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What Are the Different Types of Gas Mopeds?

By Marty Paule
Updated May 17, 2024
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Gas mopeds are essentially motorcycles with small-displacement engines that offer highly economical transportation. The motor-vehicle laws governing them vary considerably in various jurisdictions around the world. These differences result in some confusion about exactly what a moped is, and, in some cases, influence engine size, design factors, and even the name used to describe the vehicle. Gas mopeds typically have engines that range in size from ultra-small, two-cycle designs to 250-cc, four-cycle engines. While there are some three- and four-wheeled models, most mopeds have two wheels and either a step-through design like a motor scooter, or a step-over frame like a conventional motorcycle.

While motorcycles and bicycles equipped with small-displacement engines have been manufactured since the early 20th century, the term "moped" only came into use in the 1950s and generally referred to several brands of small motorcycles or motor scooters with step-through frames, engines of about 50-cc or less, and auxiliary pedals. As engines, clutches, and transmissions have grown more efficient, most gas mopeds today no longer have pedals.

In many jurisdictions around the world, the legal minimum age for moped drivers is lower than that for conventional motorcycles or automobiles. A number of countries limit the engine displacement of gas mopeds to less than 50-cc, and, as a result, some models are equipped with 49-cc engines. In U.S. states and many countries, mopeds may not be driven on high-speed roadways and may be subjected to specific maximum and minimum speed laws. In considering the use of a moped, potential buyers should familiarize themselves with the local laws that govern gas mopeds.

Historically, the smallest gas mopeds were little more than bicycles equipped with very small gasoline-powered engines that provided power as an adjunct to the pedaling done by the rider. This auxiliary pedaling was often essential on hills. Today, even the smallest gas mopeds typically have enough power to handle most inclines. In the U.S., beginning in the 1990s, a number of smaller manufacturers began producing limited-run mopeds equipped with high-performance engines and racing-like cosmetics. While still meeting the less stringent licensing requirements of other mopeds, they helped create a small yet devoted audience of enthusiasts who bought these high-performance models.

Along with high-performance gas mopeds, the market has seen the introduction of other specialty moped designs. These include three- and four-wheel models, some intended as small-scale taxis and utility vehicles. With ready access to inexpensive used mopeds in most developed countries, moped racing has become popular as a low-cost motor sport.

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Discussion Comments
By mobilian33 — On Jan 26, 2015

One of my neighbors got a DUI and his driver's license was suspended. He needed a way to get back and forth to work, so he bought one of those gas mopeds. Even with his license suspended he can operate the moped and get to and back from work because anyone 14 or older can operate a moped here without a license.

By Feryll — On Jan 26, 2015

@Laotionne - The guidelines for whether a vehicle is called a moped a scooter or a small motorcycle may vary from one place to another. I can't say for certain what all of the guidelines are. Where I live, the machines we call mopeds peak at a speed of about 25 miles an hour. Scooters on the other hand can reach speeds of 60 and 70 miles an hour.

When I was in college, a lot of students drove scooters and mopeds to get around. They were really convenient for getting around campus, and relatively safe, even though some people drove them like maniacs. The scary thing was that people also drove them on busy highways, and this was legal. When traffic is moving at 70 mph, a scooter is fine, but a moped moving at a top speed of 25 mph is another story altogether.

By Laotionne — On Jan 25, 2015

What is the main difference between a gas moped and a scooter? Are the names interchangeable?

By Drentel — On Jan 24, 2015

When I was growing up way back when, the gas mopeds with the pedals were very popular. I never had one because I had a bike, but a couple of my friends had them. They rode the mopeds all over town and around. The machines used little gas, and gas was cheap back then anyway, so keeping them running was not expensive.

I don't know the laws regarding mopeds where I live now, but back then you didn't need any type of license or training, and virtually anyone could operate one on the streets without fear of being stopped by a police officer because of an age limit.

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