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When gas prices rise, people often look to a motorized two-wheeled option to save money for daily transportation.

If you need to get around a short distance, mopeds and scooters are excellent choices. When you want something to support a long-distance trip, the muscle found in a motorcycle is the better option to choose.

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Before deciding which choice between a moped vs. a scooter vs. a motorcycle makes sense for your needs, it helps to review each one and the regulations governing them.

Are Scooters and Mopeds the Same Thing?

Mopeds got their name because the first ones were bicycles with connected motors. “Moped” stands for “motorized pedal vehicle.”

A scooter allows you to “scoot” faster on different roads. Some models even allow you to reach highway speeds.

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Mopeds and scooters have a similar step-through frame for riders, but the latter has a more powerful motor. It can be up to 250cc (or more), whereas a moped typically uses 50cc or lower.

That means you’ll have lower speeds with a moped with improved fuel economy. On most models, it’s not unusual for riders to get up to 70 miles per gallon while traveling at a top speed of about 60 mph.

If you ride a scooter, you can reach top speeds of 75 mph (and sometimes more), but you’ll see a fuel economy of 60 miles per gallon or less.

Any two-wheeler that delivers 50cc or less capable power falls into the moped category. Scooters come with several engine sizes to consider, although the most common options are 55cc, 100cc, 150cc, and 250cc.

Although some scooters can reach highway speeds, some jurisdictions don’t allow them. You’ll need to review your area’s local horsepower and engine size minimums to find what is possible.

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Are Mopeds Better Than Motorcycles?

A motorcycle’s design is what distinguishes it from mopeds and scooters. The engine is in the front part of the bike, located between the rider’s knees. You won’t have a step-through frame with footrests in front of you.

Motorcycles typically have an engine size that allows them to share roads and highways with all other motorized vehicles. Scooters and mopeds don’t always have that capability.

One of the fastest motorcycles you can find on the road today is the 2021 Kawasaki Ninja H2R. It reaches a speed of 249 mph, offering a supercharged in-line engine that delivers 326 HP and 122 pound-feet of torque.

Today, you wouldn’t find anything close to those ratings when shopping for the best new mopeds or scooters.

Is a Vespa a Moped or a Motorcycle?

A Vespa is a motorized two-wheeled vehicle that forges its own path in the moped vs. scooter vs. motorcycle debate. The manufacturer offers several forms, including Elettrica, GTS, Primavera, and Sprint.

young girl riding a moped

Although they look like mopeds, you would find for sale; they’re more commonly considered to be a scooter. Vespa makes bikes ranging from a 49cc moped-style design to a 278cc motor, and you would need proper insurance in most states.

The most powerful Vespas fit the definition of a motorcycle in jurisdictions that state anything above 250cc is not a scooter or a moped.

That means you can own a Vespa that is a moped, scooter, or motorcycle, depending on the motor or engine equipped to it.

License and Insurance Requirements for Mopeds, Scooters, and Motorcycles

Most insurance companies cover scooters and mopeds under their motorcycle policies. Virtually all states require riders to have some form of insurance, although the laws don’t always align with what is necessary for motorcycles.

A specific policy designed for scooters and mopeds is relatively rare.

Before getting on the road, reviewing your coverage is helpful to ensure you’re protected.

When you work with your agent or broker to obtain insurance for your moped, scooter, or motorcycle, it is usually required to have bodily injury and property damage liability coverage. Some states require medical payments and uninsured/underinsured motorist protection.

Optional coverages include comprehensive, collision, trip interruption, and roadside assistance.

The coverage limits for mopeds and scooters are the same for motorcycles.

Do I Need a Different License to Ride a Moped or Scooter?

Most states require riders to have a license to drive a moped or a scooter. Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, and Wyoming don’t have state-level requirements for mopeds.

high speed scooter on the road

You must register your moped in Colorado to operate it, but a specific license isn’t necessary. For those in Wyoming, the rules can be different in each county.

In California, there is an exception to requiring a license if the moped cannot reach a speed of 20 mph. Otherwise, an M1 or M2 endorsement is necessary.

Each state has different age minimums and endorsements to consider.

Operating a moped or scooter is similar, but not quite identical, to being on a motorcycle. Despite their differences, all three provide efficient and fun transportation for multiple purposes.

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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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