The search started at home – I located a couple of websites that had scooters for sale:
AngloInfo – A list of scooter dealers in Paris.
Kijiji – Classifieds for Paris
It was also important to have someone on the ground looking out for me – Morgane and her wonderful parents did most of the legwork in finding the scooter I’d ultimately buy. The shop I bought from is Avventura Scooters, just outside the main part of the city at Mairie D’Issy. I don’t know how they found this particular dealership, but they were nice and helpful. I can’t say enough about Morgane’s family and how much they helped this stranger. Anyone who doesn’t like the French hasn’t met these generous people.
To drive a scooter with an engine 125cc or under you’ll need an International Driver’s Permit (I got mine at AAA for $15), your driver’s license from the states and your passport. That’s it. Under 50cc and I don’t think you need anything. Over 125cc and you need a motorcycle license, which is a whole different ordeal.
The main thing I was worried about was the notorious French bureaucracy and trying to register the scooter with the government. For only 25 Euros, though, Avventura offered to deal with all the registration stuff at the prefecture to get my Carte Gris (grey card). They gave me a provisional Carte Gris that I carry until the 3 week process is completed – at which point they’ll mail the official one to me. In order to get a Carte Gris, you need a permanent address in France and proof you get mail there. Luckily I’m renting a room in Morgane’s parents’ house, but I think there are companies that set you up with a temporary legal address (like a PO Box kind of thing).
Legally, the scooter dealership must give a 3-month warranty on your scooter. If it’s a used scooter, the repairs must happen in their shop. If it’s a new scooter, the repairs will be paid for at any shop. This is the only thing that could end up being an issue, and in retrospect it might have been smart to buy the scooter in the place we’re going to be using it the most, but we’ll probably be coming back through Paris before the 3 months are up. We’ll see.
At many of the shops I visited, there was a pretty standard 10% discount if anything happened to be paid for in cash. If you happen to need a lot of cash, you should get a cash advance from the Bureau de Change at the BNP Paribas main branch at 2 Place de l’Opera – right across the street from the Opera metro. You can take a maximum of 1000 Euros per person per day. Alternatively, the amount you can take from an ATM varies by card (my Fidelity account is 500 USD, my BOA seems to be 0 USD, which I need to deal with) and it’s reset every calendar day, it seems, though I couldn’t figure out which calendar they were using. On my Fidelity card (Visa) there was a 10,000 USD daily spending limit, if I remember right, so it wouldn’t have been an issue if I couldn’t happen to get enough cash, but I couldn’t have gotten a 10% discount.
The last piece is insurance – they told me that I didn’t need insurance for the first day I drive it, but I don’t completely understand how that works. Morgane suggested I was covered by the shop that day and that it was legal to drive back to my hostel. But I’m going to call at 9am to set it up. It seems that it should be pretty straightforward to get insured. The shop asked me to have the insurance faxed to them so they can take it to the prefecture, and then the policy will be mailed to me at my house.