I've had a Vespa for almost 3 years now while living in San Francisco. It's honestly the best. I'm the biggest advocate for people to purchase one. I love finally having a car again, but driving a car around the city comes with many annoyances too: finding parking, street cleaning, expenses, etc. I frequently prefer to drive my Vespa around the city over my car because it's just so much easier. When I initially moved here, and didn't have a car in the city, I was very deterred from going to places that weren't near my apartment. From North Beach, I used to have to take two separate buses (which took anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour) to get places like The Mission or Golden Gate Park. It was either that, or take an expensive Uber ride. Getting a Vespa totally opened up the city for me. It made checking out new places and getting around super easy! I absolutely love having it. Here are some other reasons why:
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1. Parking: front row parking everywhere you go. You don't need to worry about factoring in leaving 20 minutes early to your destination just to find parking on the streets of San Francisco.
2. Less city traffic: in California, its legal to share lanes with cars. I don't think this is safe, so I only will only do it to go up to the front at red lights. Luckily, in San Francisco, it's so stop-and-go that this actaully saves you a ton of time. Driving my vespa to work is significantly faster than driving my car to work... more time to sleep in!
3. Gas mileage: my Vespa LX 50 gets 85-90 miles per gallon. Unreal. I use it to commute to work 3-4 days a week, and only need to fill up about every month and a half.
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4. Cost: having a car in San Francisco is expensive and inconvenient in many neighborhoods. This is exactly why I sold the car when I first moved to the city. If you think about parking garage prices ($300+/month) or how frequently you get parking tickets ($60+/ticket) for street cleaning varying on every single street, it adds up quickly. Parking in places like SOMA or the Financial District for work costs $15+/day. You can find free scooter parking most of the time in these areas, or park in motorcycle/scooter metered parking, which only costs about $5 for the entire day. Don't even get me started on gas. Gas costs me ~$4.50 to fill up my tank every 1.5 months. Insurance is ~$7/month. You get the point -- it's extremely cheap to maintain.
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5. Conversation starter: if I carry my helmet anywhere, or see anyone while I'm riding, it's always a great conversation starter. People are always shocked (for some reason!?) that I drive a Vespa and have thousands of questions for me about it. There's apparently some sort of badass appeal associated with carrying a helmet. Not sure that holds true once they find out it's not a motorcycle, but either way, its an easy way for someone to strike up a conversation with you.
6. Easy to drive: it's a manual transmission. It's really simple, just push a button to turn it on and twist the handle to accelerate. Balancing on it is really simple too. No need to know how to shift gears or anything fancy like that.
7. You get to name it: my Vespa's name is Delilah. She's the best. 😊
Vespas cost around $4K new, but you can get a used one (like I did!) or a different scooter brand (like Honda, Suzuki, or Yamaha) for much cheaper than that too. You do need a motorcycle license to drive a motorized scooter legally now in California (and at least your permit to get insured), which consists of two visits to the dreadful DMV: one for your written test and one for your behind-the-wheel test.
Scoot is another alternative; it's an electric scooter company, like Bay Area Bike Share or Zipcar, but for scooters. Since they are electric scooters and not motorized, you don't need a special license either. There are drop off and pick up locations all around the city, and they offer mothly memberships, or pay-by-hour pricing. I think it's a great way to see if you feel comfortable behind the wheel on a scooter and want to get your own, but if you're planning to use it for a couple years, I think it makes sense to just purchase one!
If you do decide to get a Vespa or any type of scooter, PLEASE ALWAYS BE 100% CAREFUL AND ATTENTIVE. You can be the best driver in the world, but will always need to be looking out for other terrible drivers in much bigger cars!