- Location: California
Scooters, Mopeds, Etc... in California
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In the state of California, there are multiple classifications of smaller powered two-wheeled vehicles. These include motor-driven cycles, mopeds, and motorized scooters. You need to make sure which one of those classifications your vehicle falls into, because the licensing and registration requirements are different for each.
In the state of California, CA Vehicle Code 405 defines a motor-driven cycle as having an engine size of 149cc (cubic centimeters) or less. To legally ride a motor-driven cycle, you must have a valid Class M1 license, and the vehicle must be registered at your local DMV office.
Riders of motor-driven cycles do catch one break: Vehicle Code index VC5000 says you won’t have to pay a registration fee for your motor-driven cycle.
In California, a moped or “motorized bicycle” is a two- or three-wheeled vehicle equipped with pedals, a motor that generates less than two gross brake horsepower (or an electric motor that cannot be bigger than 1,000 watts), and an automatic transmission.
Mopeds are categorized in two separate CA Vehicle Codes (CVC)―CVC 406(a) and CVC 406(b)―and the requirements differ for each type.
Moped Type CVC 406(a)
A moped meeting CVC 406(a) requires the operator to have a valid Class M1 or M2 motorcycle license. The vehicle must be equipped with:
- Operative pedals for propulsion by the rider, or no pedals if powered solely by electrical energy.
- An automatic transmission.
- A motor producing less than two gross brake horsepower (hp), capable of propelling the vehicle no faster than 30 mph on level ground.
Moped Type CVC 406(b)
A CVC 406(b) moped is a motorized bicycle defined as:
- A vehicle with pedals and an electric motor with an output of not more than 1,000 watts.
- Incapable of reaching speeds of more than 20 mph on level ground, even if assisted by human power.
You don’t need a license to ride a motorized bicycle that meets the definition of CVC 406(b); however, you must be at least 16 years old, and you must wear a properly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet at all times.
Mopeds that meet CVC 406(b) are also exempt from both the motor vehicle financial responsibility (insurance) and moped license plate requirements. Instead, a CVC 406(b) moped will be issued special license plates and identification cards, which require a one-time $18 fee.
To obtain these items, you’ll need to fill out a Motorized Bicycle Application (Form Reg 230), then mail the fee to:
- Department of Motor Vehicles
- P.O. Box 942869
- Sacramento, CA 94269-0001
Pay your fee via check or money order only. The DMV specifically asks that you not send cash.
A motorized scooter is a two-wheeled vehicle that has:
- A floorboard designed to be stood upon when riding.
- A propulsion system powered by a motor.
Motorized scooters do not have to be registered or have license plates displayed on the back, and they can be driven by anyone who has a valid CA driver’s license in any classification.
If you’re 16 years of age or older, and if your moped is not capable of driving faster than 20 mph, you can ride without a license.
To operate a motorized scooter you must be at least 16 years old and carry either an instruction permit or driver's license.
If you choose to ride a moped that can reach 30 mph, you’re going to need a Class M2 or M1 license.
To apply for your Class M2 license, make an appointment at your local DMV office and:
- Submit an original DL 44 application form. This form cannot be downloaded. Collect one at any DMV office, or have one mailed to you by calling (800) 777-0133.
- Provide a thumb print.
- Have your picture taken.
- Pay the $32 application fee.
- Pass a vision exam.
- Pass the traffic laws and road signs test.
Drivers younger than 21 years are required to complete a California Highway Patrol (CHP) motorcycle training course and present the Certificate of Motorcycle Training (DL 389) to the DMV. Completion of this course exempts you from taking the on-cycle driving exam (as long as you already have a CA driver’s license).
If you are older than 21 years, you may choose between taking the CHP course or scheduling an appointment to take the on-cycle driving test.
For additional information on the motorcycle classes offered by the California Highway
Patrol, call (877) 743-3411 or visit the California Motorcyclist Safety Program website.
Environmentally-conscious drivers may consider a motorcycle or a moped as a more fuel-efficient means of transportation. To help you decide if a motorcycle or moped is right for you, we've compiled the following list of resources: