Motorcycle License: Why You Need It And How To Get One

Let’s get straight to the point. Most states require you to have a motorcycle license or an endorsement to legally operate a bike. Some may even require you to get a license to drive scooters and monopods over a certain engine size. Failure to follow your state’s regulations can lead to fines, or worse, jail time.

Depending on where you live, you should get a permit to drive a motorcycle once you turn 15 or 16. Then, you’re already eligible to get a license once you turn 18 even if you’ve never had a permit.

State laws vary depending on the state. But, motorcycle licenses are usually inexpensive and will only take a few weeks to get, especially for old drivers.

Do I Need a Motorcycle License to Drive My Motorcycle?

Yes. No matter which state you live in, you need a license, permit, or endorsement to drive a motorcycle legally.

In many states, anyone below 18 has to have a motorcycle permit before they can apply for a license. It’s just like a learner’s permit for cars. Riders with permits should show their competence on the road. They must drive a specified number of hours with a licensed driver to get their own license.

Meanwhile, those over 18 can usually apply for a license or endorsement even without a permit. Motorcycle licenses are a stand-alone document for operating motorcycles. Endorsements, on the other hand, are affixed to standard licenses but have the same privileges as motorcycle licenses.

How Do I Get a Motorcycle License?

To get a motorcycle license, you should take a road test accompanied by your local BMV or DMV official. You may even need to take a written road rules exam before taking the actual road test. The motorcycle license is now yours after passing and paying the fee, which normally costs less than $20.

However, in some cases, you may be eligible to get a motorcycle license without passing a road test. This rule often applies if you’re an experienced driver.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re an adult rider who already has a motorcycle permit. In this case, you can just skip the road test if you pass a skills test on a closed course approved by your local regulators.

Here are a few tips so you can easily pass your motorcycle test:

  • Have the right bike. Try getting a small motorcycle or a scooter since it’s more maneuverable than heavy bikes.
  • Keep off your phone. While phones aren’t restricted during the test, they can be a major distraction that can hinder your success.
  • Do a lot of practice before the day arrives. Practice your parallel parking and 3-point turns to help boost your confidence.
  • Put on full motorcycle riding gear to look fully prepared for the occasion.
  • Listen closely to your driving officer. Don’t be afraid to ask if there’s anything you didn’t grasp.
  • If interacting with other motorists is part of your road test, avoid lane splitting as much as possible. Lane splitting may save you time when stuck in traffic, but it’s usually a dangerous maneuver. Plus, you might send the wrong signal to the officer. Just stay in your lane!
  • Always keep calm. The officer may not care about how collected you are, but your stress can directly affect the way you drive.
  • Rest well and never party or drink the night before. You don’t want the officer to think that you have poor judgment and stop you from taking the test!
  • Check all the parts of your bike several days before the test. Ensure that they’re in good working condition—if not, do your best to fix them immediately.
  • Keep your eyes on the road—in front and around you. Doing this will give the officer the impression that you’re aware of your surroundings.
  • Don’t get too excited to the point that you overspeed and leave the officer behind. Avoid under speeding or making rolling stops, too, especially in high-speed traffic.
  • Know all road signals and brush up before the actual test day. Nervousness has clouded others’ memories before, causing them to fail just because they didn’t recognize some road signals.
  • Most importantly, be on time or show up at least 10 minutes before the time.

Note: Taking a skills test can pay off. Several motorcycle insurers give a discount if you pass a closed-course safety test.

How Long Do I Have to Wait For My License?

How long you have to wait to get a license depends on many factors, including your age and riding experience. If you’re a seasoned motorcycle rider with a permit, you can have a license right after passing your road test.

But, if you’re an inexperienced rider, you may have to wait longer to get your motorcycle license.

Most states may require you to carry a learner’s permit before having a motorcycle license if you’re under 18. Additionally, you have to carry this permit until you complete a certain number of hours or months on-road before you can earn a license.

How Much Does a Motorcycle License Cost?

This depends on the license type, your experience, and your age.

Since every state has its own application fees and cost structures, you may pay anywhere from $25 to above $100. If you have a permit before a license, you need to pay a separate application fee for a full motorcycle license.

The cost of permits and licenses varies depending on the age of the applicant. For example, younger applicants tend to pay more than older riders. In fact, younger applicants may pay $30 more in some states!

Furthermore, motorcycle endorsements tend to be cheaper than motorcycle licenses. This is because you’re only paying for some modifications to your current license. It normally only costs around $10 to $20 to update an existing motor license.

Here’s an example of how much a motorcycle license or endorsement costs in three states:

StateNew LicenseRenewalEndorsement
New York$82.50-$107.50$17.50$12.50

Do I Need a Motorcycle License for My Moped or Scooter?

Whether or not you need a motorcycle license to drive a scooter or moped depends on the state you live.

A scooter almost always requires registration and a license because its engine is 150 cubic centimeters (cc) or smaller. Meanwhile, a moped has an engine smaller than 50cc so it doesn’t need a special registration or license.

For scooters or mopeds with a 50cc engine or smaller, some states only require a standard driver’s license or learner’s permit. While other states don’t require any license, they do have an age limit for riders. In North Carolina, for example, you have to be at least 16 years old.

Conversely, you need a motorcycle or a driver’s license with endorsement if your moped or scooter has an engine bigger than 50cc.

For example, many states consider a Vespa a scooter. If your Vespa is more than 50cc, you’ll need a motorcycle license to drive it around. Similarly, if you own a Honda Grom, you need a motorcycle license because all models have engines more than 50cc.

Can I Register My Bike Without a License?

Technically, you don’t need a motorcycle license to register a motorcycle. However, you still need motorcycle insurance. Many insurance companies require you to have a license to get coverage. In short, it’s more difficult to register your ride without a license.

To make things more complicated, minors will have a harder time looking for insurers who can give them coverage. Meaning, a 16-year-old rider will have fewer options for insurance compared to an 18-year-old rider. Plus, to receive any coverage, minors should add their bikes to their parents’ policy first.

Some insurers can sell you coverage even without a license. But, chances are they’ll charge you a higher premium.

This is why we suggest waiting until you get a license before registering your bike to avoid these extra charges. But, if you really want to register your bike even without a license, compare different providers first to get the best deal.

What are the Penalties for Driving Without a Motorcycle License?

In some states, driving without a motorcycle license can result in fines and even jail time. For example, driving without a motorcycle license in Texas can cost you around $200. Plus, if you’re not carrying motorcycle insurance, you’re looking at a fine somewhere from $260 to $470.

Some states may have more lax penalties for unlicensed riders. But, we never recommend riding your bike without a proper license. Repeat offenders normally face penalties that accumulate with every offense. So, while you may get just a $50 license fee today, it may result in hundreds of dollars in the next offenses.


Hopefully, we helped you understand what it takes to carry a motorcycle license. Remember to use a valid state-specific license, so you can ride legally in any state you wish.

But, if you transfer to a new state, you may need to go through the process all over again to get a new license.

Happy shopping and be safe on the road!

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