Do You Need a Motorcycle License for a Moped? For Real?

Do You Need a Motorcycle License for a Moped? For Real?

To ride a motorbike, especially motor vehicles, you need a license or permit. However, there may be some confusion about whether you need a valid motorcycle license to drive a moped.

It’s important to understand the state guidelines for license requirements because failure to comply may lead to heavy fines. It's not as easy as it seems to do a motorcycle endorsement.

This article will answer the common question: “do you need a valid motorcycle license?” We will also cover rules in some states with regard to licensing and how long it takes to get the standard driver's license. 

Do You Need a Motorcycle License for a Moped?

Yes, you need a valid motorcycle license for a moped in some USA states. You must remember to check the size of your moped and its engine before riding it without a driver's license. You might have to pay a hefty fine if you ride your moped without a motorcycle license. You may also have to spend a few months in prison or pay a tax penalty if you don't have a proper driver's license.  

License Guidelines in US States

motorcycle rider showing driver's licence

How old do you have to be to drive a motorcycle? In many states, riders who are not yet 18 years of age must have a permit to ride the motorcycle or in other words, motor vehicles. In the same vein, riders who already have permits can qualify for a driver's license by driving for the required number of hours with a licensed driver.

But you can drive electric motor vehicles without license in some states.

Drivers who are above 18 years do not need a permit first before they qualify for a license. The licensing process is not exactly the same for a moped. Mopeds are different from motorcycles and motorized scooters. They are known for fuel efficiency, low maintenance cost, and they are smaller than motorcycles. 

Mopeds make it easier to get around and sport a 50cc motor. In some cases, it could be smaller. They can have pedals or a step-through frame and offer 40 mph with excellent gas mileage. Unlike motorized scooters that can reach 75 mph with a bigger motor, mopeds are a lot slower. Also, mopeds may not be suitable for all roads like motorcycles, especially for persons having new driver's license.

Do You Need Licence for Mopeds or Scooters?

man and woman riding a scooter

It depends on the state you want to use the moped. In some cases, you will require a motorcycle license, depending on the regulations in the particular state. For instance, motor scooters require a motorcycle license and registration irrespective of where you live because their engines are 150cc. Lightweight mopeds, on the other hand, have smaller engine sizes at 50cc. Therefore, a moped may not require moped registration or a motorcycle license or to have a driver's license. 

However, even if a moped has a 50cc engine, some states like California require a learning permit or a regular but a valid driver’s license (meaning they require a moped registration). Some other states do not require a motor license but may have age requirements for moped riders. A good example is North Carolina where riders need to be at least 16 years of age to have a valid driver's license.

In Arkansas, the age requirement to be able to drive a moped is 10 years old, while New Mexico places the requirement at 13 years of age. 

Several other states have higher age requirements for moped riders. The range is usually from 14 to 16 years old. For motorcycles and motor scooters, the minimum age is 14 years old in Kansas, Alabama, and Alaska. In some places minimum age is a bit higher, like in Mississippi, Louisiana, Hawaii, and Florida motorcycle license age is 15 to have a valid driver's license. 

Other states have a minimum age requirement of 16 to 18 years, and some also require an educational program for motor vehicle riders (moped riders) that do not meet the minimum age to have a driver's license.

Also, if your moped has an engine that goes over 50cc, most states require a valid driver’s license or a motorcycle license to run a motor vehicle legally for moped riders. The license should also have a motorcycle endorsement if you get a regular but valid driver’s license. For example, Vespas are considered scooters and not mopeds or a motor driven cycle. If a Vespa is more than 50cc, then the rider needs to get a motorcycle license to drive it. 


With the 50cc model Vespas though, you can drive with a standard valid driver's license in several states. They include Indiana, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Colorado, North Carolina, New York, New Hampshire, Iowa, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Oregon, Virginia, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. 

For other bikes like the Honda Grom, you need to get a motor bike licenses to drive it because the engine is larger than 50cc. 

What of the Honda Ruckus? This moped is powered by a 49cc motor, so you do not need a motorcycle license to drive it. Honda’s Metropolitan also has a 49cc motor, which makes it possible to ride without a motorcycle license and a regular but a valid driver’s license will do. If your moped or a motor vehicle (or a motor driven cycle) does not fall in the category that can do without a moped license, then you need to get a valid moped driver's license for you to be one of the licensed moped riders. 

How Long Does It Take Get a Motorcycle License?

The time it takes to get a moped license (regular driver's license) depends on factors that include your riding experience and age. Riders who already have a permit and experience can get their motorcycle's valid driving license after passing the road test.


For inexperienced riders, it may take more time to get a motorcycle license (regular driver's license). Those who are still underage according to the law, or 18 years and below, must carry a learner’s permit in most states before qualifying for a motorcycle license. Also, they need to use the learning permit until it accrues a particular number of hours on the road. This can take months, but in the end, they can get a valid driver's license of endorsement for their motorized bikes (or a motor driven cycle).

What Are the Penalties for Riding Without a License?

Driving a motorcycle without a license (regular driver's license) can lead to jail time and heavy fines in most states. In states like California, driving a motorcycle without a valid driver's license can lead to six months in prison or a fine of $1,000. 

In other states, there are tax penalties for drivers who do not have a valid driver's license. There is also a higher penalty for repeat offenders if found riding motorized bikes. In the same vein, avoiding the license fee could lead to citations of hundreds of dollars.

This is why you need to be sure of the type of moped and its engine size before riding. If it meets the requirements to bypass a motorcycle license, then you can go ahead. This also does not remove the requirement of a standard driving license for any your motorized bikes. You need a valid driver's license to ride your moped, but not a motorcycle license. Failure to adhere to this rule may lead to fines and imprisonment.

Do Traffic Laws Differ for Mopeds and Motorcycles?

Traffic laws are the same for all vehicles whether they are cars, motorcycles, mopeds, or motorized scooters. However, some regions have extra laws for mopeds, so it is important to know them to avoid fines. All states prohibit mopeds from riding between lanes in traffic. Some states do not allow mopeds to ride side by side.

Traffic Laws

Also, mopeds have smaller engine sizes, so they are slower. This means you cannot ride them on highways. It is advisable to stick to roads that have low-speed limits. Also, most states require mopeds to have tail lights, headlights, bell or horn, and turn signals. Each state’s rules may slightly differ, so check the specific requirement in your state. 

Helmet regulations may also vary in different states as well. There are approved designs of helmets in 20 states for passengers and riders on a moped or a motorized scooter. However, some states only require helmets for young riders. States like Delaware require riders to always have helmets in their possession. However, only riders under the age of 19 must wear them. 

In states like Rhode Island, passengers, and not riders, are required to put on helmets. Other states like Iowa, Colorado, and Illinois do not have helmet laws for mopeds. In some other states, riders are required to put on goggles if the moped does not have a windshield. 

joshua mattie

Joshua D. Mattie

My motorbike addiction began with 50cc at 5 years old. I rode motocross as a teenager & into my 20's when I worked as a mechanic. This helped me to see the light—sportbikes & cruisers became a passion. Now I'm building BikersRights to be the #1 resource for everything on 2 wheels!