A motorcycle endorsement is an endorsement added to your driver’s license that authorizes you to operate a motorcycle.
It’s different from a motorcycle license in that it’s not a stand-alone document but depends on the driver’s license you already have.
If you don’t have a driver’s license for a car, you would need to get one first or get an independent motorcycle license if your state has a process for that. Only then could you legally ride a motorcycle.
A motorcycle endorsement is usually represented by the letter M under the endorsement section of your license. On mine, that’s on the back.
Because the laws on motorcycle endorsements vary so widely from state to state, a lot of people end up confused about whether they need one and how to get it if they do.
Let’s clear the air.
Do You Need a Motorcycle Endorsement?
If you want to ride a motorcycle, you almost certainly need a motorcycle endorsement.
The only question is, what is the definition of a “motorcycle” in your state?
Many states distinguish between motorcycles, mopeds, scooters, motorized bicycles, and a host of other names. Usually, these are differentiated by engine size as well as other stipulations for horsepower, speed, and transmission.
In many states, small scooters or mopeds, usually classed under 50cc of engine size, do not require a motorcycle endorsement. Instead, you can ride one with just your driver’s license as is the case in Texas and Ohio, or without any license at all, like in Florida or Colorado.
Then some states like Indiana and California require specific endorsements or full motorcycle endorsements to ride mopeds.
As a general rule, you almost always need a motorcycle endorsement or full license for anything over 150cc and most likely anything over 50cc as well.
Here’s the rundown by state:
*New York classes all motorcycle models as A, B and C. Only class A (over 30-40 mph) requires a motorcycle endorsement (M/MJ).
How Do You Get a Motorcycle Endorsement?
The process to get a motorcycle endorsement also varies widely by state. In my home state of Arkansas, I had to take a 25-question theoretical exam to receive my permit.
I could then ride on the road and had one year to take the practical exam (little more than a loop around the parking lot) to get the endorsement. I could also have taken an authorized motorcycle safety course to skip the theoretical exam.
Arkansas, however, is one of the easier states. States like California and New York have more rigorous processes and sometimes separate endorsements with separate processes depending on the size of the motorcycle. Their road skills tests may involve weaving through cones and making emergency stops.
Furthermore, in most states, you need to already have a driver’s license to get a motorcycle license or endorsement and an official safety course can help you skip parts of the endorsement process. Check with your local DMV to see exactly what you need.
How Much Does a Motorcycle Endorsement Cost?
The cost of getting your motorcycle endorsement also depends on your state, but it’s usually inexpensive. When I got mine in Arkansas, the tests were free and it cost $40 to print the new license with the M on it at the DMV.
We’ve collected the costs for every state below.
You may also have to pay a fee for printing the license and taking the tests, and you’ll have to pay to renew the license or endorsement as necessary.
More significantly, if you choose to or are required to take a motorcycle safety course, this will vary in price but is usually several hundred dollars.