What Parents need to know

Welcome to the Pressure Cooker!!

IF you are here, it is no doubt because your son or daughter is telling you that they HAVE to get a scooter to get them to school/TAFE/Uni, because all their friends have got one, and if they don’t get one they’ll be “Marty No Mates”.

Well here’s the thing: It isn’t actually a bad idea. There are plenty of very good reasons for giving your teenager a bit of independence, but we’ve discovered that there are good ways to do it, and not so good ways. Do it right and you’ll discover that they build personal responsibility, maturity and independence, do it wrong and the results can be at best simply financially wasteful, and at very worst tragic.

There are a few things that you need to consider, and as a parent myself, I’m not pulling any punches. If this comes across as a lecture, I apologise, but you’ve made a significant investment in getting your child to this age safely, and we are as interested in protecting your investment as you are.

What you need to know about licensing.

One of the reasons that its worth considering a scooter is that the rules for getting a car license are an awful lot stricter. With the six months supervised driving, the minimum age your offspring can start driving independently is 17 and a half. That’s good from a safety perspective, but if you are the one ferrying them around, its a bit of a pain in the neck. To ride a moped you can get a learners permit from the age of 15 and a half, do the test on your 16th birthday and then ride unaccompanied at that point. Freedom? You betcha! For both you and your 16 year old!

But it’s important that your teen understands the value and importance of that license, and makes sure that they don’t compromise it. Buying them a scooter BEFORE they’ve got their license might sound like a good idea, but did you know that if they ride it unaccompanied before they’ve passed the test and get stopped by the police then they lose their license for 12 months before they’ve even got it. Disaster. And the trouble is that sitting their in the garage, when you are at work, and their friends are about… the temptation and peer pressure might just be too great. So either wait till they’ve passed their test before you buy them a scooter, or take ownership of the keys until they’ve passed. We’ve heard that the police are currently doing spot checks on moped riders, because many are riding unlicensed.

We’ve got a great scheme to help young riders get their license before they their scooter. We provide the scooters for lessons, and can even provide scooters for practice (subject to licensing conditions). See more details here.

Riding is a privilege not a right. And your license is far too valuable a commodity to chuck away on some stupid suggestion from a “mate”.

What you need to know about scooters.

Well there are good ones, and there’s the rest. Unlike the car or motorbike market which is very mature in Australia, the scooter market is still fairly young. That means a lot of new brands are hitting the shops all the time. They all look great when they are new, so how do you tell what’s worth buying and what isn’t? And what about second hand? What should you be looking for and what should you avoid?

Well here is what your teenager will care about. “Does it look cool. Is it the same as my mates. How cheap is it to buy? How fast does it go.” Here are the questions they won’t think about. “What do I do if it breaks down? What happens if the guy who sold it to me won’t fix the problems under warranty? Where can I get parts if they don’t sell that brand any more? Will it last the 18 months I need it? How much will it be worth when I come to sell it? How easy is it to steal?”

Our advice? If you aren’t sure, stick to brands that you know. This list includes brands we sell, and also brands that we don’t. The most well known are Vespa, Piaggio, Honda and Yamaha. Other quality european brands are Aprilia, Derbi and Peugeot (although there is currently no Australian importer of the latter so parts support might be challenging). Of the Asian brands, the PGO, SYM and Kymco models that are made in Taiwan are well built, and we’ve heard good reports about TGB too – however note that some models from these brands are not built in Taiwan and we’ve noticed that the quality isn’t as high (in fact some come with a lower warranty!!). However not all scooters built in Taiwan are good quality, despite what some dealers will try to lead you to believe, just as not all scooters assembled in China are rubbish (as often the same dealers will have you believe, despite the fact that they sell the cheap rubbish ones too!). If the price looks too good to be true, it generally is.

And test ride. If you don’t know what is what, find someone who does. Ask instructors – they will generally give you honest, independent advice about what to get, and also who to get it from. And get on the forums and ask. www.scootercommunity.com.au is a great place to start.

One thing that we do recommend is to ensure that the scooter is either partly, or wholly, bought by the rider. Its important that they have some degree of financial buy-in, because with that generally comes responsibility for the vehicles upkeep.

What you need to know about dealers.

Like scooters, there are good ones and there’s the rest. As John Hughes says, first pick your dealer and then pick your vehicle. What makes a good dealer? Well one that specialises in scooters is probably a fairly decent bet. But get on the net and find out. Plenty of info, opinion and experience is out there if you look for it. And check them out in person. Do they advertise their prices? Are these inclusive of all costs including registration and stamp duty? Are there lots of special offers which never seem to change? Do they sound like they know what they are talking about? Are they giving you advice, or just trying to sell you a scooter? Do they sell a good range of safety gear, or just the cheap stuff? The lower the price/quality of the machine you buy, the more you will have to interact with them. So pick wisely.

We are aware that some dealers have found a loophole whereby they can sell scooters as new, but these are licensed in the dealers name, so they will have minimal registration, and will not include Stamp Duty. And this has been approved as legal by the Department of Consumer Protection. So make sure that when you buy a new scooter that you ask what it includes, and if it doesn’t include much rego and excludes Stamp Duty find out how much these are and factor into your equation. We must admit that we were surprised that the WA government department that supposedly operates to look after consumers interests allows this, but there you have it. Buyer beware.

What you need to know about security.

Scooters do get stolen, and unfortunately this problem has increased because of the very poor security mechanisms on some of the less well built machines. Most thefts are carried out by opportunist thieves, but a few simple measures are usually enough to deter them from bothering. Firstly, don’t buy a scooter that is easy to pinch. Obvious really. If you can get your hand up underneath the front panel, and get to the wiring, avoid like the plague. We’ve seen scooters that can be kick-started simply by removing the ignition plug – rather simple when you can stick both your hands up underneath. Then its just a case of breaking the normally rather ineffective steering lock, and the thief is riding away. We’ve seen it done in less than 20 seconds, and you wouldn’t even know that it was being stolen.

And don’t be fooled by those scooters that feature alarms. These alarms are often easy to circumvent, and generally put significant drain on the battery. If you leave for even a couple of weeks, you might find your battery dead and having to be replaced.

Better quality scooters, such as those from Piaggio and Vespa, generally have superior security inherent in the vehicle. The steering locks are much more difficult to compromise, and wiring cannot be circumvented without damaging the vehicle. Unfortunately many would be thieves don’t realise this, and may damage the scooter whilst trying to steal them. A good quality cable lock through the front wheel is always a good deterrent.

What you need to know about safety.

Ok. Two-wheeled motor-vehicle accidents are actually no more common than any other kind of accident. However when they do happen, the effects are likely to be more significant simply because riders aren’t protected by a large metal cage. We know from the crash repairs that we’ve carried out that despite passing a test, young riders are far more likely to be involved in accidents than mature riders – even those who have had no formal training whatsoever.

The best way to minimise the chances of being involved in an accident is to ensure your youth gets enough professional tuition. However it does appear that once the test has passed, young riders seem to totally ignore all that they have learned. Looking “cool” may initially appear more important than riding safely, but skin grafts and gravel rashes never look attractive. Riding in thongs, shorts and t-shirts is the equivalent of driving without a seat-belt on. Pretty bloody stupid. So before you get started set some ground rules – no gear, no ride. As a minimum make sure your young rider is fully covered up when they ride, even in the height of summer. Helmet (preferably NOT an off-road model), gloves, jacket (preferably armoured), trousers and covered shoes. No exception. If your child has an accident and isn’t wearing this minimum level of protection, the fault is as much yours as theirs. No matter whether they’ve caused the accident or someone else has.

We stock a range of riding gear, much of which is designed to have the right look without compromising safety. The Armadillo Hoody is a great example and not particularly expensive. In fact we have a safety pack of helmet, jacket and gloves including the Hoody which we retail for just $250 when you are buying a new scooter from us, in order to cover the essential items without breaking the bank.

What other things should I know?

And finally, some other tips.

1) Don’t let their mates ride their scooter. If they damage it (and they will), its hard for them to ask their friend to pay for the damage. I can’t reiterate this one enough.

2) Don’t let them take passengers until they really know what they are doing. Make sure before you let them take responsibility for another person, that they’ve acquired enough skills. If you wouldn’t get on the back with them riding, then don’t let anyone else.

3) Don’t skip services. Particularly the first one. Scooters should only need one running in service at around about 1000km. Don’t miss it – its probably the most important one that is done.

Can we help further?

Definitely. We want to get riders on scooters. All riders on any scooters. Preferably ours, but that’s not always going to make sense or work out. But we do want you to make a good decision such that your kids are happy scooterists. Because if they are happy, you’ll be happy too. If you want more advice, give us a call 9300 1719.

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