How to Get a California Motorcycle License

If you are under 21, you need to have an instruction permit for six months prior to applying for your motorcycle license. Here are all the details.
Written by Brittni Brinn
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
To get a motorcycle license in California, you must complete a motorcycle rider training course approved by the California Highway Patrol and submit a motorcycle license application. If you are under 21, you need to have an instruction permit for six months prior to applying for your motorcycle license
Motorcycles are a thrilling way to get around, especially in beautiful California. With the ocean breeze in your face and the sun on your back, you can enjoy the open road in the Golden State—as long as you have a motorcycle license. 
California motorcycle license requirements can be a little confusing, so here with a step-by-step guide is
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super app
. We’ll go over the licensing process and even show you how to save on
California insurance costs

Do you need a license to operate a motorcycle in California?

Yes—to legally operate a two-wheeled motorcycle, motorized bicycle, moped, or any bicycle with an attached motor in California, you must have one of the following licenses:  
  • Class M1: Holder may operate any two-wheeled motorcycle and all vehicles listed under Class M2
  • Class M2: Holder may operate a motorized bicycle, moped, or any bicycle with an attached motor
In California, you have to be at least 16 years old to operate a motorcycle.
Visitors to California who are over 18 and have a valid motorcycle license from another state or country don’t have to get a California license. However, new California residents with a motorcycle license from another state or country must switch to a California license within 10 days.

How to add a motorcycle endorsement to your California driver’s license

All motorcycle riders in California under 21 have to complete a course to obtain an endorsement. To gain a motorcycle endorsement in California, you must complete a California motorcyclist training course or Basic Rider Course through the California Motorcycle Safety Program (CMSP) and the California Highway Patrol (CHP).
Once you complete the course, a Certificate of Completion of Motorcycle Training (DL 389) can be used to waive the motorcycle skills test at the DMV within a year of issue.
You can find more information online through the
California Motorcyclist Safety Program
website or by calling 1-877-743-3411.
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How to get a motorcycle-only license in California

If you’re interested in getting a motorcycle-only license instead, you must be at least 16 years old. For applicants under 21, you have to have a motorcycle instruction permit for six months—then you can apply for your full motorcycle license. Drivers over 21 are not required to hold an instruction permit.
If you choose to take the CHP-approved California Motorcyclist Safety Program training course, make sure you complete it before applying for your full license. Otherwise, you will have to pass a motorcycle driving test at your local DMV.
Once you’ve fulfilled these requirements, you can apply for your motorcycle license. When heading to the DMV, be prepared to provide:
  • Your instruction permit to show that you’ve had it for at least six months
  • Proof that you have completed the proper training course (if you don’t have a valid California driver’s license)
  • A Certificate of Completion of Motorcycle Training (DL 389)
  • Your Social Security number
  • Proof of your identity (your current name has to match the name on the identity document)
  • Your California DL/ID card (if applicable)
  • Payment for the application fee
You will also have to pass a vision exam and a knowledge test. Your application fee will cover three attempts at the knowledge test. If you fail three times, you will have to restart the application process and pay another fee. 
If you don’t already have a driver’s license, you may be asked to do an observation test. 
Here is a breakdown of the fees you can expect when you apply for a Class M1 or M2 motorcycle license:
  • Original: $39
  • Renewal or replacement: $31

How to save on car and motorcycle insurance in California

Congrats! You’re on your way to getting your California motorcycle license! But before you take your bike out on the road, make sure you have reliable
motorcycle insurance
to back you up. 
The good news is that
motorcycle insurance is typically cheaper than car insurance
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To get a motorcycle license or license endorsement in California, you have to pass a knowledge test. If you’re under 21, you have to complete an approved motorcyclist training course. Depending on your age and driver’s license status, you may be required to perform an observation test, as well.
If you drive a motorcycle without a license in California, you could be subject to up to $1,000 in fines and up to six months of jail time.
In California, you must have motorcycle insurance. Coverage limits must meet or exceed $15,000 of bodily injury liability per person, $30,000 of bodily injury liability per accident, and $5,000 of property damage liability.
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