Moped buyers should ask questions when shopping

Image: Moped

MAY 7, 2009

What looks like a moped could be a motorcycle under state law

As warm weather arrives and Michigan residents consider buying a gas-sipping moped for quick trips to work or around town, Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land recommends they ask the right questions when visiting a retailer.

She advises buyers to be aware of the differences between a moped and motorcycle so they don't end up buying what is legally a motorcycle when they thought they were getting a moped. Unlike motorcycles, mopeds don't require insurance, a title, or license plate.

"Know the facts when you shop for a moped," Land said. "Mopeds and motorcycles both offer riders a fun, gas-saving alternative to driving a car, but buyers need to know the important differences between the two. Just because a moped doesn't look like a motorcycle doesn't mean necessarily that's the case. Make sure you know what you're getting if you decide to buy."

Under Michigan law, a moped:

  • Has an engine that produces 2 horsepower or less, and is 50 cubic centimeters in size or less;
  • Must not be able to travel faster than 30 miles an hour on a level surface; and,
  • Doesn't require the operator to shift gears.

Faster, more powerful two- or three-wheeled vehicles are legally considered motorcycles regardless of their design.

To legally operate a moped on Michigan streets, the rider must have a valid driver's license or a moped license. The moped also must have a valid registration sticker, which is good for three years, affixed to the back. Riders who are 18 years old or younger must wear a U.S. Department of Transportation-approved helmet, and only one person may ride on a moped at one time.

Additionally, mopeds must have safety features that include a horn, a mounted headlight, mounted seat, brakes on both wheels, a rear-view mirror, and tail and brake lights.

Motorcycle operators must have a valid driver's license with a motorcycle endorsement in addition to insurance and a license plate. Motorcycles legally may carry the operator and one passenger, who both must wear approved helmets. When traveling faster than 35 mph, a motorcyclist must use a windshield, goggles or a face shield. Motorcycles also must be titled like a car.

Buyers should know that some small motorized bikes or scooters often sold for use by children and known as mini-choppers or pocket bikes may not be driven on public streets because they lack legally required safety features.

Land also reminds people that buying a moped from a private seller is similar to buying a snowmobile or nontitled watercraft in a private transaction. The seller must complete and sign the back of the moped's registration document. The buyer must take the assigned moped registration to a Secretary of State office to register it in his or her name. For motorcycles, a private seller must reassign the motorcycle's title, including the odometer disclosure statement, to the purchaser. The buyer then takes the reassigned title to a Secretary of State office to title and register it in his or her name.

For more information about owning and operating a moped or motorcycle, visit

Related Link
> Riding a moped safely PDF