The oceanfront views and sprawling landscapes make California an ideal place for motorcycle riders. In fact, the Golden State is often regarded as one of the best states in the US for riding a motorcycle. Cruising through the state lets you pass by beautiful routes and breeze past awe-inspiring hillsides. It’s not surprising that the state has approximately 800,000 registered motorcycles.

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How do you get a motorcycle license in California?

If you want to enjoy California’s long-winding roads, you have to obtain a motorcycle license. Luckily, the process is relatively straightforward. As long as you have the basic requirements and pass the necessary tests, then you can become a legal motorcycle driver in the state.

Read on to learn the steps to take to get a motorcycle license California.

Steps to getting a Motorcycle License in California

The steps to getting a motorcycle license in California are different depending on these two variables:

  • Age of the driver.
  • If the driver has an existing California driver license or not.

Age 16

Drivers who are age 16 or older can apply if they meet the following conditions:

  • Have had learner’s permit for the preceding six consecutive months (which requires completion of 36 hours of driver training).
  • Have completed a driver education (driver training) course successfully.
  • Can provide a certificate of completion from an approved motorcycle safety course.

Age 18

Drivers who are age 18 or older can apply if they meet the following conditions:

  • Can present acceptable confirmation of identity (completion of driver license or REAL ID, social security number, proof of residency).
  • Are able to pass a vision and knowledge test.
  • Are willing to give a thumb print and have their photo taken.
  • Can provide a certification of completion from an approved motorcycle safety course.
  • Complete driver license/identification card application.

Age 21

Drivers who are age 21 or older can apply if they meet the following conditions:

  • Adhere to all of the above.
  • Either provide certification of completion from an approved motorcycle safety course OR take the motorcycle driving test at the DMV.

Complete Your Motorcycle Training

If you are under 18, it’s imperative that you complete a driver’s education, a driver’s training course, and ownership of a permit for at least six months before you can get a proper license. Driver’s education involves learning how to ride a motorcycle inside a classroom setting, allowing the future motorist the chance to learn all the rules both visually and verbally. After that, the driver’s training will move on to behind-the-wheel experience, the final step to completing the mandatory driver’s education.

As per California’s Department of Education, novice drivers must complete 30 hours (2.5 semesters worth) of driver’s education, followed by an additional six hours of driver’s training. Those who seek M1 licensure (a license to operate any kind of two-wheeled motorcycle or motorized scooter that has an attached motor) would need extra schooling. They would need to undergo a 15-hour motorcycle-rider training course offered by California’s Highway Patrol. The first five hours is set in a classroom, while the rest is spent on practicing what was learned in class. 

Motorcyclists under 21 must complete this course as mandated by law, but those 21 and over aren’t required to do so. Motorists of-age can opt to take the MTC or head straight to the DMV to take a written exam.

When can you get your motorcycle license in California?

In the state of California, drivers are eligible to apply for a motorcycle license starting at age 16.

Are there different types of motorcycle licenses in California?

There are three different types of motorcycle licenses in the state of California: M1, M2 and Class C.

Different classes of motorcycle licenses qualify the holder to operate different types of motorcycles.

M1 motorcycle license.

An M1 motorcycle license qualifies the holder to operate the following types of vehicles:

  • Any two-wheel motorcycle.
  • Motorized bicycle.
  • Moped.
  • Bicycle with an attached motor.
  • Motorized scooter.

M2 motorcycle license.

An M2 motorcycle license qualifies the holder to operate the following types of vehicles:

  • Motorized bicycle.
  • Moped.
  • Bicycle with an attached motor.
  • Motorized scooter.

Class C (commercial) motorcycle license.

A Class C motorcycle license qualifies the holder to operate the following types of vehicles:

  • Sidecar motorcycle.
  • Three-wheel motorcycle.
  • Motorized scooter.
  • Any vehicle in the M1 or M2 categories.

How much is a motorcycle license in California?

The application fee to obtain a motorcycle license in California depends on the class (type) of motorcycle license desired.

A class M1 or M2 motorcycle license currently costs $37 for a new or renewal license.

A class C (commercial) motorcycle license currently costs $48 for a new or renewal license.

But the application fee for the motorcycle license itself frequently isn’t the only cost associated with obtaining a motorcycle license in California.

Drivers age 20 or younger must also complete additional safety and training requirements. Typically, the cost to take this 15-hour training course is around $350.00 ($295 for ages 20 and younger).

Can I ride a motorcycle with a car license?

Even if the applicant already has a driver license (car license) issued for the state of California, it is still necessary to apply for a motorcycle license in the appropriate class (M1, M2, Class C) to drive a motorcycle in California.

Can I get a motorcycle license without a car license?

It is currently possible to get a motorcycle license without first obtaining a driver license (car license) in the state of California.

For applicants who do not have a current California driver license, it will be necessary to provide another valid form of identification for confirmation of identity and residency.

Is lane splitting legal in California?

Lane splitting is a term that refers to the practice of lane sharing with another vehicle. For example, a motorcycle may split or share a lane with another motorcycle or another type of vehicle. A motorcycle may also move in between lanes of traffic.

Lane splitting is not legal in all states. However, it is technically legal in the state of California.

In fact, California has chosen not to issue a formal set of guidelines in regards to lane splitting. So the status of this practice is neither allowed nor prohibited at this time.

How long does it take to get a motorcycle license?

The amount of time it takes to get a motorcycle license California depends on how much preparation the applicant still needs to do.

While the actual application process to obtain a motorcycle license can typically be completed within one business day, the preparatory process can take months.

For example, any applicant who is age 20 or younger must complete an approved motorcycle safety training course before getting a motorcycle license.

The California Motorcyclist Training program is a 15-hour course that includes five hours in the classroom and 10 hours of on-the-bike training.

Candidates who are age 16 must have held a learner’s permit for six months before applying. Obtaining a learner’s permit requires completing 30 hours (or two 1/2 semesters) of driver education and six hours of behind-the-wheel training.

The state of California is one of the strictest states in the nation when it comes to setting and enforcing traffic laws and traffic safety rules and regulations.

Getting a motorcycle license can be an extended and involved process, especially for drivers who are 20 or younger and must take additional safety and training coursework.

Final Remarks

So there you have it. Applying for a motorcycle license in California is pretty much fuss-free and straightforward. If you’re a beginner and wish to learn more about riding motorcycles, browse through our site for learning resources.