If you want the short answer to this question: no. No, it is not.
But we’re going to assume that you want a little bit more of an explanation than that, so we’ll give you one. If you stick around a bit longer, we’ll even throw in the definition of a “moped” as well, for extra enjoyment. (Fun fact: plenty of people who own these vehicles are calling them the wrong thing.)
Scooter vs Moped
These terms are often used interchangeably (especially in the US), but they’re not the same thing at all. Aside from both being motorized vehicles of a sort, other than that scooters and mopeds don’t really have much in common at all.
The photos that you’re seeing in this article, every single one of them, are scooters. When you read the word “Vespa,” the vehicle that pops into your mind? That’s a scooter, not a moped. However, you probably hear them called “mopeds” most of the time. While a slip like this isn’t going to cause you much trouble in terms of a casual conversation, scooters and mopeds boast different license requirements. The good news is that if you hold a motorcycle endorsement, though, you’re primed to ride either one of these as they both are considerably less powerful than a motorcycle. You also need an endorsement to ride a scooter. But in some states you don’t need one to ride a moped.
The main thing to remember is that a scooter has a step-through chassis design with no pedals. Usually they tend to be automatic (meaning that you just have to twist the throttle and the more you twist it the faster you go), equipped with hand brakes very similarly to a bicycle, and don’t require your feet to do anything other than rest on the chassis.
There are many different types of scooters: they tend to be between 50cc and 250cc. You can also get manually-operated scooters, but these are far rarer than the automatic variety. Some scooters are indeed highway-worthy while the 50cc ones tend to not be. The best use of scooters is on side roads, anyhow: they tend to be very gas-efficient and are great for driving around the city while not using up a lot of gasoline.
On the other hand, a moped looks a lot like a bicycle in that it has pedals. They typically sport engines that are no large than 50cc and most of them can’t go faster than 28 miles an hour. They are absolutely not meant to be ridden on highways.
Scooter vs. Motorcycle
In one sense, scooters and motorcycles are exactly the same: the Department of Transportation classifications aren’t any different where the rules are concerned between these. In order to be ridden on the street, you need to have a motorcycle endorsement for either a scooter or a motorcycle.
Beyond that, though, you’re in for a world of differences. Motorcycles are almost entirely manually operated with the shifting on the left foot. (There are automatic motorcycles but they are rarer than hen’s teeth.)
Motorcycle engines also tend to start at around 250cc and go up from there. Thus, the most powerful scooter hovers around the power level of the least juiced-up motorcycle on the market. Motorcycles also tend to have more storage space (though, frankly, storage is at a premium on any two-wheeled form of transportation) and offer a lot more wind protection than either a scooter or a moped, given that you are traveling at much higher speeds.
Motorcycles also do not have pedals. They are also much harder to operate at slow speeds. If you’re looking for something that you can easily roll around on at 5mph, a scooter is much better at handling this than a motorcycle would be.
Pricing differences are also pretty vast between a scooter and a moped. Purchasing a new motorcycle is likely going to run you over ten thousand dollars for a motorcycle on the cheaper side, while new scooters can typically be had for under the five-thousand dollar mark. Motorcycles tend to be much more powerful (sure, 250cc motorcycles exist, but, again, these are rare; most are more powerful).
Which is the Best for Me?
Really, it depends upon your needs. Scooters are very, very popular in Europe for a good reason. Many European cities are very traffic-clogged, and scooters are smaller and great for weaving in and out of traffic, even if you have to be moving at very low speeds. The fact that the majority of scooters are automatic is much more convenient for this as well. While we motorcycle enthusiasts may love the feel of shifting, it becomes considerably less enchanting when you are stuck in stop-and-go traffic constantly that refuses to go any faster than 5mph.
Scooters are also much lighter and much easier to learn how to drive. Again, the lack of manual transmission is a huge thing, and if you really need to get on the highway with one as part of your commute, with a powerful enough scooter it’s possible.
The practical use of a moped is pretty limited for most people, as they have very low speeds. They may be good for you if you only need to commute around a very small area and have no need to exceed residential speed limits.
Motorcycles are better for those who want to ride longer and, of course, faster. While scooters can go on the highway, they’re not exactly the most practical choice for a cross-country trip. And while it could also be argued that motorcycles may not be the most practical choice either, it’s a lot more comfortable and is considerably easier.
Not to mention, if you want to go fast, a motorcycle is basically your only option. (And who doesn’t want to go fast?)
But, again, depending on your needs, you might find a scooter to be a very attractive option for you. You’ll save money, gas, and get a little bit of Euro-flair into your daily commute. Make sure to keep your scooter running smoothly with the best scooter gear and parts.