Search for:

Before hopping onto a motorcycle in California for a ride, operators should ask themselves several questions to ensure they have a safe and legal experience.

Have you ever taken a safety course? Do you have the protective clothing and equipment needed to stay safe, including a helmet and other gear?

Didn't You Try Our Quote Comparison Tool Yet? Save BIG by Doing it!

Do you have a motorcycle license?

Here are the steps to obtain a Class M1 or M2 driver’s license in California you’ll need to follow to use a motorcycle legally.

Can You Drive a Motorcycle with a Regular License?

You cannot ride a motorcycle in CA with a regular driver’s license. You must obtain a motorcycle license.

motorcycle insurance quote saving banner
biker with a permit

California offers two valid motorcycle driver’s licenses to operate on the road legally.

  1. The Class M1 license allows you to operate any two-wheeled motorcycle and all vehicles listed in the Class M2 designation.
  2. A Class M2 license allows you to operate motorized bicycles, a bicycle with an attached motor, and mopeds.

When looking at the M1 vs. M2 motorcycle license, you must pursue the first one if you want to ride a traditional motorcycle. The M2 option is more for low-speed or bikes with pedals and an attached motor for extra speed.

Can You Ride a Motorcycle with a Permit in California?

Anyone under 21 must hold a motorcycle instruction permit for at least six months before being allowed to apply for a Class M1 or a Class M2 license. You must be at least 15.5 years old to have a permit issued.

California motorcycle permit restrictions include an expiration date. It is valid for 12 months after being issued.

Operators with a valid CA motorcycle permit cannot carry passengers, drive at night, or be on the freeway.

Enter ZIP to Check How Much YOU Can Save

All permit applications must pass vision, skills, and knowledge tests before being authorized to operate a motorcycle.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Motorcycle License in CA

Anyone over 21 can skip the instruction permit process to apply for a motorcycle driver’s license. Completing a CHP (California Highway Patrol) approved training course or passing a driving test at a Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) site is required before it is issued.

You must follow these steps to apply for a motorcycle driver’s license.

  • Complete an identification card or driver’s license application.
  • Visit a DMV office, provide your Social Security number, acceptable identity documents, residency confirmation, or a state-issued ID, and pay the application fee.
  • The DMV office will scan your fingerprints, conduct a vision exam, and take photos.
  • New operators have three attempts to pass the knowledge test. If you fail the same test three times, an M1 or an M2 license application must be restarted.

You’ll be asked to take a driving test if you don’t provide a certificate of completion for motorcycle training. Anyone without a standard driver’s license must also complete an observation test.

bike training course

A CHP-approved training course comprises 15 hours of classroom work and riding sessions.

Finally, you must schedule a driving test appointment and provide proof of financial responsibility. All motorcyclists must obtain insurance that meets or exceeds the state’s current requirements.

Each retest incurs an additional fee.

What Happens If You’re Caught Without a Motorcycle License in CA?

If you’re pulled over while riding a motorcycle without a license in California, you are subject to potentially hefty fines and other penalties.

According to California Vehicle Code §12500, no one can drive a motor-driven, motorized cycle, or motorcycle without a valid driver’s license.

The driver’s license doesn’t need to be issued in CA to be valid. Anyone over 18 with a valid motorcycle license from their home jurisdiction can legally be on the road in the state.

The penalties under VC12500 for driving without a valid license are charged as a misdemeanor or an infraction.

If someone is charged with a misdemeanor for driving without a motorcycle license, the penalty upon conviction could be a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in county jail.

Additional fines and penalties apply if operators attempt to evade a peace officer on a motorcycle. Willfully fleeing or trying to do so could generate a misdemeanor charge that carries up to a year in prison in county jail.

More fines and penalties occur if someone is convicted of causing serious bodily harm during an evasion attempt.

  • A fine of $2,000 to $10,000 could be levied for those actions.
  • Imprisonment in a county jail for up to a year or in state prison for 3-7 years.
  • The fine and imprisonment can be issued together.

Can I Obtain Motorcycle Insurance Without a License?

It is possible to secure motorcycle insurance in California without holding a Class M1 or Class M2 driver’s license.

Whether it’s a vintage bike stored in the garage or a new motorcycle waiting for its owner to obtain a driver’s license, insurance companies issue a policy based on your current requirements.

a biker celebrates after obtaining driving license

If you obtain insurance before legally driving the motorcycle company, you’d need to consider if you’ll let someone else operate the bike. The cost of insuring it for storage is different than it is for street use.

Motorcycle operators involved in an accident that causes $750 or more damages must report the incident to the police. Failing to do so could result in a driver’s license suspension.

In California, the current insurance minimums are called 15/30/5. That’s because each operator must include the following coverage with their policy.

  1. $15,000 for bodily injury incidents incurred by another individual.
  2. $30,000 for bodily injury to other people in an accident.
  3. $5,000 for collision-related property damage.

Those are only the minimums. Motorcycle operators are encouraged to increase those levels to ensure complete coverage if an accident occurs.

Unlike other states, CA doesn’t require UI/UM (uninsured and underinsured) coverage to operate a motorcycle.


Here are some additional answers to common questions people have when pursuing a motorcycle driver’s license in California.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a Motorcycle License in CA?

The cost of obtaining a motorcycle license in California depends on whether an instructional permit is necessary first.

In CA, obtaining a learner’s permit costs $35. When you’re ready to get your Class M1 or Class M2 driver’s license, the original costs $39. If you need to change your name or obtain a duplicate because the first one was lost or destroyed, the fee is $31.

If you already have a Class C driver’s license, adding the Class M1 or M2 endorsement still costs $39.

It can take up to 60 days for you to receive your new driver’s license in the mail. All operators are issued a temporary license until the new one arrives. Call 1 (800) 777-0133 to check the current status if it doesn’t show up.

Do You Need a Motorcycle License in California?

Yes. Motorcycle, motorized bicycle, and moped operators must obtain a driver’s license appropriate for their needs. A standard driver’s license or a CDL does not grant authorization to operate two-wheeled vehicles in the state.

Can I Drive a Motorcycle with a Car License in CA?

No. Anyone operating a motorcycle in the state must obtain a Class M1 or M2 driver’s license. You could be fined and penalized if caught on a bike without an appropriate license or permit.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Get a Motorcycle License in California?

Anyone under the age of 21 must obtain a motorcycle instruction permit. It must be held for at least six months before the state will issue an M1 or M2 driver’s license.

How to Get a Motorcycle License in California Under 21?

Anyone under 21 can apply for and obtain a Class M1 or a Class M2 driver’s license after holding a valid permit for at least six months. You would also need to take a 15-hour, CHP-approved instruction class or pass the driving test administered at the DMV.

Can I Buy a Motorcycle Without a License in CA?

You don’t need a motorcycle license to purchase a bike in California. It would be illegal to ride it from the purchase location without one. Dealerships often ask for photo identification, but you would be responsible for transporting the motorcycle to your intended destination using an alternative method.

How Hard Is It to Get a Motorcycle License in California?

Obtaining a motorcycle license in CA can be time-intensive, but the process isn’t complicated for those who know how to ride. The biggest obstacle for those under age 21 is the six-month waiting period.

This information will let you follow the steps to get a motorcycle license in California. You’ll receive the Class M1 or M2 designation required for legal operations on the state’s roadways.

Use This Tool for Free and Save on Quotes!


Mike Navarette has more than a decade of experience in the auto insurance industry, but that's not his true passion. He loves getting on a motorcycle to explore roads he's never traveled. You'll find Mike in the garage working on something when he isn't helping clients or leaning into curves. It's sometimes a side hustle, more often a favor, but it keeps his hands busy doing something productive. Since the first time his father strapped on his helmet and took him for a ride, Mike has loved bikes. That passion, along with a desire to help others through a deep understanding of insurance policies, led to the creation of Motorcycle Ride Coverage.

Write A Comment