The iconic Vespa motor scooter can be classified as a moped or a motorcycle. The ones with 50cc engines can be considered mopeds as they don’t exceed speeds of 30mph. But those with a 125cc engine or more are motorcycles.
So, do you need a motorcycle license to drive a Vespa? The answer depends on the type of Vespa you own. In most states, if the engine is bigger than 50cc, then you will need a motorcycle license or endorsement. But if it is 50cc or smaller, you may need only a standard learner’s permit or a regular car driver’s license.
Do you need a license to drive a Vespa?
Almost all the states in the U.S. need some license to drive a Vespa. For most models, you will need a motorcycle license.
For example, Vespa’s Primavera and Sprint ranges have models with 50cc engines. And the Vespa GTS 300 range has Vespa’s most powerful 300cc engines.
Side note: I wrote here about the various Vespa models and their 2023 prices.
Most states define mopeds as those vehicles with less than 50cc engine size. As the laws vary from state to state, let us see the rules in some states.
Motorcycle and Moped Laws in New Jersey
In New Jersey, you need a valid driver’s or moped license to drive a moped. N.J. laws define a motorized bicycle (moped) as a pedal bicycle with a helper motor, electric or gas-powered. It has an engine capacity of less than 50cc. It also has a maximum speed of no more than 25 miles per hour on a flat surface.
If your Vespa engine capacity exceeds 50cc, you will need a motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license. Or a separate motorcycle license. This applies to a three-wheeled vehicle as well (NJ MVC).
But you do not need a permit or license to operate an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or dirt bike. You must be 14 years old and register the vehicle to show proof of ownership.
Motorcycle License Laws in California
You need an M1 or M2 motorcycle license to drive a moped in California. California law has different definitions for a motor-driven cycle, moped, and scooter. So, depending on your vehicle, you can apply for an M1 or M2 license.
An M1 license allows you to drive any two or three-wheel motorcycle or moped. This includes those with engines smaller and also larger than 150cc. An M2 appointment limits you to driving only a bike with an engine capacity of less than 150cc.
Scooter & Moped License Laws in New York
The New York Department of Motor Vehicles website classifies a moped as a Class A, Class B, or Class C motorcycle. This is according to its top speed. Class A includes those that reach a top speed of 20mph or less. Class B consists of those that get maximum speeds of 20 to 30mph. You can drive both using any valid license.
But Class C includes motorized bikes that can reach speed limits of 30mph. These need a Class M motorcycle license.
So, you should get a license depending on how fast your Vespa can go.
The law also describes scooters as “limited use motorcycles.” So, owners and drivers must conform to motorcycles’ registration and license requirements.
Scooter & Moped License Laws in Florida
The FLHSMV says you do not need a special license to drive a motorized scooter or moped in Florida. This applies to all mopeds that cannot go beyond a speed greater than 30 miles per hour on level ground.
But motor scooters fall under the definition of a motorcycle. So, the operator must have a valid driver’s license to operate a motor scooter. Additionally, if the vehicle has an engine of more than 50cc, the operator must have a motorcycle endorsement.
Other states’ scooter and motorcycle license laws
In Oregon, the DMV office has specific requirements that define a motorcycle, moped, and scooter. This is according to the top speed the bike can go.
- It considers a motorbike that can go over 30 mph to be a motorcycle; This includes most mopeds and scooters. For this, you need a motorcycle license.
- But if its speed reaches a maximum of 30mph on a flat surface, it is a moped (if the engine is 50cc or less). For this, you need a regular driver’s license but not a motorcycle endorsement.
- If the moped’s maximum speed on a flat surface is 24mph, it is a scooter. Its engine should also be 35cc or less. You don’t need a license for these.
So, for your Vespa, you will need a motorcycle or regular driver’s license, depending on the model.
In Texas, a motorcycle license is a legal requirement for any motorbike or scooter with two wheels. This rule does not change, no matter what the engine capacity is.
You need a motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license to drive a scooter or moped in Ohio. Or you can get a separate motorcycle license. You also must be at least 16 years old.
You can drive 50cc Vespa models with a standard driver’s license in several states.
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
You need a Class D, G, or M license in South Carolina to operate a moped. Scooter drivers need a Class M license.
In North Carolina, a driver’s license is not required to drive a moped. But operators must be at least 16 years of age and must register mopeds. A moped must have two or three wheels, no external shifter, and a motor not more than 50cc. Its top speed should also not exceed 30 mph. This information is as per its DMV website.
Do traffic laws differ for scooters and motorcycles?
Most traffic laws are the same for all vehicles. That is, whether cars, motorcycles, mopeds, or scooters. But moped users could face additional restrictions.
All states prohibit mopeds from riding between lanes on public streets.
Some states also don’t allow mopeds to ride side by side.
Smaller mopeds with 50cc and 150cc engines are slower than cars and motorcycles. So some state laws may prohibit people from riding them on highways for safety.
Helmet laws also vary in different states. In states like Rhode Island, passengers, not riders, must wear helmets. Other states like Iowa, Colorado, and Illinois do not have helmet laws for mopeds. In some states, riders are also required to wear goggles.
Side note: Talking about helmet laws: I covered helmet laws in Arkansas, Georgia, and Texas in earlier posts.
I know most people think of Vespa scooters as a “youthful” means of transport. And they may not take them as seriously as motorcycles. But as it turns out, most states consider them to be motorcycles. The law often treats them with the exact stringent requirements as motorcycles.
So if you are thinking of driving a Vespa, make sure to find out exactly what your state’s laws say. This can also depend on your Vespa model, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Hit me up in the comments if you are unsure about your state’s scooter, moped, or motorcycle laws! I’ll do my best to bring the correct information for you.
Until next time ✌️!