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Motorcycles vs. Scooters vs. Mopeds


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In the world of two-wheeled vehicles, there are a lot of different terms that float around.

Considering many of these types of “motorcycles” may seem similar, there are some key differences between them.

The main differences are largely dictated by state laws regarding licensing and registration requirements.

Each state’s licensing and registration laws will vary slightly depending on the state’s definition of a motorcycle, scooter, moped, or motor-driven cycle.

Scooters vs. Motorcycles

The main difference between scooters and motorcycles is the design.

For the purposes of licensing and registration, scooters and motorcycles are the same.

Motorcycles are typically defined as having two-wheels and an engine of at least 50cc.

Scooters fit this definition too, however, scooters are also defined by:

  • A step-through frame.
  • Smaller wheels.
  • Typical engine size of about 50cc to 250cc (they can be bigger).
  • Automatic transmission.

You will need a motorcycle endorsement to operate a scooter and you’ll need to title and register it just like you would your motorcycle.

When to Choose a Scooter vs a Motorcycle?

Given their small size, weight, and maneuverability, scooters can be a good choice for city-riding and local use.

Scooters also have the benefit of:

  • Lower costs.
  • Low maintenance.
  • Great gas mileage.
  • Easy to use.

Without a clutch to worry about on most scooters, you’ll only need to think about twisting the throttle and going. This can be attractive to beginner riders.

As your distance and speed requirements increase, a motorcycle is probably a better choice.

Moped vs. Scooter

For state laws, a moped is often in a category of its own.

Mopeds are typically defined as:

  • Having a small engine no more than 49cc.
  • May include pedals for human power.
  • Being able to travel at speeds no more than 30 mph.

Most states do not require a motorcycle endorsement to operate a moped, you’ll just need a valid driver’s license. However, some states do offer moped-specific licenses to younger riders.

Depending on your state, registration may or may not be required too. If it is required, moped registration fees are usually pretty cheap.

How fast can a 150cc scooter go?

If you’re interested in a smaller scooter or mini motorcycle, you’re probably wondering just how fast you’ll be able to go.

The top speed of any motorcycle or scooter is going to depend on it’s design and engine type.

But in general, you can expect a 150cc scooter’s top speed to be about 50 to 65 miles per hour.

Main Differences between Scooters, Motorcycles, and Mopeds

The major differences between the different types of “motor-driven cycles” can be broken down into the following broader categories:

  • Engine size.
  • Top speed.
  • Motorcycle license, registration, and insurance requirements.

Laws and requirements will vary slightly from state to state, but in general the following differences can be drawn between these vehicles.

Engine Size

Engine size and type is the first big difference when it comes to scooters vs mopeds vs motorcycles.

For motorcycles, engines can come in a wide variety of engine sizes and designs. You’ll find everything from single cylinders and inline engines to v-twins.

Scooters will typically feature a single cylinder engine that ranges anywhere from 50cc to 250cc.

Moped engines are typically 49cc or less and also feature a single cylinder.

Learn more about motorcycle CCs here.

Top Speed

Top speed is another major difference between these different types of motor-driven cycles.

A motorcycle’s top speed can reach 100 mph and up. Learn about some of the fastest motorcycles here.

Most scooters will top out around 50 to 65 mph, which means that most scooters are often not a great choice for freeway or highway use.

Mopeds are typically required to be able to go no faster than 28 to 30 mph.

License, Registration, Insurance

For registration and licensing purposes, scooters and motorcycles typically have the same requirements. You’ll need a proper motorcycle endorsement, registration, and insurance in order to ride it on public roadways.

In most states, riding a moped will only require you to have a valid driver’s license. You typically do not need to register and insure a moped.

Learn more about motorcycle endorsements, title and registration, and insurance requirements.

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