Your First Moped
So you've started checking out different mopeds; you're looking at pictures, reading forum posts, but it's still all so confusing. There are so many brands and models to choose from, and now you may find yourself asking, what should I look to get? And where?
This guide will outline the Moped Army general consensus on which brands and models of moped are the best for first-time owners.
This guide works under the assumption that you, the first-time buyer, are probably not that experienced with small engines. It also assumes a budget of around $400, although this figure tends to vary depending on local market conditions, the time of year, and the method by which you are acquiring your first moped.
The Rules for a First-Time Buyer
Before you even begin looking for a vintage moped, commit yourself to three simple rules.
- I will not buy an exotic, rare, or no-name brand of moped.
- I will not buy a non-running moped.
- I will not pay more than about $600 (unless you're buying a brand-new or nearly-new Tomos)
1. Buying an exotic or no-name brand of moped can be a problem unless you are highly experienced. Although most mopeds are very similar in design, owning a rare moped and keeping it running frequently demands that you acquire parts that are simply no longer available; if your moped is rare enough, there may be few or no parts bikes available, and you may have to fabricate parts yourself or adapt parts designed for other mopeds, and other local moped riders may not be able to help you very much with repairs.
2. Buying a non-running moped may seem appealing at first if the price is right and the seller claims that 'it was running last fall' or 'it should be a simple fix.' However, attempting to identify even a basic problem can prove difficult for a new rider and often leads to frustration and eventually giving up before the moped is running again. Avoid this, suck it up, and pay an extra couple hundred for a running one.
3. The vast majority of vintage mopeds are simply not worth more than about $600. They have dents, dings, scratches, and rust. They could be missing sidecovers, fenders, decals, reflectors, fairings or luggage racks. The tires might be worn out. Seats could be torn. Lights could be burnt out. Seals may leak. All of these things lower a moped's value and most vintage mopeds have at least some of these minor problems. In some markets, especially New York City and the Bay Area, $700-800 is a more typical price.
Recommended Brands and Models
There are well over a hundred brands of mopeds available in North America, but a few stand out as particularly reliable, simple to work on, inexpensive to maintain, and easy to find outside help for. These brands are also notable for having a wealth of aftermarket performance parts available. If you're unhappy with going 30 mph, then you've got options.
- Puch (or in Canada, Bombardier) mopeds equipped with the E50 engine, especially most models of Maxi (and Newport), and close cousins, such as the JCPenney Pinto (and Swinger) and Sears Free Spirit.
- Tomos mopeds equipped with the A3, A35 (A5) or A55 engine, such as the Silver Bullet, Targa, ST, or LX. Tomos mopeds are also available brand new from Tomos USA dealerships (for a price premium).
- Minarelli engine mopeds, particularly those with the V1, such as the Cimatti City Bike, General, Motron, some models by Gloria Intramotor, and many other generic Italian mopeds. Very simple bikes with high parts availability. Note that some models, like the City Bike, have their engines mounted in a way that prevents many Minarelli intakes from being used. The 'A' version of the AMF Roadmaster also has a V1 (the technically-unrelated McCulloch 'C' version should be avoided at all costs).
Models with Performance Options
Along with the mopeds identified above, these models below have many good performance parts available, but tend to be somewhat less common and slightly more complex to work on, as many are variated or have other oddities such as rubber clutches or have low parts crossover with other brands. These models make a good second moped!
- Honda PA50II (also known as the Hobbit in America, and the Camino in Britain). Avoid the PA50I. Many performance parts for the PA50 will also fit Honda nopeds like the NC50 (Express), NA50 (Express II), NU50 (Urban Express), and NX50 (express SR) while the exhausts might need modification to fit
- Motobecane and MBK Mobylette mopeds, such as the 50V and AV88.
- Peugeot mopeds, such as the 103 SP, as well as others with Peugeot engines like the Batavus Mondial and Grand Prix.
- Derbi mopeds, such as the Variant and C-5.
- Vespa (Piaggio) mopeds (Ciao, Bravo, Si, Grande) and their close cousins, such as the Kinetic TFR.
- Garelli mopeds, such as the SSXL or VIP.
- Sachs mopeds, and others that sometimes use Sachs engines such as Eagle, Hercules, Clinton, Sparta, DKW and Flying Dutchman.
- Morini Franco Motori engine mopeds, of which there are many. Pacer, Negrini, Scorpion, Cimatti, Gloria Intramotor, Motomarina and Malaguti are just a few.
Models With Few or No Performance Parts
These models are pretty reliable, but are somewhat less common and have some parts (especially performance parts) that are difficult or impossible to find anymore.
- Batavus and their close cousins, Trac, that are equipped with the Laura M48 or M56 engines. Some Trac mopeds use an uncommon two-speed engine called the DM50 and DP50.
- Solo mopeds, such as the Odyssey, and other mopeds with Solo engines like certain models of Columbia.
- Honda four-stroke mopeds, such as the P50, PC50/P25, etc.
- Nopeds such as the Suzuki FA50 Shuttle and Yamaha QT50 Yamahopper. Honda's nopeds are a bit easier to make fast because of a fair amount of parts crossover with the PA50.
Models for Beginners to Avoid at all Costs
These mopeds are more rare in North America, tend to not share parts with other mopeds, and are generally impractical for a novice to keep running due to very low availability of parts.
- AMF Roadmasters with McCulloch BHE900 engines ('C' version)
- Moto Guzzi and Benelli
- Rizzato Califfo
- Roketa, SSR Wildfire, Lazer, Jialing, or any other Chinese rebadge, especially ones with clones of horizontal Honda four-stroke engines.
Know What You're Getting
- Some brands of moped used different engines in different models. For instance, Gloria Intramotor used Minarelli, Sachs, Morini, and Verona engines on different models. Some moped models even switch engines for certain years.
- Some models come in different configurations that are nearly identical in external appearance, like the Puch Maxi or the Honda PA50.
- Some mopeds known for their stock reliability may be upgraded with exotic parts and can be hard for a beginner to keep running well. Avoid a water-cooled 90cc Simonini for your first moped.
Where to Buy
- Garage sale / swap meet
- Moped Army Buy/Sell Forum
- Various moped Facebook groups
- Brand new from a Tomos dealership
Note that private party sales carry the risk of not obtaining the proper paperwork, leaving you unable to get it titled or registered.
I've got my first moped, now what?
Check all fluids, lights, tire pressure, wear a helmet, read Fred's Guide, and go have fun! Abide by your local moped laws.