think gas prices are a good argument for why to get one instead of a car. Do they sell tire chains that small? haha.

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  3. I think you could find a similarly-powered motorbike scooter for much less than a Vespa. Vespas, being imports, are extraordinarily expensive simply for being cute. They’re very popular in DC among twee, neckerchiefed hipsters with lots of disposable income, which should answer any lingering questions as to their practicality.

    I see a lot of these (minus the groovy colors) around town, and they seem reasonably priced for the power, which ain’t much. I’m assuming this is only to be used in very low-traffic areas, otherwise you might get run over! I considered one of these (which is much more powerful) in lieu of my crappy car, but the thought of winter stopped me dead in my tracks. I can recommend leather, and lots of it.

    My motorcycle-loving spouse is sleeping at this unholy hour, but I can pepper him with questions when he wakes up.

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  4. Vespas are cool in Europe. I don’t know about Massachusetts though, expecially in the winter. I would guess that the situation would call for an examination of just how much gas your saving and how the parking would definatly work out, but that’s just me.

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  5. Jeanna:

    I like the Elite 80, and the price is a beautiful *half* of the Vespa, so that’s nice. Plus it’s a honda. I have a certain fondness for Hondas. (Actually, I have an irrational fondness for ’88 Accords that Valerie’s been jabbing at me about for the last few months…) I think the Ruckus would probably be a better ride, but unfortunately my bet is that it fails Valerie’s “not a motorcycle” test. Terribly.

    Got any tips on how to shop around for these things?

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  6. Cindy is the smart one of the group: Find a ride that you can pay for as you use it. How much would a motor scooter cost you per day when you prorate its cost out over a 2 year period? Don’t forget to factor in insurance and that gallon of gas per week.

    Weather keeps coming to mind. You don’t have great weather there like you would if you lived, say in Tulsa, or even Knoxville. What is your plan for those 300 days of lousy weather each year? (Pardon the assumption/slight exxageration.) I guess you could push your motor scooter wherever you go so you could say you “took” it to work or school. But it would be more time-efficient to leave it at home when the weather is inclement and just walk. And then you can daydream about how much it cost for something you can’t use. Or catch that ride.

    I have no clue how far it is from your residence to your new place of employment. Is the job close to home or school? Are there other forms of transportation you might consider? Rickshaw? Goat-cart? Motorized skate board?

    p.s. Vespa was first made in 1945, but Cushman was first made in 1937 in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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  7. The trick is that “work” is about 20 miles from home (It’s only 10 miles from school). I don’t know how serious I am about the scooter thing. It’s just that, if we’re going to need 2 forms of transportation while we’re here, this is pretty much the only way we can do it.

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  8. Ten miles, not to even consider twenty miles, is a long way to ride anything not enclosed and heated when the temperature goes below sixty degrees, I say. That is unless you are a tempered great outdoorsman, which you are not. Shee-zam! Now there is one trait that is truly “like father, like son”!

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