Did you know that Washington has over 221,000 registered motorcycles? According to the WA Traffic Safety Commission, that number accounts for 3% of the motor vehicles in the state.
In Washington state, you don’t need a separate motorcycle license to ride a motorcycle. What you need is a motorcycle endorsement on a valid driver’s license. You can get two types of endorsements. This depends on whether you have a 2-wheeled or 3-wheeled motorbike.
Per the Washington State Department of Licensing, you need to pass four tests to get a motorcycle endorsement. The first two are the basic motorcycle knowledge test and the skills test for a permit. The last two tests are the advanced motorcycle knowledge test and the skills test endorsement.
This makes the process slightly longer than in many other states.
Are you eligible for a WA motorcycle endorsement?
To apply for a WA state motorcycle endorsement, you need to meet the following requirements.
- You should have a valid Washington state driver’s license.
- You must be at least 16 years old.
- Applicants under 18 years of age need to have parental consent to apply. They should also have completed a motorcycle education course.
You can apply for a motorcycle endorsement if you meet the above requirements. But if you are under 16 years (but above 15), you can only apply for a permit.
Applying for a two-wheeler (2W) motorcycle permit
Before applying for a motorcycle endorsement, a new rider needs to get a permit first. This is irrespective of age or years of experience.
Documents you need to apply for a permit in Washington
- Proof of Identity. You can find a list of approved documents based on age on the WA Department of Licensing (WA DOL) website.
- Proof of address
- Your Social Security number
- If you are under 18, you need a written statement giving parental permission. You must also pass an approved 2W motorcycle safety course.
How to apply
Then, you have to apply for and pass two tests. They include a written knowledge test and an on-bike skills test.
The written test contains questions about basic motorcycle safety and operations. And the on-bike test examines your basic riding skills. Study the Washington Motorcycle Operator Manual before you take the tests.
Applying for a motorcycle instruction permit currently costs $15. And a renewal costs the same as well. Check the DOL website for more details. This fee is subject to change so please verify this at the time of applying.
If you have received your permit, you can apply for the license immediately. In the meantime, you can update your driver’s license online to add the permit.
Once this is added, you can print a copy of your temporary license. Your permanent license with the endorsement will arrive later in the mail. Now you can start driving your motorbike.
But do note that you may not carry passengers while holding a permit. You can also not ride during the hours of darkness.
How long is the permit valid?
Your permit will be valid for a 180-day period. And can renew it for 180 days extra before it expires. But you are only allowed to have one permit and one permit renewal within a five-year period.
Applying for a two-wheeler Washington motorcycle endorsement (license)
Once you have your permit, you have 180 days (or 360 days with a permit renewal) to get your Washington state 2W motorcycle endorsement.
The documents you need are the same as those given above for the permit
How to apply
For the endorsement, too, you have to pass two tests. The motorcycle license tests are similar to the tests for a learning permit. But they test more advanced knowledge and skills.
The tests are a written knowledge test and an on-bike skills test. You can take these tests at an approved motorcycle training school.
The endorsement knowledge test has 50 questions, and you must score at least 80% to pass. The endorsement skills test will test several maneuvers, including a fast stop at 20-25 mph and a timed figure eight.
Applying for a motorcycle endorsement currently costs $89 for 6 years, issued in 2022. An Enhanced driver’s license (EDL) will cost more. Any testing fee is separate. A good idea is to check the DOL website for more details.
Once you have passed the tests and received your test results, you can go online. And verify the details on your driver’s license.
Once your motorcycle endorsement is verified, you can print a copy of the temporary license with the endorsement. Your updated permanent driver’s license will arrive later in the mail with your motorcycle endorsement.
You don’t need to visit the DOL office in person to add your endorsement. All this can be done online.
Is motorcycle insurance necessary?
Washington state motorcycle laws require motorcycle drivers to have insurance. Drivers must carry $25,000 bodily injury liability per person and $50,000 bodily injury liability for two or more people. They also need to cover $10,000 in property damage per accident.
What if you already have a motorcycle endorsement or license from another state?
You can transfer your out-of-state motorcycle endorsement when you get your Washington driver’s license. To do this, bring proof of your current motorcycle license or endorsement and payment.
Washington state allows the transfer of valid endorsements from U.S. states and territories, the District of Columbia, British Columbia, and Japan.
If you don’t transfer your endorsement when you apply for a license, you’ll need to complete a motorcycle safety course to get a new one. Or pass the knowledge and riding skills tests.
For those on military duty in WA from another state
In such cases, you can get a Washington driver’s license by completing a state-approved safety course. This can be at a motorcycle training school or military base. Then, bring your course completion card to any DOL office within 180 days to get your motorcycle endorsement.
Applying for endorsements for three-wheeled motorcycles in Washington
If you own a three-wheeled motorcycle (trike), you need to apply for a three-wheeler (3W) endorsement on your license. The process is exactly the same as applying for a two-wheeler, as given above.
However, you don’t need a 3W endorsement on your driver’s license in case of the following:
- The seat is in a partially or completely enclosed seating area.
- The vehicle has safety belts.
- You can steer the vehicle with a steering wheel.
Renewing your WA driver’s license
You can log in or join to find out if you can renew your license online. You can also renew by mail.
But you’ll need to renew at a driver licensing office if you fall under the following categories:
- Are 70+ years old
- Need to pass the vision screening
- Need a new photo taken
- Renewed online on your last expiration
You can renew your license one year before your license expires. It usually expires on your birthday. You can also renew it 60 days after it’s expired. After 60 days, there’s an extra $10 fee to renew.
For military personnel, your license remains valid as long as you’re on active duty.
Fees for renewal
A standard license renewal fee is $9 per year. You may renew for 6 ($54) or 8 years ($72). There will be additional fees depending on endorsements, etc.
If you haven’t gotten your driver’s license within 30 business days, you can call +1-360-902-3900.
Do you need a motorcycle endorsement for a moped?
No, you do not. Electric personal mobility devices, power wheelchairs, and mopeds are not considered to be motorcycles. You also do not need motorcycle endorsements to drive farm tractors, motorized foot scooters, and electric-assisted bicycles.
Helmet and other safety laws
- You must wear a helmet while riding in the state of Washington. Additionally, you should use only helmets approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).
- All motorcycles must have mirrors on the left and right sides, allowing the driver to see at least 200 feet to the rear.
- Motorcycles must also have a windshield. If not, the operator must wear approved eye protection. It can be safety glasses, goggles, or a face shield.
- Washington law also does not permit riding between lanes of traffic, known as lane splitting.
So, how do you get a Washington motorcycle license? Well, in WA state, you will get a motorcycle endorsement on a valid driver’s license instead of a motorcycle-only license.
You can apply for one if you are above 16 years of age. And you need to pass four tests. Two tests are for a permit and once you get it, pass two more endorsement tests.
While the process seems somewhat lengthier, it aims to reduce motorcycle accidents. A little inconvenience in exchange for safety. Not a bad bargain, I say.