Motorcycle Laws in California

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This page will answer the most common questions we receive about motorcycle laws and licensing requirements in  California.

Continue reading to find your answer and follow links to explore some of these topics in greater depth. 

Motorcycle Helmet Law in California

Motorcycle helmets are required for all riders in California.

Additional eye protection like a face shield or goggles is not required, but is a smart piece of equipment to also wear.

A motorcycle helmet is one of the most important pieces of safety equipment. Wearing one can greatly reduce your chances of being seriously injured or killed if you are involved in a motorcycle crash

Read more about motorcycle helmet laws and safety.

California Motorcycle Noise Restrictions & Exhaust Requirements

A proper muffler is required. 

Noise limits for motorcycles are:

  • No more than 92 decibels for motorcycles manufactured before 1970.
  • No more than 88 decibels for motorcycles manufactured before 1973.
  • No more than 86 decibels for motorcycles manufactured before 1975.
  • No more than 83 decibels for motorcycles manufactured before 1986.
  • No more than 80 decibels for motorcycles manufactured after 1980.

Motorcycles manufactured after 2013 must also include a federal EPA noise emission label on the exhaust. 

Noise restrictions may be enforced by local law enforcement or during periodic inspections. 

Local jurisdictions may have their own ordinances regarding motorcycle noise limits.

Motorcycle Safety Inspections and Equipment Requirements

Period safety and equipment inspections for motorcycles in California are performed at random.

Some of the equipment requirements for California motorcycles include:

  • Rearview mirror.
  • Handlebars no more than 6” above the rider’s shoulders.
  • Turn signals.

Motorcycle Passenger Laws in California

There are no passenger restrictions for motorcycles in California.

Whenever you ride with a passenger:

  • Be sure to give them instructions on what they’ll need to do. 
  • Make sure they can comfortably reach the passenger handholds and footrests. 
  • Make sure that they are wearing all of the necessary motorcycle safety equipment.

Learn more about riding with passengers on your motorcycle.

Requirements for Daytime Running Lights for Motorcycles in California

Using daytime headlights is required for motorcycles in California.

Using headlights during the day can help to increase your visibility to other drivers. 

This is a smart thing to do regardless of whether the law requires it. 

California Lane Splitting Laws

Lane splitting is legal in California.

There are some nuances to lane splitting, lane filtering, and lane sharing. 

Learn more about lane splitting.

Motorcycle Title Laws & VIN Verifications

The state of California issues titles to all motorcycles.

VIN verifications are required to register out-of-state motorcycles.

If you buy a motorcycle without a title or are moving from a state that doesn’t issue titles, the registration documents and the Bill of Sale should serve as proof of ownership.

Learn more about motorcycle registration and title requirements in California.

Find some helpful tips for when you buy a motorcycle.

Minimum Motorcycle Insurance Coverage in California

Motorcycle insurance is required in California, the minimum coverage limits are:

  • $15,000 bodily injury coverage per person.
  • $30,000 bodily injury coverage per accident.
  • $5,000 property damage coverage per accident. 

Remember, the minimum liability requirements kick in during the event of a collision with another vehicle. If you need more coverage for things like theft, single vehicle collisions, and other types of damage you’ll need to get a policy with comprehensive and collision coverage as well. 

Compare quotes for free, and find a cheaper motorcycle insurance policy

Motorcycle Safety Course Requirements & Details

An approved motorcycle safety course is required for riders under 21 years old to get a motorcycle license in California.

Completing the course will waive the requirements for the motorcycle skills test.

A motorcycle safety course is a great way to get familiar with the basics of riding, learn about the most important motorcycle laws, and become a safer, smarter rider. No riding experience is necessary to complete a course.  

Learn more about motorcycle safety courses and Basic Rider Training programs.

Is a Driver’s License Required to get a Motorcycle Endorsement in California?

Before you get a California motorcycle license, you will not need to already have a standard driver’s license. 

Motorcycle Permit & Licensing Requirements in California

A motorcycle instruction permit is required for riders under 21 years old.

If required, you’ll need to hold the learner’s permit and practice riding for at least 6 months before getting an unrestricted motorcycle license. 

In order to get the permit, you’ll need to pass a written test.

In California, motorcycle permit restrictions include:

  • No passengers.
  • Daytime riding only.
  • No freeway riding.

The permit is valid for up to 1 year, and can be renewed as many times as needed.

Learn how to get a motorcycle license in California.

California Motorcycle License Age Requirements

The minimum age to begin the California motorcycle licensing process is 21 years old without training or 16 years old if you complete a motorcycle safety course.