Mopeds vs. Scooters

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As the smaller counterparts to motorcycles, mopeds and scooters are another great option to get around on 2-wheels. 

This page will cover the basics of mopeds vs. scooters. 

In other pages in this section, you can find information about riding them, maintaining them, getting a license, and registering and titling your moped or scooter. 

Moped vs. Scooter: What is the difference between a moped and a scooter?

While the term moped and scooter are often used interchangeably, there are some key differences when it comes to licensing and registration. 

First, let’s start with the similarities.

Both mopeds and scooters feature much smaller displacement engines than a standard motorcycle. 

Most mopeds and scooters will also feature a step-through frame, which allows the rider to get right into the seat without having to throw their leg over the frame. 

Additionally, most mopeds and scooters feature an automatic or semi-automatic transmission. 

All of this makes for slightly different licensing, registration, and insurance requirements compared to motorcycles. 

The difference between scooter and mopeds also comes down to mostly engine size and styling. 

Scooters will typically feature a larger engine than a moped. 

Scooters will also often feature more substantial body fairings and comfort features, while a moped trends towards smaller in overall size and more “naked.”

What is a scooter?

A scooter describes a 2 wheel vehicle with:

  • An engine size of 50cc or greater. 
  • A step-through frame with a platform for the rider to rest their feet. 
  • An automatic transmission. 
  • Smaller wheels compared to a motorcycle. 

Scooters are popular for city commuters and for getting around town. They’re relatively cheap, feature excellent gas mileage, and can keep up with traffic on most roads. 

The largest scooters may feature engines up to 850cc, and are more than capable of reaching highway speeds.  

For licensing, registration, and titling purposes, most state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will treat a scooter just as they treat a motorcycle. You can learn more about getting a scooter license and registering and titling your scooter in our pages below:

What is a moped?

A moped describes a 2-wheel vehicle with:

  • An engine no larger than 49cc. 
  • An automatic transmission.
  • A top speed of no more than 30mph. 
  • A step-through frame.
  • A “naked” or simple body and styling. 

Mopeds are much smaller in size than both scooters and motorcycles. 

Registration and licensing requirements vary from state to state. 

Some states will treat mopeds just like scooters and motorcycles, some will require special moped license plates, while others will allow you to operate a moped (>49cc) with a basic Class C driver’s license with no special plates. 

Some states may offer a specific moped license.

However, due to their low top speeds, it is generally illegal and unsafe to ride them anywhere other than low-speed surface streets. 

What does “moped” mean? 

The term “MOPED” is mostly used to describe a small displacement motorcycle, motorized bicycle, or scooter. 

However, the term moped was originally used to describe a pedal-powered bicycle with a motor (motorized + pedal). 

Today, most mopeds do not feature pedals. The original moped has kind of been replaced with the modern e-bike. 

Motor-Driven Cycle vs. Moped

Some states, like California, further define small displacement motorcycles into motor-driven cycles and mopeds. 

A motor-driven cycle is defined as a motor-driven 2-wheel vehicle (gas or electric) that is capable of traveling faster than 30 mph. 

These vehicles are treated the same way as motorcycles for licensing, registration, and helmet requirements. 

Mopeds are then defined as a 2-wheeled vehicle with an automatic transmission that can travel no faster than 30 mph. 

Types of Mopeds & Scooters

Just like the many different types of motorcycles, there are a variety of mopeds and scooters you can choose from. 

Some popular examples include:

  • BMW C400X
  • Honda ADV 150
  • Honda Metropolitan
  • Honda PCX 150
  • Honda Ruckus
  • Italjet Dragster
  • Piaggio Beverly 350 Tourer
  • Suzuki Burgman 200
  • Suzuki Burgman 400
  • Vespa Elettrica 
  • Vespa Primavera 50
  • Yamaha SMAX
  • Yamaha XMAX