Can You Register a Motorcycle Without a License? Find Out!

Perhaps you have your eye on a motorcycle but have not taken any steps to get a valid motorcycle license yet. Before hopping on a new bike or attempting to register one, it is crucial that you read up on the laws and regulations in your state and check all of the requirements to drive on the road legally.

In the majority of states, operating a motorcycle without the proper license can land you with fines and even the possibility of jail time. Clearly, it is worth the time to check your local laws and take the necessary steps before taking your bike out for a spin.

Can I Register?

So, is it required to have a motorcycle license to register a motorcycle? The answer is both yes and no. Many states such as California do not need a motorcycle license in itself to register the vehicle.

However, most states do require proof of insurance before you can register. Additionally, most companies will not insure a driver to ride a motorcycle without already having a motorcycle license. There are a few exceptions, but not many.

Places like California and New York do require insurance before you can register the bike, statewide. So, in short, you may not technically need a license, but it will make the process much smoother and quicker.

Getting Licensed

There are rare concessions to the rule, but generally speaking, in most of the United States you must possess a current and valid motorcycle license to ride a motorcycle if you are registering one and plan to ride it. Most places in the U.S. also require a driver to be 18 years or older to get licensed to drive a motorcycle.

Every one of the states, as well as Washington DC, requires a motorcycle license or endorsement to drive a bike, also known as a Class M. It’s not just required by law, but also smart to go through the proper safety and knowledge courses before hopping on a bike.

As stated by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, drivers of motorcycles have a risk of a fatal crash that is 26 times above that of drivers in cars. Interestingly, around 25 percent of fatalities from motorcycle accidents involve a driver with no license or an invalid license.

Generally, the requirements for getting a motorcycle license are as follows:

Those who are under the age of 18 are required to get a motorcycle permit in most places. To obtain a valid motorcycle driver’s permit, you must be at least 15 to 16 years of age (this depends on your state), complete a driver’s education class that includes traffic laws as well as sign exams, pass the paper or written motorcycle exam, and pass the vision test.

At the licensing stage, drivers can qualify for a motorcycle license if they are at least 16 years old, complete and pass the vision screen, complete a motorcycle safety class or pass the motorcycle road test as well as the knowledge exam if it was not already completed for the motorcycle permit.

Some exceptions apply, for example, in South Dakota you can get a permit as early as 14 years old. While in New Hampshire, those over the age of 18 are not required to complete a written test.

What’s Needed to Register

In California for example, you will need a proof of ownership such as the title to the motorcycle or the name and address of the lienholder, as well as insurance. Bikes in California do not require a smog check the way vehicles do.

Furthermore, many states have specific requirements for a motorcycle’s equipment as part of the registration process. These could change the class of license you get, such as “moped only” or require you to operate the motorcycle in a certain way. Headlamps, windshields, and the height of handlebars are just some of the specific components your state might have laws about.

Engine Size

Engine size can make a difference in the licensing and registration requirements for motorcycles. Mopeds, for example, are a notable exception to the rule. In California, a Class M2 license is not a requirement for motorized bicycles and or mopeds if they cannot reach speeds above 20 miles per hour.

In some states, a license may not be required, but bikes such as mopeds may not be allowed on highways. Delaware, for example, restricts the use of mopeds on interstate highways. In Michigan, a moped needs to be registered but is not required to be insured.

The laws regarding motorbikes with small engines very massively from state to state, so be careful to check the laws where you live prior to taking a compact bike out on the roads or attempting to ride it without a license.

The same goes for non-street motorcycles such as dirt bikes, trials bikes, sport bikes, and 3 wheel motorcycles — laws change with a lot of small but crucial differences in each state. If you are registering an unusual or a different type of bike, check the legal specifications before riding or attempting to register.

Cost of Registration

The cost of registering a motorcycle again varies from state to state. Most states have relatively low-cost for title fees and registration, while others are a little steeper. Illinois, on the higher end, charges $95 for a title fee and $41 for a registration fee on motorcycles.

California has a registration fee on motorcycles of $46, plus additional charges depending on the type of bike, the license plate, and the county of residence. California fees for a motorcycle title run $18.

Every state is different, so it is imperative to check where you live. Kentucky for example, has a title fee of just $9 and a registration fee of $9, whereas Missouri has a standard title fee, but the registration is based on the horsepower of the motorcycle.

Get That License

Regardless of whether you ride a 3 wheel motorcycle, trials bike, sport bike, a premium hog, or a ride with one of those low used motorcycle values, it is far easier to register a bike when you already have a Class M license in hand.

Always check the laws in your specific state to see what is required for motorbikes on the road, the requirements for equipment on your bike, and what you need to get it registered. Then take the few essential steps to get a motorcycle license if necessary and insure your motorcycle so you can register it without a headache. It can prevent hefty fines and even jail time.