Why Have Vintage Mopeds Gotten So Popular?

As with classic SUVs, vintage motorcycles have risen in popularity in recent years. As have scooters, which is why manufacturers offer modern versions of icons like the Vespa and Honda Super Cub. But there’s another 2-wheeled form of transportation that’s also enjoying a cultural resurgence: the moped.

What is a moped?

Like motorcycles, mopeds have evolved over the years, and many modern models are confused for scooters, ItStillRuns reports. Both have step-through frames, for example, and small-capacity engines. In fact, the two are so indistinguishable, that mopeds are often simply classified as scooters with 50cc or smaller motors, State Farm explains.

Vintage or classic mopeds, though, are noticeably different. The term ‘moped’ comes from ‘motor’ and ‘pedal,’ the two distinguishing components of a moped. The pedals start the motor, and can also provide extra power if needed, the Motorcycle Legal Foundation explains. Basically, think of mopeds as the gasoline-powered predecessors of today’s electric bicycles. Or, perhaps, the ancestors of modern motorcycles.

Riding a white 2020 Honda Ruckus in the city
2020 Honda Ruckus | Honda

In the past, mopeds were typically powered by 2-stroke engines, RideApart reports. This meant, due to tightening emissions regulations, scooters like the Ruckus, full-size motorcycles, and bicycles mostly took their place in the US. However, these tiny 2-wheelers are experiencing a resurgence, enough for rider gangs to pop up, Wired reports.

But why is that?

Vintage moped popularity

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Moped life!!!

A post shared by Janus Motorcycles (@janusmotorcycle) on

There are a number of factors that play into vintage mopeds’ rise in popularity. Firstly, in most states, you don’t need a motorcycle license to ride one, though you do need a driver’s license. Still, that drastically simplifies the process of using one.

Secondly, as the Wall Street Journal explains, mopeds are cheap and easy to run. True, they’re limited to about 30 mph, which means they can’t go on highways. But that’s still faster than even some e-bikes, at a much cheaper price. Plus, they can get up to 100 mpg, and their low weight and compact size make them easy to store and maneuver.

Their 2-stroke design means they’re simple to work on. In fact, the co-founders of Janus Motorcycles got their start as vintage moped mechanics.

All these reasons are why vintage mopeds became popular in the 70s, the Omaha World-Herald explains. The US oil crisis meant gasoline was both expensive and in short supply. And because fuel was always expensive in Europe, as were vehicles in general, mopeds made great cheap wheels for young motorists.

Although we’re not quite in that same predicament today, the rising cost of fuel, insurance, and repairs means many people turn to mopeds as cheap transportation. Especially in urban environments, where they’re easier to park than even motorcycles. But some owners, as the above video shows, take them quite a bit further.

Getting one of your own

The most popular vintage models are the ones made by Austrian company Puch. But even a few automotive OEMs, such as Peugeot and Honda, made mopeds, too.

Tan 1978 Puch Maxi Newport moped in the grass
1978 Puch Maxi Newport | Bring a Trailer

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Today, a well-maintained Puch can go for $3000-$5000, or more, on Bring a Trailer. As of this writing, there’s a 1978 Puch Newport listed at $1500. However, it’s possible to find examples going for $2000 or even less.

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