Mopeds Vs Scooters: Just What are the Differences?


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Last Updated: 4th September 2020

Mopeds and scooters are less intimidating first steps than a geared motorcycle.

In the UK, we often associate them with small engines and new riders, but there’s a huge range of mid to large displacement scooters ridden by veterans out there.

For some, the convenience and comfort of these powerful scooters make them perfect for touring.

For many, a twist-and-go, low maintenance scooter is their commuter of choice.

What is a Scooter?

Scooter with L plate

In the UK, if what you’re riding has a platform for your feet (instead of pegs like a motorcycle), it’s a scooter.

We generally think of automatics when discussing scooters, but there are many geared examples available.

OK So What is a Maxi Scooter?

A Maxi scooter, sometimes referred to as ‘Touring Scooter’, is a scooter over 200cc.

They usually have a larger frame, longer wheelbase and an independently mounted dash (ie, not attached to the handlebars.

What is a Moped?

A scooter under 50cc is called a moped, and classified differently under the law. They will generally have a top speed of 28mph and almost always have automatic gears.

What About Licences?

For both mopeds and scooter most people will need to pass Compulsory Basic Training before riding one on the road.

Operation of a small scooter is fairly simple, but knowledge of the road is still required.

This is what the compulsory basic training attempts to teach, as well as some basic bike handling skills.

The minimum age to take the CBT is 16, and the certification is valid for two years on passing. When you pass CBT you will be able to ride with L plates. (Age 16 – max 50cc, Age 17+ – max 125cc)

If you want to remove the L plates and the need to retake your CBT every two years you could consider going for your AM Licence which is the lowest category of licence you can pass.

Bear in mind that for most riders it makes far more sense to wait until they are older go for either an A1 licence or an A2 licence as the AM licence is very restrictive. 

Insurance Differences

Mopeds are lower displacement, have lower acceleration and a lower top-speed than scooters.

They also can’t legally be ridden on the motorway.

For these reasons they are considered less of a danger on the road and are consequently cheaper to insure.

Insurance for both scooters and mopeds is very cost effective though (if compared to cars).

Who Are They For?

Mopeds make perfect sense for youngsters looking to get on the road cheaply or for low mileage pottering around town types.

It’s where many riders (myself included) got their start, and the value of starting small and working your way up can’t be understated.

Scooters are an excellent commuter vehicle for those looking for a budget-friendly form of transport.

Their ease of use and low maintenance requirements really can’t be beaten.