While scooters made by Globber are certainly a trend of present times, mopeds are also slowly getting back to relevance in the United States. Even though the two vehicles fall in the same overall category, differences in engine size and maximum speed to name but a few are really important to know and understand.
Let’s Start with the Basics
When you think of a two-wheeled vehicle, one of the first things that come to mind is obviously a motorcycle, a scooter, or perhaps, if you’re a bit old-school, even a moped. All three are considered great forms of transportation for commuting, especially when one simply dislikes sitting in a car in rush hour traffic.
First of all, it’s very important that we make a certain distinction that will help tremendously during the course of this article. Generally speaking, when people use the word ‘motorcycle’ they tend to think about a two-wheeled vehicle with a lot of units of horsepower and the ability to make a tremendous noise.
In technical terms, however, ‘motorcycle’ is a term which covers a broad range of motorized vehicles ranging from scooters to mopeds and ending with the actual, ‘real’, motorcycles. Basically, while all scooters and mopeds are motorcycles, not all motorcycles are solely scooters and mopeds.
By this definition, we would have to think that mopeds and scooters are somewhat the same if they are part of the same, larger category of vehicles. While this may be true and while certain technological breakthroughs have rendered some of the differences between them obsolete, the barrier between these two types of transportation is still quite firmly set.
Like any good comparison does, let’s begin by actually understanding how a moped is defined and how a scooter is characterized to allow ourselves a better observational standpoint.
A moped or a ‘motorized bicycle’ is the name used for a two or three-wheeled device which is not capable of doing more than something around 28 or 30 mph on level ground. Originally, the machine also had to have pedals in order to classify as a moped because they allowed for human propulsion.
Furthermore, the motor also has to produce less than two gross brake horsepower and will usually have an automatic transmission.
Historically speaking, the name of the vehicle comes from the words ‘motor’ and ‘pedal’ because, as we said, the earliest version of mopeds requires pedals to start or even be able to climb up a steeper hill.
While classic mopeds are a rare sight these days because time and technology have brought better ways to travel, legislation changed in such a way that the powered electric push-bikes which have indeed become a common sight are still, sometimes, classified as mopeds.
Anybody who wants to drive a moped must be 16 years of age or older and valid a valid M1 or M2 driver’s license. However, this double validation means that any teenager who passes CBT training can drive a moped with L-plates rather than needing a full motorcycle license to do so.
When it comes to gear, any moped rider must wear a properly fastened helmet at all times while enjoying the ride of his/her life. An advantage to having a moped rather than a motorcycle is the fact that you are exempt from any financial responsibility because the L-plates only require a one-time fee, without you having to renew them constantly.
Scooters, just like mopeds, are two-wheeled vehicles which are most distinguishable by their patented step-through chassis and footrest platform. Commonly seen on the roads in the United States, they were first developed in the 1900s and have kept on gaining popularity ever since.
It’s true that mopeds and scooters have some things in common but it’s the engine that really sets the scoots in a category of their own.
Unlike mopeds which have a required speed limit, scooters do not have a set size of an engine so prospective buyers may find anything from low-powered vehicles to high-powered powertrains. Scooters can start from 50cc (cubic centimeters) and go all the way up to 750cc for the very big ones like the Honda NC750X.
Furthermore, some manufacturers have focused on developing large capacity scooters while still having an ample engine range to choose from. Scooters are also generally more expensive than mopeds which is not at all surprising given their advantages in engine size and power.
However, scooters usually have smaller diameter wheels than mopeds do and also function on a mix between automatic and manual transmissions. In plain English, if there is a platform where you can put your feet on while riding, you are riding on a scooter. If the thing is under 50cc though, then it is legally classified as a moped.
Some Key Differences
Scooters and mopeds are also quite different when it comes to the time and requirements to be able to legally drive one.
For mopeds, the rider has to be past his/her 16th birthday and to have completed the Compulsory Basic Training (CBT). When these conditions are met, he/she can legally ride up to a 50cc moped on the road with Learner plates but without a passenger.
At 17, a person can ride up to a 125cc motorbike without Learner plates or a passenger, even though this can only last for a couple of years before the CBT certificate will expire.
When that happens, it makes no sense to do the CBT again so most people will obviously opt for a full motorcycle license. The first choice when doing this is opting between an AM moped license or an A1 motorcycle license.
The AM moped license can be taken at 17 years of age provided the driver still has a valid CBT and has passed the motorcycle theory test. However, the A1 motorcycle license can also be taken at 17 and, compared to the AM, it allows you to ride bikes of up to 125cc, including scooters, with the same two requirements applying here as well.
What to Do Then?
All this information obviously begs a very normal question: why take an AM moped license when you are 17 if you can take an A1 motorcycle license instead? Or better yet, how much need do you have for this as long as you can take the A2 motorcycle license when you’re 19?
In all fairness, this boils down to two things: if you’re getting a two-wheeled vehicle now, the permit of choice is obviously tied to the vehicle in question and its engine capacity. On the other hand, as long as you’re not sure you will ride mopeds for the rest of your life or you simply want to ditch the L-plates, you may as well wait until you can take the A2 motorcycle test.
Due to the same overall classification that we mentioned in the beginning, there isn’t any legal difference between them. They must abide by the same rules as ‘normal’ motorcycles, people who ride them are required to have a motorcycle endorsement to use them on the streets and, of course, have a legal insurance policy.
Furthermore, the tests that one has to undertake for the AM and A1 license are completely similar, if not the same as the ones from the Department of Motor Vehicles so that’s really a non-issue.
Differences Between Moped and Scooter Insurance
To be fair, there are all sorts of things you have to consider when making this kind of purchase. The only real difference between a moped and a scooter’s insurance is that you will find mopeds to be much cheaper to insure because they are obviously seen as a lower risk.
However, this is a two-way street as both scooters and mopeds will generally be more cost-effective than a full-sized motorcycle when it comes to paying for insurance. The only real thing you can do is inform yourself very well before making a purchase to be sure you’re not making an error.
What to Remember
Mopeds and scooters are certainly under the same vehicle category, even though there are significant differences between them. They are both two-wheeled vehicles which need permits to be ridden legally on a national road.
The most important difference is obviously the engine size because a scooter’s category begins at the 50cc which is where the moped’s ends. However, a moped has bigger wheels with irregular sizes while boasting a fixed 28 mph to a scooter’s varying-by-engine-size speed.
One crucial difference though is the fact that while technological breakthroughs have managed to create scooters which are legally allowed to be ridden on the highway, the mopeds are still banned from that honor.