How to Get a Motorcycle License

March 03, 2015

Just like with a car, a motorcycle user must be licensed in his home state to operate the vehicle on public roadways. And, as with a car, a motorcyclist must meet specific state-wide requirements, and every state has its own set of rules, such as motorcycle helmet laws. Below is a breakdown of some of the motorcycle-specific boxes you may need to tick in your home state.

What’s a Motorcycle License Look Like?

A motorcycle license is usually more properly called an “endorsement” – it is not a separate document but instead is just an “M” on your other driver’s license. Some states require that you have a standard driver’s license before allowing you to get a motorcycle endorsement. The logic behind this is that a driver who already knows the rules of the road will be a better biker. Be sure to check the laws in your state if you are not licensed to drive a car.

What’s Required for a Motorcycle License?

As with a standard driver’s license, motorcycle licenses require proof of identity and of residence in that state. Some states have more stringent guidelines than others; check with your local DMV to ensure you have the proper documentation before you apply for your license.

Prepare for your Motorcycle License Test

The more educated you are, the safer you are. Organizations like the Motorcycle Safety Foundation offer courses in all 50 states for motorcycle safety. Some states require a motorcycle safety course for licensure; all of them recommend it. In the event of an accident, if you have one of these courses on your record, it may reduce your liability; completely of a safety course may even help you get lower insurance rates. Learn more about motorcycle safety courses.

Motorcycle License Test – Written section

Most states require some form of written exam, usually before you take a practical test. This is used to determine if you have a basic level of competence required to pilot a motorcycle. Your local DMV’s website will offer a manual of information for which you will be responsible on this test – rules of the road, basic signage, and motorcycle-specific safety tips.

Motorcycle License Road Test

Just like with a car or truck, DMV officials wants to know that motorcycle drivers have the ability to actually safely operate the vehicle. You probably won’t have to parallel park it, but you will have to demonstrate your ability to turn safely, follow at a correct distance, brake, and so on. The test is designed to evaluate your competence and comfort on the bike, as well as your skill and judgment. You may also be expected to identify and respond to road signs either as part of the written or road test.

Motorcycle License Learner’s Permit

Some states have a multi-step system for obtaining your motorcycle endorsement. Riders on their learner’s permit may have other restrictions, such as helmet and goggle requirements, and it may be impossible for a rider to obtain a full license until he or she turns a certain age. Check with your state’s DMV to learn if there is a learner’s permit process to get your endorsement.

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