Moped vs. Scooter: What's the Difference?

Moped vs. Scooter: What's the Difference?

To understand scooters and mopeds, you first need to know the answer to a key question: When it comes to moped vs. scooter, what’s the actual difference? Don’t be embarrassed! Plenty of people are less sure about the answer to that question than they pretend to be, and the terms are often used interchangeably. 

In today’s post, we’ll talk about the answer to the moped vs. scooter question and which one might be the right choice for you. 

electric bicycle

A classic example of a moped.

Source: Venus Angel/Shutterstock

What Is a Moped?

A moped is a small single-seater vehicle with foot pedals like a bicycle and a small gasoline engine. The word “moped” is a combination of “motorized” and “pedal,” which refers to the vehicle’s combination of propulsion methods. Most mopeds rely at least in part on the rider’s pedaling for power, with the motor providing assistance and making it easier to pedal.

The difference between a moped and a motorized bicycle can be quite subtle, and it usually comes down to engine cc’s and maximum speed. The engine size of a moped is almost always under 50cc, but motorized bicycles’ engines are even smaller and may produce as little as two horsepower. A motorized bicycle often won’t be equipped with things like turn signals and headlights, which a moped usually must have. Mopeds may have bicycle frames or step-through frames. 

What Is a Scooter?

A scooter is essentially a stripped-down small-displacement motorcycle with a step-through chassis. Most scooters have engine power in the range of 50cc to 250cc, which means they can be substantially more powerful than mopeds and can reach higher top speeds. 

Unlike a moped, all of a scooter’s power comes from its engine. And unlike a motorcycle or motorized bicycle, which both require the rider to shift gears, most scooters have an automatic transmission that makes them exceedingly simple to operate. A scooter must have all of the same equipment a motorcycle does, such as turn signals, a license plate and headlights. 

Motorcycle Helmet Communication Systems for Scooter and Moped Owners

Kwang Yang Motor Co motorcycle

A typical motor scooter.

Source: FernandoV/Shutterstock

Moped and Scooter Laws

The laws that regulate mopeds and scooters vary widely from one U.S. state to another. Here are some common points where laws differ: 

  • -In some states, you’ll need a license and/or registration to operate a moped or scooter, while in others you won’t.
  • -The minimum age required to operate a moped or scooter is different from one state to another. Many states allow riders under 18 to operate these vehicles, but some don’t. 
  • -Many states require moped and scooter riders to wear helmets. (Regardless of whether it’s legal, you really need a helmet while riding either one.) 
  • -The blurry legal distinction between moped and motorized bicycles can cause friction with the law if your vehicle is on the borderline. 

The only way to know for sure is to check your state’s individual laws on mopeds and scooters. While you’re at it, learn about your state’s motorcycle helmet laws and make sure you’re following them. 

Moped vs. Scooter: Which One Is Right for You?

What’s the small-displacement transport solution that meets your needs? Here are some important things to think about: 

  • Mopeds get better gas mileage, up to triple digits in many cases. The trade-off is that they typically have significantly less engine power than a scooter.
  • For those who want some exercise as part of their transportation, the pedals on a moped can provide a mild to moderate level of physical activity. 
  • If you need to ride at highway speeds, a scooter will probably be your only option. However, many scooters still can’t keep up safely on a highway and may not be legal to ride there, so check local laws and keep the ride brief–even if it’s legal. 
  • True mopeds aren’t always easy to find in today’s market and, in practice, what you end up with may be something like a motorized bicycle or e-bike. 

Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmet Speakers to Supercharge Your Ride

Communication Devices for Moped and Scooter Riders

As previously mentioned, you should always be wearing a helmet when riding a scooter or a moped. And to maintain hands-free communication while you’re riding, it’s a great idea to use a Bluetooth motorcycle helmet communicator for staying in touch with your world. 

With a motorcycle helmet communication device like the Cardo Packtalk Bold, you can answer calls, use your GPS and stream media totally hands-free while keeping your eyes on the road. Plus, our JBL Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speakers will give you killer sound for enjoying your favorite music during your commute or on a weekend ride. Whatever your choice in the moped vs. scooter question, staying safe and having fun should be your top priorities.