Riding a Motorcycle Without a License: What Are the Consequences?


Motorcycles are so fun in large part because of the freedom they provide. However, that freedom requires the knowledge to do it safely. In other words, you need the required motorcycle license, and riding without one can result in a lot of consequences that you should be aware of. 

When Do You Need a Motorcycle License?

motorcycle licence showing endorsement

You are normally required by law to have a valid motorcycle license when owning and operating a motorcycle on public roads or highways. This may also be called a “motorcycle endorsement,” which is just added to your standard class D driver’s license. 

This requirement also extends to renting motorcycles, taking test rides at dealerships, and enrolling in some motorcycle training courses. For certain small motorcycles, like scooters and mopeds, you may not need a separate motorcycle license, but you still need a valid driver’s license.

Why Is a Motorcycle License Important?

Before getting into the consequences of riding without a license, you should understand why a motorcycle license is necessary. Although the extent and difficulty vary by state, a motorcycle license or endorsement generally involves proving that you have the basic knowledge to operate a motorcycle on public roadways. 

This often means a written exam, a vision test, and a road skills test. By successfully completing these tests, you show that you can ride a motorcycle safely and responsibly, not just for your own sake but that of other drivers as well.

Consequences of Riding a Motorcycle Without a License

Legal Penalties and Fines

Depending on the state and city, fines and penalties for operating a motorcycle without a valid license can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

In some cases, you could even face jail time or community service, especially if you were caught violating traffic laws or were involved in an accident that resulted in death or serious injury.

Impoundment of the Motorcycle

Law enforcement officers may impound your motorcycle if they catch you riding it without a valid license. Impoundment fees can be expensive, hundreds if not thousands of dollars, and you usually have to pay additional fees for paperwork and storage.

Legal Costs

If you’re caught riding without a valid license, you may have to appear in court. In that case, you’ll have to hire an attorney and pay court fees.

Increased Insurance Premiums

Motorcycle insurance providers often base premiums on your driving history, including any infractions or violations. Most companies consider riding without a license “high-risk behavior,” so they’ll likely increase your insurance premiums if you’re caught doing so. In some cases, they may even refuse to provide coverage if you have a history of riding without a license.

Suspension or Revocation of Driving Privileges

If you’re caught riding without a license, the state may suspend your driving privileges or revoke them altogether. This is especially true if you committed an infraction or were involved in an accident.

This could extend to your class D driver’s license and mean you have to take all the exams over again, in addition to required driver’s education classes.

Difficulty Obtaining a Motorcycle License in the Future

If you’ve been caught riding without a license, you may have a harder time getting a license in the future. Some jurisdictions may require riders with a history of riding without a license to complete additional safety courses or face a probationary period before receiving a full license.

Compromised Safety

If you’re riding without a license, you’re likely risking your safety and that of others on the road. You’re most likely riding without proper training and knowledge and unfamiliar with important safety techniques and best practices. This increases the risk of accidents.

Liability in Case of an Accident

If you’re involved in an accident while riding without a license, you are much more likely to be held liable for damages and injuries resulting from the collision. Plus, your insurance company may refuse to cover you if you were riding without a license, so you’ll have to pay your entire liability out of pocket.