Scooters and Mopeds in Ontario: Facts and Myths

Scooters and Mopeds in Ontario:  Facts and Myths

Moped? Scooter? No, according to the MTO this is a 125cc Motorcycle.

Some years ago I was in a motorcycle dealership in Toronto (no longer around), listening to a salesman telling a potential scooter buyer that the 50cc scooter they were looking was extremely fuel efficient (mostly true), that it was cheap on insurance (true) and that it didn’t require a M class license (very false.)

This wouldn’t be the first or the last time I would hear misinformation about scooters and mopeds in Ontario – with all of the different laws and regulations throughout Canadian provinces and the US, it can be difficult for many to know just what the true facts are, and what are myths or misunderstandings.

So we decided to help out – and write an article on Mopeds and Scooters – facts and myths alike.

Which you may have guessed, is this article.  So if we get into a long-winded discussion about appropriate motorcycle underwear choices we’ve probably gotten right off track.

Which of these is a motorcycle and requires a M class license? Well actually, all of them.

The first thing that you should know, is that while there is a “Moped” classification (Pedal equipped vehicles with a motor of no more than 49cc engine size in short) in Ontario, there really isn’t a “Scooter” classification in terms of the highway traffic act.  Instead, scooters will fall into one of three possible categories – LSMs (Limited Speed Motorcycles), Motorcycles, or Three Wheeled Motorcycles.

Below is an explanation of what each category actually means.

Limited Speed Motorcycles

 

What is a limited speed motorcycle?  According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (and as defined by the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Act – which requires the vehicle have a compliance sticker indicating it is a type “LSM/MVL.”) – it would consist of the following characteristics:

  • Minimum attainable speed of 32km/h on level ground within 1.6 km of a standing start.  (I’ve had mopeds that barely met this particular standard).
  • Maximum speed of 70kph or less.
  • Steering handlebars that are completely restrained from rotating in relation to the axle of only one wheel in contact with the ground
  • Minimum seat height, when not laden, of 650 millimetres
  • Minimum wheel-rim diameter of 250 millimetres
  • Minimum wheelbase of 1,016 millimetres
  • Engine displacement of 50 cubic centimetres or less

So any scooter of 50cc displacement or less in Ontario would be a LSM.  They require a M class motorcycle license, the same insurance as any motorcycle (though quite often 50cc machines are relatively inexpensive), and in fact the only difference with a LSM is that if you take your license tests in Ontario on a LSM class machine, you will receive a M with LSM restriction for your license class and not have to take a highway test as part of your M2 (LSM) or M (LSM) testing.  This means you cannot ride a non LSM motorcycle in Ontario with these licenses.  For further information, consult the MTO motorcycle license webpage HERE.

Mopeds

What is a moped?  In Ontario, a moped (according to the Ministry of Transportation yet again) a moped has the following characteristics:

  • Weight of 55 kilograms or less
  • Attached motor driven by electricity or having a piston displacement of no more than 50 cubic centimeters

    Despite the tough looking exterior, this is just a moped – but you still need an M class license and insurance to drive it in Ontario.
  • Pedals that are operable at all times and may be used to propel the moped (EDITORS NOTE:  Frequently not very well.)
  • No hand- or foot-operated clutch or gearbox driven by the motor and transferring power to the driven wheel
  • Maximum speed of 50 km/h on level ground within 2 kilometers from a standing start

Furthermore – to quote the moped webpage on the MTO website:

“Under the Highway Traffic Act, mopeds are not considered motorcycles; however, mopeds require you to have the same types of riding skills as required for motorcycles, and you must hold a valid motorcycle class licence (an M1, M2(L), M2, M(L) or M) in order to drive on Ontario’s public roads. Your moped must also be registered with the Ministry of Transportation and have a valid moped licence plate attached. When registering your moped at a Driver and Vehicle Licence Issuing Office, you must show the new vehicle information statement (NVIS). If your moped is a 1983 or earlier m­o­del, and you do not have an NVIS, you may make a self-declaration that the vehicle is a moped as defined under the Highway Traffic Act. After registering, you will be given a vehicle permit and a moped licence plate.”

Also according to the MTO website

“You do not need a safety standards inspection and certificate if you are:
registering a used motorized snow vehicle, off-road vehicle, motor-assisted bicycle (e.g. moped), or trailer”

For licensing, a moped would be considered in the LSM class and would need a M class license and would (if taken on the MTO drivers test) result in a LSM restriction on your M license.

Motorcycle

Basically, any scooter of greater than 50cc capacity is legally a motorcycle – with all the normal conditions and regulations that would apply.  You need an M class license, require insurance, and need all the normal registration and safety certifications when transferring a used scooter.   There is no “Scooter” class of vehicle as I previously mentioned, there are only the categories mentioned in this article.  (Well and e-bikes, but we’ll get into that in a bit.)  With the advent of machines like the Burgman 650 or the Honda Silverwing the only relevant difference for a maxi-scooter (usually defined as greater than 250cc in terms of engine capacity) is that it has a step through design and an automatic transmission – but in terms of how you are licensed and registered, there is absolutely no difference between a larger capacity scooter and a motorcycle.

Three Wheeled Motorcycles and Scooters

According to the MTO – a three wheeled motorcycle (or scooter) will have the following characteristics:

  • travel on three wheels, which are in contact with the ground
  • have straddled seating for the driver
  • use a handle bar for steering controls

    As soon as you add a sidecar, a scooter becomes a three wheeled motorcycle to the MTO
  • have no more than four seats
  • have a gross vehicle weight of 1,000 kg or less
  • not have a structure partly or fully enclosing the driver and passenger except in front of the driver and the seat backrest

Some vehicles with close spaced front wheels would be considered by Transport Canada to be a two wheeled open motorcycle and thus would give you a regular M license if you took your drivers test on them, but otherwise taking your M test on a three wheeled motorcycle (including a scooter/motorcycle with sidecar) will result in you receiving a M license restricted to three wheelers.

An odd choice really, since I think that trikes and sidecar rigs actually require more skill than a two wheeled motorcycle and I think on average trike and sidecar drivers have two wheeled experience before they ever get a three wheeler, but that can be how government classifications work sometimes.  Aside from the licensing aspect, these vehicles otherwise are treated as regular motorcycles.

The MTO FAQ on three wheeled motorcycles can be found HERE.

E-Bikes

Not exactly our favourite vehicles due to the tendency for Ebike drivers to be riding with an…. interesting interpretation of traffic rules and basic safety.  These do indeed work like bicycles in terms of licensing and not needing insurance – with the two caveats that if your license is suspended because of a driving prohibition due to a conviction you cannot operate an ebike in Ontario, and also under the criminal code the definition of “Motor Vehicle” includes ebikes and thus you will be subject to DUI charges if operating one when legally above the limit.

Municipalities can also pass by-laws prohibiting where ebikes may travel on roads, paths trails, etc.

The MTO page on ebikes can be found HERE.

So we hope this article helps shed some light on what the *real* laws are around scooters and mopeds – because if you get caught riding a 50cc scooter or moped without an M class license or insurance, you might find the resulting fines and legal issues getting beyond the actual value of the scooter or moped.  It’s up to us as riders to make sure that someone new to the word of scooters (or mopeds) has the correct information to safety and legally ride the roads.

Because if we don’t look out for other riders, who will?

16 Comments

    1. Author

      Unfortunately there isn’t much of an option if you have a medical suspension on your license – you *might* be able to ride an e-bike (legally in Ontario, a bicycle with electric assist limited to about 30kph) but that’s a bit of a grey area. According to the MTO FAQ – “Q5: Can I operate an e-bike if my driver’s licence has been suspended?

      It depends on the particular circumstances that led to your licence suspension. If your licence is suspended because of a conviction that has resulted in a driving prohibition under the Criminal Code of Canada, you cannot legally operate an e-bike.

      If your driver’s licence has been suspended under other circumstances, you should discuss your situation with a licensed legal practitioner before deciding to operate an e-bike.”

      In terms of moped riding, 50cc scooters, etc – those require a M class license so they can only be ridden with a valid license and insurance.

  1. Do you need ownership of a moped in Toronto to ride it?

    1. Author

      Yes, legally mopeds are “Limited Speed Motorcycles” and require an Ontario ownership and insurance. (usually cheap, but not all places insure mopeds.) Helmet is required as well.

      It used to be you could ride on a G license, but you need a M class license for them as well. (M1, M2, M or M with LSM restriction if you took your license test on a limited speed motorcycle.)

      Only thing you don’t need for a moped is a safety certificate – they are exempt from needing a safety when buying and registering.

      (Mopeds being classed as a 49 CC or less machine with pedals, E-bikes which are electrically powered pedal assisted machines are different)

  2. Any idea of what the process is to update a limited license to a standard motorcycle license? Is it equivalent to starting from scratch, or is there a simplified procedure?

    1. Author

      I *think* you would have to redo the M2 and M2 exit tests – and maybe the M1 if it had been more than 5 years since you did the written test. But probably without the waiting between tests – so you could do the tests quickly and not have to wait a year between the M2 and M2 exit for example. So not terribly simplified I believe. If at all possible, I always recommend people just do the tests on a highway capable machine and go for their full M – since pretty much the *only* advantage of the LSM restricted license is not having to do a highway test.

  3. Hey, I don’t know if you can answer this question but I don’t seem to be able to find anything online. What class would you fall into if you upgraded your ebike to go beyond 32km/h but less than 70 or less than 50. Does the throttle or pedals exclude it in the moped category?

    1. Author

      Basically “Ebikes” are only allowed if they meet certain requirements – namely:

      E-bikes must not weigh more than 120 kg (includes the weight of bike and battery).
      All operators and passengers must be at least 16 years of age.
      All operators and passengers must wear an approved bicycle or motorcycle helmets.
      All electrical terminals must be completely covered.
      Two independent braking systems consistent with requirements for motorcycles and motor-assisted bicycles (mopeds) that applies force to each wheel and is capable of bringing the e-bike, while being operated at a speed of 30 km/h, to a full stop within 9 metres from the point at which the brakes were applied.
      The minimum wheel width is 35mm.
      The minimum wheel diameter is 350mm.
      No modifications to the motor to allow it to exceed a power output greater than 500W and a speed greater than 32 km/h.

      If you upgrade to go more than 32km/h – it’s no longer an Ebike. This is a problem because it isn’t a registerable vehicle (even mopeds have to have a VIN, title, be insured, etc to be on Ontario roads – only thing mopeds don’t need is a safety inspection) This means you’d have an illegal machine and could be (potentially) in legal trouble. How much all depends on the police officer who stops you – technically you might be charged with driving without insurance, registration, etc – and might have your bike seized (keep in mind, I’m not lawyer so take this opinion with a grain of salt but I’d still be careful.)

      The big problem would be insurance – without a registration you’ll never get it, and that is a *huge* fine. And as I mentioned, even mopeds have to have insurance.

      So I’d keep it as an ebike – and look for a cheap gas powered machine if you are looking for a budget ride. You might be able to get a 125-200cc scooter for cheap and then be legal. (You’d need a motorcycle license, insurance, and I’d recommend proper riding gear as well which does add the cost, but there are budget ways to get gear as well.)

      Hope that helps!

  4. Looking for options. We have a bicycle that I have mounted a 66cc motor onto. What would I need to ride this, how can it be registered. What’s required for insurance.

    1. Author

      This applies to Ontario – the rules elsewhere can often be different. (Legal definition of a moped, requirements, etc.)

      Unfortunately you really can’t register it or get insurance. Basically you can only register Limited Speed Motorcycles (under 70cc), Mopeds (LSMs that are under 50cc and have pedals, certain max speed, etc.), or regular motorcycles. All of these would have a VIN number and would have to go through an approval process with transport canada and meet certain standards based on the class of vehicle.

      There is the pilot project for Ebikes as well – but those (while legal) aren’t registerable, they just have to be electrically assisted bikes that meet certain qualifications. (Some manufacturers push beyond the limits that are supposed to be on the ebikes and make the pedals really non functional, but that’s a whole other story.)

      What you have isn’t a moped – it doesn’t have a VIN and the engine is too large (above 50cc – mopeds have to be below). It isn’t a motorcycle as again it has no VIN and doesn’t meet any standards and wasn’t approved by transport Canada. It wouldn’t be approved for on-road use. You *might* be able to get away with it, but you run the risk of being charged with operating a motor vehicle without insurance (which you can’t get, because it isn’t registered and it won’t be a recognized brand in anyone’s database of vehicles.).

      To quote the MTO website:

      “When registering your moped at a ServiceOntario centre, you must show the bill of sale. Dealers of mopeds are required by law to provide purchasers with a certificate that guarantees the moped fits the definition under the Highway Traffic Act.”

      https://www.ontario.ca/document/official-ministry-transportation-mto-motorcycle-handbook/keeping-your-motorcycle-or-moped-road#section-1

      If you *could* register it somehow – and I’ve never heard of anyone who did and got insurance, you’d need also a M class license. (Even for a moped, it can be a M with LSM restriction which basically is an M license where you don’t go on the highway for your test.)

      Not a risk I’d want to run – it’s a pretty hefty fine.

      Sorry to be the bearer of bad news on this front.

      Some articles on the subject:

      https://business.financialpost.com/legal-post/ont-cops-crackdown-on-illegal-bikes

      From the below article – quote from the MTO – “”A converted moped would not meet the 12 federal safety standards for limited-speed motorcycles, and therefore would not be registered for use on Ontario’s public roads,” said Bob Nichols, a Transportation Ministry spokesperson.”

      https://www.therecord.com/sports/2010/08/21/motorized-bike-rider-left-with-a-fine-mess.html

  5. Hi ,Alot Of Great Questions along with Excellent Answears!Thank you. I really want to get a Motorcycle style ebike but i want to ride with traffic also .will getting a M1 help?I can put insurance on it so that’s not a issue i just want to know what i can do so i don’t have to ride in a bike lane and go the speed limit with Traffic..Thank you

    1. Author

      An Ebike (meaning an electrically assisted bicycle by the MTO definition) isn’t really going to keep up with traffic ever – they’re limited in speed and if you go above certain power levels your machine isn’t legally an Ebike anymore. And you can’t really register them or insure them if you upgrade the power because they lack several things a registerable motorcyle would need. (Note, this is separate from an electric motorcycle like a Zero – those are fully registerable, insurable and are proper motorcycles and will require an M series license to ride.)

      I’d recommend getting your M1 and if you are just starting out buying a gas powered scooter (which legally would be a motorcycle, or if its 50cc a limited speed motorcycle.) Many modern scooters depreciate by huge amounts when you drive them away from the dealer so you can get one for a pretty decent price if you shop around. A 125cc is probably a good purchase starting out – enough power for city streets and cheaper for insurance/to purchase, but not so much power you can get into trouble as easily.

      I’d also recommend a riding course – the motorcycle one, even if you plan to stick to scooters. It can help save on insurance (not a bad thing when you are just starting out) plus they’ll take you to a parking lot and teach you to ride a machine with a clutch, which is handy knowledge to have. Again, even if you stick to scooters you might one day get a bug to get a vintage machine.

      We wrote a piece about buying your first scooter a while back – might have some tips you would find handy – it’s at http://www.scoottoronto.com/2018/04/new-riders-how-youll-learn-to-stop-worrying-and-buy-your-first-scooter

  6. Great Post.

    What insurance companies in Ontario are willing to ensure MOPEDs. I have found nobody willing to write a policy.

    1. Author

      Generally, any place that will insure a motorcycle should insure a moped (Or Limited Speed Motorcycle, as they would classify by engine CC rather than the fact it’s a moped – so generally an insurance company should treat it the same as a 49cc scooter.)

      It can get tricky if it’s modified for displacement – at least one company used to not insure bikes between 50cc and 100cc (not sure why.)

      It can also get tricky if its older than 35 years – some companies don’t like to insure vintage bikes.

      I’d call around to a bunch of places and you should be able to find someone – you can also ask brokers for Facility insurance (insurance of last resort) – in at least one case (a CT90 I was looking to insure) it was cheaper than 90 percent of the other quotes I got.

      Here’s some places to try:

      JD smith insurance brokers – years ago I did have both a Tomos moped and a 49cc scooter (honda Jazz) with them. (Forget the actual insurance company at this point, but they were the broker)

      https://jdsmithinsurance.com/jds-motorcycle.htm

      Maybe try Riders plus? They specialize in motorcycle insurance

      https://ridersplus.com/

      Hope that helps! On occasion, it can take a while to get – but if you call everyone you can find with a google search for “ontario motorcycle insurance” you should be able to find someone.

  7. Here’s a question I haven’t seen answered yet.. older vespas don’t appear to have turn signal inficators. Are these legal for the roads in Ontario?

    1. Author

      Hi Mark, short answer is probably yes, depending on the age of the Vespa. Basically any motorcycle older than a certain date (1970 if I recall correctly) has an exemption from the lighting requirements of a more recent bike. If turn signals were not originally on the bike, they are not required, and the rear running light/headlight only have to be on 1/2 hour before sunset to 1/2 hour past sunrise. (Some older 50’s and 60’s machines might not have powerful enough generators/stators to keep the battery charged if the lights run full time, which is of course a requirement on newer motorcycles.)

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