Three-Wheeler Scooters

There has been some publicity recently about the latest Piaggio MP3, included in which is the, seemingly throw-away comment, that they can be ridden on a car licence. This is something to do with the distance between the two front wheels I believe. I have been trying to find out how this will impinge on use in London but there are conflicting messages coming across so, I am putting this out amongst our learned members in an attempt to get to the truth.
Here goes: if it is able to be ridden on a car licence then how does the machine appear on the DVLA database? Is it a bike, motor-tricycle or what? Why is this important? Well, if you use the Dartford crossing the cameras will see you and charge you accordingly. Apparently you can register it with the Dart-Charge folk if required but this is a pain.
Also, how does the vehicle-class affect parking in solo-motorcycle bays, use of bus-lanes and the Congestion-Charge zone? Whilst singing the praises of the machine for use by car-drivers, Piaggio remain silent on the above points. Anyone out there able to give a factual view?

I believe it is classed as a tricycle, i see a load of those 3 wheeler scooters in London bike bays, although i’ve never checked the wheel spacing, i’m sure some have been mp3s.
Mind you, there was a VW Golf Zipcar parked in my local bay for a week and nothing seemed to happen to it.

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Once really frustrated that the entire Solo Motorcycle Bay in Great Queen Street WC2 was taken up with cars, leaving me nowhere to park, I went to the trouble of tracking down a parking attendant - more difficult than you might imagine.

He told me there was nothing he could do. If they were parking on a double-yellow he could ticket them but because they were parked in a designated space, he couldn’t ticket them.

I feel like I can add value to this, as I have run one for many years in London zone 1-2. There is a tonne of absolute ballbag on the internet about these, I wish I had clear answers all those years ago and it is the season…so here I go! Excuse the format or spelling as I’m rattling out on the phone in the pub intermittently.

A: True, specifically Piaggio MP3 models. They are classed, according to the DVLA, as 3-wheel vehicle.

A: Correct, hence my citing of specifically Piaggio MP3 models. The majority of other manufacturers had a narrower track, thus being classified as scooters or motorcycles.

A: Motor-tricycle, I believe. See direct quote from DVLA vehicle details of mine:
Vehicle type approval: L5
Wheelplan: 3 WHEEL

A: So, I assume this is similar to TfL, so there’s a degree of assumption here. The TfL view the vehicle as a motor-tricycle, this information can sometimes be wrong and require correcting. This is relatively painless, although Mr Kahn has fairly recently imposed a requirement for an additional permit for motor-tricycles.

A: Solo bays can be used, provided the vehicle is under 2M in length. This is imposed by the TfL from memory, or the local boroughs…I can’t quite remember between the mince pies and the gins. You’ll note the majority of the Piaggio range (generally >300cc) is therefore ineligible for solo bay parking. There are those that take a chance on parking in bays with ineligible (longer) models, as most of my fellow London Bikers know, the enforcement of bike permits is poor. Parking your giant Niken or Piaggio 500 Exec will earn you the title of Golden Nutsack, no one likes you. I think this will gradually be clamped down on however, as I mentioned above, the TfL are requiring additional checks (and fee…obviously) on 3-wheel stuff, which includes sending pictures.
A: Use of bus lanes is allowed, as you’re a motor-tricycle and thus fall under Motorcycle category according to the TfL.
A: Congestion Charge is exempt, provided you register the motor-tricycle under the specific additional form required by the TfL. As mentioned, this is a fairly new (this year) thing, I think it’s £10 per annum.

Indeed, and so do dealers, for obvious reasons. Given the TfL and Mr Kahn change things seemly on a whim, any company selling a 3-wheeler on the condition of exemption would be mad. The MP3 300 HPE (Sport) is the one I run, it is 198cm in length and thus complies. I’m sure dealers would love to sell you a 500 or other Exec models, advising that you’ll “get away with it”.

I hope the above answers your lot. A few bonus nugs from me for your consideration and in the spirit of factual ownership:

  • Weight. My litre bike (#FLEX/pertinent to my point only) is around 212KG, the little 300 MP3 is something like 220KG. Therefore, if you did decide to go for a barry-big-balls 500 or something, not only would you qualify for being a throbber by stuffing the Niken-sized trike in a bike bay…but you’d also be man handling some serious weight through the city. Now this is forums, so the average user is probably a cage-fighting 8ft director of the Wagner Group, but for most it’s a chore threading >240KG through compact traffic.

  • Please also consider that the Piaggio and others are a pain in the buttocks to insure, both in effort and cost. There are literally 1-3 companies MAX that will touch you with, or without, a full motorcycle license. The MP3 is not a bike nor a car, so a niche thing that few understand. Before you go any further, if you fancy a laugh at Christmas, try and get a quote for an MP3 on a car license. I speak of this pain because my wife rides our MP3 on a car license…as do I…the full bike license made zero difference to the quote. The only caveat is that I don’t have any experience of insuring an MP3 outside of a commutable London area…maybe they’re super cheap in suburban or rural areas? For posterity you’re talking about Dart Charge…so I assume you’ll fall into the insurance/joke category.

  • Service cost. Ring a Piaggio dealer and ask for a service menu cost on the MP3, similarly to insurance, it is a joke. I seem to remember the last service I paid for ('69 from new bike) was more than our cars. 2023 will feature the first “major” service to our MP3…which even the service department pre-warned me of last time I picked it up, was going to be an absolute pile-on. The person at the desk informed me it was that high, some trade in the bike for a new one when due.

  • A final nug (I think), safety. If you’re considering the MP3 as a quirky loophole on a car license…think about safety. As mentioned above, these things are heavy, handle well, but with some rather strange handling and balance characteristics. Jumping on one with no formal training is pretty stupid, the 300 will easily do 70 with me on it and I’m 183cm and around (again, Christmas) 90KG. I watched my wife collect hers from the dealer, having had near-zero experience…she promptly rode it out of the carpark and straight into a hazard. I arranged one-to-one training with a MOD2 instructor immediately. Again, as this is forum land, thus I am a motorcycling god…I also jumped on the MP3 after delivery, and promptly dropped the thing at low speed when fumbling the roll-lock feature. My experience does not take into account road-craft or other auxiliary stuff you should probably familiarise yourself with before joining high traffic density areas…but that is up to the user. Counter to the training argument, I would also admit that I have done CBT’s with fellow riders who have cited the high beam flash as “it for speed up” and a zebra crossing as “give away for bike”. Like many of our fellow scooter buddies in zones 1-3, your survival will be dependant on you and natural selection will take its course, enjoy!

  • Afterthought nug, build quality. Our MP3 was bought new, it is, despite our lovable name for it, a bag of absolute rubbish. A few examples under our ownership:
    The heated grip function is also wired as part of a heated seat circuit, the 300 does not have a heated seat…this means that toggling the grips on would trigger a fault by flashing the heating icon…this is amazingly distracting when riding, especially at night. THE SOLUTION…dealer tech removed a fuse to disable heating fault, amazing on what was a 7K bit of kit.
    The bike is consistently subject to a starter fault for hot start, this isn’t battery related, but something that is common on the HPE engine ran in MP3 and Vespa. This has been present from new, remaining unfixed by the dealer. They have checked the battery, but insist on keeping the bike for an extended period to “investigate”…I simply never found the time.
    General build quality is exceptionally poor for the price point, compared to conventional scooters. We must however accept that the tilt mechanism is a massive likely cost of the bike, so slightly unfair. The bike has been subject to phantom issues with tilt sensors, to which the solution has been to repeatedly power cycle the thing until a it unlocks the tilting function. A fault with the sensor renders the bike unridable, dealer suggestion on this happening “get it recovered to us”. We use our MP3 near daily but it is covered when not in use and treated as my other bike is…it isn’t like its being ragged through Central snatching phones every day, then left on its side in the elements.
    Ride quality and refinement is horrific for both suspension and engine. Our MP3, despite my wife loving it on account of it saving her a load of commute time, is going. We rented a Honda Forza on holiday this year, a relatively new 125 with some scrapes, my wife was absolutely blown away by it. She could not believe that a Honda Forza was significantly cheaper than our MP3, given it offered start-stop, keyless entry for bike and top-box and an engine that didn’t sound like a 2 stroke leaf blower. We’ve had Yamaha TMAX 400s etc on following trips, Honda 125 is the better urban bike. The performance between the MP3 and Forza is fairly minimal and worth the trade-off in build quality, price and ownership costs IMO.

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Thanks for your detailed reply, CatchyUser1. Not only answers to most of my questions but also riding impressions. It doesn’t sound like an MP3 will be on my shopping list any time soon!!

Thanks for your detailed reply, CatchyUser1. Not only answers to most of my questions but also riding impressions. It doesn’t sound like an MP3 will be on my shopping list any time soon!!

No worries JJ! Glad I managed to help you!

In all honestly, if you’ve got a little riding experience and have spent some time riding a bicycle in London you’ll be absolutely fine.

I will say, as a concept and loophole, the MP3 is a brilliant alternative if you need a little more power than a 125 and don’t want to do A1+…it may well suit your needs to be honest. The cost however is pretty silly…I would recommend the Yamaha Tricity 300 if you’re considering the 3 Wheeler option, it should address the shonky Piaggio build stuff.

The main plus sides to the MP3 or equivalent, a-side from the obvious bike/congestion stuff for me are:

  • Sensible power (300) enables good/flexible pillion performance. So if you’re jumping on it together, or both planning on using it, it’s great. Our MP3 now does 90% of all our social and commuting duties. There’s enough power there to comfortably get you away from lights and make progress in rolling traffic, something a 125 can struggle with.

  • Stability at speeds and in lower grip conditions. It’s really easy to do 60-70 on A roads for commuting, the riding position is taller than most so permits good visibility. 3-wheels gives you obvious security in lower grip stuff, comforting if a partner is using it in all weathers.

Great write up, thanks. I’m not in the market for one of these but have always been mildly curious seeing them on the road. Very interesting to read real world experiences.


That attendant is a lazy git. It’s a parking infringement for any vehicle other than the type specified for the bay, in this case anything other than a solo motorcycle. He should have ticketed that cars. In fact, you can phone the local council to have them towed.

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