Motorcycle License Requirements: Do You Need a Motorcycle License?

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In most states, you're required to have a motorcycle license to ride motorcycles, mopeds or scooters above a certain engine size. Furthermore, you must be at least 18 years old to get a motorcycle license in most states.

Following motorcycle license requirements can help you avoid hefty fines and even jail time. If you plan to drive a motorcycle, we recommend having the appropriate credentials — especially since it typically only takes a few weeks and is relatively inexpensive.

Do You Need a Motorcycle License to Drive a Motorcycle?

Every state requires you to have a motorcycle license, motorcycle permit or a motorcycle endorsement to drive a motorcycle. The process to get a motorcycle license will vary depending on which state you live in, but you can typically expect the following rules to apply.

Motorcycle permits: In most states, anyone under age 18 must obtain a motorcycle permit before they can apply for a motorcycle license. The minimum age requirement to get a motorcycle permit in most states is either 15 or 16 years old. To get a motorcycle permit, you must:

  • complete a driver's education course
  • pass a written exam
  • pass a vision test

Motorcycle license: The motorcycle licensing process is similar to the steps to getting a permit. You'll have to complete a motorcycle safety course or pass a motorcycle road test and a knowledge exam. It's possible to get a motorcycle license without a driver's license.

Motorcycle endorsement: An endorsement is an additional credential that supplements your regular driver's license. It allows you to operate a motorcycle, moped or scooter on public roads. If you already have a driver's license, some states make it possible for you to get an endorsement rather than a separate motorcycle license.

Not all states use the rules above, so we recommend contacting your state's department of motor vehicles for the most detailed information.

Besides getting a license, you'll also need to have proper insurance coverage: motorcycle insurance is mandatory in every state but Florida. Rates and coverage options vary widely between motorcycle insurance companies, so be sure to compare your options to find the right balance of protection and affordability.

Do You Need a Motorcycle License to Drive Mopeds or Scooters?

License requirements for mopeds and scooters depend on your state and the vehicle's engine size — 50cc is the usual cutoff. If your moped or scooter has an engine that is 50 cubic centimeters (cc) or smaller, some states only require a standard driver's license or learner's permit. Other states don't require any license but do impose age limits.

If your moped or scooter has an engine that is larger than 50cc, most states require that you have a motorcycle license or a driver's license with a motorcycle endorsement. For instance, a Vespa is considered a scooter in most states. If your Vespa is over 50cc, then you will need a motorcycle license to drive it.

Do You Need a Motorcycle License to Register a Motorcycle?

You don't technically need a motorcycle license to register a motorcycle, but you do need motorcycle insurance — and because most insurance companies require that you have a license in order to get coverage, it's harder to register your bike without a license.

There are motorcycle insurers that will sell you coverage without a license, but such companies will probably charge you a higher premium to account for the greater risk of insuring an unlicensed driver. You can try searching for available options by using our tool below.

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How Long Does it Take to Get a Motorcycle License?

The time it takes to get a motorcycle license varies for motorcycle drivers, but most can expect the process to take a few weeks. The timing will be largely dependent on how long it takes you to complete your motorcycle safety course and pass your motorcycle driving exam, and the time it takes to process your application.

Penalties for Driving a Motorcycle Without a License

In most states, driving a motorcycle without the right license can result in fines and even jail time. For instance, driving a motorcycle in California without a motorcycle license is punishable as either an infraction or as a misdemeanor. If it's ruled a misdemeanor, the driver can face a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail.

Other states also have harsh penalties for unlicensed motorcycle drivers. In Florida, riding without a license can lead to:

  • a fine of up to $500
  • six months of probation
  • up to 60 days in jail

Ultimately, it's never a good idea to drive any vehicle without the appropriate license. Keep in mind that the laws in your state could be stricter than the ones mentioned above.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a Motorcycle License?

The cost of getting a motorcycle license varies widely by state, but you can typically expect to pay less than $50. Even for riders within the same state, the cost can change depending on the driver's age and whether they need a motorcycle endorsement or a motorcycle license. As an example, we've compared the costs of getting a motorcycle license in Texas in different scenarios.

TypeFee
Motorcycle License (18 Years or Older)$25
Motorcycle License (Under 18 Years Old)$16
Motorcycle Endorsement$16

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