Having a motorcycle license in California can significantly cut down on the amount of time spent stuck in traffic, which is why so many Californians opt for this type of credential. A motorbike license can either be obtained on its own or added as an endorsement onto an existing driving credential. Either way, the application process and fees are the same.

The steps for getting motorcycle license credentials from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will vary depending on your age and the type of license or endorsement you want to obtain. The DMV issues M2 licenses, which can be used to operate a motorized bicycle, or moped and M1 licenses, which are used for operating any two-wheeled vehicle. In most cases, motorcycle licenses come with more requirements if you are younger than 18 years of age when you apply.

What is a California motorcycle endorsement?

Motorcycle endorsements are provided to drivers who already have a regular Class C license when they apply for motorcycle driving credentials. Rather than being issued two separate licenses, the driver will simply receive an updated license that includes a motorcycle endorsement for the appropriate class of motorcycle.

Drivers can also choose to get a bike license that will only allow them to operate a motorcycle if they do not wish to drive any other type of vehicle. The same licensing requirements apply regardless of whether a driver wants an endorsement or license. However, drivers who have never completed any driver’s license application process, whether for a standard or commercial license, before may need to undergo an additional observation skills test at the DMV to get their credentials.

Motorcycle Permit Requirements in California

The minimum motorcycle permit age in California is 15 years and six months of age. However, a motorcycle permit is only required if you are younger than 21 years of age when you apply for your license. Permits allow you to practice riding in a training course or improve your skills before taking your road test.

In addition to meeting the minimum age requirements for a motorcycle permit, you must also be a U.S. citizen or be legally present in the U.S. Furthermore, you are required to be a resident of California to get a license or permit in the state. And finally, you must have a Social Security Number or verification from the Social Security Administration that you are not eligible for one.

Required Documents

In order to prove your eligibility for a CA motorbike permit, you will need to provide a variety of documentation. First, show proof of your identity by presenting an original or certified copy of a document that shows your date of birth, true full name and identity. For motorcycle license application purposes, a passport or birth certificate is oftentimes used to meet this requirement. Second, you will need to provide a document that verifies you live in California, such as a bill that includes your address.

Note: If your name has changed from the one listed on your identity document, then you must present proof of the change, such as a marriage certificate or court order.

California Motorcycle Permit Rules and Restrictions

Motorcycle permits do not come with the same rights and privileges as full licenses, as they are meant to be used for learning purposes. When asking, “What does a motorcycle permit allow you to do?” keep in mind that your credentials cannot be used to:

  • Carry passengers.
  • Drive on the freeway.
  • Ride before sunrise or after sunset.

How to Get a Motorcycle Permit in California

The first step in receiving your motorbike permit is to submit the Driver License/Identification Application form. This motorcycle license form can be completed online or you can request a copy to be sent via mail by calling the DMV at 1-800-777-0133. Your parents or guardians must sign the application if you are younger than 18 years of age.

Next, you will need to visit a DMV office location and present your Social Security Number, identity document, true full name and residency document. Lastly, you will pay an application fee and complete a knowledge test. If you are successful, then you will receive an interim permit that can be used for up to 90 days, during which time the DMV will issue a permanent card in the mail.

California Motorcycle License Requirements

The minimum motorcycle license age in California is 16 years of age. If you are younger than 21 years of age when you apply, then taking motorcycle training is mandatory and you must hold your permit for six months before you are eligible to get a license with full privileges. If you are younger than 18 years of age, then you must have your parents’ or guardians’ permission to get a license.

All CA motorcycle driver license applicants will need to pay licensing fees and take the required tests regardless of their age.

Required Documents

Getting a motorcycle license requires showing the same paperwork needed for a permit as well as when applying for a standard driver’s license. This includes an identity document, proof of your Social Security Number, a residency document and proof of your legal name if it has changed from the name on your identity document.

If you are younger than 21 years of age, then you prove that you have taken the required motorcycle safety course by presenting form DL 389, which you will receive when your class is complete. Remember, you must also have your parents’ or guardians’ permission to apply for a license if you are younger than 18 years of age.

How to Get a Motorcycle License in California

The first step in getting your motorcycle license is to complete the Driver License/Identification Card Application. Filling out this form online is the easiest method, but you can also call the DMV at 1-800-777-0133 to request a copy of the form by mail.

Next, when asking where to get motorcycle license credentials, you will need to visit any DMV field office that provides driver’s licensing services. You may find that it is helpful to schedule an appointment with the DMV before attempting to take your tests.

The final steps for completing the motorcycle license application process include paying a fee, passing a vision, written and skills test and providing a fingerprint. Upon meeting these requirements, you will receive a temporary paper license that you can use for up to 90 days. The DMV will send your permanent credentials in the mail.

Getting a California Motorcycle License as a New Resident

Out-of-state motorbike licenses can be transferred when you move to California, but you will generally need to fulfill all of the requirements for getting an instruction permit. This includes submitting a bike license application, providing the necessary documentation, giving a fingerprint and paying the appropriate fee. In most cases, you will not be required to take a motorcycle road test, but the DMV can require these exams for any applicant at its discretion. If you have an out-of-country license, then note that road tests are mandatory when you move to California.

Required Motorcycle Classes in California

If you are younger than 21 years of age when you apply for a motorbike license, then you must complete a course through the California Motorcyclist Safety Program (CMSP) first. Although a motorcycle class is not required if you apply for a license when older than 21 years of age, you are still encouraged to enroll anyway.

CMSP motorcycle training classes cover basic knowledge as well as hands-on practice that will make you a safer and more knowledgeable rider. Upon completion of the class, you will receive a DL 389 form, which is valid for a period of 12 months. Only a CMSP class certificate can be used to waive the skills test, meaning that you cannot complete a different type of class in order to avoid taking the DMV test.

California DMV Motorcycle Test Details

Before a CA motorcycle license can be issued, all applicants must take a vision test and a knowledge test. Bike license applicants who have not completed a CMSP course will also need to take a skills test at the DMV.

If you have never held a driving credential of any type, then the DMV may hold an observation test as well.

Motorcycle Written Test

The written motorcycle test is based on materials covered in the California Motorcycle Handbook, so it is in your best interest to review the manual carefully. When taking the DMV motorcycle test, you are not allowed to use any electronic communication devices or refer to the handbook while taking your test or you will be failed for cheating. If you would like to practice, then the DMV provides sample tests that you can take to familiarize yourself with the test format.

Motorcycle Driving Test

Motorcycle road tests are conducted in actual traffic or on an off-street course depending on where you take your exam. The DMV motorcycle driving test starts with a pre-trip inspection, in which you will need to identify the components of your bike. Next, you must demonstrate your skills by performing the following:

  • Riding between paths
  • Maneuvering in a circle
  • Weaving through cones
  • Shifting gears
  • A slow ride

Motorcycle driving tests in California are pass/fail only, but you can retake an exam after a 14-day waiting period if you are not successful on your first attempt. Note that you will have to pay a retesting fee for each attempt and you must start the bike license application process over again if you fail three times.

Do you need a motorcycle license to drive a scooter in California?

If you have a Class C license or higher, then you do not need a separate motorbike endorsement or license to operate certain types of motorized scooters and bikes. Any class of driver’s license including a commercial driver’s license can be used for the following vehicles and devices:

  • A motorized scooter, which is a two-wheeled electric device with a floorboard that the operator stands on
  • A moped or motorized bicycle, which is capable of traveling no more than 30 mph on flat ground, has an automatic transmission and an engine with less than four brake horsepower

Other Vehicles

Note that bicycles with pedals and an electric motor of fewer than 750 watts can be used without a bike license at all. Class 1 and Class 2 electric bikes provide power assistance until the rider reaches 20 miles per hour and do not come with any more requirements than a regular bicycle. A Class 3 bicycle, on the other hand, ceases to provide electric assistance when the rider reaches 28 mph. Even though a motorcycle license is not required to use Class 3 bikes, the rider must be 16 years of age or older and wear a safety helmet.

California Motorcycle License Cost

“How much does it cost to get a motorcycle license?” you may wonder when going through the application process. Getting an original license or adding an endorsement onto your Class C license will cost $35. If you need to retake a behind-the-wheel test for your license, then you must pay a $7 fee for each attempt. A replacement motorcycle license costs $28 and will be required when you lose your original license or need to change your name.

Last updated on Wednesday, March 4 2020.