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In most states, riders must have a driver’s license or an endorsement to operate their motorcycle legally. This definition often applies to all two-wheeled vehicles, including mopeds and scooters.

You could face fines or other legal consequences if you don’t follow the rules or laws regarding licenses and endorsements while operating a scooter or moped.

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When you have a 50cc engine on your scooter, the laws that govern how you can operate the equipment vary by location. Most states require the vehicle to be registered and you to have a motorcycle license or endorsement, but some exceptions apply to a low-speed engine.

What Are the Requirements to Legally Operate a 50cc Scooter Where I Live?

The following chart shows what is required to ride a 50cc scooter where you currently live as of March 2023. Please note that these rules are subject to change at any time by the state government, so always perform your due diligence by checking with your DMV or an equivalent office.

couple fun riding a scooter

It should be noted that highways are not the same as freeways or interstates. Mopeds and scooters with a 50cc engine are typically banned from high-speed roads with speed limits that exceed the vehicle’s maximum capacity by 25 mph or more.

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StateLicense RequirementsAllowed on HighwayTitle and registration are necessary if the scooter meets the state’s definition of a motorcycle. Those under the age 18 must wear a helmet.
AlabamaMotorcycle License or EndorsementAllowedInsurance needed to operate vehicle. Helmet and other protective gear required.
AlaskaClass M1 License or EndorsementAllowedMust register and insure the vehicle. Protective eyewear required.
ArizonaMotorcycle License or EndorsementAllowedRegistration and insurance required. Must wear a helmet under age 18.
ArkansasClass M or MD LicenseAllowedLiability insurance required. No passengers allowed.
CaliforniaM1 or M2 LicenseAllowedLiability insurance and helmets are required.
ColoradoDriver’s License or PermitAllowedRegistration, liability insurance, and eye protection mandatory.
ConnecticutDriver’s License or PermitAllowedMust wear a helmet and operate in the right lane.
DelawareMotorcycle License or EndorsementBannedMust be 16.
FloridaClass E Driver’s License or Motorcycle LicenseBannedMust be 16.
GeorgiaMotorcycle License or EndorsementAllowedMust wear a helmet at all times.
HawaiiMotorcycle License or EndorsementMust achieve speed of 35 mph or fasterHelmet with a chin strap required to operate (under 18). Safety goggles or a windshield required. Registration and liability insurance is mandatory.
IdahoDriver’s License or PermitAllowedLiability insurance required if vehicle meets FMVSS for motorcycles.
IllinoisDriver’s License or PermitAllowedMust be titled and registered. Liability insurance is mandatory. Eye protection is required.
IndianaDriver’s License of Class B MDC EndorsementOnly if Highway Is 35 mph or LessMust be registered. Helmet required under age 18. Eye protection mandatory for all.
IowaDriver’s License or PermitMust achieve speed of 40 mphMust be registered and insured.
KansasMotorcycle License or EndorsementAllowedMinors must wear a helmet.
KentuckyMotorcycle License or EndorsementAllowedMust wear a helmet if under age 21.
LouisianaMotorcycle License or EndorsementAllowedThose with a permit must stay within three miles of home. Liability insurance and a helmet are required.
MaineMotorcycle License or EndorsementAllowedRegistration required. Must stay on the farthest right-hand side of the road. Liability insurance is mandatory. Helmets required for those under 18.
MarylandMotorcycle License or EndorsementAllowedRequires title and insurance to operate. Helmet and eye protection are mandatory.
MassachusettsDriver’s License or PermitBannedRegistration and wearing a helmet are required.
MichiganMotorcycle License or EndorsementBannedRegistration is required and renews every 36 months. Helmets required for anyone under age 19.
MinnesotaMotorcycle License or EndorsementBannedMust be titled and registered. Liability insurance is necessary. Minors must wear a helmet.
MississippiMotorcycle License or EndorsementAllowedLiability insurance is required. Helmets are mandatory.
MissouriMotorcycle License or EndorsementAllowedNo insurance or safety equipment required for mopeds.
MontanaMotorcycle License or EndorsementAllowedMust operate on the far right. Helmets required for minors.
NebraskaMotorcycle License or EndorsementMust achieve speed of 31 mph or fasterAny vehicle without pedals is considered a motorcycle.
NevadaMotorcycle License or EndorsementAllowedRiders must wear a helmet. Registration is required for public use.
New HampshireMotorcycle License or EndorsementAllowedMust be registered.
New JerseyMotorcycle License or EndorsementAllowedRegistration and liability insurance are mandatory. Must wear a helmet.
New MexicoDriver’s License or PermitAllowedTitle and registration are necessary if the scooter meets the state’s definition of a motorcycle. Those under age 18 must wear a helmet.
New YorkDriver’s License or PermitAllowedMust register and insure a scooter or moped. Helmet and eye protection are mandatory.
North CarolinaNo License RequiredAllowedMust be registered. Operators must be at least 16 and follow all traffic laws. Helmets are required.
North DakotaMotorcycle License or EndorsementAllowedPermits allowed at age 14. Must be registered, titled, and insured. Helmets are required for minors.
OhioMotorcycle License or EndorsementAllowedMust be registered, titled, and tagged. Helmets are required, and the vehicle must have one rearview mirror. Vehicles must operate in the far right lane.
OklahomaMotorcycle License or EndorsementBannedMust wear a helmet if under age 18.
OregonDriver’s License or PermitAllowedRegistration required. All riders must wear helmets, and passengers are not permitted.
PennsylvaniaMotorcycle License or EndorsementAllowedAnything without pedals could be classifed as a motorcycle.
Rhode IslandDriver’s License or PermitBannedScooter must be registered. Insurance is mandatory. Must wear a helmet if under age 21.
South CarolinaDriver’s License or Moped LicenseNot PermittedMust register vehicle and obtain license plates.
South DakotaDriver’s License or PermitAllowedNeeds to be registered and insured. Helmets required for minors. Eye protection or a windscreen is mandatory.
TennesseeMotorcycle License or EndorsementAllowedMust wear a helmet, register the scooter, and obtain a title.
TexasMotorcycle License or EndorsementAllowedRequired to be registered, insured, and tagged. Must pass a safety course to not wear a helmet and provide proof of health insurance.
UtahMotorcycle License or EndorsementAllowedMust be registered, titled, and insured. Helmets required for those under age 21.
VermontMotorcycle License or EndorsementAllowedRegistration and insurance is required, and helmets are mandatory.
VirginiaDriver’s License or PermitBannedMust carry valid ID while operating. Scooter needs to be titled and registered. Helmets required for everyone.
WashingtonMotorcycle License or EndorsementBannedMust be tagged and registered. Helmets are required.
Washington DCMotorcycle License or EndorsementBannedFollows motorcycle laws. Liability insurance is required.
West VirginiaMotorcycle License or EndorsementAllowedHelmets are required. The scooter needs to be titled, insured, and registered.
WisconsinDriver’s License or PermitAllowedLiability insurance is required.
WyomingMotorcycle License or EndorsementAllowedNeeds to be registered and insured. Highly recommended to speak with an attorney because of the state’s complex laws.

How to Get a Motorcycle License or Endorsement?

If you want to get an endorsement for an existing driver’s license, you’ll typically need to pass a safety course or a knowledge exam. Once you have these certificates, you can legally apply for what you need to operate a motorcycle in your state.

Minimum age requirements apply in all states. You can get a permit at 14 or 15, but it can be 17 or 18 in some areas. This requirement often changes, so check to see the current rules where you live.

Some states require written permission from a legal guardian or parent for someone under 17 to apply for a motorcycle permit or license.

You’ll need to complete the same steps as you would for a standard driver’s license to obtain a motorcycle license. That includes taking a vision screening, passing a skills test, and offering proof of identity.

Once you’re licensed or endorsed and have your 50cc scooter, you’ll want to apply for motorcycle insurance (or a moped/scooter policy, if available) that meets the requirements for your state.

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Consequences of Getting Pulled Over without a License on a Scooter?

If you ride a 50cc scooter without a license though your state requires it, you may face legal consequences such as:

  • Traffic citations
  • Fines
  • Points of your driving record
  • Criminal charge

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Mike Navarette has more than a decade of experience in the auto insurance industry, but that's not his true passion. He loves getting on a motorcycle to explore roads he's never traveled. You'll find Mike in the garage working on something when he isn't helping clients or leaning into curves. It's sometimes a side hustle, more often a favor, but it keeps his hands busy doing something productive. Since the first time his father strapped on his helmet and took him for a ride, Mike has loved bikes. That passion, along with a desire to help others through a deep understanding of insurance policies, led to the creation of Motorcycle Ride Coverage.

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