Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Purchasing a Scooter in Seoul

This can be a rather daunting project. Who do you trust? At least, that's how I approached the matter. I am a scooterist in the States and have experience buying scooters: one modern and several vintage. In my opinion, two things matter most: knowledge and trust.

Trust is difficult away from home. Not speaking but a little Korea and knowing that much is lost in translation, I was worried about walking into an autobike shop and negotiating with an ajossi about a new or used ride. The prospect of shopping via Craigslist or 4OKs was equally as aggravating. Many foreign scooterists in Seoul know nothing about the machine they are riding. Understandably, they have absolutely no idea about their scoot's condition.

Take my advice, I'd stay away from a bike being sold by a temporary, foreign owner unless you have someone you trust check it out first. (Even if you know the person selling the bike. Nothing like a bad sale to ruin a friendship. Trust me. I've seen it happen.) Buying a scooter from somebody because the bike looks good and not knowing anything about its history could very well be a ticket to a hospital bed. Scooters are simple machines, certainly, but because they are simple it doesn't take much for them to become dangerous modes of transportation. Remember we don't have garages here in which to get under a bike and check it out on a monthly basis. People, especially foreigners, ride their scoots until they break. Then have them fixed cheaply. Then ride some more. Why would you be willing to give money for that bike without first knowing about the bike? A bad front fork from slamming the scoot down curbs and in and out of street holes or a weak braking system and you're in trouble. Just sayin.^^

So, first there's trust. And I'm picky. I didn't like a lot of what I saw, though I wanted something specific. In the end, Praise and I began planning to go to shops and sussing out a trustworthy ajossi. What we learned is priceless.

First, find an ajossi who wants to do business with a foreigner to increase his own business and this guy will bend over backwards to find you the scooter you want. They're easy to find because most small business owners in Seoul operate via word-of-mouth. If an ajossi wants your business, he'll tell you as much because he'll see you as a good investment. If he's uninterested in your business, he'll ignore you and I'd suggest going to a shop where you're not ignored.

Of course, you're going to pay a little more than you would if you bought from a foreigner exiting country. But I can tell you the experience is worth 20-30 manwon more. There'll be a finder's fee of around 10manwon and the scooter will be worth more, too.

I should say that the guy who helped us hooked us up with a scooter with less than 700km that goes in the US for 2800$ for what came to 900$. In Korea, the Bella goes for around 1.8 to 2.0 million won, and we bought it for half that. He basically sold me a new, 125cc scoot from Suzuki that is popular in each international market under various names (in the US, Genuine sells it as The Buddy,) with a good reputation for being a solid performer, for almost 60% off. I'm ecstatic.

But it wasn't luck and it wasn't only my knowledge of scooters. Anybody can get this deal. The only reason my seller did this was because I'm a foreigner and he wants other foreigners to come to him to buy scooters. He made an investment. He could have held that scoot and sold it to somebody else for 1.3-1.6 million won. Now I don't know how he got the scooter and, quite frankly, I don't care. It wasn't stolen or abused or in an accident, so I don't need to care.

I was going to make offers on used scooters on store lots until I got a good deal. But there are so many Chinese scooters around it was looking as if to be safe I'd have to buy a new scoot. Let me make it clear to my friends reading this: those Chinese-market scooters may look cute and be cheaper but they will end up costing you more because you constantly repair them or you will be in an accident. Either way, it's heartache. Don't buy them. It's super-simple in Seoul to find a used Korean (Daelim,) Taiwanese (Kymco,) or Japanese (Suzuki) scooter for between 80 and 150manwon.

In addition, it is highway robbery to pay for a popular scooter like a Genuine Stella or a Piaggio Vespa in Korea because it will cost you at least 2,300$ to ship it home. You simply will not find a buyer who will pay you what it's worth when you leave Korea. They are expensive new and you'll want at least half back for what you've paid. The nice scooters, the vanity scooters, are far too expensive in Korea because only rich Koreans ride them. Even the restored vintage scooters are cheaper here than Italian or knock-offs like the LML or Genuine Stella. In addition, I've been riding my scoot for 300km and I can tell you that Seoul is murder on a scooter. Without a garage and tools and parts, a good vintage or fancy modern scoot is like throwing money away. Anyway, I'm getting off point.

I was going to make an offer on a used scoot but the ajossi at the store asked me what I wanted. I had told him that I was in a scooter club in the US and that I knew how to work on scooters and knew what I wanted. He immediately told me not to buy the used scoots on his lot because I'd have trouble. So, trust is good folks but knowledge is how you find a deal. He knew he couldn't sell me the junk because I was looking under the bikes and checking out wear and tear and asking questions. And wouldn't you know it, he said he'd find me a bike. In 48 hours, I was riding with Praise on the back of a cute, durable and stylish modern scooter that was like new for almost a third of the price.

I'll hook anybody up with this man. And when I have time this weekend, I'll be taking some more photos of my bike and his shop. I'll post the info. I told him I would. If you're looking now, get in touch with me and I'll send you his info. He doesn't speak English. You will need somebody who is fluent in Korean.

So, photos to come and some more scooting in Korea info as I have stories to come.


Anonymous said...

Hey, would love to have that information!

Thanks for your article!

Anonymous said...


I'm looking to buy a scooter, probably 50cc for my time in Seoul. Could you hook a brother up?

you can reach me at my e-mail


Stephy said...

Hi. I would just love to get that info. Please email me at


Stephy said...

I would love that info!

Thanks. my email is


t said...

Your article was very informative. I plan to live in Seoul for at least one year and would like to purchase a 49cc scooter.
Please send information to:

Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

That was a great article!

I lucked out when I bought a Daelim Delfino last year, despite the obvious risks of craigslist.

I'm on the look-out for an upgrade this year, so any information you could offer about where to buy a scooter would help out a lot!