California Moped Laws

Laws | November 8, 2021

Mopeds are akin to useful, motorized bicycles that allow their users to travel with ease. Though they might not seem as dangerous as vehicles like motorcycles, mopeds also pose risks that could injure riders. California is one of the few states with specific laws surrounding low-powered motor vehicles like mopeds, recognizing the need to safely regulate these modes of transport to prevent accidents.

Woman riding red moped on street

What Is a Moped?

California possesses different sets of laws defining what mopeds are and how drivers must operate them. According to the state, a moped is a vehicle that satisfies several criteria.

  • Possesses two or three wheels
  • Possesses an electric motor and an automatic transmission
  • Can include pedals if not completely set in motion by its motor
  • Is not capable of surpassing 30 mph on flat, level ground

These specifications separate mopeds from other motorized bikes, scooters, and off-roading vehicles. For instance, even if your vehicle fits all other characteristics of a moped, if it only reaches a speed of 20 mph, the state would most likely classify it as a motorized bicycle or a low-powered moped. This distinct typing of vehicles allows the state to set specific guidelines that cater to the characteristics of each group of motorized vehicles.

California’s Vehicle Code

California classifies mopeds as Type CVC 406 vehicles. Two specific codes are associated with this vehicle class.

Requirement 406(a) provides specification on what constitutes a moped that is high-powered.

  • The vehicle must have a motor that produces no more than 2 brake horsepower
  • The vehicle must be pedal and/or motor operated
  • The vehicle must possess an automatic transmission
  • The vehicle’s maximum speed is 30 mph, including instances in which the driver is pedaling and using the motor at the same time.

This code also indicates that drivers must equip their mopeds with special license plates and identification cards. Drivers must purchase these items from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to be valid. This requirement for special moped licensing only applies to high-powered moped variants.

Requirement 406(b) specifies characteristics of lower-powered mopeds.

  • The vehicle possesses a motor that produces a maximum 1,000 watts of power.
  • The vehicle’s maximum speed is 20 mph, including instances where both motor and pedals are activated.

Low-powered mopeds do not require special license plates or identification, nor does the state require registration or insurance for these vehicles. However, riders must be at least 16-years-old to operate a moped.

Do Mopeds Need a License Plate?

You don’t need insurance for moped registration, however, you’ll need special license plates, an ID card, and must pay a $23 one-time registration fee. Riders that possess a 406(a) classified moped must register their vehicle with the DMV and obtain an M1 motorcycle license. Drivers over 18 must satisfy certain requirements.

  • Successfully complete an approved California Motorcyclist Safety Program (CMSP) or pass a motorcycle driving test
  • Successfully complete a written test at the DMV
  • Complete their application form
  • Pass a vision test

Drivers under 18 possess their own set of additional requirements.

  • Possessed their driver’s permit for at least six months
  • Completed driver’s education and driver’s training course
  • Completed a CMSP course
  • Completed a motorcycle rider training course, similar to driver’s training

The DMV requires riders under 18 to complete all forms of driver’s and motorcycle training available. This is to ensure the safety of both the moped rider and the public when they eventually operate the vehicle.

Moped Regulations

Moped riders must also abide by California’s current helmet laws. The state requires individuals operating this class of vehicle to wear a helmet while riding on public roads. Another important regulation to remember is that riders must operate their vehicles only on roadways. This specification applies to all motor vehicles in the state of California.

Mopeds are a fun, effective method of travel that anyone 16 and over can utilize. However, it is important to maintain safe riding practices that adhere to California’s vehicle code and helmet law. If you or a loved one was injured while riding a moped, contact our Sacramento personal injury lawyers. We may be able to help you recover compensation if your injuries were caused by another’s negligence.