To many people, there is no difference between a moped and a scooter.

Someone will see a Vespa riding down the street and identify it as a “moped.”

But they’re not the same thing – there are things that set them apart.

In this blog post, you’ll learn the definitions of both a moped and a scooter.


Prefer to get this information in podcast form? Listen to the 30 Minute Motorcycling Podcast episode about the differences between mopeds and scooters:

Moped Definition

moped definition

Image by Hans Benn from Pixabay

In very simple terms, a moped is a bicycle with a motor on it. 

In fact, the word itself is a portmanteau of the words “motorized” and “pedal,” coined by Swedish automotive journalist Harald Nielsen in the 1950s.

The very first mopeds were bicycles with small engines on them (usually 50cc or below) that you had to pedal before the engine started.

The first generation Puch Maxi was built with pedals, although later models replaced the pedals with a kickstart mechanism.

Even though most modern mopeds don’t have pedals, they’re still referred to as “mopeds.” Sometimes, the special term “noped” (a combination of the words “‘no” and “pedals”) is used.  

Pedals or not, there are a few other noteworthy characteristics of a moped, including:

  • A bicycle or motorcycle-like frame
  • Manual gear shifter
  • Large tires

In some parts of the United States, mopeds are referred to in legal print as “motorized bicycles” by organizations like the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.

Sometimes, you don’t need to have a license to ride a moped – although this varies between states and even countries.

Usually, licensing requirements are determined by the moped’s power. 

For example, in Sweden, if you have a moped with a top speed of 45 km/h, it’s classified as a “Class 1 moped,” and requires a moped license (known as the “AM license).

For more information about the Swedish Moped Class 1 and 2, read my blog post about it here:

Scooter Definition

scooter definition

Knowing that a moped is made from a bicycle or motorcycle frame, notice anything different about the scooter pictured above?

Pay attention to its frame. 

It’s a lot bulkier.

Also, notice how much smaller the wheels are?

Those are the key differences between a moped and a scooter.

Furthermore, when compared with mopeds, scooters have:

  •  Automatic or CVT gearboxes
  •  Storage space underneath the seat – perfect for your shopping runs

The best example of a scooter is the Vespa, which was very popular in the 1960s, and is still around today.

If you’d like to know more about the history of the Vespa, read my blog post about it here:

Original image by

Scooters tend to be more powerful than mopeds – usually they have an engine size of between 50-250ccs.

But there’s also a special class of scooters known as “Maxi Scooters” whose engines can be as large as 600 ccs. 

Because of this, Maxi Scooters are classified as motorcycles in some countries. Therefore, if you want to ride one, you’ll need a full motorcycle license. 

Some examples of Maxi Scooters include:

  • Yamaha TMax
  • BMW C650 GT
  • Suzuki Burgman 400

And those are the differences between a moped and a scooter!