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California Motorcycle License Requirements

September 21, 2022 Motorcycle Accident Blog

Riding a motorcycle takes practice and special skills. As a result, riders must have a valid Class M license to legally operate a motorcycle in California. 

Types of Motorcycle Licenses in California

There are two motorcycle license options in California: 

  • Class M1: This license allows riders to operate any two-wheeled motorcycle and all vehicles listed in the Class M2 designation.
  • Class M2: This license allows riders to operate motorized bicycles, bicycles with attached motors, and mopeds. 

To operate a traditional motorcycle, you will have to pursue a Class M1 license. 

How to Obtain a Motorcycle License in California

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To get a Class M1 license in California, you do not have to have a driver’s license. 

Under 21

Applicants under the age of 21 and at least 15 and a half must take a 15-hour, CHP-approved instruction class or pass the driving test and hold a valid permit for at least six months. In addition, they must apply for a driver’s license or identification card and provide their name and Social Security number, pay an application fee, then pass a vision exam and knowledge test. Applicants have three chances to pass the test before they must begin the process over again. 

Over 21

Those wishing to apply for a motorcycle license over the age of 21 must first complete a CHP-approved training course or pass a driving test at a Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) site. They will also have to complete an identification card or driver’s license application, provide their name, Social Security number, acceptable identity documents, residency confirmation, or a state-issued ID, and pay the application fee. The DMV will scan fingerprints and take a photo, and the applicant must also pass a vision exam and knowledge test. Anyone who does not have a certificate of completion for a motorcycle training course must take a driving test. 

All motorcyclists must also provide proof of financial responsibility. In other words, purchase insurance that meets or exceeds California’s minimum liability requirements. 

California Motorcycle License FAQs

How long does it take to get a motorcycle license in California?

It depends on your age and the method you choose to obtain your Class M1 license. For example, under 21 and beginner rider courses consist of 5 hours in a classroom and 10 hours of on-cycle instruction over two or three days. Then you will have to wait six months before you can receive your license at the DMV. If over 21, once you visit the DMV and pass the written and skills tests, it may only take a few hours. However, riders over the age of 21 can obtain their license in a few hours if they already know how to ride and can pass the DMV driving test, or they can take a beginner or one-day intermediate riding class. 

How old do I have to be to get a motorcycle license in California? 

The minimum age requirement to get a motorcycle license in California is 16. However, you can obtain an instruction permit at 15 and a half years old. 

How do I find an approved motorcycle course? 

A list of locations offering CHP-approved courses can be found on

How much does a beginner’s rider course cost?

Motorcycle courses typically range from $295 to $350 or more. 

I just want to ride a moped. Do I need a motorcycle license?

If your vehicle qualifies as a moped under California law, you will have to obtain a Class M1 or M2 motorcycle license. 

Speak to a San Diego motorcycle accident attorney today to learn more.