Owning and Driving a Moped Scooter in Finland
In Finland mopeds (motorcycles with less than 50cc of engine displacement) have traditionally been as vehicles for people who are either too young or too old to have a drivers license to drive a car.
While it is understandable that the 18-year-old will drop his moped for a "German Deathtrap" (a fast, cheap car) in a heartbeat, one should not dismiss the scooter as an inexpensive and fun transport.
Unarguably the bicycle is still a more environment friendly and healthier alternative to motoring in general.
NOTE: This article only applies to moped class (50cc) class scooters which are, in the eyes of the law, a hybrid between a motorcycle (larger than 50cc engine) and a bicycle. Mopeds can be registered for two people (driver and passenger), but some older ones are not.
Drivers License Requirements
To drive a moped legally, you need to have the necessary permissions. If you have been born before 1985 or have a Drivers License that enables you to drive a car or a motorcycle, you can also drive a moped. More detailed information in Wikipedia.
While driving a scooter is easy (no gears, just throttle and brakes), if you have no previous experience, it is advisable to learn control in a closed area before scooting off to the city traffic.
Purchasing and Necessary Equipment
Scooters can be bought from specialty stores where motorcycles are sold, but the recent popularity of Chinese-built cheap scooters have brought them also to larger food stores, hardware stores, etc.
In addition to purchasing a new scooter it is also a good option to get a second hand one. The most popular market place for second hand mopeds and motorcycles is Nettimoto.com: http://www.nettimoto.com/skootteri/myydaan?eto=50
The price range for scooters in the Finnish market spans from tens of Euros to thousands for a chic Italian brand. A good quality bicycle will easily cost more than a good quality 50cc scooter.
This article is not a purchasing guide, but in general the middle aged person will likely enjoy the reliability, cleanliness and quietness of a 4 stroke engine as opposed to the more peppy 2 stroke options popular among the younger audience. The fuel consuption is around 2-3 litres per 100 kilometres.
The only mandatory safety equipment for driving is a helmet. Helmets can be bought from many outlets such as Hong Kong or Biltema. A sufficiently protective helmet costs from 40 to 80 Euros.
Paperwork and Insurance
For new scooters bought from the store the dealer will handle the registration for you and you should run into no bureaucracy.
When buying a used bike one should always have some healthy skepticism, purchasing a stolen item at a discount can lead to unexpected trouble. Once you are making the deal make sure you get the following paperwork filed out:
- Bill of Sale (a template available at Nettimoto.com)
- Both the Registration and Transfer slips issued by Trafi
Once you have made the deal you need to go to a Registration Office and transfer the vehicle to your name and take the compulsory traffic insurance. The process usually takes about 10-15 minutes (for a Finnish person, at least) and costs 11 Euros.
In Finland all motor vehicles must have a compulsory traffic insurance that will cover damages to the other party in case of an incident. The cost per annuum for a moped spans from 150 to 300 Euros, so it does make sense to shop around.
In addition to the compulsory it is advisable to get additional coverage to cover theft if your bike is worth more than tens of Euros. The insurance companies will gladly sell you the full coverage (Kasko), but the partial coverage (Osakasko) is usually the sensible option.
Skootterini.com did a comparison of insurance prices in early 2013: http://skootterini.com/uutisarkisto/142-moposkootterin-vakuuttamisen-kustannukset-2013.html
All costs included you should expect to pay around 200-250 Euros per year for insurance of your moped.
Driving and parking
As told above the Moped is a hybrid between a motorcycle and a bicycle. The most important limitation of a moped is that the maximum speed is limited to 45 km/h. This essentially disables using the moped for long distance travel, but there is no trouble in keeping up with traffic in the city.
It is not allowed to drive on motorways, but one can legally drive a moped on bicycle ways marked with "Allowed for Mopeds" signs (Sallittu Mopoille).
Parking rules are the same for bicycles and mopeds, in practice it seems impossible to get a parking ticket even in the city.
Maintenance and Storage
A scooter does not generally travel more than a few thousand kilometres a year. The typical service span of a brand-name scooter is 5000-6000 Kilometres. This translates to driving years without paying for service - one does need to do basic checks for oil and brakes, etc. for safety reasons. Service shops are available even in city centres and a typical service costs 100 - 150 Euros.
While one can drive throughout the year, the best season for driving a scooter spans from May to September. In the winter months it would be optimal to have a separate storage space (warm or cold does not really matter), but many people store their mopeds on the street under a protective cover.
The biggest risk in street storing is probably not theft, but being damaged by snow plowing in the winter months.
Disclaimer: All the legal and price data is from June 2013, any changes in legistlation should be checked.