Motorcycles and mopeds

Operating, Registering, and Titling Motorized Bicycles (Mopeds)

If you are 18 or older and already have valid Iowa license, you are already valid to operate a moped and do not need to apply for a moped license.

  • At age 18 or older you only need to apply for a moped license if you want to operate a moped and don’t have a valid Iowa license.
  • If you are under 18, you must apply for a moped license even if you already have a valid Iowa license or instruction permit.
  • You have to be at least 14 years old to obtain a moped license. If you are at least 14 but under 16, you must pass an approved moped education course and present your certificate of completion from the course when you apply for the moped license.
  • If you are at least 16, you do not have to complete a moped education course to obtain a moped license, but for your safety we encourage you to do so.
  • All applicants for a moped license that don’t already have an Iowa license must pass a vision screen and the knowledge test, and present proof of age, identity, and social security number. All applicants that are under 18 must also present a parental consent form.

Passengers are not allowed on a moped.

A moped must be equipped with a safety flag that extends not less than 5 feet above the ground attached to the rear of the moped. The safety flag must be triangular in shape, with an area of not less than 30 square inches, and be Day-Glo in color.

Mopeds must not be operated more than two abreast in a single traffic lane and cannot be operated between lanes of traffic, adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.

A moped must have a lighted headlamp at all times when operated on a public street or roadway. The operator of a moped must not carry a package, bundle or other article that prevents the operator from keeping both hands on the handlebars.

While recommended, Iowa law does not require the wearing of a helmet by the rider of a moped.


Registering and titling motorized bicycles (mopeds)

The definition of bicycle found in Iowa Code section 321.1(40)c is as follows:

    "Bicycle" means either of the following: (1) A device having two wheels and having at least one saddle or seat for the use of a rider, which is propelled by human power. (2) A device having two or three wheels with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (one horsepower), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden, is less than 20 miles per hour.

The definition of motorized bicycle (moped) found in 321.1(40)b of the Iowa Code is as follows:

"Motorized bicycle" means a motor vehicle having a saddle or a seat for the use of a rider, designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground, and not capable of operating at a speed in excess of thirty-nine miles per hour on level ground unassisted by human power.

This definition does not require that a moped have an engine of a particular displacement. Consequently, a moped may be equipped with either an electric motor or engine to serve as a source of propulsion.

The key to whether a vehicle is a moped or motorcycle is its maximum operating speed, as certified by the original manufacturer. The speed of a moped cannot exceed 39 miles per hour on level ground unassisted by human power. The top speed of 39 mph must be printed on the manufacturer’s certificate of origin.

Please keep in mind that other terms, such as “scooter”, may be used to describe a moped or motorcycle, but how the vehicle will be registered depends upon how it was certified by the manufacturer and its top operating speed.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has established safety standards by which all vehicles used on a highway must be constructed. The Federal Code of Regulations Title 49, Part 567, requires the manufacturer to place a label on the vehicle indicating compliance with these safety regulations.

Iowa Code section 321.30(15) requires:

"Unless otherwise provided for in this chapter, the department or the county treasurer shall refuse registration and issuance of a certificate of title unless the vehicle bears a manufacturer's label pursuant to 49 C.F.R. pt. 567 certifying that the vehicle meets federal motor vehicle safety standards."

If the motor vehicle does not display a manufacturer’s certification label in compliance with 49 CFR 567, it will not be titled and registered.

If the vehicle is used, the owner must provide the county treasurer with a valid title issued in Iowa or another state that is in the owner's name or has been properly assigned to the owner. If the vehicle is new, the owner must provide a properly assigned, valid Manufacturer's Certificate of Origin (MCO). MCOs must be printed on secure paper, similar to conventional title paper, to be accepted.

If the vehicle is a moped, the MCO must state that the vehicle’s maximum operating speed is 39 mph or less. Appropriate tax, title and license fees must be submitted to the appropriate Iowa county treasurer, along with the requisite title application and ownership document (title or MCO).

Sample of a motorcycle manufacturer's label