Do You Need a Motorcycle License?

by whatsmind

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates over 126 million households have a motorcycle. Motorcycling is more popular than ever! But before you can join them, you’ll have to answer a few questions. 

Read on to answer some critical, basic questions about being a motorcycle enthusiast, including:

  • Do you need a motorcycle license?
  • What responsibilities come with owning a motorcycle?
  • What should you consider to get the best motorcycle for you?

Discover the answers to these questions—and more—in this brief guide to your first motorcycle.

Do You Need a Motorcycle License?

You need certification to ride a motorcycle in every state in the United States. In some states, this is a specific license in addition to your (car) driver’s license. In others, this is an endorsement on your general driver’s license.

You only need a motorcycle if the vehicle you’re driving is classified as a motorcycle.

What Vehicles Are Classified As Motorcycles?

In the United States, a motorcycle is a two-wheeled or three-wheeled motorized vehicle. It is distinct from a scooter or a moped. States classify motorcycles, scooters, and mopeds by engine size. 


Most mopeds have a 50cc engine or smaller. A moped’s speed tops out around 30mph. For these reasons, many states do not require car drivers to obtain an additional license to drive a moped.

Certain states, including California and Michigan, require moped drivers to get a moped-specific license. 


An electric scooter, similar to a razor scooter, is not classified as a motor vehicle. These scooters only go up to 15mph. Electric scooter operation falls under bike laws.

Seated scooters are either moped or motorcycles. This depends on engine size.


Most U.S. states classify a motorcycle as any two-wheeled or three-wheeled motorized vehicle with an engine larger than 50cc. To put things in perspective, the perenially popular Honda Suber Cub motorcycle has a 125cc engine.

How to Get a Motorcycle License

Motorcycle license requirements vary from state to state. Check your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles website to determine the laws that apply to you.

In general, to legally ride a motorcycle with a 50cc engine or greater, you need to pass a written and on-cycle competency test. The written test assesses your knowledge of motorcycle laws.

Once you pass the written test, you can get a learner’s permit. Practice, then take the on-cycle test. If you pass, you will earn your motorcycle license. 

The DMV administers the on-cycle test. But, in many states, you can, alternatively, pass a rider education course with a comparable final exam (like those offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation).   

What Should You Know About Owning a Motorcycle?

Check hydraulic and cooling fluids weekly. 

Change motor oil every 2000 miles if you use mineral oil. You can ride 7000-10,000 miles, or for about one year before you need to change synthetic oil. 

Only four states allow drivers to legally ride a motorcycle without insurance. All other states require motorcyclists to hold liability insurance. Typically, this must cover both bodily and property damage. 

Only 26 states require moped drivers to hold insurance. 

What Should a First-Time Motorcycle Buyer Know?

Learn what type of bike fits your body. Consider if you will drive upright or in a forward-lean position.

Research motorcycle brands, models, and serviceability before you make a purchase. All motorcycles for sale should come with vehicle history reports. Read it. 

Motorcycle Questions: Answered

Do you need a motorcycle license? Yes!

Now your most pressing motorcycle questions have been answered. For more content built for your lifestyle, check out more posts in our library. 

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