Are Vespas Motorcycles or Scooters?

When you think of luxury vehicles, you might automatically think about Mercedes-Benz, BMW, or Cadillac. However, in the world of scooter, moped, and motorcycle models, the luxurious brand that often dominates is Vespa. Vespa two-wheelers are produced by the Piaggio company and have been a popular transportation choice for some 75 years. You might be wondering what category the Vespa falls into, really, since it’s so different from similar vehicles. Are Vespas motorcycles or scooters, and how can you tell the difference?

Vespas forge their own vehicular path

A man driving a Vespa scooter in Basilicata, Italy
A man driving a Vespa | Antonio Balasco/KONTROLAB/LightRocket via Getty Images

According to the Vespa website, Vespas come in various forms, including the Primavera, Sprint, Elettrica, GTS, GTS Super, Sei Giorni, and the 946 Red. While most Vespas look an awful lot like other mopeds on the market, they’re more commonly considered as scooters. The differences between a moped, a scooter, and a motorcycle, come down to engine size. Vespa makes bikes that range in power from 49cc for moped models and up to 278cc for scooter models.

How to decide if you need a motorcycle or a scooter

Before you can determine which bike is ideal for your transportation needs, you’ll want to understand the differences between the motorcycle, the scooter, and the moped. Motorcycle Legal Foundation lays out the details and key differentiators between these fun rides.

Any two-wheeler with 50cc or less of capable power is considered a moped. Scooters tend to offer a wider variety of engine sizes, including 55cc, 150cc, and 250cc versions. Any ride with an engine with a capability above 250cc will be classified as a motorcycle.

City dwellers usually find their sweet spot-sized bike with a Vespa or scooter since these are typically easier to maneuver and ride at lower speeds. They usually also have a smaller, 10-inch wheelbase that uses an electric charging system to power ignition, lights, and other components. So, if you’re driving short, sporadic distances across roadways with slower speed limits, a Vespa or a scooter are ideal.

Mopeds are even slower and come equipped with pedals connected to a low-powered engine. Most of these won’t ever go faster than 28 mph and should never be ridden on highways or roads requiring higher speeds to maintain pace with traffic.

Most motorcycles bring more substantial size, engine power, and clutch-driven transmissions. Any bike with an engine 250cc or larger will likely be considered a motorcycle. Riding a motorcycle will mean swinging your leg over a centrally fixed engine, unlike scooter, Vespa, or moped variations where the rider can step off the bike. The motorcycle will be a better fit if your travels entail highway driving or speeds above 40 mph.

More affordable alternatives to a Vespa

Let’s Ride Motorbikes shared some of the costs and benefits of owning a Vespa. The most popular Vespas can run anywhere from $3,799 to $7,599. If that’s a little too rich and pricey for your budget, there are some other scooter models you might find more affordable.

Electrek just shared the details around Yamaha’s new electric scooter that seems to have a Vespa-inspired flare. You won’t be able to travel incredibly long distances with this single-seater e-Vino. However, it comes with a 500 Wh battery pack and an optional second battery. It’s a slowpoke with top speeds of 18 mph but may be an excellent option for your kind of travel. Its launch price is estimated to be $2,280, which is a little easier on the bank account.

Before you decide on a moped, scooter, or motorcycle, be honest about what kind of driving and riding you plan to do. If the sweet spot for you is the scooter, you should consider one of the popular Vespa models. However, don’t be afraid to explore other brands and shop around, especially if your budget is a little tighter. 

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