Getting Your Motorcycle License In The USA

Getting Your Motorcycle License In The USA

Posted by Mike Werner on Sep 1st 2016

Okay, so you have arrived here because you are interested in motorcycles, and you are even thinking about getting one. Good choice! But like many things in this regulated world, you will need a piece of paper called a Motorcycle License. The DMV issues the Class M license (or endorsement) that allows you to ride a Powered Two Wheeler (a fancy and bureaucratic word for motorcycle, scooter or moped).

The requirements differ per state in the USA (and Canada). In some you can start at 14, others at 18. But you will need to go to a “school” that is called a Driver Education Course, and you will need to pass a few exams. An obvious one is traffic signs and rules, but in many states, if you already have a car driving license, this is one test you can skip.

The course will teach you elementary skills for riding. Enough to get you on a bike, but let's be honest. This is truly a basic training and you will not really be in a position to trust your riding skills. For that we really, really and really recommend you also follow a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) course, or better yet, start with one. These courses can be found in many parts of the US and they will teach you how to handle your motorcycle safely and surely. Click here to see where there is a MSF course close to you.

There is an enormous advantage to taking the MSF course, apart from really learning how to handle the motorcycle; you get a waiver from the DMV for the road test.

So now all you need to know what the requirements are in your area for getting that precious piece of paper.

Click here to access the DMV and find out the exact requirements in your state.

To get your license, these are more or less the steps you will need to undertake:

1. Study the motorcyclist handbook for your state

2. Apply for a learner permit (which will require a written test and a vision test)

3. Practice on the road with your learner permit (timeframe depends on your state)

4. Fill out an application form (and obviously pay your fee – nothing is free in this world)

5. Rent, borrow or buy a motorcycle for the DMV test

6. Take the written and road test (if applicable)

7. Pass and get your license.

That's all there is to it, but here are a few things to remember:

1. Do not buy a motorcycle first, and then go get the license

2. Take the MSF course

3. Take your lessons seriously. Your life depends on it.

4. Get proper gear to protect you all over. As my motorcycle trainer told me; “you can only call yourself a biker if you have fallen 3 times”. And fall you will.

5. Do not get a powerful motorcycle to begin with. Wait a few years to get traffic smarts.

6. Get a good insurance. It's going to be expensive since you are a beginner, but image if later on you buy an expensive bike; your insurance will require a mortgage. This way you will already have a motorcycle riding history, and your insurance premiums will decrease.

Now, go out and get your piece of paper and enjoy the freedom that comes with it. And if you complain about the length of time and complexity of getting the license, just be happy you don't live in Europe, where it can take 1 to 2 years to get your license.