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How to Get a Motorcycle License FAQs

May 31, 2024 Comments Comment

A motorcycle license is your ticket to freedom. If you want to ride a motorcycle on public roads, you are going to need a license from your state. That process is not difficult, and in fact it can be a lot of fun. There are plenty of people out there ready to help you learn to ride a motorcycle with confidence, earn your license and start your adventure on two wheels. Each state dictates its own regulations regarding motorcycle licensing. For more detailed, state-by-state information, visit your local DMV office or your state DMV website to get the details specific to your state. But below we answer some of your most frequently asked questions about how to get a motorcycle license.

How do I get my motorcycle license?

Earning a motorcycle license generally takes two steps. 

  1. Knowledge Test - You’ll need to pass a short motorcycle knowledge test, a signs test and a vision test, usually all conducted in a DMV facility. The test will be based on a motorcyclist handbook you can probably obtain from your DMV or download online.  
  2. Riding Skills Test - Next, you’ll need to pass a riding skills test, which will gauge your ability to ride a motorcycle with confidence. The motorcycle skills test may include riding around cones and markers in a parking lot and some riding on the street. You will also have to pay a fee for testing and processing the license – rates vary by state.

There are two routes to getting a motorcycle license:

  1. If you feel confident in your riding skills, you can take the written test at your local DMV office, and then make an appointment to take a skills test administered by the DMV. Of course, you’ll need to have a motorcycle (your own or one that you have borrowed) and the proper motorcycle riding gear.
  2. If offered in your state, you can earn your license through a private training program like the Harley-Davidson® Riding Academy which offers a New Rider Course designed specifically for first-time riders. Each Riding Academy class is certified by the state it’s held in and usually follows the curriculum created by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). The program will offer classroom or on-line instruction and rider skills training on a range led by expert instructors. The program is designed to be completed over a weekend. 

The training program option offers several advantages:

  • Professional training, which will help you develop good skills while avoiding bad habits.
  • The program will provide a motorcycle for the skills portion, and that bike will be one that is easy to handle while you build up your confidence. 
  • Students who successfully complete the classroom and range sessions will be issued a completion document. In many states this document will excuse you from taking a motorcycle operator skills test through the DMV. However, it does not count as a license and is not recognized by law enforcement as a license to ride. You will need to visit the DMV to convert the completion document into a license.

What is a motorcycle license and why do I need one? 

A motorcycle license is your “permission slip” from the state to ride on public roads, proof that you have the skills and knowledge to safely ride and share the road with other motorists. It’s really no different from your standard driver’s license, except that it is specific to motorcycle operation. In most states the motorcycle license will appear as an endorsement on your regular driver’s license. Some states may issue a separate motorcycle license, and you may not need to have a driver’s license to earn a motorcycle license. Riding without a license (or a motorcycle permit) could earn you a traffic citation and fine of $200 to $1,000. 

What is a motorcycle endorsement?

If you already have a regular driver’s license, your state may add a motorcycle endorsement to that license rather than issue a separate motorcycle license. This endorsement will appear as an “M” printed somewhere on your license. Any license points lost to traffic violations – while driving a car or riding a bike – will apply to the entire license.

Do I need a license to ride a motorcycle?  

Yes. Unless you have an instructional permit or a motorcycle license you may not legally ride on public roads. However, in most states you are not required to have a permit or license to ride a motorcycle on off-road trails or on a racecourse.

How old do you have to be to get a motorcycle license?

The minimum age to apply for an instructional permit is 15.5 or 16 years, but this varies by state. You must be 16 to earn a full motorcycle license. If you are under age 18 ,you may need sponsorship from a parent or guardian and show proof that you have completed a basic motorcycle rider training course.

Is there a test to get my motorcycle license?  

Yes. There is a written (or touch screen) knowledge test and a motorcycle riding skills test, each administered by your DMV. You may also need to pass a vision test. You can skip these tests by completing a private certified motorcycle training course, including the Harley-Davidson® Riding Academy New Rider Course.

Harley-Davidson Riding Academy

Life is better when you know how to ride! The Harley-Davidson Riding Academy offers motorcycle training for riders of all skill levels, from beginners to seasoned riders.  

How much is a motorcycle license?

The fee for the license is typically about $30 but varies by state. Visit your local DMV office or website to see your state’s exact fee. 

Can I get a motorcycle license without a driver’s license?

In some states you do not need a regular driver’s license to earn a motorcycle license. Visit your local DMV office or website to see your state’s requirements.

Can I buy a motorcycle without a license?

Yes, you may. But unless you have an instructional permit or a motorcycle license, you may not legally ride it on public roads. 

What are the motorcycle license requirements? 

You will need to be 16 years old, pass a written test, a skills test and pay a fee. Or you must successfully complete a private motorcycle training program certified by your state, and then apply for your license. 

Can I get a motorcycle license online? 

No. All testing conducted by the DMV is in person, or you need to attend and complete a motorcycle training program and then visit the DMV to acquire your license. 

Where can I get a motorcycle license?

If you successfully pass testing by your DMV, or successfully complete a motorcycle training program, you will visit a DMV office or the equivalent to pay a fee and acquire the license. 

How hard is it to get a motorcycle license?

Getting a motorcycle license requires riding practice to hone your skills and study for the knowledge test. It can also be challenging in some states to get an appointment to take the riding skills test through the DMV. The easiest way for most new riders to learn with confidence and also get certified for a license is to take a training program like that offered by the Harley-Davidson Riding Academy

What’s the risk of driving a motorcycle without a license?

Riding without a license (or an instructional permit) could earn you a traffic citation and fine of $200 to $1,000. Riding without the skills you’ll learn to either pass the DMV test or complete a commercial training program is not recommended.  

How long does it take to get a motorcycle license?

If you take a private training program, it will require about five hours of either classroom or online instruction, followed by two days of skills training on a riding range. Most of these programs are designed to be completed over a long weekend, or one evening session and two days on the range. If you earn your license through DMV testing, you may have to wait some time for a testing appointment. 

Request a Motorcycle Test Ride

Schedule a free motorcycle test ride on a Harley-Davidson® bike at your local dealer. Test ride a motorcycle to learn which is the right bike for you.

What equipment is recommended to get a motorcycle license? 


1. Motorcycle Helmet

Riders should always wear a motorcycle helmet that fits properly. A full-face helmet gives the most protection since it covers all of the head and face. Learn more about the different types of motorcycle helmets and how they should fit or browse our best motorcycle helmets from Harley-Davidson guide.  

2. Eye Protection

It's recommended to wear a high-quality visor on your helmet, a pair of goggles, or shatterproof glasses. 

3. Riding Jacket and Riding Pants

A riding jacket and pants made of leather or synthetic materials combine ventilation and help provide the rider with added body protection. Browse our guides on best motorcycle jeans from Harley-Davidson and guide to the best motorcycle jackets from Harley-Davidson to find the best items for you.  

4. Motorcycle Gloves

Motorcycle gloves are recommended to help prevent hand abrasions in the event of a fall. Browse our guide on best motorcycle gloves from Harley-Davidson to find a good pair of riding gloves for you.  

5. Motorcycle Boots

It’s recommended to purchase a pair of motorcycle boots that cover the ankle and have a grippy sole. Browse our guide on the best motorcycle boots from Harley-Davidson to find the right fit.  

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