A motorcycle license is generally required to operate a motorcycle within any state. Additionally, many states require a motorbike license for you to ride a motorized scooter. Therefore, it is important to learn how to apply for a license or endorsement, the general requirements you will likely need to meet and the documentation that you may be required to submit. Furthermore, the process for transferring driving credentials from another state after establishing residency often differs from applying for a license for the first time.

In many cases, a DMV motorcycle endorsement is applied to an existing state-issued license. However, some states will issue motorcycle-only licenses if an applicant has not yet obtained a driver’s license. Finally, states either require or provide skill waivers for the completion of an approved motorcycle education course. You can learn more about application requirements and processes in the sections that have been provided below. For more information, visit your state-specific page:

What is a motorcycle endorsement?

A motorcycle endorsement can generally be added to any class of license issued within a state, including after the commercial driver’s licenses application process. An M endorsement shows that you have completed the necessary application and testing for motorcycle privileges and that you are permitted to operate a motorcycle without restrictions. While a majority of states do require you to already have a standard driver’s license, there are several states that offer motorcycle-only licenses for riders that have not previously obtained a driver’s license.

Motorcycle Permit Requirements

The minimum motorcycle permit age varies from one state to the next. On average, states may provide permits to teens at 16 or 17 years of age. However, some states will issue permits to minors who are as young as 15.

In addition to age requirements for motorcycle permit credentials, you may experience eligibility requirements such as:

  • Residency.
  • Citizenship or lawful presence.
  • Previous licensing.
  • The ability to complete a vision exam.
  • The ability to complete a knowledge exam.
  • Parental consent for teens younger than 18 years of age.
  • The completion of a basic rider course with motorcycle safety information.

Required Documents

Depending on your state, requirements for a motorcycle permit may include documents such as:

  • Proof of identity.
  • Proof of citizenship or lawful presence.
  • Proof of residency.
  • Proof of a motorcycle education course completion.

Motorcycle Permit Rules and Restrictions

Motorcycle permit restrictions are determined by each state and, in some cases, teens younger than 18 years of age will have more restrictions than the ones provided to adult riders. Depending on the state, teens may experience restrictions such as:

  • The inability to operate a motorcycle outside of the visual view of someone who already has an endorsement and is at least 21 years of age.
  • The inability to carry passengers.
  • The inability to operate a motorcycle at night.
  • The requirement to wear a DOT-approved helmet and/or other safety gear and apparel.

How to Get a Motorcycle Permit

In most cases, a motorcycle permit can only be applied for by visiting one of the participating DMV or DOT office locations. However, some states allow motorcycle permit applicants to begin their applications online in order to reduce the amount of time that they may need to spend at the licensing office.

When submitting an application, applicants must also provide the required documentation and fees for a permit. Additionally, most states require an applicant to successfully complete a knowledge exam and a vision exam before a permit can be issued. Generally, an office can issue a permit that is separate from an applicant’s license during their visit to the licensing office, however, this is not always the case.

Motorcycle License Requirements

The minimum motorcycle license age is determined by the state. While many states do offer motorcycle licenses to teen riders, the average minimum license age is typically 16 or 17 years old. Young riders may also have additional requirements that must be met in order to obtain a license, such as the completion of an educational course or high school attendance. Additionally, riders may face requirements for a motorcycle license such as:

  • Residency.
  • Citizenship or lawful presence.
  • Previous licensing.
  • The ability to complete a vision exam.
  • The ability to complete a road skill exam.
  • Parental consent for minors younger than 18 years of age.
  • The completion of a rider educational program.

Required Documents

Depending on your state, requirements for a motorcycle license may include documents such as:

  • Proof of identity.
  • Proof of citizenship or lawful presence.
  • Proof of residency.
  • Proof of a motorcycle education course completion.

How to Get a Motorcycle License

If you are wondering, “How long does it take to get a motorcycle license?” it is important to understand that average lengths of time can vary by state. Additionally, factors such as your testing ability and whether or not your state allows you to complete a motorcycle education course for a skill test waiver can also affect the amount of time it may take you to obtain a license.

When getting a motorcycle license, it is worth knowing that the majority of states will require you submit an application in person at your local driver’s licensing office. Several states will allow you to begin your application online or schedule an appointment in order to reduce the amount of time that you will likely spend at the office.

To get a motorcycle license, you will need to meet all requirements, pay the appropriate fee for the license or endorsement and, potentially, complete a road skill exam as well as an additional vision exam.

Getting a Motorcycle License as a New Resident

Getting a motorcycle license as a new resident is often a similar process as applying for a new license, though most states will waive the knowledge and/or skills exam so long as your out-of-state license is valid. Similar to new license applicants, you will likely need to apply in person and much of your required documentation and fees will be the same. However, teens transferring an out-of-state motorcycle license will sometimes face additional requirements before a new license can be issued.

Generally, states will also require you, by law, to complete the license change of address process within a set period of time, such as between 30 and 60 days.

Required Motorcycle Classes

Motorcycle classes can provide numerous benefits to new and inexperienced riders and, in some states, the completion of an approved course is required before you can apply for a learner’s permit or a license. Upon the completion of an approved motorcycle training course, you may receive benefits such as:

  • A waiver for DMV issued knowledge and/or skills tests.
  • A discount on car insurance through participating insurers.
  • The opportunity to learn how to operate a motorcycle in a safe and lawful manner.
  • The opportunity to learn defensive riding skills and collision avoidance techniques.

A motorcycle safety course can take between one and three days to complete depending on the course and state regulations. Most motorcycle classes will include a minimum amount of classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction. While some states do allow the completion of online classes, the majority of state do not. It is also worth knowing that states may choose to regulate the fees that a course provider is allowed to charge and others may leave course costs up to the provider.
Motorcycle training may include, but is not limited to, instruction regarding:

  • State and local traffic laws.
  • An explanation of the various types of motorcycles.
  • The basic and safe operation of a motorcycle.
  • Collision avoidance techniques and defensive riding skills.
  • State-required and recommended safety gear and apparel.
  • The effects of drugs and alcohol on riding.

DMV Motorcycle Test Details

DMV motorcycle tests generally include at least one knowledge exam and a road skill exam. In some states, the successful completion of these tests is required while other states may allow you to obtain a license in an alternative way, such as through the completion of an approved motorcycle education program.

Motorcycle Written Test

A motorcycle permit test, commonly referred to a knowledge or written exam, is most commonly required when applying for a permit. This DMV motorcycle written test focuses on state and local traffic laws as well as the safe and basic operation of a motorcycle. These tests are typically multiple-choice questions with between 20 and 40 questions on average, which are based on the state’s motorcycle rider handbook. In order to pass the exam, you must answer a set number of these questions correctly. Some states will charge a testing or retesting fee for each attempt at the exam.

Motorcycle Road Test

A driving motorcycle test, often referred to as a road test, is commonly required before you can be issued a license within the state for a motorcycle. However, a great number of states will allow this motorcycle skills test to be waived after completing an approved motorcycle education course. It is also worth knowing that a handful of states will charge a fee for each attempt at this course, so it is important to ensure that you are ready before attempting. Others may require you to hold a permit for a certain amount of time or complete an educational course after failing the exam a set number of times.

As part of the DMV motorcycle test, you will be asked to demonstrate your ability to operate a motorcycle safely and in accordance with the law. For the exam, you will likely be asked to perform a number of maneuvers, including, but not limited to:

  • Straight-line driving.
  • Stopping.
  • Turning and U-turns.
  • Swerving.

Do you need a motorcycle license to drive a scooter?

Whether or not a motorcycle license is required to drive a scooter will depend on the state that you live in. The majority of states will require a scooter to meet certain qualifications, such as cubic centimeters and maximum speeds, in order to avoid having a license. However, other states have determined that all scooters should require a motorbike license, so it is important to review your own state laws before riding without a license.

Motorcycle License Costs

The motorcycle license cost will vary depending on the state that you reside in. While some states do provide a flat fee for an endorsement, others may base that fee off of the number of years that the license will remain valid for.

Last updated on Monday, March 11 2019.

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