Riding without a Motorcycle License (Penalties & Consequences)

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The thrill and freedom that comes with riding a motorcycle can be hard to resist. 

If you’ve got an itch to ride, it can be tempting to hop on the first bike you see and twist the throttle. 

But, if you value your money, time, and safety, you might want to think twice before doing so. 

Driving a motorcycle without a license can carry some serious risks and consequences – some more obvious than others. 

Learn all about it below, plus get started on the path towards the motorcycle endorsement you need to ride legally. 

Do you need a motorcycle license to drive a motorcycle?

Just like you need a valid driver’s license to operate a car on public roads, you’ll also need the proper motorcycle endorsement to legally ride a motorcycle. 

And, just like the penalties you’d face for driving an automobile without a license, riding a motorcycle without a license carries the same (and more) risks. 

Riding a motorcycle is a lot different than driving a car.

  • It requires different skills.
  • You need to know what to look out for. 
  • You still need to obey the vehicle code traffic laws for your state.

The bottom line is: if you want to legally ride a motorcycle on public roads and highways, you need to have a valid motorcycle license or permit first. 

Consequences of Getting Caught Riding a Motorcycle Without a License

If you get caught riding a motorcycle without a license, you can expect to face some consequences – some of which are obvious, and others you may not have thought of. 

We’ll cover some of the main consequences of riding without a motorcycle license below including:

  1. Tickets and fines. 
  2. Losing your motorcycle.
  3. Jail time and other legal consequences.
  4. Suspended license.
  5. Accidents.
  6. Insurance issues. 

Getting caught riding without a motorcycle license is typically the result of you breaking some other motorcycle laws or general traffic laws – cops can’t smell whether someone has a valid license or not. 

Still, the risk is usually not worth it. 

1. Traffic Tickets, Fines, Driving Record Points

First, the most obvious consequence of riding without a motorcycle license and getting pulled over is going to be traffic tickets, fines, and points added to your driving record. 

Depending on where you live and the circumstances surrounding the reason why you were pulled over, fines can cost you up to $1,000 or more

Additionally, you’ll likely receive a ticket and be required to go to traffic court. 

Points will be added to your driver’s license, resulting in higher insurance costs and putting you at greater risk for having your license suspended. 

2. Having Your Motorcycle Impounded

Next, if you’re caught riding without a license, it’s likely that the officer that pulls you over will have your motorcycle towed and impounded

That can cost you too. 

Even if it’s not your motorcycle that you were riding, it can still be impounded. 

Once you comply with the consequences of the ticket, you’ll then need to make arrangements to get your motorcycle out of the impound. 

This may involve waiting to get your license, asking a friend to ride your motorcycle for you, or arranging to have it towed. 

One thing to keep in mind before you risk it – the chances of your motorcycle getting damaged as it is being impounded are generally higher than if you were towing it under normal circumstances. 

3. Jail Time & Legal Penalties

In some cases, riding a motorcycle without a license can also result in jail time

Again, this will depend on the entire circumstances surrounding your situation. 

If you are a repeat offender or are involved in another serious violation while riding without an endorsement, penalties will be harsher and jail time may be more likely. 

4. Suspended License

Just like driving a car without a license can result in your driving privileges being suspended or revoked, the same can happen if you ride a motorcycle without a motorcycle license. 

In addition, your full driving privileges may be suspended, which includes your ability to drive a car. 

If you are caught driving a motorcycle while your license is suspended, the same penalties can apply, which may include:

  • Additional or prolonged suspension period. 
  • More fines and penalties. 

5. Being Involved in an Accident

Operating a motorcycle requires a much different set of skills and knowledge than driving a car. 

According to the NHTSA, 36% of riders involved in fatal crashes in 2020 did not possess a valid motorcycle license. 

It’s not a difficult conclusion to draw that if you do not have the skills, knowledge, and experience necessary to ride a motorcycle, your likelihood of being involved in a crash is much higher. 

Going through the process of getting your motorcycle license will allow you to build the foundation of skills necessary to stay safe while riding. 

Without that foundation, your chances of doing something that causes you to lose control of the bike, crash into other vehicles, pedestrians, or stationary objects, and cause damage to yourself, others, or property are much greater. 

Learn about the most common types of motorcycle accidents and how to avoid them

6. Motorcycle Insurance

The risks associated with motorcycle insurance, or the lack of a policy, when you don’t hold a motorcycle license are something that many riders who want to forgo the endorsement don’t think about. 

In all but 1 state, you need to have a valid liability insurance policy for your motorcycle to operate on public roads. 

In order to get a policy, most motorcycle insurance providers will require you to have a motorcycle license.  Otherwise, your rates are probably going to be a whole lot higher if you are able to find a provider that will insure your bike.

So, on top of the penalties for not having a motorcycle license, you’ll also face penalties for not having insurance. 

If you are responsible for causing an accident while riding without a license and a valid policy, you’re going to be on the hook financially for damages caused. 

That means if you injure another person or damage their vehicle, the money is coming out of your pocket one way or another. 

If you can’t pay, you’ll likely be sued and your other assets and future wages will be at risk. 

Learn more about the motorcycle insurance requirements in your state, and compare quotes for free to find the best rates

Can you practice riding without a motorcycle license? 

All of this may beg the question, if you can’t ride a motorcycle without a motorcycle license, how are you supposed to learn how to ride in order to get the license in the first place? 

In other words, how would you be able to pass the motorcycle skills test if you aren’t able to ride? 

Well, in order to get your motorcycle license you’ll have to main options in most states:

  1. First pass the motorcycle knowledge test and get a motorcycle permit, and then pass the skills test.
  2. Enroll in a motorcycle safety course, which will allow you to learn how to ride and waive the DMV skills test requirement in many states. 

Both options technically allow you to practice riding a motorcycle without a motorcycle license. 

These are the only legal avenues to do so. Learn more about each option below. 

Reasons to Get Your Motorcycle Endorsement

There is really no good excuse to not get a motorcycle license if you plan to ride. 

In most states, if you’re over 18 years old, you’ll be able to get your full motorcycle endorsement in the course of a weekend and a couple of days – between completing a motorcycle safety course and passing the motorcycle knowledge test

The main reasons to get a motorcycle license include:

  • You’ll be able to ride legally without the risk or tickets, fines, and penalties
  • You’ll be more likely to have the skills and knowledge necessary to stay safe and avoid accidents. 
  • You’ll be able to get much better motorcycle insurance rates. 

Exceptions to the Motorcycle License Law

Now, all this said, there are some exceptions to legally riding on 2 or 3 wheels in every state. 

Depending on the state you live in, exceptions to riding with a motorcycle license include:

  1. Scooters, Mopeds, and Motor-Driven Cycles.
  2. Trikes, 3-Wheel Motorcycles, and Autocycles.
  3. Dirt Bikes and Off-Highway Vehicles

Laws vary from state-to-state, but depending on where you ride and what you’re riding, you may not always need a motorcycle endorsement in order to drive motorcycle-like vehicles. Find out more below. 

1. Scooters, Mopeds, Motor-Driven Cycles

The first exception depends on the size and the design of the 2-wheel vehicle you’re riding. 

In many states, a moped, motor-driven scooter, or motor-driven cycle, is defined as having:

  • An engine size of 49cc or less.
  • A top speed of no more than 30-35 mph. 
  • A clutchless, automatic transmission. 

Most states do not require a motorcycle endorsement to ride these types of vehicles on public roads. Laws and regulations regarding minimum age to ride, registration, and insurance requirements vary by state as well. 

Learn more about moped license laws in each state.

2. Trikes, 3-Wheel Motorcycles, Autocycles

The next exception depends on whether or not you add an extra wheel to your motorcycle. 

Depending on the state you live in, you may be able to ride a 3-wheeled motorcycle, trike, autocycle, or even a motorcycle with a sidecar with just a motorcycle license. 

Note that with the exception of an autocycle, 3-wheel motorcycles still require some different skills and know-how compared to driving a car. 

Whether or not your state requires a separate endorsement, you should still take the time to become comfortable riding it. 

Find out the requirements to ride a trike or autocycle in your state.  

3. Dirt Bikes and Other OHVs

Finally, dirt bikes and other off-road vehicles typically do not require you to hold a motorcycle endorsement. 

If you’ll be riding strictly off-road, you’re usually good to go. 

Be sure to check the local regulation of the off-road riding area you’ll be visiting. 

Learn more about dirt bikes and other OHVs.

How to Get a Motorcycle Endorsement in Your State

Getting a motorcycle endorsement is not a difficult process. 

As mentioned above, you’ll usually have 2 different options to getting your full endorsement. Depending on your age, you’ll usually be able to either:

  • Obtain a motorcycle permit to practice for your skills test. 

OR

  • Complete an MSF motorcycle safety course, pass the motorcycle knowledge test, and get your full endorsement. 

If you have zero experience with motorcycles, going through the MSF course is usually the way to go. 

You’ll be able to get hands-on experience riding a smaller bike, and the course will evaluate your skills at the end. In many states, completing a course will waive the skills test at the DMV. Some states will even waive the written test. 

If you decide to get a motorcycle permit first, you’ll need to visit your local DMV office and pass the motorcycle written test. 

This test is similar to the knowledge exam you had to pass to get your driver’s license, and is based on information you can find in your motorcycle operator’s handbook. 

Again, depending on the state you live in, the permit will allow you to practice riding under the supervision of another licensed rider, on certain roads, and under certain restrictions. 

After you’ve satisfied the permit requirements and have built up the necessary skills, you’ll be able to schedule your motorcycle skills test with your state DMV.

Need more information? MotorcycleZombies.com has you covered. Find more information about getting your motorcycle license or motorcycle permit in your state