How to Get a Motorcycle License in Tennessee

Motorcycle License in Tennessee

Do you live in Tennessee? Are you desperate to experience the freedom of the open road? Is a motorcycle license the only thing that’s standing between you and your dreams? Then you’re in luck. Getting a motorcycle license in Tennessee is straightforward. Pass a few tests, present a few pieces of ID, and pay a (thankfully) small fee, and that’s it. Here’s everything you need to know to get started.

How to Get a Motorcycle Licence in Tennessee

As per DMV.org, getting a motorcycle license in Tennessee involves the following requirements.

  1. You’ll need to be at least 15 years old.
  2. You’ll need to pass either a Motorcycle Safety Foundation education course OR pass a knowledge exam and complete a skills-based exam.
  3. As a final step, you’ll need to pay a licensing fee.

Advice for Teens

You’ll need to be at least 15 years old to apply for a motorcycle permit, but even then, there are a few extra requirements to be aware of. Until you turn 16, you’ll only be able to apply for a restricted, Class PM permit. This can be switched for an unrestricted license once you hit 16. If you’re below the age of 18, you’ll need to provide a document confirming educational enrollment. If you want to apply for a driver’s license at the same time as applying for a motorcycle license, you’ll need to provide written confirmation via Form SF-1256 that you’ve received at least 50 hours of supervised driving practice.

Applying For a Permit

If you’re below the age of 16, you’ll need to get a learner permit before anything else. This will entitle you to hone your skills on public roads before graduating to a full license when you turn 16. To get the permit, you’ll need to…

  1. Provide your local DOS office with a document confirming school enrollment, proof of your identity, confirmation of your residency and citizenship status, and proof of your SSN.
  2. Either provide a Motorcycle Safety Foundation education course completion certificate OR sit a knowledge test and a road test.
  3. Pay a motorcycle permit fee.

Once you’re done, you’ll be issued with a 1-year permit. Once you turn 16, you can trade your permit in for a full, unrestricted license without having to undergo any further tests.

Restrictions for Permit Holders

Once you get a permit, you can start practicing your skills on the road. Just be mindful that a permit isn’t a full license. If you want to keep on the right side of the law, be mindful of the following restrictions outlined by tn.gov:

  • You are not allowed to operate a motorcycle with a cylinder size that exceeds 650 cubic centimeters (650cc)
  • You are not permitted to carry passengers on the motorcycle
  • You are not permitted to use the motorcycle on interstate highways
  • You are only permitted to operate the motorcycle during daylight
  • You should not use the motorcycle at a distance of more than 20 miles from your home address

Getting Your Licence

Once you’ve completed all the necessary tests to get your license, you’ll need to make an appointment with a Department of Safety office. When you attend, be prepared to show proof of your residency and identity along with written confirmation that you’ve completed either a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course OR a written test and road skills test. If you don’t hold a standard Class D driver’s license, you’ll also need to provide confirmation of having passed the written knowledge exam for a Class D license. Once you provide the required documents and pay the necessary fee, you’ll be issued with your new license. The license will be one of the following:

Class-M Motorcycle Only License

A Class-M Motorcycle Only License is available to applicants over the age of 16 who don’t hold an existing Class D license. The license is valid for 8 years from the date of issue.

Class-M Motorcycle – Secondary

A Class-M Motorcycle – Secondary is available to applicants who already hold a valid license for other vehicles. The license will expire at the same time as your Class A, B, C, or D license expires.

Skills Test or Motorcycle Course?

In Tennessee, you’re offered a choice between sitting a written knowledge test and a road skills test OR completing a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course. While everyone has their preference, many riders (especially younger riders or those with limited riding experience) prefer the second option. As permit.bike explains, not only does completing a motorcycle education course let you waive the requirement to sit formal tests (which can be stressful), it’s also a great way to learn the hands-on skills and knowledge that you need to safely operate your motorcycle

Advice for New Residents

If you hold an existing motorcycle license and have only recently moved to Tennessee, the process is a little different than it would be for new riders already resident in the state. Within 30 days of establishing residency, you’ll need to visit your local Department of Safety office and complete the following steps.

1. Confirm your Identity Bring along a document confirming your residency in Tennessee, your legal status in the US, and your social security number.

2. Surrender Your Out-of-State License Tennessee won’t let you hang onto your current license if you’re getting a new one from them. Be prepared to either surrender your out-of-state license or provide a certified copy of your driving license.

3. Take the Tests Before you get your shiny new license, you’ll need to pass a vision screening. If your out-of-state license expired 6 or more months previous, you’ll also need to pass a written test and a skills test.

The Cost of Getting a License

Nothing in life comes for free, and a Tennessee motorcycle license is no different. Before you get your license to ride, you’ll need to hand over a licensing fee to the DOS. The fees vary depending on the type of license you apply for. As of 2021, the fees for each license type are as follows:

  • $55: Class D with Class M motorcycle-secondary license
  • $29: Class M motorcycle license
  • $6.50: Class PM motorcycle learner permit


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