50cc Motorbike guide

50cc motorcycles and scooters could be among the cheapest vehicles on the road to buy, tax, service and insure. 

Here’s everything you need to know.

Motorcyclist driving their 50cc moped


What is a 50cc motorbike?

50cc motorcycles, also known as scooters, are usually classified in two ways. The first is by their style (for instance sports, touring and off-road).

The second is by their engine size (for instance 50cc or 125cc). The CC stands for ‘cubic centimetres’ and tells you how big the engine is.

It also relates to the total power output of the scooter – a 50cc bike is usually capable of a top speed of 30 mph.

50cc bikes have some of the smallest engines available and are usually built with a CVT (continuously variable transmission) system. This is better known as twist-and-go, meaning no gear-changes are needed.

They might  have their top speeds limited to 30 mph. Their safety and simplicity mean they tend to be cheaper to buy and insure and make a great choice for younger and inner-city riders. You can find more information in our guide to the different types of motorbikes.


Can a 16-year-old ride a 50cc motorbike?

One of the most appealing aspects of 50cc bikes in the UK, is that you can usually ride one from the age of 16.

Even better, while you do need insurance to ride a 50cc motorbike, you don’t need a full driving licence.

You can find a detailed breakdown of the regulations and restrictions around riding motorbikes on the GOV.UK website, but in short:

Most 50cc bikes and mopeds are legal for road use by riders aged 16 and over in the UK

The minimum legal requirement is completion of the CBT (Compulsory Basic Training), theory and practical tests

If you're 16, you’ll need to display L plates on your bike until you reach 17 and complete the practical and theory riding tests before getting your motorbike licence.


Can you ride a 50cc motorbike on a car licence?

If you have a full driving licence you might be able to ride a bike up to 50cc without using L plates and without taking the test.

The precise rules depend on when you passed your driving test.

You can read the regulations in full on the GOV.UK website, but in short:

If you passed your driving test before 1 February 2001 you can drive a motorbike up to 50cc without L plates, you don’t need to pass the CBT compulsory basic training course or take a moped test

If you passed your driving test on or after 1 February 2001 it gets more complicated.

You can get a full 50cc bike licence if you either:

  • Pass your car driving test and then complete a CBT course
  • Complete the CBT course and then do your car driving test within two years

How fast does a 50cc motorbike go?

Some 50cc bikes can reach speeds of up to 40 mph, or even 60 mph. However many have a restricted engine that limits them to 30 mph.

This makes them safer for younger, inexperienced riders and is why you may see them referred to as a kids 50cc motorbike.


Is a 50cc motorbike classed as moped?

The term moped comes from ‘motor’ and ‘pedal’ as the earliest versions were very basic motorbikes with pedals.

Today, a moped is classified as a light two wheeled motorbike with an engine no bigger than 50cc and a top speed of 30 mph. 


How much is tax for a 50cc motorbike?

Vehicle excise duty (VED) for 50cc motorbikes tends to be more affordable, particularly when compared to car tax

The smaller the engine of the bike, the less you usually have to pay. 

This year, the cost for any bike with an engine smaller than 150cc is £21 a year if you pay in a lump sum. 

If you choose the pay monthly, the cost rises slightly to £22.05.

For faster motorbikes, the cost rises. For instance, for a bike with an engine size between 151 and 400cc the annual cost is £45.

For a motorcycle with an engine over 600cc the cost is £96 a year .

In addition to registering your vehicle with the DVLA, you also have to arrange motorbike insurance for it.


Finding the best 50cc motorbike for you

The main selling point for 50cc bikes is that they can be ridden from 16 years of age.

Since they’re designed to be cheap, low-maintenance vehicles, there tends to be a rather limited range to choose from.

Most 50cc bikes are in the scooter style, or small sports-type bikes.

When choosing your bike, your main concern should be that you meet all the legal requirements to ride it. Other than that, you might also want to check:

With friends and family who’ve ridden 50cc bikes before, and what they recommend. Ask about ease of riding and speed.

That your chosen bike can be easily serviced, and replacement parts are readily available.

The price difference between new and second-hand 50ccs is also something to consider. In some cases, the additional expense of a new model might be worth the peace of mind and reliability that comes with it.

When buying any vehicle, it’s important to consider the full costs before you buy:

  • You should make sure to look into yearly tax costs, though these are generally quite cheap on small-engine bikes
  • You should do some research to find out how much the scooter insurance might be, and whether you need to pay a fee to complete the tests
  • You'll also want to check the prices of any motorbike riding gear you need, such as a helmet, which must be worn as a legal requirement

50cc motorbike insurance

Often, one of the biggest expenses associated with motoring is the yearly insurance premiums.

It's worth shopping around and comparing moped insurance prices to make sure you’re getting a good deal.

Compare motorbike insurance quotes

One of the biggest decisions you have to make is the level of cover to opt for.

Remember, cheapest isn’t always best and you need cover that’s appropriate for your needs.

The level of cover you opt for is just one of the many factors that could impact your premium.

You usually have the following three options to choose from:

Third party only

This covers the costs payable to the other person/vehicle involved in an accident, but none of your own. This means any damage to your bike would likely have to come out of your own pocket.

Third party fire and theft

This offers the same level of cover as third party only, but with additional peace of mind if your vehicle is damaged by fire or stolen.

Fully comprehensive

This is usually the highest level of cover available, and should pay out the cost of any damage to your vehicle. It also covers third-party claims made against you following an accident.