Can I buy a motorcycle without a license?

Legally, you can purchase a motorcycle without a motorcycle license. But you'll need to register the bike with the state within a certain amount of time after the sale. In almost all states, you'll need insurance before you can register — and to get insurance, you might need a license. Banks may also require a driver's or rider's license before they will provide a vehicle loan.

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Buying a motorcycle without a license

While buying a new or used motorcycle without a license is legal, it presents several challenges. First, you won't be able to test drive the motorcycle. Second, you won't be able to drive it home once you buy it. Furthermore, motorcycles must be registered with the state — even collector's bikes that won't be driven. Motorcycle registration doesn't require a license, but it usually requires insurance. Most insurers will be cautious about insuring an unlicensed operator. Rates may be high if they're willing to insure you at all.

Steps for buying a motorcycle without a license

Get a licensed friend or family member to shop with you

If you're buying a motorcycle for yourself to ride and you don't have a license, you won't be able to do a test drive, so bring a licensed rider with you while you shop. That way, someone can ride the bike to evaluate its performance and check for problems while riding.

Plan your purchase

Once you've found a bike you like, think carefully about the purchase. When you buy a motorcycle without a license, you'll need to get the bike home by arranging a tow or having a licensed friend ride it. If you're getting a loan, you should get pre-approved, which might require shopping around. Some financing institutions may not lend to an unlicensed rider, so be sure you can qualify.

Insure your bike

Getting insurance without a license can be difficult. Many insurers, especially larger companies, won't offer insurance policies to an unlicensed rider. You may have to shop around more than usual. It's vital to organize insurance ahead of the time of purchase because you'll need motorcycle insurance even to have a friend drive it off the lot for you. In most states, you’ll need insurance shortly after the sale to transfer ownership. Learn more about motorcycle insurance requirements by state.

Finalize the details of the sale

Like any other vehicle purchase, you'll need to settle on the exact terms with the seller, complete the loan process (if you're getting a loan), and then complete the sale. For both the sale and the loan, you'll have to fill out paperwork. Dealers and lenders will generally require proof of your identity, so you'll need a legal ID like a passport or a non-driver ID card if you don't have a license. If you're buying from a private party and paying in cash, you may not need to have an ID for this step.

Transfer ownership

When you buy a motorcycle, you'll need to transfer the title (which makes you the legal owner) and register it with the state (which clears it to be on the road). States have their own rules on how long you have to register. Check with your DMV to find out your state's rules. It's important to have insurance lined up before you purchase because in nearly all states, you'll need proof of insurance to register, and it might take longer than usual to find insurance as an unlicensed rider.

Considerations for buying a motorcycle without a license

There are a few reasons you might buy a motorcycle without a license. For instance, you might be buying it as a gift for someone else, you may find a great deal on a bike you want to keep as a collector's item, or you just want to practice.

If you're getting it as a gift, that's a kind gesture, but motorcycles are personal — you might want to get the rider's input before you buy. Cluing them into the purchase would make the process easier, too. It might make sense to learn and practice on the bike you'll be riding once you have your license. But if you will be listed as an "excluded driver," you won't be able to practice on it. What's more, you may damage the bike while you learn, especially if you don't take a rider education course.

Remember that you can get a motorcycle with a learner's permit, but it's the same as buying one without the permit. In either case, you're an unlicensed driver.

Pro tip:

Taking a rider education course is recommended. It often speeds up the process of getting your license. In some states, you can get your license in just a few days with a safety course. What's more, many insurers offer motorcycle insurance discounts for riders who take a course.

Considerations for buying a motorcycle with a license

Compared to buying a motorcycle without a license, getting your bike as a licensed rider is simpler. You'll shop and do the test drive yourself, get insurance, complete the sale, and register the vehicle. Given the ease of buying a bike once you have your license, most people opt to go this route. On the other hand, if you've got your eye on a specific bike — especially a used one you expect to sell quickly or a new one at an unusually low price — you might want to get the bike right away to avoid missing out on an opportunity.

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