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50cc Scooter

Updated on September 10, 2011

A 50cc scooter can be a money saver for you.  With the economy the way it is and gas prices rising, many people are turning to a scooter for their primary mode of transportation.  Some are using them as a secondary way to travel to run short errands or trips around their neighborhood.  It's a good way to save money on several fronts, one the money saved on gas.  There are several production scooters that can get upwards of 75 miles to the gallon.  The second money saver is the initial purchase cost and operating costs.  Scooters can be cheaper to operate than a car, although they aren't without their own problems.  Many people assume that if you have a drivers license, then you can just go buy a scooter and take off.  In some countries and municipalities that may be the case but many countries have laws on scooter licensing that differ depending on the size of the scooter.  

You may be wondering what exactly is a scooter and how does it differ from a motorcycle?  It seems pretty obvious, so maybe you aren't wondering, most people can look at a vehicle and say "oh, that's a motorcycle" or "that's a scooter".  According to the laws in your area though, what seems to be obviously a scooter, might really be a motorcycle (for legal purposes).  For example in some U.S. states a scooter is defined as a two wheeled vehicle, with a step through frame, meaning you don't sit astride the frame as you do a bicycle.  In some places a vehicle is defined as a scooter if it has an engine of a certain size or smaller, or doesn't go over a certain speed. A 50cc scooter is actually considered a motorcycle in some states.  That's why there's a lot of companies making 49cc scooters, for all intents and purposes they're just as powerful as a 50cc scooter, yet are not technically considered motorcycles in some jurisdictions.

50cc Gas Scooter

by Gingerbeardman via Flickr
by Gingerbeardman via Flickr

To further confuse the issue, there's 50cc moped scooters out there. Mopeds are usually designated as a motorized vehicle that can be powered with pedals, but during the 1980's with the 50cc mopeds (and larger) it was obvious that the pedals weren't performing any useful function. So in many cases the pedal designation was dropped, and the description was changed to any scooter that went less than 30 miles per hour. In some cases it applied to any scooter with a 50cc or smaller engine.

No matter what kind of vehicle you get if you're going to drive it on public roadways then you're certain to have a set of rules and licensing to follow. Many places will allow only a car license for scooters under 50cc (hence the 49cc scooters) but if it is larger than that, you'll need a motorcycle license. Some places don't go by the size of the engine, but the the top speed of the vehicle. To make it even more confusing, some municipalities require that the scooter have a step through frame, and to be called a moped, California still requires that the vehicle has pedals to be a moped. You can see why it's hard to answer the question "do I need ____ to drive my scooter". It depends on the state (or city) that you live in.
Not only are there size, speed, or engine size qualifications, you also have some licensing things to deal with. If something is a classified motorcycle in most states, you'll need a motorcycle license. In my state you'll need to take a motorcycle safety course to get that license. You'll also need a helmet, in some states they're mandatory, in some states you can go without one if you buy extra insurance.

So you can see you really need to check out your local laws before buy a 50cc scooter, there's not one blanket answer that's good for all places. Your local or state department of transportation and licensing board should have the online laws for your area.

Gas Scooter Comments

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    • David Verde profile image

      David Verde 7 years ago

      Yes, it can be confusing, it's not a much of as issue as you'd think, a scooter isn't something you'd drive from state to state. With motorcycles and autos the states have reciprocity agreements, if you're licensed in one state, you can drive in another, as long as you follow that states road rules.

    • profile image

      Michael of 50cc Mopeds UK 7 years ago

      Wow it must be really confusing to have all those different laws in different states.

      At least here in the UK where I am, it's the same all over the country. Basically if you are 16 you can do a day's CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) and then as long as you have your insurance, road tax and licence, off you go on your 50cc moped!

      Thanks for a great hub.