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What is the Difference Between Scooters and Mopeds?

By Matthew F.
Updated May 23, 2024
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The difference between a mopeds and scooters is found in the size of the engine and the power capacity. A moped is usually designated as having an engine size under 50 cc, while a scooter engine typically has a greater displacement. The two motorized vehicles also generally differ in size, safety restrictions, licensing fees, and body frames. Many mopeds have pedals, while the scooter is a closer relative of the motorcycle.

A moped can resemble a bicycle, and they are often built as bicycles equipped with motors. Many countries require them to use pedals as well as an engine, resulting in the mixing of the words “motor” and “pedal” to create the word “moped.” This collaboration of both human and engine power makes the vehicle a hybrid vehicle. The distinction allows for a safer ride and a lower driving age in many places. The top speed of a moped is generally low, between 18-47 mph (about 29-75 kph), and they can be driven on most roads, but few highways.

There are different laws for operating a moped, depending on the driver's location. Most places allow for more than one rider on a moped and nearly all countries with moped legislation call for helmets to be worn by all riders. Some places require the absence of external gear-shifting, and many locations in the United States have different levels of classification for different sizes and engine powers within varying mopeds.

The scooter, like the moped, generally has a step through frame. The larger motor can usually be found to the rear of the driver, below the seat. Scooters are defined in legislation in the United States as having a platform for the feet, and they are classified as motorcycles by most distinctions in the Western world. They have emerged in some places as a separate class of vehicle, between 50 cc and 150 cc of engine power, and have their own set of laws and regulations.

Whereas mopeds were created for and embraced by youth culture, scooters emerged as a popular vehicle for those looking to save gas or those looking for more power than a moped without the intimidation or attitude of a motorcycle. They have been used as a form of urban transportation throughout the world, and unlike the moped, are suited for transport on most highways.

Mopeds often face few restrictions due to their classification as “limited motorcycles.” The age of moped licensing varies around the world, but is as low as 14 years in some places, and around 15 years in most places. Some localities require no licensing for driving mopeds. Scooters, on the other hand, require a motorcycle license, and the driving age is usually the same as the normal driving age, around 16 or higher.

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Discussion Comments
By anon278312 — On Jul 05, 2012

I do not have a driver's licenses. What is the cap on scooters as far as cc's in Ocala, Florida?

By Alchemy — On Aug 13, 2010

@ Georgesplane- Laws regarding electric mopeds, scooters, and motorcycles differ from state to state. In Arizona, a moped that travels under 35mph and has pedal assist does not need to be registered or insured. Any electric cycle (motorcycle, scooter, moped) that can reach speeds over 35mph or does not have pedals must be registered and insured as if it were a motorcycle.

I believe that most jurisdictions consider any electric cycle with a 1500 watt or more motor to be a motorcycle (do not quote me on this point).

You can actually find electric scooters that look like motor scooters, but top out at 20 mph. These scooters make for great campus scooters, or for riding around vacation communities. They are much more environmentally friendly than gas scooters, and only take a couple of hours to charge.

By Georgesplane — On Aug 13, 2010

@ Babalaas- What are the laws regarding electric scooters in the United States? Electric scooters do not have combustion engines like motor scooters, so are they subject to the same registration and insurance requirements? How do electric mopeds compare to scooters and mopeds of different engine displacements?

By Babalaas — On Aug 13, 2010

Most states only require a license and insurance for vehicles that have an engine displacement size larger than 49 cubic centimeters. 49cc scooters can be ridden the same as a bicycle, often only requiring a helmet. Age restrictions are usually for the purchase of a moped, but some localities have no restrictions at all.

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