There are many people these days that own a motorcycle, enjoying the great sunny days when they can let their hair blow in the wind—free from the confines of a car. Well, much like a car, you will have to follow the right procedures in order to get your motorcycle in operation legally within the streets of California, with off-road vehicles the exception. If you have a small off-road vehicle, there are different steps to take in order to operate within California, with motorcycles on the road following a similar process to that of a car.
Applying for Your California Motorcycle License
A California motorcycle license is required for those operating a motorcycle on the roadways of California. Much like getting a standard Class E license to drive a private-use vehicle in California, you will require the use of a learner’s permit before you are able to apply for your motorcycle license. To apply for your motorcycle permit, you will follow these steps:
- Complete DMV DL 44 application form. This form must be an original print provided by the DMV and is not available online. To obtain, you may call 1-800-777-0133 to have the form mailed to your residence. If you rather wait until you are ready to apply in person at the DMV, you can make an appointment by calling the same number or visiting Appointment System
- Complete the mandatory Motorcycle Safety Course if required. Bring the certification of successful completion with you to apply for your permit. You will do the same for your motorcycle license when you have become eligible.
- Pass the motorcycle vision test completed at the DMV during application process.
- The DMV will then obtain a thumbprint for identification purposes.
- Pass all mandatory riding and motorcycle safety exams.
- Pass California traffic motorcycle laws test.
- Pay $28 motorcycle licensing fee.
- Receive your permit valid for 1 year.
With your permit, you are given the ability to practice driving the motorcycle on the roads, which will strengthen your skill to an acceptable level for obtaining your motorcycle license. With the permit, you do have restrictions for operation of the motorcycle:
- Restricted use during night hours.
- Restricted use with passengers.
- Restricted use on California freeway.
In order to obtain your motorcycle permit in the state of California, you must be at least 15 ½ years old. To advance to your motorcycle license, this permit must be held for a minimum of 6 months, and you must be at least 16 years old.
You have the option of an M1 or M2 motorcycle license. The M1 allows operation of any motorcycle or motorized scooter, with the M2 restricting your use to the following vehicles:
- Bicycle with pedals and motorized engine
- Bicycle with pedals and an attached motorized engine
- Motorized scooter
Getting your motorcycle license follows the same steps as your permit, with the same motorcycle safety course requirement as well.
California Motorcycle Safety Course
In the state of California, all motorcycle drivers under the age of 21 are required to successfully complete the California motorcycle safety course, provided by state agencies. In order to find a course near you, you can visit California Motorcyclist Safety Program. You will be given a directory of county courses to choose from. Even if you are over the age of 21, you may choose to complete these courses still in order to lower your California motorcycle insurance rates.
California Motorcycle Handbook
Motorcyclists in the state of California have the option to download or order by mail the California Motorcycle Handbook, which details many important elements of driving a motorcycle or similar vehicle on California’s streets and roadways.
- Importance of wearing safety gear while driving a motorcycle.
- Basic safety and use of motorcycles.
- Mechanical problems you may encounter while driving motorcycles.
The handbook can be obtained by mail (1-800-777-0133) or downloaded with Adobe Acrobat Reader online from California Motorcycle Handbook Table of Contents. This can be an essential resource for understanding your responsibilities and need as a motorcyclist today.
Registration of Your California Motorcycle
Much like licensing, the registration of your motorcycle is going to be very similar to that of a car. You have only 10 days from the date of purchase to register your motorcycle after purchase, at which time title transfer and registration processes must be completed by you and not the seller. The seller will provide all signatures needed, however, you will be required to report to the local California DMV to complete the processes.
- In order to register your motorcycle in the state of California, it is essential that you have the title and insurance ready, but no smog certificate will be required as in car registration. In order to transfer the title to your name after purchase as well as obtain first-time California motorcycle registration, an Application for Title and Registration form must be completed and taken to the local DMV. To obtain the application, you can visit Application for Title and Registration form to download or simply 1-800-777-0133 for an application by mail. You will need to bring the application in person as the process is not available online, but you will have the opportunity to set an Appointment Online or by calling the same toll free number you called to get the application. The appointment will save you time when you are ready to complete the title transfer and first-time registration of the motorcycle, as without an appointment, wait time can be hours.
- The California motorcycle title transfer fee is $15, but registration will be determined by the DMV based on the motorcycle or exact type vehicle that you are registering. For a quote online, visit Vehicle Registration Fee Calculator to get an idea of the costs to expect during registration of your motorcycle. If you don’t operate the motorcycle but still maintain its registration, you will pay a $17 nonoperational annual fee to the California DMV.
For more facts about your motorcycle and how to operate it within legal standards of California, you can view the California DMV’s quick facts at Reporting Vehicle Status Registered vs Non operational FFVR 01