What’s the difference between a moped and a scooter?

Last updated by mustard.co.uk on November 8th, 2022

If we’re honest, choosing the right sort of two wheels can be pretty confusing – what’s best if you’re just starting out – a moped, or a scooter – and what’s the difference (if there is one)?

Well, our handy guide dispels all that confusion and will set you on the right path when it comes to getting on your bike.

What is a moped?

Legally, a moped is defined as a motorcycle with an engine no bigger than 50cc and a maximum speed of 28mph.

Originally, a moped – meaning ‘cross between motor and pedal’ – started out as a very basic motorcycle with pedals. Most mopeds are automatic and they’re usually the first step in learning to ride a motorbike.

You can learn to ride a moped at 16 and as long as you complete your compulsory basic training (CBT) you can ride on public roads with L plates. Bear in mind that your CBT certificate is only valid for two years; so if you want to carry on riding you’ll need to either take your AM moped licence or complete another CBT course.

What is a scooter?

The term ‘scooter’ is more generic and slightly harder to define when compared to a moped definition – generally, scooters have bigger engines – usually between 50cc and 150cc.

You’ll need to be at least 17 to ride anything that has an engine bigger than 50cc and if you take your A1 licence, you’ll still be limited to riding ‘light motorcycles’ with an engine no bigger than 125cc. To ride anything more powerful, you’ll need to be at least 19.

Scooters are similar to mopeds in terms of design, as they both usually have a ‘step-through’ frame (which means you literally step into it, rather than a motorbike where you climb onto it). Traditionally, scooters also have a platform at the base where the rider can rest their feet.

Scooters are also typically more expensive than mopeds and are available with either automatic or manual transmissions.


Moped vs scooter – at a glance

Whether you choose a moped or a scooter depends on lots of different factors – like your age and budget; so here are some facts side by side to help you decide:

Fast facts Moped Scooter
Legal age to ride 16 17
Licence category AM A1
Engine size No greater than 50cc Between 50cc and 150cc (but an A1 licence limits you to an engine size no more than 125cc)
Top Speed Limited to 28mph (45km/h) Dependent on engine size
What do I need to ride one with L plate? Provisional driving licence Provisional driving licence
CBT Certificate (only valid for two years) CBT certificate (only valid for two years)
What do I need to gain my full AM or A1 licence? Pass theory test and pass the two-part practical test within two years of completing CBT Pass theory test and pass the two part practical test within two years of completing CBT
How long do I have to pass my theory and practical tests? While CBT is still valid (otherwise you’ll need to complete CBT again) While CBT is still valid (otherwise you’ll need to complete CBT again)
Pros Economical on fuel Bigger engine means more powerful and can achieve greater speeds
Relatively inexpensive to buy Increased power and speed gives you a wider range of driving experiences – not limited to low speed limit areas
Typically, easy and cheap to maintain Insurance is likely to be cheaper than for a more powerful bike
Cons Small engine and not very powerful You need to be at least 17 to ride one
Limited speed means only really suited for cities and urban areas Depending on the model, uses more fuel than a moped
Limited power means any extra baggage will slow you down Usually more expensive than a moped

What models are available?

The moped and scooter market is packed with models to entice you, of course, what you opt for will depend on how you feel when you ride it – here’s a selection of what’s currently available:

Mopeds up to 50cc

• Direct Bikes model DB50QT-11: if price is the only consideration, then this comes in at £799 – one of the cheapest on the market.

Peugeot Speedfight 4: stylish and nippy, you also get a two-year manufacturer’s warranty with this.

Honda Vision: comfortable and practical, it’ll get you around town without any problems and as you’d expect from Honda, it scores well for quality and reliability too.

Scooters up to 150cc

Vespa PX125 : offering a 125cc engine, this is a classic – it’s expensive at £3000+ but it is very stylish and an iconic brand.

Lexmoto Arrow 125cc: a good choice if budget is your focus, at around £900, it offers sound value for money although it’s not the most thrilling to look at.

Generally reliable, its only negatives seem to be rust and temperamental electrics – so ideally store it somewhere dry.

KTM 125 Duke: a fun first scooter that’s easy to ride, offers smooth acceleration and handles corners well too.

How to find the right moped and scooter insurance

Finding the right insurance for your moped or scooter can be just as hard as choosing a bike (though not as exciting), but our handy guides will bring you up to speed so you know exactly what to look for.

Related articles that you may find of interest

Motorbike insurance for 16 year olds
Motorbike insurance for learner riders

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