Motorcycles, mopeds, motor scooters and motorized scooters – all are permitted on Tennessee streets, but each have their own rules. As far as scooters go, a motorist must have a driver's license with a class M limited license restriction in order to legally drive them on roads in the state.
Many think it's worth the effort since these mini motos are fun to drive, don't require much gas, and are easy to park.
Mopeds, Scooters and Motorcycles
There are so many two- or three-wheeled vehicle options available in Tennessee today that it's hard to make a choice. A first step is to get a good understanding about the differences between them – each is regulated differently in Tennessee.
Anyone living in Tennessee who is considering getting a scooter should read up on the state laws and regulations that apply.
Class M Motor Vehicles
The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security defines these vehicles as:
- Motorcycle: This category includes two- or three-wheeled vehicles with an engine larger than 125cc that can go faster than 35
miles per hour. Motor-driven cycle or scooter. This category includes two- or three-wheeled vehicles with engines that have a cylinder capacity of 125cc or less. Motorized bicycle or moped: This category includes two- or three-wheeled vehicles with an engine capacity of 50cc or less that cannot exceed
a maximum speed of
35 mph. They are a hybrid of a scooter and a pedal bike.
Tennessee laws treat each of these vehicles individually, and different rules of the road apply to them for licensing, insurance and safety standards. All relevant licenses are called Class M licensing.
Class M Licensing in Tennessee
Class M licensing in Tennessee is required for motorcycles and scooters, also known as motor-driven cycles. It is not required for a moped (motorized bicycle) if the operator is age 16 or over.
To drive a motorcycle, a Tennessee resident must get a Class M motorcycle license, available to drivers 16 or over. The process of getting a license involves a knowledge test, a vision test and a driving test.
If the individual holds a valid Tennessee driver's license and completes a Tennessee Certified Motorcycle Rider Education Program (MREP), they do not need to take the road test.
State Driver's License Not Required for Class M
It is not necessary for a driver to have a valid state driver's license before getting a Class M license, but if they do, the Class M license is added in secondary position on the primary license.
Class M License Requirements
To operate a scooter with 50cc to 125 cc in Tennessee, the required license is a motor-driven cycle Class M (Class M-Limited). To get this license, an individual must take the same tests as for a Motorcycle Class M license, but the age limit is different than for the motorcycle license. Anyone 15 or over can apply for it.
When a person between the ages of 15 years and 16 years old gets the license, it is valid only within a seven-mile radius of the operator’s home and only between the hours of 4:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.
The license issued to a person over 16 will only be restricted as deemed necessary by the Department of Safety. Other restrictions for minors and adults are determined by the Department of Safety and Homeland Security.
Summary of Differences Between Licenses
Required to operate motor-driven cycles including scooters above 125 cc
Required to operate a scooter with 51cc to 125 cc
Drivers 16 years of age or older
Drivers 15 years of age or older
Not necessary to have a valid state driver's license
Not necessary to have a valid state driver's license
Can drive anywhere"
D driver between the ages of 15 and 16 years old can only operate within a seven-mile radius of their home and only between the hours of 4:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.
Motorized Bicycle (Moped) Licenses
For a motorized bicycle license, an operator age 14 or 15 must have a motorized bicycle license to operate a moped. To operate a motorized bicycle, an individual over the age of 16 must hold a valid regular driver's license. For those between 15 and 17, the driver must get a restricted license in order to operate a motorized bicycle.
To get a motorized bicycle license, the driver must pass a written test and a vision test and prove that they are able to operate a motorized bicycle. This license is valid for use only between 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. and only within a seven-mile radius of the driver's home if the driver is under the age of 16.
Helmet Requirements in Tennessee
Note that a helmet is required to drive any type of motorcycle, scooter or motorized bike in Tennessee. Motorcycle helmets are mandatory for motorcycles and scooters, but only a bicycle helmet is required for a moped.
Note that mopeds cannot be driven on:
Limited-access, multi-lane highways.
Registration Requirements for Motor Scooters
The Tennessee Department of Safety requires motor scooters and mopeds to be titled and registered in the state in order to legally drive them on public roads. The driver must follow the same registration process as a motorcycle operator does when to register their vehicle.
The county clerk registers vehicles in the state of Tennessee. The state requires the vehicle title or Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin, and proof of residency in Tennessee to register a scooter. The operator must also provide proof of identity to the county clerk when registering their motor scooter.
Electric Scooters in Tennessee
What about electric foot scooters in Tennessee? Many companies rent these scooters, especially in urban areas. Electric foot scooter drivers are generally subject to the same laws as those who operate bicycles and electric bicycles.
The driver does not need a special scooter license, but they do need to hold a valid driver's license. Anyone too young to get a regular driving license is not permitted to operate an electric foot scooter.
Tennessee Scooter Laws
Tennessee laws require foot scooter operators to ride solo – no more than one rider is permitted on a scooter. It is not permitted to operate a foot scooter after drinking excess amounts of alcohol, and all rules of the road for other vehicles also apply to these scooters.
Anyone operating electric scooters on a roadway at slower than the normal speed of traffic must ride as closely as possible to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway. Exceptions are made when the scooter is overtaking a vehicle or preparing to turn. Electric foot scooters cannot be driven at a speed in excess of 15 mph.
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.