Posted on Car Accidents / What Is A California Motorized Vehicle?

Page Updated 12/11/2021

What Is A California Motorized Vehicle?


In California, the law to drive motorized vehicles is different than driving actual motor vehicles since you do not need a license or registration for the vehicle, unlike a moped.

Our personal injury attorneys have compiled some information to help readers get acquainted with the laws and also clear up the doubts of many.

Learn More About Scooters and Other Motorized Vehicles in California

  • What Does California Law Say about Motorized Scooters?
  • Are There Separate Laws for Driving a Moped in California?
  • Electric Motor and Motorized Bicycle Laws in California
  • Is There a Need for Insurance to Ride Motorized Bicycles?

What Does California Law Say about Motorized Scooters?

Under the California motorized scooter laws, a motorized scooter may have a seat but that is not a defining feature of it as a scooter can be a motorized scooter if it has two wheels, handlebars, a floorboard to stand on, and a motor for powering the scooter.

Although registration with the DMV and a specialized license is not required to drive a motorized scooter, you do need to have a regular driver’s license.

The laws for driving a motorized scooter on the road is the same as with any other vehicle but there are certain restrictions in California like:

  • Drivers should wear a US Department of Transport approved helmet
  • Riders can only ride motorized bikes in bike lanes on roads with speed limits exceeding 25 miles per hour
  • Can not ride on sidewalks
  • No passengers allowed except a single driver on the electric scooter
  • Motorized scooter riders can’t ride over 15 miles an hour on the road

Senior citizens or disabled people can drive mobility scooters up to 30 miles per hour on road.

Are There Separate Laws for Driving a Moped in California?

Under California Law, a moped is a vehicle if it has two or three wheels, an automatic transmission accompanied by an electric motor, and a 30 miles an hour maximum speed.

The distinction between a moped and a motorized bicycle is the speed limit as anything having speeds slower than 20 miles per hour is not a moped. Refer to the Department of Motor Vehicle if you’re not sure what law applies to your ride.

To legally drive a moped, moped riders need a motorcycle’s license (M1 or M2), get their moped registered with the DMV, and get the relevant license plates. Upon registration, they will receive a moped ID card that they must keep on you at all times.

Electric Motor and Motorized Bicycle Laws in California

You may feel inclined to believe that motorized bicycles and mopeds are the same, however, these are treated differently under California law. An electric motor (fewer than 750 watts) and pedals are the main requirements to determine if a vehicle is a motorized bicycle in California.

The law breaks down electric bikes into three different categories and these are as follows:

  1. Class 1: A motor on a bicycle that activates upon pedaling and deactivates once the ride reaches 20 miles an hour
  2. Class 2: A bike (electric) that does not require pedaling to propel the rider but does not go beyond 20 miles an hour
  3. Class 3: A bicycle that comes equipped with a speedometer and a pedal-assisted electric motor touching speeds of no more than 28 miles an hour. To qualify for driving this category of motorized bicycle, the rider must be over the age of 16.

Riders can only ride on a designated bicycle path or bike lane and can take advantage of the class II bicycle lane provided by the state.

A motorized bicycle rider must have a motorcycle license requiring the individual to pass the written and driving tests. There is no strict requirement on wearing a bicycle helmet if you’re above 16 years of age unless you are riding on your learner’s permit.

Is There a Need for Insurance to Ride Motorized Bicycles?

Another question that many wonder about is whether or not there is a requirement to get insurance to ride motorized bicycles.

Motorized scooters or bicycles do not require insurance but if you’re riding a moped you need to get insurance with at least minimum liability coverage of:

  • $15,000 – Bodily injury coverage for one individual
  • $30,000 – Total bodily injury coverage for the accident
  • $5,000 – Property damage coverage for the accident

To know more about motorized vehicle laws in California, contact us at (213) 596-9642 or visit any of our law offices across the state and get a free consultation with our attorneys.

Ehline Law Firm - Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC
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Michael P. Ehline Esq,
Downtown Los Angeles Corporate Offices

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