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With rising fuel costs, are motorcycles the answer?

(MS) — Gas prices at the pump have been hovering at or about $4 US for some time now. We’ve already seen the trickle down effect: People are choosing to stay closer to home instead of traveling for vacations, individuals are trading in gas-guzzling SUVs for compact cars, and many are looking for ways to cut their gas consumption.

According to the Piaggio Group, the company that makes Vespa scooters, one in three Americans would consider purchasing a scooter to save money on their commute. Others may have been pondering the advantages to hopping on a motorcycle rather than climbing into their family sedan.

Before you sell your car, it’s best to consider all sides of the story. Motorcycles and scooters do have some apparent advantages over cars and trucks. But they also have some disadvantages. The following weighs the pros and cons.

Pollution: Many 2-wheel vehicle proponents argue that motorcycles and scooters produce less pollution than their 4-wheel counterparts. It all depends on the cycle you purchase. Many reason that because the motorcycle engine is smaller, it naturally must produce less pollution. However, many motorcycle engines are devoid of the intricate anti-pollution technology of car engines. Also, many of the smaller size motorcycles have 2-stroke engines, which burn lubricants together with fuel to operate, causing even heavier pollution. To be priced lower than cars, motorcycle engines need to be cheaply built, and that often means compromising agents that would staunch emissions. However, if you’re considering an electric scooter or motorcycle, you may find it does produce much less pollution.

MPG: Two-wheeled cycles do generally get better mileage per gallon on a tank of gas. Do remember that motorcycle engines may be smaller than their car cousins, requiring more frequent fuel-ups if you travel a good distance. Motorcycles are lighter than cars, which will help them go further. According to Department of Energy national averages on fuel consumption, more extensive scooter use, for example, could save up to 14 million gallons of gas per day. What has to be considered, however, is that scooters and motorcycles may be an advantage to a single person or two riding together. But they won’t be as fuel efficient when compared to a car that can transport five or six people at the same time.

Space constraints: Motorcycles and scooters may have the leg up on cars with regard to the space they take up. In crowded urban areas, it could pay to have a motorcycle because parking will be much easier. Also, fewer cars on the road may make for a better urban environment.

Accidents: If you’re concerned more about accidents than gas savings, you may want to stick with a car. Statistics from most countries around the world indicate that motorcycles are involved in more accidents than cars, and fatalities are higher than with cars. Wearing protective gear, especially helmets, can help reduce the number of fatalities associated with motorcycle riding.

Only you can decide if a motorcycle is right for your lifestyle and would pay in cost savings down the line.

Last modified Oct. 8, 2008

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