In California, motorized bikes, scooters, and mopeds are each treated and defined differently by the law. Motorized bikes and scooters can be operated on the road in California without getting registered with the DMV, and you do not need to have a bike-specific license. On the other hand, mopeds must be registered and the drivers need to have with him/her an M1 or M2 license when driving.
California Moped Laws
According to California laws, a moped is a vehicle that has the following features:
• An electric motor with automatic transmission. The moped may also have pedals; in case it is not completely reliant on the motor.
• 2 or 3 wheels. In case the vehicle has four wheels, it will be normally considered an off-road vehicle or a car.
• The moped cannot go faster than 30 miles per hour on a level ground.
In case your vehicle is categorized as a moped, and it does not go any faster than 20 miles per hour, it will most likely be taken as a motorized bike. Under different categories, depending on the vehicle’s maximum speed it may qualify as a ‘moped’; therefore, you should confirm the requirements of the vehicle with the DMV in case you are not sure before you take it for a ride.
To drive a moped, you will need a bike license, either M1 or M2, which needs to be carried while you are riding on public roads. You will also have to register your vehicle with the DMV and get a license plate for it. Once you have registered your moped, there will be no annual renewals, as it is a one-time process. During registration, you will get a registration card or a moped ID card, which is a proof of ownership. You will have to carry the moped ID card with you at all times when using a moped. You also must wear an approved safety helmet when using your moped on public roads.
California Motorized Scooter Laws
According to California laws, a motorized scooter which is also known as an electric scooter is a defined as a machine that has:
• A floorboard which can be stood on by the user while using the scooter
• Two wheels
• A motor which powers the vehicle
While an electric scooter may have a driver’s seat, this is not considered a distinguishing characteristic of a scooter under the California laws.
• Electric scooters should not be driven faster than 15 mph on the road.
• The driver is not allowed to carry any passenger(s).
• Just like other vehicles, electric scooter should not be used on sidewalks.
• Scooters cannot be used on roads that have speed limits of more than 25mph unless there is a bike lane that can be used by scooter riders.
• The driver must wear a United States Department of Transportation-compliant helmet always while using the scooter.
The above regulations apply to standard electric scooters. On the other hand, mobility scooters can be driven up to 30mph on the road. Nonetheless, this law only applies to mobility scooters that are used by seniors or individuals with physical disabilities.
California Motorized & Electric Bicycle Laws
Electric bikes or motorized bikes are similar to moped, however they are distinct in how they are defined by California law. An electric bicycle is defined as having an electric motor of less than 1,000 watts, pedals, and a maximum speed of 20mph or even less on a level ground.
Motorized bicycles are street-legal in the state of California. You do not need a license or a registration to operate the bike on the road. Nonetheless, you need to be at least 16 years old to operate one, and also have a Department of Transportation approved safety helmet. Additionally, electric bicycles can only be operated by one person at a time- therefore you cannot carry any passengers.
Do I Need Insurance for A Scooter or Moped in California?
You are not required to carry insurance for you to operate an electric scooter in the state of California. Therefore, insurance coverage is optional.
Nonetheless, mopeds come with the same insurance necessities as motorcycles. For you to operate a moped, you will need to have a liability insurance with a minimum of $15,000 of bodily injury coverage per individual, $30,000 of bodily injury insurance coverage per accident, and $5,000 of property insurance coverage per accident.
Additionally, in case you have financed or leased your moped, you are required to carry other forms of insurance coverage so that you can meet the requirements of your lender.