Virginia Moped and Motorcycle Laws

Virgina has some very interesting and unusual laws in regards to scooters. First and foremost, please keep in mind that Virginia considers some scooters to be motorcycles, and some scooters to be mopeds. There is no legal qualification that simply covers all motorscooters. Therefore the first thing that you need to know is whether you plan on riding a moped or a motorcycle, and then figure out which class your scooter falls into.

Virginia Code section 46.2-100 defines a moped as a vehicle that:

  • travels on three wheels or less,
  • a seat that is no less than 24 inches in height, measured from the ground to the middle of the seat, and
  • has a gasoline, electric, or hybrid motor that displaces less than 50 cubic centimeters (or 50cc).

Virginia has updated some parts of the moped code for 2014! The following is all the information about the current moped laws so that you can be a legal eagle.

One of the great things about Virginia is how easy it is for you to start riding a 50cc scooter. You see, any 2-wheeled vehicle with an engine that is smaller than 50cc and a top speed of 35mph is legally considered to be moped in Virginia.  There are some other things to keep in mind, of course.  You’ll need to be at least 16 years old and you’ll need to stay off of any roads that are considered to be highways (those are the roads with the sign at an on ramp that lets you know that farm equipment and mopeds are not allowed).  As per the new law that went into effect on July 1, 2013, every moped rider in Virginia must wear a DOT approved helmet and either have a windshield or wear eye protection such as goggles, safety glasses, or a helmet with a visor. Your passenger must also wear a DOT approved helmet. You need to carry a government issues ID of some type, and this does NOT mean you’ll need a drivers license or motorcycle license! You are legal as long as you have an ID card, passport, or some other form of state or federal ID with your name and address. You’ll need to follow the rules of the road just like the other vehicles.

But now on to the list of things that you don’t need.  You do not need a motorcycle license. You WILL need to title and register your moped by July 1, 2014, and the cost for that is $10 for titling and $20.25 per year for registration. No state inspection is required on your vehicle. A moped does not require insurance (although it is not a bad idea to have recreational vehicle insurance, which should be covered by most insurance companies-keep in mind that your renters or home owners insurance typically DOES NOT COVER MOPEDS!!).

There are some misconceptions about 49cc bikes in Virginia too. We often hear people refer to a scooter as a “liquor cycle”. Virginia law notes that while you are not required to have a motorcycle license or a drivers license in order to ride a moped, you cannot drive a moped if you have lost your license due to drug or alcohol related charges, or if you have been judged to be a habitual offender. If you have lost your drivers license because of some other reason (for example: unpaid fines, points thanks to moving violations, etc), then you are generally clear to ride a 50cc scooter or moped. Please note that Scoot Richmond is not a legal adviser, and you should probably check with someone who does law stuffs for a living if you aren’t sure of your status.

It’s more likely that you are considering a 50cc scooter because of the ease of use and not because of legal driving limitations, and therefore we’d like to mention a few things to help you decide between a 50cc scooter and a larger faster scooter. Some people feel far more comfortable on a 50cc scooter when they are getting started on 2 wheels. The fact that a 50cc scooter generally goes about 35mph sounds easier and safer in some way, and the fact that you do not have to take a test in order to get your license makes it sound both easy and attractive.

For other folks, the simple fact of a scooter that is a moped’s top speed of 35mph is simply impossible. The licensing test is actually quite easy, especially on a scooter (perhaps the best vehicle ever for getting your motorcycle license). And insurance is very affordable, for the most part.

Loads of people are completely happy with a 50cc scooter for years and years. Just as many people are ready to upgrade from a 50cc scooter to something bigger and faster sometimes only a few weeks after purchase. While Scoot Richmond can’t definitively tell you which camp you will fall into, we can certainly do our best to help you choose the right scooter for your current needs.

If the vehicle is defined as a motorcycle, you need a few extra things in order to legally drive it.

  • Rider must have a valid motorcycle license, aka the M Class
  • Vehicle must be titled and registered, which includes putting license plates on the vehicle
  • Vehicle must be covered by insurance for at least the Virginia state minimum requirements
  • Vehicle must have a yearly safety inspection

Sure, there are a few more things that are required of you before you ride a motorcycle…and all of them are completely worth it!

Similar to mopeds, you must wear a DOT approved helmet and eye protection when riding a motorcycle.

The best way to learn all of the specifics of motorcycle laws in Virginia is to peruse the VA Motorcycle Operator’s Handbook.