Buying a 50 CC Scooter in Massachusetts

As gas prices rise, people look for alternatives to cars. The price of regular gas in eastern Massachusetts is hovering around $250.00 per gallon this week. Even as the temperature drops, this situation has turned many drivers into riders on two wheels. Some people with short commutes and a place to change and shower at work have turned to bicycles. Those with longer commutes are turning to motorcycles in increasing numbers. Some believe that there are advantages to purchasing a small 50 cc scooter or moped as a first motorbike. In Massachusetts, some disadvantages make buying a 50 cc bike a mistake for many.

Motor scooters and mopeds are subsets of motorcycles. Classic mopeds are lightweight motorcycles with bicycle peddles that are used to start the motor. Do not expect to peddle a moped very far. These bikes are heavy, and they are not designed to be used as a bicycle. Mopeds are designed to move slowly. Unmodified mopeds have 50 cc engines that are restricted so that they will not go faster than 30 mph.

Motor scooters are a style of motorcycle that have a step through frame. The motor is located under the seat as opposed to between the legs. Smaller wheels give the scooter a tighter turning radius which makes it more maneuverable in city traffic. Scooters usually have smaller engines than other motorcycles. Most scooters have integral storage compartments. Elements of the scooter’s body frame or cladding protect the rider from road and engine grime.

Many scooters sport a 50 cc engine which may or may not be restricted to make it fit the legal description of a moped in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) describes the legal requirements of a moped on its website:


Moped Definition and Requirements
According to Massachusetts law, a moped is a “motorized bicycle.” In order to be classified as a moped, the vehicle must:
�Have a cylinder capacity of no more than 50 cubic centimeters.
�Have an automatic transmission.
�Be capable of a maximum speed of no more than 30 miles per hour.
�Comply with all applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards.
A moped sticker, issued by the RMV, must be affixed to the moped. This sticker will not be issued unless the vehicle meets the above requirements.

50cc refers to the size of the engine. Economy cars may have engines that displace 1200 to 2000 cc. Gas mileage of a car with a small engine may be around 30 miles per gallon (MPG). A moped or scooter with a 50 cc engine may claim to get 100 MPG. Look for motorcycle and scooter manufacturers to advertise their gas mileage statistics soon.

Why do people buy a 50 cc moped or scooter over a larger bike?

  • Low cost of purchase and maintenance.
  • Easy to register.
  • Requires no special license.
  • Ease of use.
  • Easy to park.
  • No insurance.
  • Inability to attain a high speed makes the bike safer.

It is important to examine these attributes of 50 cc bikes before making a purchase.

New 50 cc mopeds and scooters are usually less expensive than their larger bore counterparts. For example, a 50 cc Vespa scooter will always cost less than a 200 cc Vespa. However, a 50 cc Vespa ET2 costs a little more than a Yamaha Vino 125 cc scooter. Many who may not find a plastic body scooter desirable can look to new Indian scooters made by Bajaj or Genuine scooter companies with 150 cc engines that cost about the same.

It is possible to find less expensive quality 50 cc scooters built by Honda, Yamaha, Kymco. Try to avoid bikes made by companies without a history in the American market or a reliable local dealer to support your purchase.

Maintaining a 50 cc scooter is easy. Many owners do it all themselves. Oil changes usually involve less than a cup of oil. Brakes pads are easy to locate and replace. These bikes are small and light, so even the most extensive repair can be accomplished in the home garage.

The 50 cc bikes are very easy on gas, but most do not get 100 MPG.

Registering a 50 cc scooter is easy and inexpensive. Take the Title to the local office of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, fill out the form and you get a sticker and a registration.

Scooters and mopeds are very easy to ride and operate. Mopeds feel like a bicycle with a little motor on it. Small scooters may feel more refined. Most have single speed transmissions or belt driven automatic transmissions. 50 cc bikes have hand brakes just like bicycles.

There are two styles of 50 cc engine. The 2 cycle engine runs on a mixture of gas and oil. 2 cycle engines have a distinctive odor; some people like this smell. Four stroke engines burn gas alone and have a separate oil circuit like automobile engines. Operators of old style 2 cycle engines must add exactly the right amount of oil to each gallon of gas. Most modern 2 cycle engines have an oil injection system that simplifies fill ups. Just remember to refill the oil reservoir periodically. Without that 2 cycle oil, the engine will seize up irreparably.

Moped registered vehicles legally operate and park anywhere a bicycle does except for riding on off road bicycle paths. Mopeds may ride between the car lane and the sidewalk and park at bike racks. This rule causes some uncomfortable confrontations. Many people do not understand that this class of motorized bike has the same privileges as bicycles.

Perhaps the biggest selling point of 50 cc bikes is that they do not require insurance. Shop for a moped or scooter on line, and you will see it in print. Walk into any cycle shop, and the sales staff will impress this advantage on you. Some may even claim that moped registered bikes are covered on your home owner’s or renter’s insurance.

A quick call to your insurance broker will put that claim to rest. Massachusetts home owner’s insurance will not cover any motorized vehicle except, maybe, a riding mower or lawn tractor. After some research, your broker will be able to say with certainty that the only way to insure a 50 cc bike is to first register it as a motorcycle. This is a quirk of Massachusetts law. Massachusetts bikers and drivers should remember that virtually all moped registered bikes in our state are uninsured vehicles.

Why is insurance important? Many things can happed to or because of a bike. 50 cc bikes are easy to carry away and sell. An accident may injure the rider, passenger or an onlooker. A rider may even damage another vehicle while riding.

Many who purchase a moped do so feeling that the slow speed prevents injury. This is true in a Newtonian or physical sense. Yet, riders must operate bikes with care and protect themselves.

Always ride mopeds, scooters and bicycles defensively. The most important right of way rule is that your right of way is less important than your right to life. All bikes are hard to see on the road. Your slow speed will not protect you from their erratically moving car or truck. Be careful to stay out of truck and automobile blind spots.

Riding attire is an important part of safe riding. Full helmets that protect the lower jaw are much more protective than other types. Falling head first from any type of bike at 20 mph can be deadly. The force of such a fall is equal to that of a fall from the roof of a two story building. A 20 mph fall with a DOT approved helmet is unlikely to cause a head injury. A protective leather jacket, heavy pants and boots may prevent other serious injury such as skin abrasion and broken bones. Bright colors make the rider more visible in traffic.

It is important to carry the registration in the bike at all times. The registration has the Massachusetts moped regulations printed on it (see the regulations below). Many police officers in Massachusetts do not know the moped regulations. They may want to know why the scooter does not have a license plate, why you do not need a motorcycle license to operate it, or why you are parking the scooter at a bicycle rack.

Operating Requirements
Moped operators are subject to the traffic laws, rules and regulations of the Commonwealth.
Mopeds will have the right to use all public ways in the Commonwealth, except limited access or express state highways where signs prohibiting bicycles have been posted.
Mopeds may use bicycle lanes next to various ways but are excluded from off street recreational paths.
Moped operators must signal their intention to stop or turn by using either hand.
Mopeds may keep right when passing a motor vehicle which is in the travel lane of a way.
Restrictions When Operating a Moped
Mopeds will not be operated:
�By any person under 16 years of age.
�By any person who does not have a valid license or permit.
�At a speed greater than 25 miles per hour.
�Without the operator and any passenger wearing a DOT standard helmet.
Any scooter or moped shop operator will give advice and carry parts to increase the top speed of their products. The Registry has no way to know if your moped has a 50 or 70 cc engine. Just remember that the 25 mph speed limit for mopeds is state wide on every street. However unlikely, police can impound motorbikes masquerading as mopeds.

Manufacturers usually design these bikes for only 30 – 40 mph, not 50 mph. The increased speed of a modified bike will dramatically increase wear on tires, brake pads and the frame. Also, riding outside the legal speed limit increases the operator’s liability.

Why do so many moped and scooter owners modify their bikes? Every kind of bike has a learning curve. 50 cc bikes have a rapid learning curve. Most riders find that 30 mph is much too slow in a matter of weeks or months. There is a sense of security in being able to ride with traffic. Many riders feel that riding faster is more enjoyable.

Removing restrictions from a 50 cc bike may increase its top speed up to 45 mph. Adding special exhaust systems and engine parts can push many bikes over 50 mph. Buying a new 50 cc bike and modifying it will cost more in the long run than buying a larger bore (bore refers to engine size) bike to begin with.

Given the information above, most new bikers will be happier if they purchase a larger motorbike. The motorcycle learners permit is easy to obtain, good for two years and allows operation of any motorbike during daylight hours. The riding test for the motorcycle license is easy on a small motorbike like a 150 or 200 cc Vespa. Insuring a motorbike is not very expensive. Maintenance of larger scooters is not more difficult than 50 cc bikes. The cost of operating a larger bike is not significantly higher than the 50 cc bikes.

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