Are you ready to finally hit the open road on two wheels and see the country from a completely different perspective? Getting a motorcycle license in Illinois isn’t very complicated, but it does take time, especially if you’re an inexperienced rider. Here’s everything you need to know about the Illinois motorcycle license process including requirements and how to get an Illinois motorcycle permit first.
Illinois Motorcycle License Requirements
Ready to get your Illinois Class M license? Review the requirements below so you’re prepared.
- Be at least 18 years old (16 to 17 for a motorcycle permit)
- Get an Illinois motorcycle permit (requirement waived if you have a valid IL driver’s license and take an IDOT basic rider course)
- Have a valid Illinois driver’s license or ID
- Pass a vision screening
- Pay permit and license fees
- Pass the written Illinois Rules of the Road exam*
- Pass the Illinois motorcycle driving test*
- Complete a free IDOT motorcycle safety course*
- Provide acceptable identification documents (SOS acceptable identification documents)
*The written exam and IL motorcycle driving test are only mandatory for applicants who are 16 or 17 and applicants 18 and older who do not complete the basic driver course.
How to Get a Motorcycle License in Illinois
There are only a few steps for getting an Illinois motorcycle test. The steps you need to take depend on whether you take a third-party or IDOT motorcycle safety course, have an Illinois driver’s license, and are over 18.
Note that there are two types of Illinois motorcycle licenses:
- Class L license in Illinois allows you to operate a motorcycle, scooter, or moped with less than 150cc displacement
- Class M license in Illinois allows you to operate any motorcycle, scooter, or moped
The vast majority of riders opt for the Class M license.
#1. Obtain an Illinois Motorcycle Permit
The first step to getting an Illinois motorcycle license is getting an IL motorcycle permit. This allows you to operate a motorcycle with some restrictions including riding only during daylight hours and under the direct supervision of a licensed motorcycle operator who is at least 21 years old with at least one year of riding experience.
To get your permit, you must:
- Make an SOS motorcycle test appointment at an SOS Driver’s Services Facility
- Pass a written SOS motorcycle test
- Pay the $10 fee for a Class L or Class M Instruction Permit
The written Illinois motorcycle permit test has 15 questions and you must get 12 (80%) correct to pass. Study the Illinois Motorcycle Operator Manual which also includes sample questions. You can also try this free Illinois motorcycle permit practice test.
Your motorcycle permit in Illinois is valid for 24 months. It allows you to register for a motorcycle safety course. While the SOS basic rider courses only require a driver’s license, courses offered by motorcycle schools will require a motorcycle permit.
Note restrictions for minors: 16- and 17-year-olds are restricted to motorcycles under 150cc with their permit. The permit is only valid for 24 months if the minor has completed an approved driver education course and an IDOT Motorcycle Rider Education Course. Minors must hold their Illinois motorcycle permit for at least 9 months before they are eligible for a license. Enrollment in a basic rider course is required unless the minor is at least 17 years and 3 months. In this case, the minor can receive a motorcycle permit without the basic rider course.
#2. Complete a Free Illinois Motorcycle Safety Course (Optional if 18+)
Completing a basic rider course in Illinois waives the requirement to pass the written exam and driving test for applicants over 18 and it’s required for applicants who are 16 or 17. The BRC completion card may also earn you a discount on your motorcycle insurance.
There are three free BasicRider courses (BRC, BRC2, or 3wBRC) that offer a license waiver for the written and road tests.
All Cycle Rider Safety Training Program courses are free. However, there may be a refundable $20 fee charged by the regional center which is refunded when you complete the course. This free IDOT motorcycle safety course can only be taken at a regional center.
There are currently only two regional centers providing free motorcycle classes in Illinois:
- Region B – Illinois Central College (Cycle Rider Safety Training Program) in Peoria, IL
- Region C – Southern Illinois University (Cycle Rider Safety Training Program) in Carbondale, IL
Harper College formerly provided the motorcycle safety classes for the Northern Illinois region at eleven campuses but discontinued classes in June, 2022. IDOT is still securing a new training center for the region.
To be eligible to register for the free Basic Rider Course, you must have a valid driver’s license or motorcycle permit. Students under 18 must have their waiver form signed by a parent or guardian who must be present when the student checks in for the first class.
Students are required to bring safety equipment to their training classes:
- Long pants
- Long-sleeved shirt or jacket
- Over-the-ankle footwear, preferably boots
- Full-fingered gloves
- Eye protection
A training motorcycle is provided.
You may choose to complete a basic rider’s course outside of the free regional center programs at a motorcycle school with an approved course. However, you will be responsible for the cost of the course.
Many Harley-Davidson dealerships in Illinois offer a H-D Riding Academy with a New Rider Course that qualifies for a BRC2 completion card and license waiver. The course is $350 and provides additional training specific to Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Other major motorcycle schools in Illinois include Ride Chicago ($349 basic motorcycle licensing class and optional on-site licensing) and Motorcycle Safety Foundation.
#3. Receive Your Secretary of State Motorcycle Endorsement
After completing an approved basic rider course, your SOS completion card will be sent in the mail. This completion card is valid for one year. You must visit a Secretary of State (SOS) Driver’s Services Facility with your completion card to add the Class M endorsement to your license.
There is a $10 fee for adding a Class L or Class M endorsement to your driver’s license or for your first-time Illinois motorcycle license.
#4. Pass the Illinois Motorcycle Rules of the Road Written Test (Minors or Without Basic Rider Course)
If you choose not to take the basic rider course, you will need to pass the Illinois Rules of the Road written test. You can use the IL Rules of the Road Handbook to study and review sample questions. The Rules of the Road Review Course Workbook is also helpful for preparing with 62 sample questions.
The written exam has 35 questions, 20 true-or-false and multiple choice and 15 related to traffic sign identification. You must get 28 questions (80%) or more correct to pass.
#5. Pass the Illinois Motorcycle Driving Test (Minors or Without Basic Rider Course)
The other requirement for minors or adults who do not take a basic rider course is the drive test or the SOS Rider Skill Test. This test is designed to assess your ability to control a motorcycle on a paved, off-road course with four exercises. If the test is completed with a three-wheeled motorcycle, a J-11 restriction will be added to your license.
The two-wheeled motorcycle skill test requires performing four maneuvers:
- Cone weave with a normal stop
- Turn from a stop and U-turn
- Quick stop
- Obstacle swerve
Points are assessed if the engine stalls and based on your ability to perform these maneuvers. Four engine stalls, 11 points, dropping the bike, or unsafe behavior result in failure.
You must provide a motorcycle for the Illinois motorcycle driving test that meets minimum road safety requirements. You can see a description of the maneuvers and an Illinois motorcycle road test diagram in the IL Motorcycle Operator Manual.
How to Transfer a Motorcycle License to Illinois
Moving to Illinois? You can transfer an out of state license to Illinois by visiting a Secretary of State facility with the acceptable identification documents and your out-of-state license to surrender. Note that you are required to obtain an Illinois license within 90 days of moving to the state or before your current license expires.
Because Illinois does have motorcycle-only licenses, you can transfer an out-of-state motorcycle only license. Otherwise, an M endorsement can be transferred when you get your new Illinois driver’s license.
The fee for an Illinois driver’s license is based on age and ranges from $5 for 18- to 20-year-olds and 69- to 80-year olds to $30 for 21- to 68-year-olds plus a $10 fee to add a Class M motorcycle endorsement.
You may need to pass a vision, written, and/or drive test to transfer your license. This is usually required if your out-of-state license is expired.
IL Motorcycle License FAQs
Do you need a license to drive a motorcycle in Illinois?
Yes, you need a motorcycle license or Class M endorsement on your driver’s license to operate a motorcycle in Illinois. The only exception is learners who can operate a motorcycle with restrictions with a valid motorcycle permit.
How long is a motorcycle permit in Illinois valid?
An Illinois motorcycle permit is valid for two years.
Can you drive a motorcycle with a permit in Illinois?
Yes, you can operate a motorcycle with a permit but there are restrictions. You cannot operate a motorcycle before sunrise or after sunset and must be accompanied by a licensed motorcyclist 21 or older with at least a year of experience.
How old do you have to be to get a motorcycle license in Illinois?
You must be at least 16 to get a motorcycle permit and license in Illinois. However, minors are restricted to 150cc or less with restrictions on their learner’s permit and motorcycle license. You must be 18 for a full Class M motorcycle endorsement without restrictions.
How much is an Illinois motorcycle license?
There is a $30 basic driver’s license fee in Illinois plus a $10 fee to add a Class L or Class M motorcycle endorsement. You may need to pay a $10 fee for the Illinois motorcycle permit.
Now that you’re on the way to getting your Illinois motorcycle license, you’re almost ready to buy a bike and hit the open road. When you’re ready for buying a motorcycle or embarking on your first long ride, Federal Motorcycle Transport has you covered with dependable Illinois motorcycle shipping services that make it easier and more convenient to get your bike home or to your next destination.