When you think of the driving age, you tend to think of 16. However, depending on the state, the age you obtain your learner’s permit, restricted license, and full license changes. For example, if you live in Iowa, you can start getting your learner’s permit as young as 14. In addition, the laws surrounding specific vehicles can change. In the case of this article, we’re looking at how old you need to be to start riding a motorcycle in California.

silhouette of a motorcycle and rider

California Motorcycle Laws

Like cars, you will need an instruction permit if you are under 21. California's DMV website has clear rules establishing the age you need to be to apply for a motorcycle instruction permit.

Permit Rules

One can apply for a permit when they turn 15 ½ (15 years and 6 months.) If the rider is between 15 ½ and 17 ½, they need to obtain a Certificate of Completion of Driver Education and Driver Training. Interested parties between the ages of 15 ½ to 21 also need to complete a motorcyclist training course that is a California Highway Patrol-approved California Motorcyclist Safety Program (CMSP.)

When the driver has all of this, they must complete an application for a California Driver's license. Applicants under 18 must have their parents or guardians sign it.

Afterward, parties should schedule an appointment at their local DMV office. Bring all applicable documents, including proof of identity and residency. After that, pay any application fees and pass any tests that are required. For example, there will be a multiple choice test based on the California Motorcycle Handbook. Applicants must pass at 80%.

License Rules

Now, let’s discuss licensing laws for motorcyclists. As established, motorcyclists under 21 must have a permit for 6 months if they wish to apply for a full driver's license. Therefore, the minimum age you can obtain your driver's license is 16.

The motorcyclist needs to visit their submit their permit and proof they have completed  their education and training (or a valid California driver's license.) Then, they must submit a Certificate of Completion of Motorcycle Training, which may require the driver to perform an observation test.

In addition, the driver should apply for a REAL ID while at it, which requires proof of identity, social security number, and acceptable documents proving residency. If approved, the driver will receive a temporary license, with the real license mailed later.

What About Passengers?

Some people may have come to this article wondering how old a child can be before they are allowed to be a passenger on a motorcycle.

California does not have a minimum age requirement. Still, California Vehicle Code Article 7 Section 27800 requires that motorcycles have a securely fastened seat and have footrests that the passenger's feet must reach.

In many cases, the driver needs to be over 4 feet, 8 inches to reach the footrests, meaning that older childhood to adolescence is when a child can become a passenger.