No one wants to start paying for something that used to be free, and North Carolina moped owners are no exception.
But as of July 1, when a new state law requiring all mopeds be registered went into effect, those owners are having to cough up and head for the DMV.
“I was the first one in and the first one out with tags,” said Donald Payne, a Mount Airy resident who, while he complied, wasn’t wild about the new law.
“In a way it’s good, in a way it’s bad,” he said. “It’s hard on people the way the economy is.”
Scooters are popular because they’re more affordable to purchase than cars, get about 90 miles to the gallon, and — until July 1 — didn’t require a driver’s license, registration or insurance to operate.
For some, that’s the difference between having transportation and not, and so the new rules have caused a stir within the scooter community.
Just ask Wesley Flippin, the owner of Papa’s Scooters on W. Pine St., who has heard it all from his customers, especially since many have been returning to the store to obtain certificates of origin needed for titles.
“They complain, some of them, but it’s really good for the customer,” Flippin said.
“The thieves don’t agree,” quipped April Sawyers, Flippin’s daughter and employee.
With un-registered mopeds easy to steal and hard to trace, Flippin pointed out that the new requirements help protect owners.
For those owners who can’t get a driver’s license, or who bought the moped at a yard sale with no title or bill of sale, or who are limited financially, much of the concern seems to stem from not knowing what is needed for what.
“The DMV didn’t explain all of the details,” Payne said.
A primary source of confusion stems from new distinctions based on an engine’s size and speed, each which impact the owner to a different degree.
The North Carolina General Statute 105-164.3 (22) defines a “moped” as, “A vehicle that has two or three wheels, no external shifting device, and a motor that does not exceed 50 cubic centimeters piston displacement and cannot propel the vehicle at a speed greater than 30 miles per hour on a level surface.”
For a moped, strictly speaking, a driver’s license isn’t needed, only a state ID card. An affidavit can be filed if a title or certificate of origin cannot be obtained. Registration cost is $18, with an additional $5 notary fee if an affidavit is used. No inspection is needed, and insurance won’t be required until 2016.
For scooters with the larger engines, which is typically 150 cubic centimeters, the impact is more significant, as they are now considered motorcycles. A driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement is needed, and additional costs include a $40 title fee, a highway use tax of 3 percent of fair market value, an $18 license plate fee, as well as property tax and insurance.
Flippin said his store has seen a run on the smaller sized mopeds since the law was enacted.
“We actually ran out of them,” he said.
For Lawrence Tate, a Mount Airy resident, buying his first moped in 2012 was life changing.
“I couldn’t live without it,” he said. “I’m disabled, I couldn’t afford a car, that’s my transportation.”
Tate said he didn’t mind having to register his 150 cubic centimeter scooter, and was able to manage the additional costs.
“For safety reasons I think it’s a good idea,” he said.
Having bought his scooter from Papa’s Scooters it was easy to get the certificate of origin needed for the title, and he got his drivers license in April.
“I hadn’t had a drivers license in 20 years,” he said. “I wanted to be legal.”
Jennifer Vaden, whose uncle drives a scooter, was more concerned. “I think it’s terrible,” she said. “My uncle is on disability. He can’t afford the insurance. He’s scared to drive it. He can’t even go and pay his bills.”
Terri Flagg can be reached at [email protected]