Scooter vs Moped – The difference between the two


We all started riding a motorcycle somewhere, and that somewhere may well be scooter or moped-shaped for a lot of us. So, what’s the difference between the two, what licence do you need, and which is cheaper to insure? We answer all of your questions in this article.

What is a moped

In the UK, a moped is any low powered motorcycle with an engine capacity under 50cc and a maximum design speed of 31mph.

How did mopeds start out?

The original idea for a moped came from bestowing a bicycle with a small engine size (under 50cc) and pedals that could add a bit of power when needed. Bikes like the VeloSolex were popular, but when the law changed in 1971 it limited 16-year-olds to mopeds under 50cc. Hence the arrival of the ‘sports moped’.

Before that, learner riders could ride bikes up to 250cc. The new law was aimed at improving rider safety, shall we say.

What the government hadn’t bargained on was the response of motorcycle manufacturers. Faced with one income stream cut off and a potential new market opening up, manufacturers quickly came up with ‘sixteener specials’ – effectively miniature versions of motorcycles with 50cc engines and pedals to meet the letter, if not the spirit, of the law.

The Yamaha FS-1E, aka Fizzy, and Suzuki AP-50 were two of the top-selling mopeds of the day and gave youngsters a cheap way to get around and get around quite quickly with standard bikes capable of 60mph. And in Europe 14-year-olds could ride a moped, so the market was soon booming.


The evolution of the moped

Puch was an early player in 1972 with the VS50. Then there was Italian manufacturer Garelli with the Rekord and Tiger Cross – proper miniature motorcycles with foot-change gears and top speeds of more than 50mph. Close on the heels of Garelli came other European manufacturers, including Gilera and the amazing (to teenagers of the time) Fantic Chopper.

By 1974, many more mopeds were on the road and accident statistics were rising again. On August 1, 1977, sports mopeds became outlawed and all machines aimed at 16-year-olds were restricted to a 35mph top speed. Sales dropped dramatically. By the early 80s, supplies of decent used sports mopeds were starting to dry up.

The era of the sports moped was at an end, but its legacy was far from and secondhand, prices for FS-1Es and AP-50s can top £5k.

So, what about scooters

Scooters on the other hand are not limited to cc. They may start at 50cc, but nowadays can rise to anything up to 750cc. Mopeds may be step-thru, but not always whereas scooters are always step-thrus.

And where mopeds tend to be a cheaper mode of transport, this is not always the case with scooters. One of the best-selling scooters is the Yamaha TMax. It started life as a 400cc machine but is now 530cc. It pumps out 47bhp, but costs a fairly hefty £10,499.

The Suzuki Burgman is another strong seller in the big cc scooter class. It first appeared in 1998, but is still in Suzuki’s line-up. There have been Burgmans from 125 to 650cc, although the current range consist of a 125 (£3699), 200 (£4299) and 400cc (£6499).

Honda’s PCX125 scooter has been the best-selling two-wheeler in the UK for several years and is much-loved by teenagers, commuters and city-dwellers.


What licenses are needed to ride a moped and scooter

Two documents are needed to ride a moped or scooter legally on the road as a learner: a provisional motorcycle licence and a Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) certificate. These will enable you to ride a motorcycle, moped or scooter of up to 125cc. You must display L-plates and cannot use the motorway or carry a pillion.

Your CBT will only last for two years, after which time the certificate expires and you will need to make the decision whether to take it again or to get an AM moped licence or A1 motorcycle licence.

AM moped licence

Allows you to ride a moped with a maximum engine capacity of 50cc and a top speed of 28mph.

A1 motorcycle licence

Allows you to ride motorcycles up to 125cc and 15bhp, including scooters.

So, what’s cheaper to insure a moped or a scooter

There seems to be some confusion over what is cheaper to insure between a scooter and a moped, and th

e simple answer is mopeds are cheaper to insure as they are seen as a lower risk; typically mopeds have smaller engines (50cc or less) and tend to be fairly low in value, unless you’re going down the classic FS-1E route.

Scooters meanwhile can be more as they tend to have bigger engine sizes, less speed limitations, and in many cases are also more attractive to thieves, especially in city environments.

You can compare and save on comprehensive moped and scooter insurance cover with MCN Compare. We compare against all the top insurers in one place to ensure you get the cheapest cover possible. See for yourself, get an online quote with MCN Compare (online and over the phone).

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