Michigan Laws for Mopeds, ORVs and Motorcycles

Michigan Laws for Mopeds, ORVs and Motorcycles

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In Michigan, different laws apply depending on whether you drive a moped, an ORV or a motorcycle. Michigan law states that all motorcycle drivers must have motorcycle insurance, however, insurance isn't a requirement for moped and ORV drivers.

While all three vehicles require a license or endorsement, the specific license type varies. Despite their differences, mopeds, ORVs and motorcycles must all be registered with the state of Michigan. Below, we outline licensing, registration and insurance requirements for mopeds, ORVs and motorcycles in Michigan.

What are Michigan's laws for mopeds, ORVs and motorcycles?

No matter the type of vehicle you own, you will likely have to carry a license and proof of registration to drive it legally. However, only motorcycle riders have to carry liability insurance, just as drivers of conventional cars would. Be sure that you're in full compliance with Michigan's road laws before driving on the state's public roads to avoid fines.

TypeDo you need a license?Do you need to register the vehicle?Is insurance required?
MopedsYesYesNo
ORVsYesYesNo
MotorcyclesYesYesYes

Michigan moped laws

Michigan requires that all mopeds in the state be registered, unless they will be driven exclusively on private property. Furthermore, if you plan to drive a moped in Michigan, you must have a valid driver's license or a chauffeur's license.

If you have neither and you're at least 15 years old, you can apply for a moped license. To get a moped license, you'll need to pass a vision, knowledge and traffic exam. If you get a driver's license or a chauffeur's license after getting a moped license, you'll have to forfeit your moped license.

Michigan doesn't require all moped drivers to wear helmets. However, operators younger than 19 years old have to wear a helmet that's been approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation while on public roads.

As defined by Michigan law, a moped is a motor vehicle that has the following characteristics.

  • Has two or three wheels
  • Has an engine with less than 100 cubic centimeters (cc) piston displacement
  • Doesn't have a gearshift
  • Can't exceed 30 miles per hour (mph) on a level surface

If your vehicle doesn't meet the criteria above, it will likely be deemed a motorcycle or a scooter, under which case the vehicle would be subject to different laws and regulations from those that govern Michigan's moped riders.

Michigan scooter laws

According to Michigan law, a scooter may be classified as either a moped or a motorcycle, depending on its size and potential speed. For example, if your scooter can reach speeds over 30 mph, it will likely be classified a motorcycle.

In many cases, scooters aren't deemed safe for use on Michigan's public roadways, according to the Department of State. Vehicles may only be registered if they have the equipment required to operate safely on roads, such as headlights, brake lights and turn signals.

Michigan ORV laws

Any vehicle that is classified as an off-road vehicle (ORV) is subject to Michigan ORV laws, regardless of the vehicle's size or type.

In Michigan, an ORV is defined as any motor vehicle that can be driven cross-country over natural terrain, like earth or snow. All-terrain vehicles (ATVs), utility task vehicles, water-to-land vehicles and other multiwheel vehicles are all examples of ORVs.

If you own an ORV in Michigan, you're required to get a certificate of title and register the vehicle. You'll also need to get a license for the ORV through the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) if you plan to use the ORV anywhere other than private land. Anyone planning to drive their ORV on state-designated trails, routes or areas will also have to purchase a trail permit.

Anyone under 16 years old is required to complete an ORV safety course. After completing the course, they will be granted a Michigan ORV safety certificate. This certificate must then be carried anytime the driver is operating an ORV on public property.

Michigan has various age-related laws regarding who can drive certain ORVs, which we outline below:

Three-wheeled ATVs: You must be 16 years or older to operate a three-wheeled ATV.

Four-wheeled ATVs: No one under 10 years old can operate any four-wheeled ATV. The only exception is when a four-wheeled ATV is being driven on private land for farm-related work.

Additionally, children who are between 10 and 11 years old can only drive a four-wheeled ATV on land owned by their parent or guardian, or under supervision. Children 12 to 15 years old can also operate a four-wheeled ATV, but they aren't restricted to land owned by a parent or guardian.

Other ORVs: Children under 16 years old can drive other ORVs when the driver is under direct supervision of an adult if they have a valid ORV safety certificate.

No matter which type of ORV you ride, you're required to wear an approved helmet at all times — even as a passenger. In addition, Michigan law states that you must wear eye protection while riding ORVs. This may include goggles or a helmet visor.

Michigan ATV laws

In Michigan, an ATV, which is a type of ORV, is defined as a three- or four-wheeled vehicle designed for off-road use, has tires with low air pressure, has a seat that is straddled by the driver and has a 50cc to 500cc gasoline engine.

Since ATVs are classified as ORVs, they are subject to Michigan ORV laws. This means ATVs must be titled and registered. Furthermore, ATV drivers are required to get a license through the DNR.

Michigan motorcycle laws

Within the state of Michigan, a motorcycle is a two- or three-wheeled motor vehicle that can reach speeds greater than 30 mph when being driven on a level surface. All motorcycles in the state of Michigan must be titled and properly registered.

To legally drive a motorcycle in Michigan, drivers must have a valid motorcycle endorsement on their driver's license. Before getting the endorsement, you'll need to get a temporary instruction permit for a motorcycle. Anyone 16 years or older can get this permit. Drivers under 18 years old will have to enroll in or complete a motorcycle safety training course before getting the permit.

Once you have the permit, you'll have to pass vision and written exams. Finally, drivers must pass an on-road skills test through the Michigan Secretary of State's office to receive a certificate of completion. Once you have this certificate, you'll qualify for a motorcycle endorsement on your driver's license.

What are Michigan's motorcycle helmet laws?

Motorcycle helmet requirements in Michigan depend on your age, medical coverage and driving experience. If you're under 21 years old, you're legally required to wear a helmet that is approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Anyone older, however, can drive a motorcycle without a helmet if they meet the following criteria: They must have at least $20,000 in first-party medical benefits and have had a motorcycle endorsement for a minimum of two years, or they must have passed an approved motorcycle safety course.

Do you need insurance for a moped, ORV or a motorcycle in Michigan?

Insurance is not a requirement in order to drive a moped or an ORV in Michigan. However, all motorcycle drivers are required by law to have motorcycle insurance. Michigan does not require its motorcyclists to carry personal injury protection, unlike its auto drivers.

To meet Michigan's minimum motorcycle insurance requirements, you'll need at least:

  • Bodily injury liability: $20,000 per person/$40,000 per accident
  • Property damage liability: $10,000 per accident

The cost of motorcycle insurance in Michigan varies widely, so be sure to compare quotes when shopping for insurance. While many motorcycle insurance companies offer discounts, comparing quotes is often one of the most effective ways to save money on motorcycle insurance.

Joe Resendiz

Joe Resendiz is a former investment banking analyst for Goldman Sachs, where he covered public sector and infrastructure financing. During his time on Wall Street, Joe worked closely with the debt capital markets team, which allowed him to gain unique insights into the credit market. Joe is currently a research analyst who covers credit cards and the payments industry. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, where he majored in finance.

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