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Michigan’s Moped Myths, Debunked

Michigan’s Moped Myths, Debunked

As gasoline prices continue to rise, more and more Michiganders seem to be hitting the road with economical, fuel-saving mopeds. Mopeds and other small, gas-powered scooters are indeed affordable compared to many common forms of transportation. They have relatively low sticker prices (sometimes under $2,000), and can be extremely fuel-efficient, often getting more than 100 miles per gallon. Plus, under current state law, you don’t have to spend a cent insuring a moped, although you’d probably be wise to do so anyway (one well-known insurance company promotes moped coverage for under $100 annually).

With those kinds of numbers and gas averaging more than $4.50 a gallon, it’s easy to see why mopeds are gaining in popularity across Michigan. But these miniature motorbikes don’t necessarily satisfy every driving need. So, let’s take on some frequently asked questions to help you decide whether owning a moped is a good idea for your lifestyle.

What is a Moped?

Michigan law defines a moped as a two-wheeled (or sometimes three-wheeled) vehicle that can’t exceed 30 miles per hour and has an engine under 100 cubic centimeters in displacement. If a moped is tampered with so that it can exceed that speed, it’s automatically considered a motorcycle under state law and must be licensed and insured accordingly. Many mopeds resemble small motorcycles, but some are configured as step-through scooters.

Do I Need a License to Drive a Moped?

Absolutely. According to the Secretary of State, you must be 15 or older and pass a state moped knowledge test to apply for a moped license. You’ll also have to prove your understanding of standard traffic signs and pass a vision test. Your moped license is good for four years, or until you turn 21, and can be renewed if needed. However, once you qualify for a regular Michigan driver’s license, that will take the place of the moped license, which must be surrendered. The Secretary of State’s website provides further details.

Does My Moped Need to Be Registered with the State?

Yes. You’ll need to get an official registration decal from the Secretary of State, which currently must be done via an in-person appointment. There’s a $15 fee, payable by check or money order. Furthermore, you’ll have to certify your moped meets state safety equipment standards by completing a registration document with the Michigan Department of State that itemizes all required safety equipment, such as brake lights, headlights, and other related components.

How are Mopeds Different from Motorcycles?

As mentioned, mopeds have smaller engines (100 cubic centimeter displacement or less) and cannot exceed 30 miles per hour. If, for example, a 75-cc scooter surpasses that top speed, it is considered a motorcycle and treated as such under the law… meaning you’ll need to buy insurance and add a motorcycle endorsement to your Michigan driver’s license. 

Are Mopeds Different from E-Scooters?

Yes. The primary difference is that most mopeds are powered by gasoline, though there are a growing number of electric-powered mopeds. Those small, e-scooters from Lime, Boaz, Bird, Spin, LINK (among other companies) which you see tooling around metro Detroit are not legally considered mopeds, and are limited to 15 miles per hour within city boundaries.

Do You Have to Insure a Moped in Michigan?

No, moped insurance is not required in Michigan… but having coverage in place can save you from financial losses if, for instance, your moped is stolen or accidentally damaged. We suggest speaking with an insurance agent to determine whether an insurance policy could be beneficial based on the value of your moped and personal circumstances.

How Many People Can a Moped Carry?

Mopeds usually have recommended weight limits for safe operation and are, therefore, generally designed for a single rider. Since mopeds are small vehicles, they can usually carry 250 pounds or less including the operator and all gear. The weight limit is in place to prevent the frame from failing, and to allow proper braking performance. However, some mopeds are equipped with longer seats and foot pegs to accommodate a second rider. So, check your moped model’s operating instructions for specific capacity details.

What Safety Requirements Must Mopeds Meet?

If you plan to use your moped on Michigan roadways it must be “street legal,” meaning it is required to have a headlight, taillight, and brake light. Additionally, your moped must be equipped with brakes on both wheels, a horn, a muffler, a rear-view mirror, a permanently affixed seat, and handlebars as defined by state code. The registration document published by the Michigan Department of State itemizes these requirements in detail.

How Does No-Fault Coverage Work for Michigan Moped (or Motorcycle) Accidents?

Michigan’s no-fault insurance requirement makes exceptions for mopeds, since no coverage is required. There’s also an exclusion for motorcycles, meaning that while you are required to buy motorcycle insurance, you are not protected by typical no-fault benefits when riding on a motorcycle in Michigan. For answers to specific questions about moped (or motorcycle) coverage, we recommend speaking with a licensed insurance agent.

Can You File a Lawsuit if You’re Injured by a Negligent Driver While on a Moped?

Of course! Negligent or reckless at-fault drivers are always at risk of being sued if they injure anyone – whether it be nearby motorists, passengers in other cars, bicyclists, pedestrians, or moped riders. If you or someone you love are hurt in any of these or other circumstances, we stand ready to help you take any necessary steps to be compensated for your losses, pain and suffering, medical bills, or other costs you incur in your recovery.

Can Someone Sue You if You Injure Them While You’re Driving a Moped?

Indeed, they can. Which is why, we reiterate, it’s always a good idea to carry coverage to protect you from monetary losses and liability risks that you could potentially incur (even if it’s not mandated by state law). Ask yourself this question: Is it worth facing financial ruin to save a few dollars on insurance? We didn’t think so.

How Can I Stay Safe While Riding on a Moped?

While economical, mopeds are certainly not the safest mode of transportation. They’re small, not easily seen by other motorists, and don’t have many of the high-tech safety features found on cars. That being said, the low speed of a moped affords some security, as does using quality safety gear such as DOT-approved or Snell-certified helmets, Kevlar-reinforced riding apparel, and reflective patches. By the way, if you’re younger than age 19, you’re required to wear a helmet in Michigan whenever you’re on a moped.

Where Do Most Moped Accidents Occur in Michigan?

While the state hasn’t updated its statistics on moped accidents for a couple of years (since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic), data from 2016-2020 shows that there were three hotspots in Michigan with a relatively high concentration of moped-related crashes. The first is along US 131 on the south side of Grand Rapids, and the other two are in Detroit, with one close to the intersection of Woodward Avenue and Michigan Avenue, and the other along Telegraph Road between Fenkell (Five Mile) and Eight Mile Roads.

Can I Drive My Moped on an Interstate Highway?

Nope. You won’t (or shouldn’t) see any moped accidents reported on I-75, I-94, I-96, or I-69 – because mopeds are not permitted on the interstates in Michigan. To be clear, you should never take your moped on any high-speed motorway. Signs at the entrances to many limited-access Michigan roads provide a list of forbidden vehicles, which include mopeds, tractors, bicycles, horse-drawn carriages, golf carts, and (naturally) pedestrians on roller skates! Even other roads where speed limits exceed 45 miles per hour should be considered high-risk areas for moped riders. For your safety, we recommend limiting moped travel to roads with speeds on the low end of the speed spectrum.

In conclusion, we should probably mention that mopeds are fun to ride, inexpensive to buy and operate, and provide a good transportation alternative for people who can’t get a regular driver’s license or have a short, relatively safe commute on low-traffic roads. But mopeds do have their limitations in terms of safety, not to mention lack of protection from Michigan’s famously temperamental weather! And, of course, mopeds present significant risk to riders, who are exposed to danger from larger vehicles, road hazards like gravel or potholes, and even other moped riders. That being the case, if you’re ever injured when you’re riding a moped in Michigan, the dedicated legal team at Mike Morse Law Firm is ready to advise you on your rights, and to help you seek appropriate compensation. Our number, as always, is 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946).