Would I Need a Motorcycle License and Insurance to Drive a Vespa?

Written by James Hirby | Fact checked by The Law Dictionary staff |  

Also known as "mopeds," motorized scooters are becoming increasingly popular in the United States. In addition to being fun to drive and affordable to purchase, these vehicles are extremely fuel-efficient. Depending upon the model that you purchase, your new moped might be able to travel 75 miles on a single tank of fuel. Some newer models are even more efficient: It's not uncommon for state-of-the-art scooters to achieve fuel-efficiency ratings of 100 miles per gallon or more. Meanwhile, certain manufacturers have begun to issue electric scooters that lack an internal combustion engine and derive their power from a safe, efficient battery pack.

Regardless of the type of scooter that you ultimately choose to purchase, you'll need to take steps to ensure that it's "street legal" to operate. In addition, you'll need to ensure that you have the proper documentation to operate it on your own. The exact requirements that you'll need to meet may vary from state to state. Likewise, the procedures that you'll be expected to follow may depend upon the size, engine type and brand of the moped that you purchase.

If you're in the market for a Vespa, you'll need to pay careful attention to its engine size. In most states, mopeds that feature engines with fuel capacities of 50 cubic centimeters or more are treated as motorcycles. If your Vespa's engine has a capacity of more than 50 cubic centimeters, you'll need to obtain a motorcycle license from your motor vehicle bureau. If you already have a driver's license, you'll need to obtain a motorcycle endorsement on it.

In order to do this, you'll need to receive a temporary motorcycle permit and submit to a probationary period. Once this period has ended, you'll need to take a riding exam at your local motor vehicle bureau. If you pass this exam, you'll be free to ride your moped without restriction.

If you own a moped that requires a motorcycle license, you'll also need to obtain motorcycle insurance from a reputable provider. Fortunately, such coverage is relatively affordable.

Many of the moped manufacturers that do business in the United States take steps to ensure that their customers don't need to obtain licenses and insurance policies. These corner-cutting manufacturers tend to build scooters whose engines are just small enough to evade the licensing requirement. If you don't want to go through the trouble of obtaining documentation for your vehicle, simply purchase a moped that features a 49 cubic-centimeter engine.

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