A moped or scooter can be a cheap, convenient alternative to a car for getting around town. But you may well need motorcycle insurance for your ride before you strap on a helmet and hit the streets, depending on what you ride and where.
Moped, motor scooter or motorcycle?
Generally speaking, states consider any two-wheeled vehicle with an engine smaller than 50 cubic centimeters or a top speed under 30 mph — 35 mph in some places — to be a moped. This includes low-speed versions of what you may think of as a motor scooter — a two-wheeler with a platform for your feet, like a Vespa — and classic mopeds, which have pedals like a bicycle, plus a motor. Idaho, Nebraska and New Jersey define mopeds as having pedals, although Idaho adds in slow electric bikes without pedals.
For insurance purposes, motorcycles are two-wheeled vehicles that go faster or have larger engines than a moped. This definition includes faster and more powerful motor scooters.
States that require insurance
NerdWallet reviewed rules about insurance for motorcycles, scooters and mopeds in every state, plus Washington, D.C. Nearly all states — 46 plus D.C. — require liability insurance for motorcycles, including faster motor scooters. But only 24 states and D.C. require liability insurance for mopeds.
Nearly all states require insurance for motorcycles, including scooters with an engine of at least 50 cubic centimeters or a top speed of at least 30 mph. Most states classify slower two-wheelers as mopeds, with varying insurance requirements.
|Do you have to buy liability insurance for it?|
|Motorcycle & fast scooters||Mopeds & slow scooters|
* Must have pedals to be classified as a moped.
** Will require insurance for mopeds as of July 1, 2016.
Source: NerdWallet research of state publications and codes.
States that require insurance for mopeds generally exempt bicycles. Many also exempt Razor-like scooters with small motors, which may not be allowed on roads. Some states allow local jurisdictions to impose insurance requirements.
Notably, Florida, Montana and Washington don’t mandate insurance for motorcycles, while New Hampshire doesn’t even require car insurance. But these states often require motorcycle owners to show proof of insurance or an acceptable alternative, such as posting a bond equal to required liability limits, for three years after causing an accident or being cited for a serious violation.
If you lease or finance your moped, the leasing company or lender almost certainly requires you to buy insurance to protect its investment. Even if you aren’t required to buy liability insurance for your moped or scooter, it’s a good financial safety net.
Image via iStock.