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.
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.
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.
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.