Image of a woman on a moped strapping on a helmet

License and insurance requirements in South Carolina depend on the type of vehicle you are looking to drive. For example, driving a commercial truck or bus requires a different skill set and instincts than driving a car. The same is true for driving a car vs. operating a motorcycle, and the laws reflect that.

It’s important to know the different classifications of vehicles and their respective requirements before you hit the road, especially with two-wheeled vehicles like motorcycles and mopeds. Not only will this help you avoid a hefty ticket, it could also save you from injury and liability in a crash.

What’s the Difference Between a Scooter, a Moped, and a Motorcycle?

In South Carolina, motorcycles and mopeds are both considered categories of motor scooters. Any scooter too powerful to be considered a moped is legally classified as a motorcycle. After an update to the legal code in 2017, the legal definitions for a moped and motorcycle are as follows:

A moped has:

  • Between two and three wheels
  • A propulsion system, with or without manual pedals, including an engine with less than 50 cc (combustion) OR between 750-1500 watts (electric)
  • Automatic transmission

A motorcycle has:

  • Between two and three wheels
  • A saddle seat and handlebar steering
  • An engine with more than 50 cc (combustion) OR more than 1500 watts (electric)

What License Do I Need for a Moped in South Carolina?

Mopeds don’t require a special license to operate so long as you already have a driver’s license. If you don’t have a driver’s license, you can apply for a special moped only (Class G) license, which unlike a motorcycle license, does not require a road skills test.

Mopeds do have to be registered with the state, but they do not have to be titled and do not require insurance.

South Carolina has a statewide speed limit for mopeds of 35 mph, and mopeds cannot be driven on public roads with posted speed limits of 55 mph or above, which means most highways.

If you are looking into purchasing a moped for your commute, make sure to consider what routes you’ll regularly be taking. If you need to get on the highway, you will not be able to use a moped and will have to purchase a motorcycle instead.

What License Do I Need for a Motorcycle in South Carolina?

South Carolina requires motorcyclists to obtain a special license (Class M) before riding on public roads—just holding a standard driver’s license is NOT enough. Likewise, holding a moped license does not legally allow you to operate a motorcycle.

How Do I Apply for a Motorcycle License?

Before applying for a motorcycle license, you will first need to apply for a permit, which involves passing a knowledge test. The permit allows you to ride a motorcycle unaccompanied during daylight hours, or accompanied by someone with a full motorcycle license over the age of 21 with at least one year of experience when riding at night. Once you’ve held your permit for at least 180 days, you will be eligible to apply for a full license, which requires a road skills test.

If you already have a valid driver’s license, you may attempt to pass the motorcycle knowledge and road skills test in the same day without getting a permit first. If you pass, you will get a motorcycle endorsement added to your driver’s license.

Motorcycles must be registered and titled with the state. You are also required to get a motorcycle insurance policy. Your auto insurance policy will NOT cover crashes that occur when you are riding your motorcycle. You must carry a separate policy for different classifications of vehicles.

Are There Any Exceptions to the License Rule?

If you have a “trike” (three-wheeled motorcycle), you are not required to get a motorcycle license as long as you have a standard driver’s license. However, you still cannot ride a trike with only a moped license: you should have either a driver’s license or motorcycle license.

It is important to note that trikes have three permanent wheels. A motorcycle with a detachable sidecar is not considered a trike and still requires a motorcycle license.

Injured in a Motorcycle or Moped Accident? We Can Help.

Because motorcycles and mopeds are much smaller than other vehicles, they often fall into other vehicles’ blind spots. Additionally, because mopeds are much slower than other vehicles, including other motor scooters, they have a harder time accelerating out of the path of other vehicles.

This means that motorcyclists and motor scooter riders are at a higher risk of being involved in an accident anytime they ride on public roads. None of that excuses drivers from failing to pay attention and causing accidents when they collide with motorcyclists and scooter riders.

If you’ve been seriously injured while out on your bike or scooter because someone else was negligent, you deserve compensation. Contact our experienced South Carolina motorcycle accident attorneys today to talk about what we can do for you.

Originally posted August 17, 2020. Updated January 22, 2024.

About the Author

Since 1968, the South Carolina personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys of Joye Law Firm have been committed to securing compensation for accident and injury victims. Our compassionate and dedicated lawyers have over 300 years of combined litigation experience, and many of them have been recognized as South Carolina Super Lawyers. For many years, our South Carolina personal injury law firm has been listed with an AV rating in the prestigious Martindale-Hubbell legal directory.

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