How To Get a Motorcycle License in California

California is a state known for sunshine and pleasant weather, making it ideal for motorcyclists of all ages. Operating a motorcycle, however, will require a person to get the appropriate motorcycle license.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has a section on its website dedicated to sample tests to help you prepare for the journey to obtain a license, and you can also find the California Motorcycle Handbook, information about registering your motorcycle, and locations to schedule appointments for motorcycle licensing exams or apply for motorcycle licenses.

Qualifying for a Motorcycle License  

California has two types of motorcycle licenses, a Class M1 and a Class M2. The Class M1 lets you operate any two-wheel motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized scooter and all vehicles listed under Class M2, while a Class M2 lets you operate any motorized bicycle, moped, or motorized scooter.

There are different processes involved in getting a motorcycle license, depending on your age. If you are less than 21 years of age, an instruction permit will be required for at least six months before you can apply for a motorcycle license.

After satisfying all of the requirements of that instruction permit, you will be able to visit a DMV office. At that location, you will do all of the following:

  • Submit the instruction permit to prove you had it for at least six months
  • Submit proof of completion for both driver education and training if you do not currently have a valid California driver’s license
  • Provide a Certificate of Completion of Motorcycle Training (DL 389) 
  • REAL IDs will require a social security number (SSN), proof of identity, and two acceptable proofs of residency from the list of REAL ID documents

While driving with an instruction permit, you can practice driving a motorcycle before taking the driving test. While you have a permit, however, you cannot drive at night, on the freeway, or with a passenger.

After you complete all of the requirements listed above, the DMV will issue a temporary motorcycle driver’s license until a new license arrives in the mail. A temporary license will be valid for 60 days. 

People over 21 years of age will not need an instruction permit before they can apply for a motorcycle license. To get a license, you either pass a motorcycle driving test at a DMV office or complete the California Highway Patrol (CHP) approved California Motorcyclist Safety Program training course.

You will apply for a license by doing all of the following:

  • Completing a Driver’s License or Identification Card Application
  • Visiting a DMV office and:
    • Providing your social security number
    • Verifying your identity with an acceptable identity document
    • Presenting your California driver’s license or ID card
    • Presenting acceptable residency documents 
    • Paying the nonrefundable application fee
    • Passing a vision exam
    • Having your fingerprint scanned.
    • Having your photo taken.
    • Passing the knowledge test(s) (you will be allowed three attempts to pass the knowledge test(s), and failing the same test three times will lead to your application no longer being valid and you needing to reapply)
    • Providing a Certificate of Completion of Motorcycle Training (DL 389) or taking the motorcycle driving test.
    • When you are applying for a motorcycle license and do not have any other driver’s license, performing an observation test
    • REAL IDs will require a social security number (SSN), proof of identity, and two acceptable proofs of residency from the list of REAL ID documents

To take your motorcycle driving test, you will need to schedule a motorcycle driving test appointment because driving tests are not given without an appointment. You also have to provide proof of financial responsibility that meets or exceeds California Insurance Requirements.

A motorcycle driving test will include a pre-trip inspection, riding in different track paths, slow riding, and gear shifting. Your application fee will allow you three attempts to pass the test, and failing will mean that you have to schedule a new driving test on another day and pay a $7 retest fee. Failing the driving test three times means your application is no longer valid, and you have to reapply.

Types of Motorcycles

California recognizes many different kinds of motorcycles and motorbikes. They include:

  • Motorcycle — A motorcycle is defined as a motor vehicle with a seat or saddle and designed to travel on three wheels or less. It requires a Class M1 license.
  • Motor-driven cycle — A motor-driven cycle is defined as a motorcycle with 149 cc or less motor size that does not include a motorized bicycle. It requires a Class M1 license.
  • Motorized bicycle or moped — These are two- or three-wheeled devices capable of no more than 30 miles per hour (mph) and equipped with fully operative pedals or having no pedals if powered solely by electrical energy, a motor producing no more than four gross brake horsepower, and an automatic transmission. It requires any class of license.
  • Electric bicycle — Defined as a bicycle equipped with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of fewer than 750 watts, that has three classes: Class 1 and 2 are capable of speeds of no more than 20 mph, while Class 3 is capable of speeds of no more than 28 mph. A license is not required.
  • Motorized scooter — A motorized scooter is defined as any two-wheeled device with an electric motor, handlebars, a floorboard for standing on when riding, with the option of having a driver seat that cannot interfere with the operator’s ability to stand and ride and/or the ability to be powered by human propulsion. It requires any class of license.

Contact an Anaheim Lemon Law Attorney

If you have a motorcycle license, but your motorcycle turns out to be a lemon, do not be afraid to seek legal help. Valerie G. Campbell has helped scores of people all over California get lemons replaced, and she can assist you as soon as you call (657) 529-5239 or contact us online today.

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