May 11th, 2020| You’ve made up your mind: you want a motorcycle. California’s scenic roads and highways are calling your name! Once you purchase or borrow a motorcycle and (hopefully) a helmet, all that’s left to do is to start up your bike and take off… right? Not so fast, rider. Before you get on that chopper, you’ll first need to get a special license to legally ride a motorcycle in our state. An M1 or M2 license is a requirement for motorcyclists in California. If you want to ride a motorcycle and are interested in learning which license is best for you, we have you covered.
What Is an M1 License in California?When you have an M1 license in California, you can legally operate any two or three wheel device equipped with a motor and no pedals, such as motorcycles and sit-down scooters, as well as any motorized vehicle in Class M2, which includes mopeds and motorized bicycles.
What Is an M2 License in California?When you have an M2 license in California, you can legally operate motorized bicycles, mopeds, and any bicycle with an attached motor, as long as they go no faster than 30 MPH on level ground and are equipped with fully operational pedals. You cannot legally drive a motorcycle or any two or three-wheel device without operational pedals with an M2 license.
Which License Do You Need to Operate a Motorized Scooter in California?If you want to legally operate a motorized scooter, you only need a standard driver license and not an M1 or M2 license. California defines a motorized scooter as a “two-wheeled ‘device’ powered by a motor with a floorboard that is designed to stand on when riding.” Sit-down scooters do not fall into this category.
Should You Apply for an M1 or an M2 License?An M1 license will cover many bases, so most applicants will likely be best served by applying for it. If you have a very specific need to ride a motorized bicycle, then an M2 license might be enough. As of January 1, 2020, California no longer requires an M2 license for mopeds.
How to Get an M1 LicenseIf you’re over 18, you’ll take a vision, knowledge, and driving test. However, if you complete a motorcycle basic rider course, you can have the driving test requirement waived. If you’re under 18, you’ll be required to pass vision and knowledge tests. You’ll also need to complete a motorcycle basic rider course approved by the California Highway Patrol. Lastly, you’ll be asked to provide a Certificate of Completion of Motorcycle Training. The steps provided by the State of California Department of Motor Vehicles are as follows:
- Complete a driver license or ID card application.
- Pay the application fee.
- Pass a vision test and a knowledge test.
- Give a thumb print.
- Have your picture taken.
What If You Don’t Already Have a Standard Driver License?If you don’t already have a California driver license, you’ll be required to take a few extra steps in addition to the ones listed above. You’ll be asked to present an acceptable identity document or an acceptable residency document if you’ve never had a driver license or ID card in California. Just like you would with any other driver license, you’ll also provide your Social Security number and your full legal name.
What Else Do You Need to Legally Operate Motorcycle in California?In addition to obtaining an M1 license, you’ll need to buy insurance. Like all motorists, motorcycle operators are legally required to carry liability insurance in the event of a crash. Your policy will be need to specific to your motorcycle, as your existing auto insurance policy for other vehicles won’t automatically include coverage for your motorcycle. California motorcycle insurance requirements are known as 15/30/5 coverage. This means you’ll need $15,000 worth of coverage for injuries suffered by another person, $30,000 of coverage for injuries to others involved in the accident, and $5,000 of coverage for property damage caused by a collision. Read more about riding a motorcycle in California by checking out the following resources:
- What to Do Before, During, and After Riding a Motorcycle
- What Is California’s Lane-Splitting Law in 2021?
- The Leading Causes of Motorcycle Crashes in California