Moped Scooter Laws

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Moped Scooter Laws

Although mopeds and scooters are often confused, the term moped refers to a motorized pedal bike. Newer mopeds may be similar in many ways, making it difficult to see the differences between the average moped and a motor scooter. These small differences, however, decide the set of laws that regulate them.

  1. Legal Definition

    • By definition, a moped is a small scooter-type vehicle that is powered by a low displacement (49cc or lower) motor and is often equipped with pedals. The inclusion of pedals may be required by some states, such as California, in order to qualify for the moped classification. A limitation may also be placed on the vehicle's top speed, ranging from 30 mph to 50 mph depending on individual state vehicle codes.

    Registration and Insurance

    • A scooter that meets the moped or motorized bicycle classification may not need to be registered with the state Department of Motor Vehicles. California, however, requires motorized bicycle registration and issues special license plates and identification cards. This is a one-time requirement and does not need renewal for the life of the registration. Insurance is typically not required for a moped or motorized bicycle. However, some insurance agencies may be able to create a policy for your peace of mind.


    • Moped operators must be in possession of a state-issued driver's license in most states. In states that do not require a driver's license, an age requirement may be in place. North Carolina, for example, requires moped operators to be at least 16 years old. In some cases, a motorcycle license is required. Motorized bicycle riders In California are required to possess an M2 moped/scooter only license or an M1 motorcycle license.

    Protective Wear

    • Helmet use is recommended in all 50 states. Mandatory universal helmet use is regulated only in California, Oregon, New York and Washington and require operators to wear Department of Transportation approved helmets. Alternatively, helmet use is required for riders under the age of 18 in Arizona and Kansas. Protective eye wear and clothing that improve your visibility is greatly recommended to maintain a safe riding environment.

    Traffic Laws

    • Mopeds and motorized bicycles in states that do not require licensing tend to fall under the same jurisdiction as normal pedal bicycles. States that require driver's or motorcycle license require operators to obey all traffic laws and regulations that affect automobiles. Please check with your local DMV or law enforcement for more details regarding the traffic laws that may affect you.

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  • Photo Credit Gerry Thomasen

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