Ready to hit the open road on a motorcycle? California has more registered motorcycles than any other state and it’s no surprise given its beautiful weather and hundreds of miles of gorgeous coastlines and mountain roads. Getting a California motorcycle license requires just a few steps, including passing a written and driving test, and it can be a little confusing knowing where to start. Here’s an easy guide to getting a California motorcycle license endorsement so you can start shopping for a bike and exploring the back roads.
California Motorcycle License Requirements
Want to know how to get your California motorcycle license? The process is very simple and similar to getting a driver’s license: you’ll need to submit an application, pay a fee, and pass both a written and driving test. There are unique requirements for a California motorcycle license, however:
- Completed California Highway Patrol-approved California Motorcycle Safety Program training course OR pass a California DMV motorcycle driving test
- Pass a vision test
- Pass a written knowledge test
- Present acceptable proof of identity and California residency
- If under 21, you must have had a motorcycle learner’s permit for at least 6 months
How to Get a Motorcycle License in California
Ready to find out how to obtain a California motorcycle license? The process is a bit time-consuming as you must get a learner’s permit first and complete either a driving test through the DMV or, preferably, a safety course approved by the California Highway Patrol. Here are the steps you need to follow once you meet the requirements for a California motorcycle license.
Get Your California Motorcycle Learner’s Permit
No matter your age, California requires that you get a learner’s permit first before you can complete the California motorcycle license process for a full license. Applying for a learner’s permit is similar to getting a regular motorcycle license in California.
If you are 15-1/2 to 21 years old, you must first complete the CHP-approved California Motorcyclist Safety Program and receive a certificate of completion to get your permit. You can then submit an application for a learner’s permit. If you don’t have a California driver’s license or ID already, you will need to bring proof of residency and a certified copy of your birth certificate or U.S. passport.
Getting a learner’s permit also requires passing a knowledge test. You must get at least 21/25 questions correct but you have three chances to take the test before you must apply again and pay a new $37 application fee.
If you are under 21, you must have your learner’s permit for at least 6 months before you can apply for a motorcycle license. If you’re over 21, you can apply for a California motorcycle license as soon as you’re comfortable with your skills.
Complete the California Motorcycle License Application
Once you’re ready, you can begin the California motorcycle license process by visiting a California DMV location and submitting a motorcycle license application.
At your local DMV office, you will complete a Driver License or Identification Card Application which can be done online.
Along with the application, you will need to provide a form of acceptable ID such as a driver’s license or U.S. passport and proof of residency if you don’t have a California driver’s license or ID.
You’ll need to pay a nonrefundable application fee of $37 and pass a vision test.
Pass the California Motorcycle License Written Test
The next step of getting a California motorcycle license is passing a written knowledge test. You have three tries to take the test before you need to submit a new application and pay the fee again.
There are 25 questions and you need to get 21 (80%) correct to pass. Ahead of your test, you can study the California Motorcycle Handbook. You can also take a sample California motorcycle license test online before you take the official exam. The practice test is available through the California DMV.
Pass the California Motorcycle License Driving Test
The driving test to get a California motorcycle license is one of the most nerve-wracking aspects of the process of getting your license. You have two options for taking the test:
- Provide a Certificate of Completion of Motorcycle Training (DL 389)
- Take the driving test through the California DMV
To take the test through the DMV, you will need to schedule the test in advance. They are only done by appointment. To make an appointment, call 1-800-777-0133 during normal business hours or visit the DMV appointment portal. When you take the California DMV motorcycle driving test, you will also need to show proof of financial responsibility.
This test will include a pre-trip inspection of your motorcycle and tests of your slow riding skills, gear shifting, and riding on different track paths.
If you choose to go through the CHP, you will need to take the Motorcyclist Training Course (MTC), a 15-hour course with 5 hours of class instruction and 10 hours of riding time. This course is mandatory to get a California motorcycle license if you’re under 21 but it also gives you a waiver to skip the skills test at the DMV. You may also qualify for an insurance discount once you earn your certificate.
You can also upgrade the MTC with the Premier Program, an optional program that adds an additional 7.5 hours of training.
You can visit the CHP California Motorcyclist Safety Program website to find a nearby training location. The cost of the course is up to $350 for riders over 21 and $295 for riders under 21.
California Motorcycle License FAQ
How old do you have to be to get a motorcycle license in California?
You need to be at least 16 to get a California motorcycle license. You need to be at least 15-1/2 to get a learner’s permit and hold it for at least 6 months before applying for a license.
How much is it to get a motorcycle license in California?
The application fee for a California motorcycle license endorsement is $37 and nonrefundable. If you take the optional safety course approved by the CHP, the cost is $295 to $350.
What is the difference between a California motorcycle license M1 vs M2?
There are two classes of motorcycle licenses in California: an M1 license is for any two-wheeled motorcycle; an M2 license is only for motorized scooters, mopeds, and bikes with an attached motor.
Getting a motorcycle license in California requires getting your learner’s permit, passing a CHP-approved motorcycle safety course or taking the DMV driving test, and passing a written exam. Once you’re done, you’ll be the proud owner of a California motorcycle license endorsement so you can start exploring the countryside on two wheels!
Once you’ve got your license and you’re ready to start exploring more of the country, Federal Transport has you covered with professional motorcycle shipping services that make it easy to attend rallies and plan fun routes across the United States!