New York Motorcycle Licensing and Laws


If you want to operate your motorcycle in New York, there are many laws and regulations in place to keep you and others on the road safe. First and foremost, you must hold a New York state motorcycle license (Class M)  or a motorcycle junior (MJ) license. You are also legally obligated to purchase minimum levels of auto liability insurance. This page explores motorcycle licensing requirements and other regulations you should be aware of if you want to operate a motorcycle in Manhattan. Read on to learn more.

Requirements for Getting a Motorcycle License in New York

If you have an out-of-state motorcycle license, you can simply apply to exchange it for a New York license. If you do not, you must go through the process of applying for an in-state license from scratch. This section explains each step.

  1. Study for the Permit Test – You must first pass a written test to obtain a learner’s permit. You can prepare by studying the Motorcycle Operator’s Manual.
  2. Gather the Required Documentation – You will need to provide the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) with certain documents, including:
  • Proof of age
  • State of residence
  • Proof of identification

Depending on the documents you provide when applying, you will be given a REAL, Standard, or Enhanced ID.

  1. Take the Permit Test – You must then apply to take a permit test with the DMV, take your test, and pay the permit fee. You can complete the process online or at a state DMV office.

The online testing requirements are somewhat different depending on your age. If you are under 18, a parent or legal guardian must supervise your online test and sign an Online Permit Test Parent/Guardian Certification in front of a DMV representative. If you are 18 or older, you must sign an Online Permit Test Attestation for Applicants 18 Years of Age and Older in front of a DMV representative.

Either way, you must correctly answer at least 50 percent of the road sign questions, 60 percent of the motorcycle questions, and 80 percent of the questions overall to pass the permit test.

  1. Prepare for the Road Test – Once you have your learner permit, you can begin preparing for your road test. To prepare, the DMV recommends that you practice riding a motorcycle for at least 30 hours, including at least 10 hours in medium to high-volume traffic. You should also consider taking a New York State Motorcycle Safety Program Basic Rider Course or seeking instruction at a commercial driving school.

While practicing with your learner permit, remember that you must be supervised by a motorcyclist 21 years old or older with a valid motorcycle license from any state. Your supervisor should always be within .25 miles from you. You must also obey all restrictions for permit holders.

  1. Schedule Your Road Test – Once you pass the written test and have practiced riding on the road, you can schedule to take a road test with the DMV. If you do not already have another kind of New York driver license, you must first complete a Driver Education or pre-licensing course. If you do have another license, you will be exempt from submitting a Student Certificate of Completion.
  2. Receive Your License – If you pass the road test, the examiner should issue you a temporary motorcycle license. Your official license should arrive in the mail within 1-2 weeks after your road test. Before receiving your license, you must also complete these steps:

What Is the Motorcycle Helmet Law in New York?

Yes. According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), only 64.9 percent of motorcycle drivers and passengers wore helmets while riding in 2021. Notwithstanding, the motorcycle helmet laws in New York require riders to wear a protective helmet that satisfies safety standards established by federal law while operating their vehicle. A violation of this requirement can lead to a fine of up to $100, thirty days in jail, or both.

Remember that motorcycle helmets save lives. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), “motorcycle helmets are estimated to be 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle operators and 41 percent effective for motorcycle passengers.”

Click for more information on New York helmet laws.

Other Motorcycle Regulations in New York

In addition to carrying appropriate licensing and wearing helmets, motorcyclists in New York must comply with a number of other laws and regulations. For example, they must have their motorcycle inspected once a year at a location licensed by the DMV and renew their registration once a year before it expires on April 30. Additionally, according to the DMV, your motorcycle must be equipped with:

  • Approved lights, including a headlight, rear light, stop lamp, license plate lamp, at least one red reflector on the rear, and directional signals if the motorcycle was originally equipped with turn signals or is a 1985 or newer model
  • Brakes (required on both wheels if the motorcycle was manufactured after 1971)
  • A horn or other warning device
  • At least one mirror mounted on a handlebar
  • A muffler
  • Handlebars no higher than the shoulder height of the operator
  • An appropriate seat for the operator and passenger (no more than one passenger is permitted)

Are Mopeds and Scooters Classified Differently from Motorcycles in New York?

Yes. A moped is considered a “limited-use motorcycle” and falls under one of three classifications. They break down as follows:

Class A – These mopeds can travel between 30-40 miles per hour. To operate one, you must:

  • Carry a Class M license (or a Class MJ if you are 16-17 years old)
  • Register the vehicle
  • Use a headlight at all times while riding
  • Use a helmet and eye protection

Class B – These mopeds can travel between 20-30 miles per hour. To operate one legally, you must:

  • Register the vehicle
  • Carry any class of license
  • Wear a helmet and eye protection
  • Use a headlight at all times while riding

Class C – These mopeds can travel up to 20 miles per hour. To operate one legally, you must:

  • Register the vehicle
  • Carry any class of license
  • Keep the headlight on while riding

Electric Scooters – These vehicles are classified differently from mopeds. They travel up to 15 miles per hour and require no registration. To operate one legally, you must:

  • Only ride in bike lanes and on the street with maximum speed limits of 30 miles per hour
  • Never ride on a sidewalk
  • Wear a protective helmet if you are younger than 18 years old

What Are the Insurance Requirements for Motorcyclists in New York?

Every driver in New York, including motorcyclists, must carry auto liability insurance. The minimum legal limits are as follows:

  •  $25,000 in bodily injury per person
  • $50,000 in total bodily injury per accident
  • $10,000 in property damage per accident

What Compensation Can I Recover from a Motorcycle Accident Claim?

If you were injured in a motorcycle accident at little to no fault of your own, you might be entitled to a wide range of compensation from the at-fault party. The money you receive through an out-of-court settlement or judgment from a court should reflect both the economic and non-economic impact your injuries and losses have on your life. Our attorneys can help you pursue compensation for things like:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages if you cannot work due to your injuries
  • Reduced earning capacity if your injuries result in long-term disability
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lowered quality of life
  • Emotional distress
  • Damaged property

Is There a Deadline to File a Motorcycle Accident Claim In New York?

Yes. The deadline is set by a law known as the statute of limitations. In New York, the deadline is set at three years from the date of your accident. In a wrongful death motorcycle accident case, the deadline is two years from the date of death. In a case against a municipality, for example, an accident with a garbage truck or an accident caused by improper road design, the claim must be filed within ninety (90) days of the accident. These deadlines are strictly enforced, and failure to comply nearly always results in your case being dismissed in court.

To avoid having your case dismissed, it’s important to consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after being involved in a motorcycle accident.

Contact Our Experienced Motorcycle Accident Attorneys in New York City Today

If you were hurt in a motorcycle accident in Manhattan at little to no fault of your own, Finz & Finz, P.C., is here to help. Our nationally recognized team of personal injury lawyers are ready to evaluate your case, gather evidence to support your claim and fight for the full and fair compensation you deserve. Contact our New York City motorcycle accident lawyer today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.