If you are going to be riding a motorcycle on the road, you must have a valid motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license. A valid motorcycle endorsement is something that all fifty states and D.C. require to operate a motorcycle on public roads.
Isn’t a Driver’s License Good Enough?
Some people assume that if you have a valid driver’s license that you can ride your motorcycle on the roads. This is not the case. To ride your motorcycle on public roads, you must have a special motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license. Some states allow you to ride your motorcycle on the shoulder of the road, provided that you have a valid driver’s license, the correct stickers on your bike, and do not exceed 30 miles per hour. Essentially you have to follow the same rules that you would if you were riding a moped or scooter. Michigan, as an example, has this policy is so that you can ride your bike on the state trails and can legally cross the road or ride from one trail head to the next without having to load your bike into the back of a pick-up truck.
The Motorcycle Learner’s Permit
Even though all states require that you have a motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license before you can ride your bike on the road, all states except for Florida and Louisiana are set up so that you can get a learner’s permit first. With a learner’s permit you are legally able to ride your bike on the road without a full endorsement, however restrictions vary from state-to-state, as do the tests required to obtain the permit. See the table below for a state-by-state breakdown of motorcycle learner’s permit requirements and restrictions.
A motorcycle learner’s permit allows you the time to get comfortable on your bike and prepare for the driving test that you will have to take in order to get a motorcycle license. The more time you spend practicing, the easier it will be to pass the test.
How to Get a Motorcycle License/Endorsement
Getting your motorcycle endorsement is a bit more complicated than simply going to the DMV and filling out some forms. All states want to know that you are properly qualified. To get your motorcycle endorsement, you will have to pass a minimum of knowledge and driving tests. Most states also offer motorcycle safety courses to help you learn the skills necessary to safely operate your motorcycle. Many states will even waive the driving test requirement for a full endorsement with a certificate of completion from one of these safety courses. You need to plan ahead as these courses can fill up really fast and have a long waiting list. See the table below for a full state-by-state breakdown of motorcycle license requirements.
When you got your drivers license you had to take a written test. The purpose of this test is to prove that you have a strong grasp of the driving laws. You are going to have to go through the same process to get your motorcycle license. In addition to covering basic traffic laws, you are also going to have to prove that you understand safety rules. The written test can be quite long. To prepare for the written test, go to your local DMV and pick up a copy of your state’s motorcycle operator’s handbook. You should read the handbook through, cover to cover, at least a week before your written test, then review the material the day before and day of your test.
The Driving Test
The driving test for your motorcycle endorsement is similar to the driving test you performed to get your driver’s license. You will have to demonstrate your riding skills under simulated road conditions. Some types of maneuvers you’ll be required to perform are simple things, like starting, stopping, and turning. However, you will also be required to perform more complicated maneuvers like sudden stops, S-turns, U-turns, and sharp turns, which are necessary skills to help avoid dangerous situations when you are out on the road. Mastering these skill take time and practice, but the time practicing is well spent to help keep you safe.
After you have successfully passed both your written and driving test (and paid of a fee of course!), a motorcycle endorsement will be added to your driver’s license. However, just because you have your motorcycle endorsement it does not mean you no longer have to practice and keep practicing safe riding skills.
Note: the information provided in the tables below may contain errors and omissions. In some cases where there is no information, it is because we were unable obtain the information from that state. Do not rely on this information solely. Please visit your state’s DMV website or local office to get current and accurate information about your state’s motorcycle licensing requirements.
|State||Issuance Test for Permit||Duration||Restrictions|
|Arizona||Knowledge||7 Months||No Passenger, No Freeway, Time of Day|
|California||Knowledge||1 Year||No Passenger, No Freeway, Time of Day|
|Connecticut||Knowledge||60 Days||No Passenger, No Freeway, Time of Day, Helmet, Eye Protection|
|Delaware||Knowledge||60 Days||No Passenger, No Freeway, Time of Day, Helmet, Eye Protection|
|Florida||NO PERMIT ISSUED|
|Georgia||Knowledge & Vision||6 Months||Helmet, No Passenger, Restricted Roadways, Time of Day, Eye Protection|
|Hawaii||Knowledge||1 Year||No Passenger, Time of Day|
|Idaho||Knowledge||180 Days||No Passenger, No Freeways, Time of Day|
|Illinois||Knowledge & Vision||2 yrs. under 18; 1 yr. 18 or over||Daytime Only, Supervision|
|Indiana||Knowledge||1 Year||No Passenger, Time of Day, Helmet|
|Kentucky||Knowledge & Skill||3 Years||No Passenger, Eye Protection, Helmet|
|Louisiana||NO PERMIT ISSUED|
|Maine||Knowledge||2 Years||No Passenger, Time of Day|
|Maryland||Knowledge & Vision||6 Months||No Passenger, Supervision|
|Massachusetts||Knowledge||2 Years||Helmet, Eye Protection, No Passenger, Time of Day|
|Michigan||Knowledge||180 Days||No Passenger, Time of Day, Supervision, Helmet, Eye Protection|
|Minnesota||Knowledge||1 Year||No Passenger, No Freeway, No Night, Helmet|
|Mississippi||Knowledge & Skill||1 Year||Supervision, Helmet|
|Missouri||Knowledge & Traffic Signs||6 Months||No Passenger, Time of Day, 250cc, Under 18, Daylight Driving Only|
|Montana||Knowledge||1 Year||Supervision, Helmet|
|Nebraska||Knowledge||1 Year||Supervision, Helmet, Under 18, No Interactive Wireless Communication Device|
|Nevada||Knowledge||1 Year||No Passenger, Time of Day, Supervision|
|New Hampshire||Knowledge||30 Days||No Passenger, Time of Day, Helmet|
|New Jersey||Knowledge||90 Days||No Passenger|
|New Mexico||Knowledge||6 Months||No Passenger, Under 18, Time of Day, Helmet|
|New York||Knowledge||1 Year||Supervision|
|North Carolina||Knowledge & Traffic Signs||1 Year||No Passenger|
|North Dakota||Knowledge||6 Months||No Passenger, Time of Day, Helmet Under Age 18|
|Ohio||Knowledge||1 Year||Helmet, No Passenger, Restricted Roadways, Time of Day, Eye Protection|
|Oklahoma||Knowledge & Car||4 Years|
|Oregon||Knowledge||1 Year||No Passenger, Time of Day, Helmet, Supervision|
|Pennsylvania||Knowledge||1 Year||No Passenger, Time of Day, Supervision|
|Rhode Island||Knowledge & Skill||18 Months||None|
|South Carolina||Knowledge||1 Year||Helmet & Eye Protection Under Age 21, Time of Day, Supervision|
|South Dakota||Knowledge||1 Year||No Passenger, Helmet Under Age 18, Restricted Hours, Supervision|
|Tennessee||Knowledge & Skill||1 Year||Helmet, No Passenger, Restricted Roadways, Time of Day, cc Restrictions (certain ages)|
|Utah||Knowledge||6 Months||No Passenger & Time of Day, Posted More Than 60 mph|
|Vermont||Knowledge||120 Days||Daytime Only, No Passenger, VT Only, May Only be Renewed Twice|
|Virginia||Knowledge||1 Year||Helmet, No Passenger, Restricted Roadways, Time of Day, Supervision, Parent Consent|
|Washington||Knowledge & Skill||90 Days||No Passenger, Time of Day|
|West Virginia||Knowledge & Skill||90 Days||Helmet, No Passenger, Time of Day, Eye Protection|
|Wisconsin||Knowledge||6 Months||Helmet, No Passenger (except class M license holder
with 2 years of licensure), Time of Day unless
accompanied by licensed person age 25 or older, Eye
|State||Tiered Licensing System||Rider Education Required for Licensing||Age without Rider Education||Age with Rider Education||Driver’s License Required for Motorcycle Endorsement||Handbook Used:||Type of Knowledge Test(s)||Knowledge Test Waiver For Rider Education Completion|
|Alabama||Yes, ≤ 5 bhp or
≤ 150 cc (1)
|Arizona||Yes, ≤ 100 cc (1)||For under 18, rider education or parental certification of 25 hours of
supervised motorcycle practice required.
|Arkansas||Yes, ≤ 250 cc (1)||No||16||16||No||Local||Local||No|
|California||No||Yes, under age 21||21||16||No||MOM||MSF||No|
|Connecticut||No||Yes||Rider Ed Required||16||No||MOM||Local|
|Delaware||No||Yes, under age 18||18||16 & 10 months||No||MOM||MSF|
|Florida||Yes, ≤ 150 cc (1)||Yes||Rider Ed Required||16||No||BRC||MSF||No|
|Idaho||No||Yes, under age 21||21||15||Yes||Modified MOM||MSF|
|Illinois||Yes, < 150 cc (1)||Yes, under age 18 for > 150 cc||18||16||No||Modified MOM||MSF||Yes|
|Indiana||No||No||16 & 270 Days||16 & 270 Days||Yes||MOM||MSF||No|
|Iowa||No||Yes, under age 18||18||14||No||MOM||MSF||No|
|Maryland||No||Yes, under age 18||18||16.5||No||Local||MSF||Yes|
|Massachusetts||No||Yes, under 18 or failed twice||18||16.5||No||Local||Local||Yes|
|Michigan||No||Yes, under age 18||18||16||Yes||MOM||MSF||No|
|Minnesota||No||Yes, under age 18||18||16||No||Modified MOM||Local||No|
|Missouri||Yes, ≤ 250 cc (1)||No||16||No||MOM||MSF||Yes|
|New Hampshire||No||Yes, under age 18||18||Local||MSF|
|New Mexico||Yes, ≤ 100 cc (1)||Yes, under age 18||18||13||No||MOM||MSF/Local|
|North Carolina||No||Yes, under age 18||18||16.5||Yes||MOM||MSF||Yes|
|North Dakota||Yes, ≤ 250 cc (1)||Yes, under age 16 (limited to < 250 cc)||16||14||No||Modified MOM||MSF||No|
|Ohio||No||Yes, under age 18||18||16||No||MOM||MSF/Local||No|
|Oklahoma||Yes, ≤ 250 cc (1)||No||MOM||MSF||Yes|
|Oregon||No||Yes||Rider’s Ed Required||16||Yes||Modified MOM||Modified MSF||Yes|
|Rhode Island||No||Yes||Rider Ed Required||MRC: RSS|
|South Dakota||No||No||No||MOM||Modified MOM|
|Tennessee||Yes, ≤ 5 bhp or ≤ 125 cc (1)||No||16||No||MOM||MSF||Yes|
|Texas||Yes, ≤ 250 cc (1)||Yes||Rider Ed Required||15||Yes||MOM||MSF|
|Utah||Yes, 90 cc; 249 cc; 649 cc (2)||No||Yes||MOM||MSF||No|
|Vermont||No||No||16||16||Yes||MSF MOM or BRC Handbook||MSF||Yes|
|Washington||No||Yes, under age 18||18||16||Yes||MOM||MSF||Yes|
|Wisconsin||No||Yes, under age 18||18||16||No||MOM||Local||Yes|
|Wyoming||No||Yes, under age 17||17||MOM||MSF|
(1) May obtain motorcycle license at younger age for small displacement motorcycles.
(2) License restricted based on cc size of motorcycle upon which rider tested.