What Is a (Street Legal) Scooter?

Is Engine Size a Factor?

This page explains terms such as street legal scooter, motorized scooter,scooter engine size and more.

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How do you define the term street legal scooter?

When you're just starting to learn about the world of scooters, some of the terminology can be so confusing... street legal, motorized scooters, gas scooters, mobility scooters... what the heck do all those terms really mean? And are they different... or the same?

If you're like I was a while back, you may be unclear on exactly what a scooter really is. Truth is, the term "scooter" is used to mean quite a few different things.

Of course, most of us remember the old push scooters that were probably the forerunners of skateboards. You know... you stood 1 foot up on the running board, held on to the handle up at waist level and used your other foot to push yourself along?

A few years back, toy manufacturers updated that model with the Razor Scooter, a faster, slicker version. They've even added motors and seats to some of those kinds of scooters now.

More Confusion...

Another kind of scooter is the electric mobility scooters that handicapped people use and that you'll see in WalMart, etc. They run off an electric battery and usually have 3 to 4 wheels and a large seat with a back and possibly a basket in the front. When you hear the term, "motorized scooter," that's often what people are referring to.

But the term street legal scooter is more often used to mean the same thing as a gas scooter or motor scooter. However, you may find that on this site I often interchange the terms street legal scooter, motorized scooter and gasoline scooter.

Why? Well, because I'm trying to bring people to the site from Google and other search engines. People who don't really know the difference between those terms, and may be using the wrong one to find the info I offer here. Hey... I am to please! Smile

What's the Deal With Scooter Engine Size?

Scooter engine sizes can vary from 49cc all the way up to 800cc!

I delve into scooter engines a bit deeper on another page, but scooter engine sizes can vary widely.

The traditional Vespa-type scooters so common in Europe and Asia were often only about 49cc or 50cc, and that size is popular here in the US now too. They're limited to about 35 to 45 MPH, though.

I own a street legal scooter with a quite common 125cc engine and I can go as fast as 65 MPH. The new "maxi-scooters" might have engines ranging all the way up to 850cc!

What It Means to Be "Street Legal"

We'll get to that in a moment, but first, let's just look at a general definition of the term "scooter"...

Wikipedia defines scooters as "a two-wheeled motor vehicle with a step-through frame." Historically, scooters have also been known for the following features:

  • small engine
  • small wheels
  • a step-through design
  • forward fairing with floorboards
  • underseat storage

But today, gasoline scooters can actually be many things when it comes to design. They may still have step-through, but it could also be step-over (or in a couple of cases, no step at all).

Wheels might be small OR large. Floorboards may or may not be involved, though they usually are. And most modern motorized scooters have automatic transmissions.

Today's U.S. Road Scooters Are Different From Their Original European Counterparts

Modern scooters are  more fuel-efficient, sportier in appearance and better for the environment

Scooters were invented as a lightweight, inexpensive form of ground transportation. Vespa scooters popularized the trend, followed by many other models manufactured in quite a few Asian nations.

But in recent years, new, sporty models that are more like motorcycles have begun to emerge. So today's range of gasoline scooters is quite diverse and may appeal to many different types of riders.

Another change is that the current gasoline scooters in the United States have what is called an automatic (or twist n' go) 4-stroke engine, which makes them more eco-friendly (and user-friendly too) than the scooters you may have seen across the pond.

The older scoots (and still some of today's 50cc scooters) have a manual 2-stroke engine that may be more fun to ride for purists, but also has a lot more emissions.

Depending on how much money you want to spend, your motorized gas scooter can also be equipped with all sorts of bells and whistles, including alarms, radios, windshields, etc.

In Summary

To sum things up, the term, street legal scooter simply means that it is legal to ride the scooter in the driving lanes on a public street. Most of the gas scooters sold in the US are street legal, and many states say even the little mopeds are street legal.

Scooters can also be certified as "highway legal," if they're able to keep up with highway speeds (usually at least 55 MPH).

Related Pages in This Section

Other pages you might like to visit...

If you have motor scooter questions, our experts have scooter answers for you!

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ATTENTION! I have had to delete the Scooter Forum for this site, unfortunately. Despite my best efforts, I could not adequately prevent daily attacks by hackers and spammers. Even though most of their posts did not go public, they still cluttered up my website host's server space, jeopardizing my account. I appreciate everyone's contributions over the past few years and I apologize for having to do this.

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