Vespa LX150 Total Cost of Ownership

Last week on the ride home I noticed a marked reduction in power accelerating from a stop along Lombard. At each light, I felt the same thing, almost as if the throttle’s connection to the engine had become a rubber band. I could get up to speed, but it took a long time getting there. I thought I also heard some rattling, but with a helmet on, it was hard to tell if it was coming from the scooter or from another car. The next morning I had Stephanie take it for a ride around the block, and she confirmed that something was really wrong.

Conveniently the San Francisco Vespa dealership is only a few blocks away, but somewhat annoyingly, there’s a month lead time for appointments, and this just couldn’t wait. It was even more pressing when I realized I had just 4 days left on my year warranty before it expired. I called to see if they could squeeze me in, and their response was pretty much: “Maybe.” This burned me a little, but I dropped it off anyway, and crossed my fingers.

Third Service, new rear tire

Well it turns out they did fit me in, discovered a busted “clutch pulley” and were able to replace it under warranty (saving me $260). Since I was almost at 4000 miles, I decided to have them perform my 3rd service and replace a bald rear tire. Total cost: $568.03. At which point most car owners would be cringing. I suppose owning a Vespa saves me money in a number of ways, but maintenance, at least through a “certified dealership” is not one of them. Since I’m coming up on a year of Vespa ownership, I though it might be illuminating to detail my maintenance costs thus far, for any prospective LX150 buyers out there.

First service, brush touch up

The dealership charges $150 for the first service. If I had bought the scooter from them directly instead of via Craigslist, they would have reduced the price of labor by 40%. That said, when I make an appointment online, they knock 10% off the price, bringing the first service down to $135. Before I brought it in, my scooter had been knocked over, miraculously only getting three little scratches on the right cowl. When I pointed it out, they offered to touch it up, I figured it wouldn’t cost that much. They charged $150! Basically painting over three scratches with the equivalent of black nail polish. That burned me a lot. I also learned a lesson in vanity, as my scooter was tipped over again not long after, completely negating their overpriced brush touch up. So total cost of the first service: $286.60.

New battery

At just over 2,000 miles, in time for my 2nd service, the scooter was starting to sound like it didn’t have enough juice to start the engine. On several separate occasions I actually had to have it jumped! I wasn’t totally surprised, because the same thing happened to Stephanie at exactly the same mileage (perhaps it had something to do with our scooters being tipped). In any case, I made an appointment for the service, but again, they didn’t have any available openings for a month and a half. So I went down to First Kick Scooters, and they installed a larger, sealed battery, originally intended for the ET4 model. Apparently the factory LX batteries are known to lose their juice, which kind of burns me (thanks for nothing Vespa). The new battery cost $112.72.

Second service

When I finally made it to my 2nd service appointment, I was at 2,915 miles. The second service usually costs $250, but with the 10% wait-a-month-and-a-half discount, the total was “only” $226.50. Apparently for that they changed my oil and replaced the filter, plus all “necessary adjustments and checks”. Talk about a pricey oil change. Here’s the rub: the Vespa warranty is void if I have the scooter serviced at a non-certified shop. So essentially I’m being held hostage by Vespa.

Total

In total, with the 3rd service I already mentioned above, I’ve spent $1,193.85 on maintenance over the last year, of which only the $150 brush touch up could be considered unnecessary, though at the same time I lucked out that the $260 clutch pulley replacement happened within 4 days of my warranty expiring. So for a vehicle that only cost me $4300, I’ve already spent 27% of purchase price on maintenance. Ouch. I don’t know if I’m paying a San Francisco labor premium or what, but I’m not sure I’m going back to the Vespa dealership now that my warranty has expired.

Gear, insurance, parking

And of course that total does not include the cost of riding jackets, rain gear, helmets, and gloves which I’ve probably spent about $500 on. Or $500 a year on insurance. Or $60 a year for city street parking plus the inevitable parking tickets (I’ve probably gotten 3-4 so far at $40 a pop).

All that said, I love my Vespa. I wish it looked better, but it’s a tool, not a museum piece. It allows me to get to work on my schedule, and park in the city where ever I want.

30 Comments

Nathaniel

Not to sound too critical, but more than anything it sounds like you need to get a little more mechanically involved in your scooter yourself. Unless it’s covered under warranty or completely outside my mechanical understanding, I keep my cars and my scooters the heck away from the dealer for exactly what you’re pointing out. A scooter is not a NASA Mars Rover and most things it’ll ever need could easily be done by most anyone with basic mechanical coordination. If that’s not you, then that’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with that. All I’m saying is that if you’re any kind of gear head at all, things like oil changes and “routine maintenance” are not rocket science. What they are is the way dealers make money on bikes. The margins on the scooter sales themselves are pretty thin, so it’s accessories and tech service that keep them profitable.

So here’s what you could do. See if there’s a Chilton’s or Vespa factory service manual for your scooter. I bet there is. That’ll go bolt-by-bolt and step-by-step for everything from engine tear down to cable adjustments. It’ll also include all the details on the service intervals and what needs to be replaced/checked at each. That’s the big secret of auto mechanics. They’re not super geniuses, they have the books with the answers and instructions. Then ask your dealer for a checklist of what “necessary adjustments and checks” exactly means. Chances are it’s stuff like checking fluid levels, checking cables for fraying or rust, checking tire condition, maybe lubricating a thing or two. Chances are these are all things you can do yourself. And honestly, half the fun of having a scooter is working on it. Even the Vespas, as fancy as they are, are not nearly as complex as a car. And honestly, there are some very stupid people who work on cars no trouble at all. I think anyone can learn to work on a scooter. It can be intimidating at first, but I think with a little reading and some wrench time, you’d be an expert before you know it. I’d also bet there are more than a few good wrenches in your local scooter club who could show you the ropes.

becky

I have a friend who gave up riding his motorcycle to work because the cost of tires ate up any gas savings.

chefhl

The part about the dealer being the only one who can service the scooter is total bullshit. There is a federal law the says otherwise. I can’t remember what it is called but it basically says if the dealer is required to do service to the vehicle then they must include it in the price of the vehicle.

Alex

Yeah, they totally hosed you on the “must be serviced only by a Vespa dealer” part. As long as you can show you’ve either had the required service done or done it yourself, they have to honor the warranty.

I had my LX150 for little under a year (before it was totalled out…). I put over 5000 miles on it in 10.5 months. I had it tipped a couple times, but since I had crashbars, no paint scratches that I could detect. The week before I wrecked it, I did 700 miles going from Chicago to Cinci for WKRP, with nary a hiccup.

Not counting the gas savings (I was getting 55mpg city and 60+mpg on long rides- aggressive speedo though – and I like to go fast), I don’t think I spent near as much as you did (nor did I have the problems you did).

1st service $174 (at 675 mi).
2nd service $135 (at 1967 mi).
3rd service and variator belt replacement $364 (at 3992 mi)
New rear tire at 3200 mi $44 tire (ordered) and $45 labor putting it on the rim – I took the wheel off in my friend’s garage.

With helmet, gloves, riding gear, probably close to another $1000. But that includes lap apron and handlebar muffs, and I rode all winter in Chicago, which had to save me more gas (and was more fun than driving, most days – and I could congratulate myself on being hardcore the rest of the time).

I bought a p200 now, but plan on getting another LX150 (or Vespa S – same thing) once I can afford one. Mine was a tank, even with 5k miles on it. It totalled out at $3500 at a year old and that many miles on it.

mdag

With this kind of dealer service, Vespa seems likely to go the way of Fiat (“Fix It Again Tony”) in the USA. I’ll be in the market for a scooter for my beach house this summer, and it looks like I’ll be buying Japanese.

Nick

seems incredibly expensive. a motorcycle would be less money, safer, have better road presence and be more durable. not to mention you would be licensed and therefore a better rider. lose the vespa. i know you think it’s cool, but this isn’t naples. gas mileage is comparable. a harley even gets mileage in the mid 40’s and a sportbike in the 60’s.

Erich

Sorry to hear about your misfortune, but I agree with the other posters that you really ought to be changing your own oil, and you could probably fix the other stuff yourself too, especially given a month and a half wait time that the dealer is quoting you. Research online, buy a service manual, invest in some basic tools. My motorcycle, which I bought for $800, would have cost me well over $1200 this spring in maintenance had I gone to the dealer. As it is, it’s cost me $300, most of that in tools I didn’t own, which is a one-time fee. By my calculations, your services should have cost you less than $200, including putting a new rear tire on.

Also, you say the phrase “burns me” a lot. There are plenty of other ways to express your frustration.

Thanks all for the comments.

Nathaniel and Erich, you’re probably right that I should just get my hands dirty and learn how to change the oil, but frankly I just haven’t been inclined to. And without a garage or really any tools, I’ve been even less inclined. I’m a real city mouse these days I guess!

Becky, thankfully I’m not riding a scooter to save on gas, I’m riding it to save on parking (and ease of finding parking). But wearing through rear tires every 3-4,000 miles is going to get annoying.

Nick, I actually took a motorcycle safety course (granted I took it using a scooter) and have a motorcycle license, as required by the state of California for any two-wheeled vehicle over 50cc. That said, I admit I have been eying some hot motorcycles lately.

Eric

I’ve also got a LX150 with over 12K miles. I’ve gotta say, your costs seem pretty high here and I’m not sure they’re typical.

A replacement battery, for instance, should cost about $50. The install takes 5 minutes, tops. The tire replacement cost seems similarly very high. You should also consider a different rear tire—what did they put on there? The Michelin Pilots lasted me about 6K miles of pretty hard daily riding. I am now trying out a Continental Zippy 1.

While it’s true the dealer does not need to do the service in order to keep the warranty valid (that’s the Magnuson-Moss Act), the first maintenance should be done by the dealer or a mechanic, as should the one around 4K miles. These include valve and carb checks, etc. beyond simple oil changes.

That said, I’m not mechanically inclined and had no experience before my LX and change my own oil, filter, and rollers and can do other basic maintenance and repairs. It helps. There’s a Haines manual for the LX, but it also covers several other models. Lots of help and tutorials on modernvespa.com, though.

I also switched from the Vespa dealer to other mechanics, first at a smaller dealer then to an independent (but Vespa-certified) tech with his own garage. The last time I had it in, I got a new tire ($60) and a used Sito exhaust ($100) and the labor was only $90.

ali

Where on the Vespa is proof that I purchased a 2008 Vespa?

ed

Darren, where did you serviced you vespa in Chicago?
I live in Chicago and my dealer was telling me my first service would be a little under $300. I would rather let it brake and not pay that much.

Ivey

I’m rockin gmy LX150 with almost 6000 miles and it still sounds awesome! I love it. I do my own maintenace. It’s worth looking into. I’m about to put on my 2nd rear tire after 6000 miles. I do go real fast though (interstate) to work everyday.

Mike

I’ve had my Vespa LX150 since July 27, 2007.

The experience, at first was not too great. I had traded it in for a 2005 Yamaha Vino 125. The Vespa dealership in my town was brand new and not too experienced.

On the first day – pick-up day – the dealer had left a light on all night and so the battery was low when I went to crank it up and move out. So delivery was delayed for 24 hours.

I immediately took it for a long (30 mile) ride around my town. Filled-up the gas to the tip-tip (like did my Yamaha) at the end of the ride.

The next day (a Monday morning) the Vespa cut-out at the corner near my home (with light traffic fortunately). I walked the Vespa the .1 miles home.

The dealer came and picked up; worked on it for 2 days and pronounced it “Ready for the road.”

I immediately took it for ride and with 20 minutes it cut-out on major highway. I had to stop pull into the E-lane. I waited there for 30 minutes and fiddled with starting it. Finally it got going – at low power -and rode off. In 5 minutes it ‘fixed’ itself and I rode home and contacted the dealer

I took it to the the dealer in the morning. He loaned my old Yamaha to me and he went to work on it for 4 days. Gave back and pronounced it ‘road-ready’.

I road off; took it for a ride and it did well. Gas was low – so I filled it up to the tip-top as was my habit.

10 days later – it stalled again – in heavy traffic on a city street. I took it the the dealer – he fiddled with a screw on the carburetor. Said ‘You’re ok.” and I rode off.

7 days later it sputtered and cut out again. He fiddled with the screw and said it was ok.

I was now thinking “I have a lemon” and was consulting with an attorney about using my state’s lemon law to force him to take it back and give me a full refund.

BUT I then I read at Modernvespa.com that my problem was the emissions hose and overfilling the gas tank. Recommendation: pull the hose out and you’ll be fine.

I feared a warranty violation and at first wouldn’t do it. Instead I called Vespa techsupport. I spoke to a good tech who patiently instructed me on how to gas up an LX150: insert nozzle; stop fueling when it clicks off; don’t over-fill as it will cause possible stalling issues due to soaking the emissions canister.

I followed that advice and the LX has run fine since. Though I have disconnected the hose since then after several overfilling incidents when the cut-off valve on the gas pump didn’t work right.

I also had to get on the dealer’s butt about a rear case, but he got it (90 days after may request and only after a threat to contact my state’s attorney general).

The dealer actually, outside of this, has done good by me. I’ve had two services and he charged me $50.00 each time.

Also I had an accident this past July (small event – I t-boned somebody at an intersection as I was turning left from a standing stop – they had gotten lost in the morning Sun’s brilliant glare in my eyes) and did good by me in replacing a damaged left-side mirror and brake handle. That sidelined me for two weeks.

I now have to replace a rear tire (I have about 5500 on the Vespa) and the dealer is going to charge me $140.00: $40 for the tire (a Continental) and $100 for mounting, balancing and labor. He said he has to drop the rear transmission to get access to the rear wheel. NOT – I looked it up and know it’s just a matter of removing the muffler. So I gotta to talk to the guy and see if he might be upping labor charges on me or is just ignorant on how to get access to the wheel.

I have considered taking the wheel off myself and taking it to him mount the tire and balance it, but I’d have to buy a torque wrench (cost: $70.00) to put it back on properly. I’d only save about $30.00 this time. The Continental tire is rated to go about 7000 I am told.

Gas milage on the Vespa: 54- 58 in the city. 60-61 on the open road.

I like the Vespa’s pick-up from standing start; am impressed on how it weathered the accident; like its handling on city streets that are often in poor shape (I hardly notice bumps that would have jostled me on the Yamaha) and its got nice sleek look about it.

One thing I forgot to mention: the speedometer needle oscillates at speeds at 35 mpg or higher. Not wildly, but enough to irritate me – I was used to the Yamaha’s which operated smoothly. I did demand a warranty replacement on the speedometer head. Vespa complied (6 months after I filed the complaint with the dealer). Result: not much of an improvement – I guess Vespa figures riders can guess at their exact speed. Instead I bought and attached a portable GPS to the left mirror shaft and use it as my speedometer.

I don’t know if I’ll stay with Vespa right now. It’s a toss-up. If I go back to the Yamaha Vino which has many features I miss then I have to deal with an arrogant local biker-boy dealerships whose primary focus is recreational vehicles (dirt-bikes, snowmobiles, ATVs and of course, motorcycles) or the corporate arrogance and market control freaks that Vespa and its parent company are.

But I’m sold on scooters though – at least for the sake the earth’s environment and the cost of gasoline.

Justin,

Your experience is just about the same as mine. I have a 2006 LX150 with 5400 miles on it here in Honolulu. I have replaced the battery 3 times and have had a wide range of “assistance” from the dealer that can only be labeled ‘excessive’. The extended warranty is virtually useless, the dealer keeps finding ways to get around recognizing that the bike should be starting…they actually told me that I was riding the bike too short a distance and as a result my battery would need to be replaced every 4 or 5 months….the warranty has done nothing but cre once ated a creative challenge for the service advisor to fabricate lies about why the bike not running is entirely my fault. Buyer beware when it comes to Vespa. These folks have made an art form of making excuses for product design / manufacturing defects. Japanese bikes dont have these issues…

The oil changes I do myself, good luck finding the filters , same for the spark plug. At the end of the day the cost of ownership averages out to about $100 a month. Fun ride , but dont expect this to be a Japanese ride…. I would not buy one again. Happy to give up some time in the saddle if it is covered under warranty but the warranty is about useless…

Matt

I bought my 2007 Vespa LX 150 near the end of 2007 — brought it home Thanksgiving weekend. I think the battery issue has been resolved. For example, I went away for two months (May and June) and the Vespa sat in the driveway, untouched. I came home, turned the key, and she started right away. No battery problems here.

Cost of service will vary from place to place. I have a really good mechanic who used to service my Honda Shadow 750. He did the first service on my Vespa for $60. Then at 1,500 miles I took the bike to a Vespa dealer in Georgia and had a “second first service” done because I’d been riding pretty much full throttle for 500 miles and thought it might be a good idea — $180 for that.

My scoot has 2,700 miles on her, and I’m looking at a bald center on the rear tire. That bugs me, I must admit. But I don’t think my service and maintenance for this year is going to go any higher than maybe $400.

Mike wow, I think you might win an award for longest comment ever.

Tony

I’ve been riding vespas for 15 years in europe, no probs. Many dealerships and mechanics have been operating since the first vespa come out, they knew what they were doing and competition means low prises.
Last 10 years in Australia, there are about 10-15 dealers country wide. And the amounts of piaggio in our roads is a very small % comparing to Europe or Asia. This means that you won’t get your moneys worth. Most of the dealers have mainly bikes, and sell scooters for the “ladies”… So the mechs are useless with scooters..

On top of that, scooters are expensive. They are a very small, delicately put together, machine, that cost a lot to service. My calculations for my 30000 km X8 come close to what i would spend for fuel+service+ purchase of a small car.

I change back tyre every 5000k, I’m now changing my 6th. Once i tried to push it to 7500k and i ended up pushing the scooter with the flat tyre..
The tyre cost 60$us and they charge as much to fit it.
So why opening a factory to make tyres, hire scientist, make test, ads etc, when you can make the same money by just changing a tyre!!!

The second expence is the belt and rollers, about 200$us and as much to fit (again). That is for every 20000km per manual, but most of the belts last only for 15km..

Having fun yet?

During my 6th change of tyre, they found a “hairline” crack at the swing arm. One of the last 5 mech who changed the tyre, did the bolts a bit to hard. So now i’m having fun between “I didn’t do it”, “well, certainly I didn’t do it” etc…

I think I paid about 1/3 of the bikes price during the last 20 months, and I’m wait for the last bill to arrive!!!
So, a) bikes/scooters are not cheap
b) scooters, like any other product that is not popular, will eventually be more expensive..

Too bad I’m addicted to my 2 wheeler!!!

Eddie

Eric,

I also think your costs sound a bit high.

I’ve got a Aprilia sportcity 250i.e. These are made by the same company as the Vespas, and has many common parts. So far I’ve done 7,000 miles. My fist service cost about $220 Australian, my second just $60. At 7,000 miles, the original rear tyre is possibly a little over-due for replacement.

So far nothing has gone wrong – touch wood. Whilst most things seem to cost about 25% of what running a car would cost (fuel, insurance, depreciation, etc. etc) like you I find the real benefit is *free* parking.

Canberra (where I live in Australia) seems a relatively high percent of motorcycle riders presumably due to the dry climate. There are two dedicated scooter shops, which probably keeps prices down. I have to book a service in a week ahead – but they lend me a scooter to get to work.

I purchased my vespa last may. I have had it in for warranty service a few times. Once for the battery and once for the scooter stalling. I realized the stalling was from overflowing the gas. I cant beleive the cost to maintain the scooter. The scooter dealer tried to charge me over $220.00 dollars for waranty work when my fuel gage was showing half full when I had a full tank. I informed them that I was not paying and the service manager informed me that my repair coincidently was covered under warranty. I have so much fun riding my Vespa. I drive it all over and enjoy my riding experince. I have done all my services my self. Im at 5,500 miles and will need to change my tire. I can assure you all that I will not be taking it to the dealer. I will be doing it myself. I have a cycle shop who will remove the tire and replace the new pirelli tire for half the cost of the Vespa dealer. I just have to take the tire off and take it to the cycle shop. I can say that the cost of the parts are expensive. I droped my scooter on my friends drive way. I held onto it while I fell off so as to lessen the fall. It cost me over $300.00 dollars to replace the scratched mirror, and the plastic piece above the exhaust. I had one scratch on the body. I decided to leave well enought alone. I also, found touch up paint for the under body chips. And I used a real fine black wet dry sand paper to sand the scratch off the break handle. After using the sand paper I used Meguires chrome polish and polished over where I sanded. It came out perfect. If I had to do it over Im not sure if I would purchase a Vespa again. They are real expensive to work on if you have to service at the dealer. Though I enjoy my scooter. Im 44 years young and feel like im 2O years when I ride my scooter. I cant wait to ride it every day! Its addictive as much as Starbucks!

apple

Be your own mechanic. The cost of materials for an oil change is around $30.00. You can do it yourself. The transmission maintenance is easy once you have done it a couple of times. Find someone with a 150 and watch them take their transmission apart. After that, you can take care of your rollers, belt, cleaning, ect. You will be surprised at how easy it easy. I once spoke to a Vespa dealer who told me that anybody who does not know how to fix their own scooter should not be riding one.
The money you save will quickly pay for your tools. When you do it yourself, you do not have to wait on the dealer to fit you in their schedule.

Yes owning a Vespa costs some money. There is no way I could afford to pay someone else to work on my scooter. Doing my own work also gives me power. I can walk into my garage right now (I always have the parts around) do an oil change, transmission service, new tire and valve adjustment in a couple of hours. I do not need to pay, wait, or rely on someone else.

But if you have lots of money and don’t want to get dirty, having a dealer service your bike is an enjoyable luxury.

In the end my 150 is more cost effective than driving my truck. And much more fun.

Vic

I have a bv 250. 6000 miles. Cost of ownership is minimal. Tire changes are something anyone can do with few tools. I plan to buy the special tools to replace the drive belt at 8000 miles. If you ride it, learn to fix it. It is better for your budget and soul. These are very simple machines that you will enjoy learning to wrench on.

CJ

Found your blog this morning Googling bluetoyota yaris! I’ve read three or four posts now and really enjoyed it. :). Thanx!

John

>>Here’s the rub: the Vespa warranty is void if I have the scooter serviced at a non-certified shop.

This is not correct. The user manual says that the services must be done to preserve the warranty, but it can be done by any shop, or even by yourself. I faced the same choice with mine, and given the ridiculously long appointment times, and high labor rates, i chose not to deal with them. I’m glad i went with SF Scooter.

I also had that dead battery, and bought the beefed-up replacement and installed it myself. Now, i never have trouble starting, even after a long cold winter sitting in the garage.

El Scooterro

Get a zuma 125 and learn how to change your own oil. If you ride everyday than you should rely on yourself to survive not some halfass shop that does not care about your safety.

Peter

Hey, i’m in SF and thinking of ditching my car for a scooter and also using zip car. My main reason for this is to save $ but i’m a bit concerned of the cost of repairs/maintenance i’m seeing for a scooter. Am I really going to save much vs. having a small car?

Peter, depends on your parking situation and where/if you get it serviced. If I return to SF, I’d definitely consider getting a scooter again, but after having it knocked over repeatedly, paying a premium for a pretty Vespa is not worth the heartache. I’d look for something cheaper and more utilitarian that could take a little more of a beating.

Peter

Justin, I have a parking garage where I live and would not use it much in the downtown area. Love Vespa but I think the Piaggio BV250 seems like a more stable scooter and a better value. I think after the warranty I would take it somewhere other than the Vespa dealership for service/repairs. Thanks for the advice!

Rick Davis

I have a new Vespa 300 with 273 miles on it and its been only 3 weeks since I purchased it . The dealer told me it sounds like a blowen rod bearing. I feel the engfine should be replaced wit such low miliage .

Terry

My 2007 Vespa LX150 and ie250 are wonderful machines. They are not economical when they go into the shop. Never. If you are not a mechanic or own the dealership, you should own a financial institution. The 250 wire harness burned up and after towing the scooter, replacing the burned up unit and the battery, I had a $1,200 bill. Would I buy these scooters again. Yes, but then again, I’m totally crazy.

Name

Email (optional)

Blog (optional)