We don’t know if our recent post was of much help, but if you’re looking to buy a new pair of wheels, you may be in for a challenge. Mopeds are quite clearly distinguished from motorcycles by size and engine capacity but recent scooter breakthroughs have made the distinction quite difficult to the untrained eye.
Let’s Define This
Motorcycles, mopeds, and scooters are all great ways to travel when you don’t want to be stuck in rush hour traffic or simply do not enjoy being behind the wheel of a car. However, many people do not know the actual differences between them and as such, they make errors when trying to define what they want exactly.
Even though there are a few broad terms which cover a wide range of two-wheeled vehicles, it’s really not that hard to distinguish them provided you have some basic information. How do we differentiate a moped from a scooter and when does a scooter become so big that it’s not really a scooter anymore? Let’s get inspired by some biker lingo and think this through.
It’s imperative to point out that ’motorcycle’ is basically an umbrella term. What we mean by this is that while all scooters and mopeds are motorcycles, not all motorcycles are scooters and mopeds. Sounds simple, right? The simple answer is that the overall category of the motorcycles is basically any two-wheeled motor vehicle, regardless of its size or design.
A moped, or a ‘motorized bicycle’ is a two or three-wheeled device that is not capable of running with more than 30 mph on level ground. In order to classify as a moped, the machine also needs to be equipped with fully operative pedals to allow for human propulsion and a motor which can produce less than two gross brake horsepower with automatic transmission.
Historically speaking, even the very name shows the word’s origins. ‘Moped’ comes from the words ‘motor’ and ‘pedal’ joining together because the earliest mopeds all had bicycle pedals and were usually used for emergencies.
While the classic ones are a rare sight on the road these days and even the legislation changed around them, powered electric push-bikes have become a very common occurrence lately because their popularity is growing exponentially.
There are certain requirements for a person who wants to ride such an awesome device: first of all, the rider must have a valid license (M1 or M2) which means 16 years of age or older, which allows a moped to be ridden with L-plates once that person has passed CBT training rather than needing a full motorcycle license.
Second, the rider must wear a properly fitted and fastened helmet at all times while riding. An advantage to having a moped is the fact that you are exempt from any financial responsibility as you will get special license plates which only require a one-time fee, without the necessity of renewal.
A motorcycle, in the practical sense of the word, is any vehicle which operates on more than a 150cc engine size, and with no more than three wheels. Furthermore, the owner has to register it and the driver must have a valid motorcycle license, meaning only an M1 will be enough here.
On the plus side, you should remember that all M1 license holders may operate any lower-class vehicle like motorized bicycles or motor scooters without an M2 endorsement and can, as opposed to M2 holders, ride their motorcycles on the highway.
The Odd One in Between
For the sake of information, we really have to point out the fact that there’s another class of vehicles right in the middle, between mopeds and motorcycles. This can be very important when you’re trying to make an accurate distinction and see what you are allowed to drive and what you should buy.
The ones in the middle class are the so-called ‘’motor-driven cycles’’, which is basically any vehicle beneath the 150cc threshold that is required to qualify as a full-on motorcycle. However, the rider still needs to own an M1 license and the motor-driven cycle still has to be registered in order for it to be eligible on the roads.
If none of these satisfy you, you can always opt for a motorized scooter. This is similar to a regular one in the sense that it is a two-wheeled device with handlebars and a floorboard designed to be stood upon when riding. Powered by a motor, these scooters can be driven with any class driver license and do not have to be registered with the authorities.
Where Does the Scooter Come into Play?
What exactly is a scooter’s role in all this, you say? Well, despite the fact that you really will not see a non-scooter moped on the road these days, they do have a very distinct definition. While ‘moped’ has gone from being a stylistic, all-around term to a technically-oriented one, a scooter’s fundamental designs remain firmly locked in.
The problem is opinions differ as to what exactly makes a scooter a scooter nowadays. Fundamentally, any scooter with an engine capacity beneath 50cc is still classified as a moped so it’s even harder to categorize them because anything over that value isn’t.
There’s also more than just the technical way of looking at this. Scooters and mopeds, in general, differ from the broader category of motorcycles in other areas as well. As a rule, mopeds will generally be cheaper to tax, and insurance premium can differ too.
If you’re interested in buying a moped or a scooter and not necessarily a motorcycle, researching some specific scooter or moped insurance policies might go a long way toward saving you some money in the long run.
How Does a Moped Classify as a Motorcycle?
Generally speaking, there are many ways in which a moped can be classified as a motorcycle. As you have seen, the technological aspect is clearly very important here, especially since breakthroughs have helped create big scooters which are quite different than the ones originally imagined.
Originally, mopeds were imagined for fuel mileage and cheap transportation while some of the more advanced ones today, costing their buyers a few thousand dollars, have certainly become much more advanced than that.
As we said, a ‘regular’ scooter will have a step-through floorboard, a swing arm mounted engine and usually an automatic transmission. However, this description can include anything from a 50cc Putt-Putt to a brand new Honda Silverwing.
Oh yeah, by the way, the distinction between all these types of vehicles has become even harder to make due to the fact that there are now scooters which are fast enough to be truly freeway capable and legally allowed to be driven on those roads.
As you can see, scooters these days can hardly classify as a true ‘moped’ because those pedals were taken away long ago in favor of keeping the horsepower low and allowing people with car licenses to ride them without any issues.
The difference that we’re trying to make here is that anything over 50cc goes into the ‘motorcycle’ category (regardless of whether it’s a motor-driven cycle or a regular motorcycle) and the manufacturers don’t care if the object has a scooter body or not. Therefore, a moped will generally be classified as a motorcycle when going over that threshold.
Due to some complicated laws, most states will only recognize small scooters as motorized bicycles if they have an average of less than 3 bhp (brake horsepower) and cannot exceed 35 mph while still remaining under the 50cc rule.
Any moped becoming a motorcycle must, therefore, be insured and tagged while the operator will be required to possess a motorcycle endorsement on their license.
What to Remember from This
If you find this quantity of information a little overwhelming, here’s what you can remember in a few words: while a true moped with pedals is a rare sight on the roads these days, laws have adapted to make scooters of a certain kind also, legally, a moped and this can be quite frustrating for people looking to buy one.
Technically speaking, any moped above certain capacities will from then on be classified as a motorcycle, which is also a broader term than what you see on Motocross on TV. Therefore, the owner of any such vehicle will have to undertake the same legal steps as if he was buying a Yamaha with 156 horsepower.