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, particularly those who may not be very mechanically inclined.
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 $300 to $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 $600.
1. Buying an exotic or no-name brand of moped can be a problem unless you are highly experienced. 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 mopeds are simply not worth more than about $600. They have dents, dings, scratches, and rust. They could be missing sidecovers, fenders, fairings and luggage racks. The tires might be worn out. Seats could be torn. Lights could be burnt out. All of these things lower a moped's value and most mopeds have at least some of these problems.
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 mopeds equipped with the E50 engine, especially the Maxi (and Newport), and close cousins, such as the JCPenney Pinto (and Swinger) and Sears Free Spirit.
- Tomos mopeds equipped with the A3, A35 or A55 engine, such as the Silver Bullet, Targa, ST, or LX
- Minarelli engine mopeds, particularly those with the V1, such as the Cimatti City Bike, General, Motron, some mopeds 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.
Models with Performance Options
Along with the mopeds identified above, these models below have many good performance parts available, but tend to be slightly more complex to work on, as many are variated or have other idiosyncrasies such as bizarre clutches or are just very different than other brands.
- Honda Honda PA50 II or Hobbit. Avoid the PA50I 
- Motobecane and MBK Mobylette mopeds, such as the 50V and AV88.
- Peugeot mopeds, such as the 103 SP.
- Derbi mopeds, such as the Variant and C-5.
- Vespa mopeds and their close cousins, Kinetic, such as the Vespa Ciao or the Kinetic TFR.
- Garelli mopeds, such as the SSXL or VIP.
- Sachs mopeds, and others that use Sachs engines such as Eagle, Hercules, and Sparta.
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, equipped with the Laura M48 or M56 engines.
- Solo mopeds, such as the Odyssey.
Models for Beginners to Avoid at all Costs
These mopeds are more rare, 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.
- Moto Guzzi
- Rizzato Califfo
- Wildfire, Lazer, Jialing, or any other Chinese rebadge.
Where to Buy
- Moped Army Buy/Sell Forum
- Moped Riders Association Buy/Sell Forum
I've got my first moped, now what?
Check all fluids, tire pressure, wear a helmet, read Fred's Guide, and go have fun!