Is That Moped Cutting in Front of You Insured?

I was cutting through Lynnfield on my way home the other night when a group of 7-8 scooters passed me going the other way.   I was chuckling to myself that this was the first scooter “gang” I had come across.  Then I started thinking about who were driving the scooters.  It was dark so I could not see their faces but I thought it was probably a group of high school kids who were out enjoying a nice night before the weather turned too cold.  Then I wondered if any of that gang actually had insurance while driving on the road?  The answer is most likely, “No”! 

Why? Because in Massachusetts, at least, mopeds and scooters can be registered and driven on all public ways (except limited access or express state highways) without insurance as long as they meet the following four criteria.

1) has a cylinder capacity of no more than fifty cubic centimeters;

2) has an automatic transmission;

3) is capable of a maximum speed of not more than 30 m.p.h.;

4) complies with all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (M.G.L. c.90 § 1C).

I performed a quick search of “Scooters” on the internet and found plenty of models below the 50cc requirement. Both Honda and Vespa offer at least two models each with 49cc capacity. What intrigued me was the maximum speed restriction. I wondered who at the RMV determined the maximum speed and whether the scooter qualified for a Moped Registration. What I found sent a chill down my spine. It turns out that the RMV does not make that determination and their web-site states quite clearly: “In most instances the maximum speed of the vehicle will not be on the Certificate of Origin. It will be up to the dealer, insurance agent, and the customer to ensure the vehicle is properly registered.”

I then did another search of “maximum speed” of the various models that otherwise qualify for a Moped Registration. I could not find a single model that had a maximum speed of less than 30mph. In other words, none of the scooters that I reviewed would technically qualify for a Moped Registration, however, since the maximum speed requirement is done on the honor system I am sure there are a lot misclassified and uninsured bikes out there.

Unfortunately an insurance agent can only help if he is aware of the vehicle. One of the attractions for these vehicles is that people think they do not have to be insured. A scooter that exceeds the 30mph maximum speed should be registered as a “Limited Use Vehicle” and would be subject to the compulsory insurance law. In that case the agent would have to be involved to provide the necessary proof of insurance. But if the buyer can register his scooter on a Moped Registration he may not even tell his agent.

That is the silly part of this scenario. Just because a vehicle can be driven on the roads without insurance does not mean it should be.  Whether the vehicle is subject to the compulsory insurance law or not the owner should get liability insurance to protect his assets. There are policies that would provide this protection no matter how the bike was classified. I wonder if the parents of the “gang” I saw told their insurance agents about the scooter in their households? I hope so because if not, their assets are at risk. If their child causes an accident or injures a pedestrian while operating an uninsured scooter the parents may be on the hook.

If you or a member of your household have a scooter or moped call us at 800-559-5553 for a free quote or email me at with any questions you have.