Does A Motorcycle License Expire? All Your Questions Answered


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Riding a motorcycle is fun, stimulating, and like most things on a public road, regulated by the government. Making sure you are legally allowed to ride can be the difference between a simple commute to work turned into a trip of high expense. 

Does a motorcycle license expire? Yes, your motorcycle license can expire. Each state in the United States will have varying laws and permitted time limits. It is essential to consult with your local DMV to know the specifics of your state. If you are a reader outside of the US, please consult with your local government.

There’s a lot that goes into receiving and maintaining a motorcycle license. It’s important to keep it updated because the consequences can be harsh. We will go through every question you may have about how to maintain a motorcycle license and how to stay out of trouble.

Why A Motorcycle License Expires

Our motorcycles are an extension of ourselves. They help explain to the outside world a little bit about who we are at a glance. While there can be many reasons why we have to get permission to ride these amazing works of art on the road, it’s important to understand why our licenses have a time limit. 

The government in any country, including the US, will require funding for certain programs.  Sometimes these come in the form of taxes, infractions, fines, and even posting bail to get freed up from a lengthy prison sentence. While we all wish the government could maintain roads and infrastructure without us having to pay for it, it’s not the reality we live in. 

In order to maintain roads and such, governments need a constant source of income to do so. A big part of where they get these funds is through licensing vehicles that use the roads they create. 

Once you have driven a motorcycle once you will come to find out it does take quite a bit more skill to drive than an automobile with 4 wheels. Getting a motorcycle license is, in a way, a big achievement for any rider. It includes a written exam and then a driving test that is monitored by a DMV official. 

When performing these tasks, they allow the government a sneak peek at who is capable of properly operating a motorcycle. This process helps keep the amount of inexperienced and incapable motorcyclists to a minimum. 

Keeping your license from expiring also gives us riders a sense of accountability and pride. In some states, the renewal process is as simple as filling out a form online. Others may have to be physically present at DMV to renew their motorcycle license. 

Law enforcement officers will check for your license if you are stopped for any infraction while on your motorcycle. They can ticket you or even impound your motorcycle if you are found to be without a current license to operate a motorcycle. 

Motorcycle license expiration also helps local governments be informed about potential criminal activity. When you get your motorcycle license it will have your picture on it, and other defining traits to help the government and law enforcement to identify you if you were involved in a crime. 

If the motorcycle license never expired they would only have one picture and description to identify a person. Going in every so often allows them to update their database to help keep us safe on the road. Having updated this information can help law enforcement find the guy that tried to run you off the road because you accidentally found yourself in the middle of a biker gang cruise. Every state is a little different as far as how long a motorcycle license lasts before it expires. 

What Is The Length Of Time Before A Motorcycle License Expires?

The length of time your motorcycle license has before it expires is determined by your state. For example, in Utah, once you obtain your motorcycle license, it is built into your car’s driver’s license. It will expire in 8 years or so.

In most states, it will expire in about 8 years. I would always recommend contacting your local DMV to be 100% sure. The best time to ask is once you have completed your test and have obtained your motorcycle license. If you ever forget, it will be printed on your license as to when it will expire. 

It is also a good thing to be aware that when your address changes, update this with your DMV. While your license may have not expired, it allows them to have the most up-to-date information if you are ever stopped by a traffic officer or found in an accident.  You’ll also be mailed notifications that your license is about to expire.  Keeping your information current can allow things to go a lot smoother in these situations.

What Happens If You Let Your Motorcycle License Expire?

In some situations, your local DMV may send out mailers or emails to remind you of an expiring license. It will be your responsibility to make sure it does not expire. The things that can happen if it expires can range from a simple slap on the wrist or time in prison. 

When you are pulled over, it is the officer’s job to make sure things are in order and you are legally allowed to ride your motorcycle on the road. When we are put in these situations, it’s probably because we already broke a law or are being investigated to see if we have broken a law. 

It will always help if your license is not expired. On the off chance that it is, it will ultimately depend on the officer that stops you. There are plenty of stories I’ve heard from friends that have ended happily. Sometimes they didn’t even have a motorcycle license at all when they were stopped and the officer let them off with a warning. 

In today’s world that is not always the case. Once you are pulled over and the officer finds out your license is expired, there are multiple things that can happen. They can write you a ticket for an expired license. Count yourself lucky as this can be renewed and thrown out once it has been paid. If the officer feels the need, he can impound your motorcycle and depending on what you got pulled over for, take away your motorcycle license entirely. 

Getting your license taken away is the last thing you want to happen! While it’s not all officers who do this, if they have grounds, some will jump at the chance to get a rider off the road. This is why you want to make sure that your license does not expire. 

If your motorcycle gets impounded this means a tow truck will come, pick up your bike, and take it to a lot somewhere to hold it. If you are able to go get your motorcycle the same day it was impounded, be ready to cough up a few hundred bucks at the minimum to get it back. If you wait, most of those guys charge $40+ per day minimum. Get it back as fast as you can.

Another thing that can happen is an insurance company denying a claim. Let’s say you get into an accident while riding your motorcycle. If your license is expired, your insurance has grounds to not pay out a claim because you were not on the road legally. If you aren’t on the road legally, it can potentially change the fault to you because you do not have a valid motorcycle license. 

As tragic as an accident can be, you will want to make sure your license is up-to-date. If you passed away in your accident your family would be left to potentially pay any money owed to the other party involved in the accident.  

How To Get An Extension On A Motorcycle License

You can get a motorcycle license extension fairly easily. Feel free to look up your DMV’s website to find out how you can do this. Most states have a renewal system in place that will allow you to renew online. 

From that, they are able to mail you your new license. You may be able to file for an extension as well. This may be able to be done online but in person will always be your best bet. 

There are a few reasons why you may want to extend your motorcycle license without renewing it. You may be moving in a few months and do not want to renew for a full 8 years because you will be in another state. You might be changing addresses soon within the same state and do not want your old address on your new license. 

Make sure that your motorcycle license, whether it is with an extension or a renewal, is up-to-date. We want to ride and be free. The most freedom you will have riding is doing so legally. Ride safe, ride legally, and ride free.  

This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.

Kyle Cannon

Kyle currently works as a mechanical engineer and graduated with a minor in automotive engineering. He loves restoring motorcycles, has a vast knowledge of how they work, and has sold his restoration projects to customers from all over the United States.

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