How to Get a Motorcycle License in Wisconsin

2020 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S

Riding a motorcycle is fun. It’s freeing and it’s thrilling. But before you get to taste the freedom of the open road, there are a few things you need to do first. First and foremost, you need to get a license. If you live in Wisconsin, you’ll be pleased to know that getting a license is relatively free of challenges. Pass a few tests, meet the minimum age requirements, pay a fee, and pretty soon, you’ll be a fully licensed rider. If you’re ready to take the first step, here’s everything you need to know about getting a motorcycle license in Wisconsin.

Do I Really Need a Motorcycle License?

Even if testing isn’t your forte, getting a motorcycle license is 100% crucial if you intend to operate your motorcycle on public roads. That said, you don’t need a motorcycle license if you ride a moped. If you do, a Class D regular or probationary license will suffice. If you’re not quite sure what the difference between the two is, wisconsindot.gov defines a moped as a Type 1 motorcycle with an automatic transmission and engine certified at less than 50cc, or a bicycle-type vehicle with fully operative pedals and an engine certified by the manufacturer at not more than 130cc. Top speeds mustn’t exceed 30 mph.

What’s the First Step?

If you’re ready to get legal, the first step is to get your instruction permit. While some states don’t require you to hold a permit before applying for a full license, Wisconsin does. Although it adds an extra step to the process (not to mention an extra fee), it also offers some benefits, including the opportunity for you to hone your skills and get to grips with basic operating standards. The process of obtaining a permit is relatively simple. First of all, you’ll need to gather your documents, including proof of residence, proof of identity, and your SSN. All applicants are required to sit a vision test, a sign test, and a knowledge test. Permits are valid for 6 months only. If you don’t apply for your license in that time, you can apply to renew the permit for a further 6 months.

Age-Specific Requirements

If you’re under the age of 18, there are a few additional requirements for getting a permit. For a start, you’ll need to be over the age of 16. You’ll also need to provide the details of your sponsor. This can be your parent or guardian. Your sponsor will need to sign a declaration confirming that they accept liability for any and all of your driving actions and that you have at least 30 hours of driving experience, 10 hours of which needs to have been completed at night. You’ll also need to provide proof of Driver Ed completion and proof of enrollment/ completion of a Basic Motorcycle Rider Course.

Are There Any Permit Restrictions to be Aware Of?

Once you get your permit, you’ll be free to operate your motorcycle on public roads. However, the permit isn’t a full license, and it doesn’t come with the same privileges. To stay on the right side of the law, you’ll need to bear the following restrictions in mind:

  • You should wear eye protection and a helmet each and every time you operate a motorcycle.
  • You’re free to ride alone during daylight hours but will need to be accompanied by a supervisor aged at least 25 years old who has two years of licensed driving experience if it’s after dark.
  • What’s the Next Step?

Got your permit? Confident in your skills? Then it’s time to graduate to a full license. Here, you’ve got one of two options. You can either elect to take a skills test or complete a Basic Motorcycle Rider Course.

The Skills Test

If you decide to take a skills test, you’ll need to arrange an appointment at a DMV customer service center. The test itself is relatively short (you should be done and dusted in around 10 to 15 minutes) and is designed to test you on basic handling skills and operating standards. It’s not designed to trip you up, so don’t panic about being asked to complete any complex maneuvers. Be sure to bring along an approved helmet, eye protection, and a registered, insured motorcycle.

The Course

If you’d rather skip the skills test, you can. Instead, you’ll need to complete a Basic Motorcycle Rider Course. If you’ve got limited experience of riding a motorcycle or simply don’t perform well under the pressure of structured tests, the course is a great option. As permit.bike notes, as an additional benefit of going the course route, you’ll be eligible to get up to three points taken off your license if you violate traffic laws during your first year riding with the license.

If you are under the age of 18, have already held three motorcycle instruction permits, or have failed two skills test in the past, you don’t get a choice in the matter: if you want to get your license, you’ll need to sit, complete, and pass the course first. Once you complete the course, your instructor will give you a signed waiver authorization Form MV3575. The form is valid for one year only. Providing you meet all other licensing requirements, this form will be enough to get your license without requiring you to sit the skills test.

How Much Does it Cost to Get a License?

As DMV.org notes, the cost of getting a motorcycle license in Wisconsin varies depending on the type of license you’re applying for (i.e. whether you’re applying for an endorsement to be added to an existing driver’s license or a full Class M license which is issued as a separate entity and doesn’t require you to hold an existing commercial driver’s license). However, as a general rule of thumb, you can accept to pay the following:

  • Permit: $32
  • Skills exam fee: $15
  • Original motorcycle license: $22

How Long Does it Take To Get a License?

Once you’ve completed all the requirements and submitted your application, you can expect to receive your license by mail within 45 days.


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