Do You Need a Motorcycle License?

Rohan Mathew

There is often confusion about whether or not you need a designated motorcycle license, and the short answer is that it depends but typically lyes. 

In most states, you do need either a motorcycle license or endorsement to legally ride. In a lot of states, you also need a motorcycle license to drive a scooter or moped if its engine is above a certain size. Not following the laws in your state can lead to fines or even possible jail time. 

In most states, anyone under the age of 18 has to have a motorcycle permit before they’re able to apply for a motorcycle license. It’s similar to the concept of a learner’s permit to get your car license. 

You’re required to have a certain number of hours of driving time under your belt before you can get your full motorcycle license. 

If you’re over the age of 18, you may be able to get a motorcycle license or endorsement without first having your permit. 

A license is a stand-alone certification that allows you to operate a motorcycle. An endorsement is something that’s added to your regular license but gives you the same privileges as you would have with a motorcycle license. 

The following are other key things to know about a motorcycle license and the requirements. 

Start with a Motorcycle Safety Course

If you’ve decided you want to get your motorcycle permit or license, you need to start with a safety course. It’s important that you don’t skip this, even if it’s not a legal requirement in your state. 

Motorcycle riders who take safety classes are less likely to be in an accident than those riders who don’t take a class. 

Based on data gathered by the Alliance of Bikers Aimed Toward Education, around 90% of motorcycle riders in crashes had no formal training. 

There are Basic Rider Courses available in most states, and you do a combination of classroom and hands-on training. You learn about how to inspect your bike, the rules of the road, and the right gear you need to stay safe. 

Depending on your state, if you take a basic rider course, you may be able to skip a road test, and you might also have access to discounted motorcycle insurance. 

Along with finding a motorcycle safety course, your other initial step should be making sure that you’re clear on the requirements in your state. You need to find out if you need a license or an endorsement. 

Some of the specific requirements to look into include age requirements, motorcycle training requirements, and what the requirements are to get a motorcycle permit. Look into what’s needed for your license test, including whether or not it includes a road test, a written test, a vision test, or a combination. 

Getting Your License

In most states, you have to take a road test with someone from your local DMV. 

If you don’t already have a regular license, you may have to take a written test too. 

There will usually be a fee of around $20 to get a motorcycle license as well. 

There are scenarios where you might be able to get a motorcycle license without taking a road test, particularly if you’re an experienced driver. 

Most DMVs require that you pass with at least 70% on whatever type of test required to get a motorcycle license.

How Long Is the Process to Get a Motorcycle License?

There are a lot of individual factors that play a role in how long it takes to get a motorcycle license. For example, your age and past riding experience are relevant. If you already have a motorcycle permit, you may get your license as soon as you pass your road test. 

If you’re an inexperienced driver or you’re under the age of 18, the process can take longer since you may need to have a set number of hours on the road or a number of months required before you can get your full license or endorsement. 

Is It Possible to Register a Motorcycle Without Having Your License?

If you bought a motorcycle before you get your actual license, you can register it, but to do so, you will need motorcycle insurance. With that in mind, most insurance companies are going to require that you have a license before they’ll cover you, so in that sense, you may not be able to register a motorcycle without a license. 

If you’re a minor, it may be very difficult to find a company that will insure you as a motorcycle rider. 

What If You Operate a Motorcycle Without a License?

You should never operate a motorcycle without the proper license or endorsement. 

It can lead to significant fines, and in some cases, jail time. 

If you were to drive a motorcycle in California without a license, you might face a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail. 

California has some of the most rigorous guidelines in place to get a motorcycle license.

You can operate a motorcycle if you have a permit and are at least 15 years and six months old, but you have to have completed driver education and training course. You can’t operate a motorcycle after dark or on freeways during this time and you can’t have passengers. A Class M1 or M2 license isn’t issued to someone under the age of 21 unless they show evidence they’ve completed an approved motorcycle training program. 

Finally, as far as the requirements for scooters and mopeds, most scooters do require a registration and a motorcycle license. In the majority of states, a moped with an engine smaller than 50cc doesn’t require any special license or registration. 

An endorsement is something that’s added to your regular license but gives you the same privileges as you would have with a motorcycle license. On the Houston Harley-Davidson blog, you’ll have access to a wealth of information on various motorcycle topics, including licensing information as well.

If you have a scooter or moped with an engine larger than 50cc, most states require you have a driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement or a motorcycle license. 

What all of this ultimately means is that you should know your state’s requirements and laws before you consider driving a motorcycle.