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Vermont "Moped" Definition

Since the addition of the Infobase to this website, I have heard more than one conflicting report about the Vermont "moped" classification of a 50cc scooter from various website readers...

When I went to the DMV they told me that VT defines a moped as under 50cc AND has pedals. They said that I needed a motorcycle license to operate this scooter and in their eyes it was considered a motorcycle. They also had me pay $67 for a plate. Is this right. Everything that I have read online so far doesn't agree with this.

As far as I've always known, a 50cc scooter has been classified as a "moped" by the Vermont DMV, but while one DMV office would issue moped tags to a 50cc scooter, another would require a motorcycle endorsement for the very same bike (and I have seen examples of both). As far as why this inequality in terms varies from office to office, the issue is the pedals. The legal definition, given in Part 1, Section IV of the VT Motorcycle Manual, is as follows:

Definition of Moped: "Moped" means a motor-driven cycle equipped with two or three wheels, foot pedals to permit propulsion, a power source providing up to a maximum of two brake horsepower and having a maximum piston or rotor displacement of 50 cubic centimeters if a combustion engine is used, which will propel the vehicle, unassisted, at a speed not to exceed 30 miles per hour on a level road surface and is equipped with a power drive system that functions directly or automatically only, not requiring clutching or shifting by the operator after the drive system is engaged.

The operator of a moped is required to have a valid Vermont license and is subject to all laws regulating motor vehicles and motorcycles except that the operator is not required to have a motorcycle endorsement or to wear a helmet or face protection.

While it's not my place to tell the Vermont DMV how to do their job, let's look at the facts. A 50cc scooter conforms to these guidelines in every way, with the single exception of the bearing of pedals. A 50cc scooter:

  1. is a motor-driven cycle
  2. has a power source providing a maximum 2 horsepower
  3. has an actual engine displacement of 49cc
  4. is restricted to go no faster than 30mph
  5. has a power drive that functions directly or automatically
  6. requires no clutching or shifting after the drive system is engaged (with the exception of some vintage models)

Most states classify a 50cc scooter in the same way they would a standard moped, and in fact the state of Vermont has in many cases classified them as such, at least in the past they have (and we have a couple of 50cc scooters in our fleet with "Moped" tags to prove it). The existance or absense of pedals is irrelevant, seeing that these laws are specifically set to govern the operation of lower-power vehicles fit only for in-city driving and some instances of rural riding. While I don't know for certain why some DMV offices would classify these differently (and there's nothing I can do about it, so please don't ask), the fact remains that the majority of 50cc two-wheeled vehicles sold in the state of VT are in fact scooters. Perhaps the state of Vermont should consider this in their legislation, now that the scooter industry is adding more vehicles to our roadways than they have in years.

On the "up" side of this topic, it's quite probable that this "motorcycling" of 50cc scooters will reduce the number of injuries and fatalities of smaller-bore scooters on the roads. After all, to ride a moped all you need to prove is that you can drive a car. This means that with zero knowledge of motorcycling whatsoever, anyone with a drivers' license can walk into a shop and ride out on a brand new scooter, never needing to prove the person's proficiency to ride a two-wheeled vehicle in traffic. At least the motorcycling of these vehicles will require potential riders to learn how to ride them.


UPDATED - SEPT 11, 2010:


The VT DMV has provided this flow-chart. According to their own website, the 49cc scooter does not require a motorcycle endorsement. This doesn't mean that your local DMV will abide by this new information (because they're always the last to know!). Print out this flowchart (with the government URL printed clearly at the bottom) and bring it into the DMV when registering your 49cc scooter. I can't guarantee this will work for you, but I'm just saying - this is what is printed on their very own website... you'll only be reminding them of what they already told you first!

Article by Kevin Montanaro

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