What is a Class M License?

By Chelsea Levinson - Updated March 02, 2018
Biker riding motorcycle on an empty road at sunset

The term “Class M license” refers to a motorcycle license. Licensing laws vary by state, but it’s important to know that every state requires a motorcycle license or endorsement. According to National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration data, 24 percent of motorcyclists involved in fatal accidents are found to be riding with an invalid license. Operating a motorcycle safely requires its own set of skills and a lot of practice. That’s why, in most cases, passing a test is required to earn a Class M license or endorsement.

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The term “Class M license” refers to a motorcycle license. Licensing laws vary by state, but it’s important to know that every state requires a motorcycle license or endorsement, earned in most cases by passing a test.

Class M License

Most states use “Class M” to denote their motorcycle license. Some states, such as Georgia and Alaska, require that you earn a Class M license in addition to your standard driver’s license. In these states, you will need to carry your regular license when you drive a car, and your Class M motorcycle license whenever you are riding your motorcycle.

Earning a Class M license usually requires taking an exam similar to your driving test, with both a written portion and a road test. A few states require that younger drivers complete a safety course before earning a motorcycle license.

Class M Endorsement

An endorsement is a permission added to a previously existing license that allows you to operate a special vehicle like a motorcycle. Many states use endorsements rather than making you earn two separate licenses. Most of these states still require testing to earn your motorcycle endorsement. Once you have tested and earned your M endorsement, your license is valid for operating either a car or a motorcycle.

Exam requirements vary by state, and many states have a few different options for how you can earn your Class M endorsement. Usually, you are required to take an exam or complete a DMV-approved motorcycle course. In Alabama, for example, you can get your motorcycle endorsement by passing a written test or finishing an approved motorcycle operator course. Colorado motorcyclists also have two options: take a Motorcycle Foundation Safety course or pass a written exam, earn a permit and pass a driving skills test. Check your state’s licensing law to find out the exam requirements for a motorcycle endorsement where you live.

Other Types of Class M Licenses

States may have separate license classifications for motorcycles and other two- or three-wheel motor vehicles. For example, Alaska has two options for a Class M license: Class M1 for motorcycles and Class M2 for motor-driven cycles and motorized bikes. South Carolina uses Class M for motorcycles and Class G for mopeds. These separate classifications vary by state, check with your DMV to make sure you are getting the correct license for your specific bike.

About the Author

Chelsea Levinson earned her J.D. from Cardozo. As a former policy researcher, she has a passion for communicating legal issues to the public. She has created legal and policy content for Vox, Levo, Run For Something and more.

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