If you’re interested in kick scooters, check our article containing comprehensive reviews of lucky pro scooters. Driving a moped requires some basic safety equipment including helmets, lights, mirrors, so you can drive safely. Depending on the state you live in you might also need registration, insurance, and a driver’s license.
Defining a moped
The exact classification of a moped depends on the country and the state you’re in, but there are some general characteristics that can apply to mopeds everywhere. You could define a moped as a vehicle that has two or three wheels, and an engine with a piston displacement of no more than 50 cubic centimeters.
The moped also needs to have no external shifting device and the maximum speed of the moped should not exceed 30 mph on a flat surface. These rules depend on the state mostly, with some states accepting a speed of only 20 mph while others allow you to drive at speeds of 50 mph max.
In some cases, if the moped doesn’t fit these requirements it has to be registered as a scooter or motorcycle. In Wisconsin, for example, a moped can be 120cc in size if it’s a bicycle-type vehicle that can be operated using only the pedals, but it also has an engine.
Some states like Virginia consider any vehicle that has the mentioned characteristics and less than 3 wheels a moped. But they require the vehicle to have a seat that’s no more than 24 inches in height.
Do you need insurance?
The answer to that is generally no, but sometimes yes. It all depends on the state you live in. In Kentucky, you don’t need insurance but in Texas, you do, for example. In North Carolina the law is clear, and since 2015 all mopeds need to be registered if you want to drive them on a state-maintained road.
You, however, don’t need to have your moped annually inspected, but you have to register it with the Division. As an owner, you will have to pay the same fee as you would do for registering a motorcycle and you will receive the same registration card and plate as you would do for a motorcycle.
There are some requirements that the moped needs to meet in order to be registered and able to be used on public roads. Your moped must have a certificate of origin from its manufacturer. This moped should also be created to be used on highways or any other type of public road.
As for insurance, some states like North Carolina require you to have liability insurance that has a limit of no less than $25,000. If you can’t maintain this the license plate of your vehicle will be revoked and you won’t be able to use your moped.
Moped laws across the USA
As we said, laws about scooters differ from a state to another, but there are some things in common and we’d like to tackle those. For example, in states like Alabama, Arizona, or Colorado you need safety equipment that includes a red rear reflector, rear-view mirror, horn, headlight, and of course, the brakes.
In Alabama, you also need side reflectors, muffler, and a helmet, and in Arizona, you need light for your license plate.
In Delaware, there are plenty of rules, amongst which one says that you’re not allowed to ride a moped on an interstate highway or on a limited-access highway. Furthermore, you need a driver’s license for a motor vehicle, although you don’t need a motorcycle license. But you do need to be 16 to be able to obtain one.
Mopeds can be considered bicycles in Delaware because they follow the same regulations. You need license plates on your moped and you need to make that clearly visible. Furthermore, you also need to register the moped for a 3-year period.
You need to have the safety equipment with you and that includes side and rear reflectors, a mirror, headlamp, a muffler, and the brakes. You won’t need to take your moped to a vehicle safety inspection regularly.
The regulations in Illinois are interesting too. When you’re riding a moped at nighttime, you should have it equipped with a headlamp capable of emitting a light that can be seen from 500 feet in front of you. You also need a reflector that can be seen from 600 feet away, and you can also supplement that with a lamp that can project light to 500 feet in the back.
Also, if you want to take someone on your moped you can’t unless the seat that you are both staying on is designed to support two people. All passengers should also wear protective equipment like glasses, goggles, or a form of transparent shield to protect their face.
The state of Iowa requires you to have one additional piece of equipment with you. That is a safety flag that should extend from the rear of the moped upwards, and this flag shouldn’t extend more than five feet above the ground.
This flag should have a triangular shape and have a surface area of at least 30 square inches. The color of the flag should be a Day-Glo one so it can be easily seen. You also need a lighted headlamp that is active both in daytime and nighttime.
Rules to follow
There are general laws and rules that apply in most states, so it’s important to know them. Nevertheless, before you buy a moped and start using it, make sure to know the legislation in your area.
One such general rule is that the person riding the moped and also any passengers that may sit on the moped should all wear helmets approved by the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles. Wearing a helmet can save you in many situations, especially when riding on a highway.
When using a moped you must always stay on the right-hand side of the lane and if you’re a driver trying to pass a moped you must do it as you would normally pass a vehicle, but leave at least 2 feet distance.
Of course, you should never use a moped under influence as the same DWI laws that apply for car drivers and everything else also apply to moped users. Another general rule is to attempt to stay out of traffic as much as you can. This is for your safety and the safety of those around you.
Although you might be tempted to do it, don’t stay in the same lane with another vehicle. Furthermore, when stopping at a light or intersection, don’t get between the cars, as motorcyclists usually do. That is not a safe riding behavior.
Be as visible to others in traffic as you can and this includes wearing brightly colored clothes or light colors. Furthermore, if your moped doesn’t come with a turn signal, try to install one. If you can’t do that, always use hand signals to show what are your intentions on the road.
Don’t forget to carry all the paperwork needed with you and remember that using a moped without having the license with you will result in a fine. In some states, you will also get a fine if you don’t wear a helmet, or if you’re carrying more passengers than allowed.
After all this information, what do you actually need to drive a moped? First of all, a driver’s license and that applies to most of all states, with some exceptions. In some states, you just need a regular driver’s license for bikes and the minimum age for driving the moped is 14, while some states require the minimum age to be 16.
You also need safety equipment and most of the times that includes a helmet, mirrors, horn, muffler, brakes, headlamps, tail lamps or reflective equipment, and plate lights. You might also have some others needed in some states.
When it comes to insurance, the answer is a mixed one. In some states it’s mandatory, in others it isn’t. Unfortunately, in the states that you’re required to have your moped insured, if you can’t maintain it, you won’t be able to use the vehicle on the streets.
When speaking about registration, generally, where you need insurance you also need registration. Finally, let’s not forget about the helmet, and while in some states you need to wear it at all times, no matter how old you are, in others you only have to wear it on highways, or if you’re under 18.