Motorized Bicycle Laws in California

Motorized Bicycles in California

Generic Court GavelThere are many benefits to be had by using a motorized bicycle as your primary (or secondary) method of transportation. With rising gas prices, environmental concerns and a suffering economy, it’s no wonder more and more people are choosing them over other options.

California is one of the few states that has laws in place specifically for lower-powered bikes. Motorized bicycles have two separate California Vehicle Codes, or CVC, each having their own requirements: CVC §406(a) and CVC §406(b).

It’s worth noting that bikes classified as CVC §406(b) have fewer regulations, and do not require that you have a license when riding.

Motorized Bicycles of Type CVC §406(b)

Fortunately, a motorized bicycle or moped classified as type CVC §406(b) does not require a license plate, registration fee or insurance. However, it’s important to note that you still must be 16 years old and wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet whenever you are riding.

For a motorized bicycle or moped to be classified as type CVC §406(b), it must:

  • Have pedals and an electric motor that produces no more than 1,000 watts.
  • Be unable to propel itself more than 20 mph on level ground, including with assisted pedaling.

If your bike meets the above criteria, then you can enjoy riding without a license!

Motorized Bicycles of Type CVC §406(a)

Being a little higher powered, in order for a motorized bicycle or moped to be classified as type CVC §406(a), it must:

  • Have pedals for manual propulsion by the rider (unless it is powered by an electric motor.)
  • Have an automatic transmission.
  • Have a motor that produces less than 2 brake horsepower.
  • Be unable to propel itself more than 30 MPH on level ground, including with assisted pedaling.

Motorized bicycles of type CVC §406(a) also require special license plates and identification cards, which carry a one time fee of $18. The fee must be paid via check or money order.

You will need to fill out a Motorized Bicycle Application form and mail it, along with the fee, to the following address:

Department of Motor Vehicles
P.O. Box 942869
Sacramento, CA 94269-0001

Motorized Scooters

In order for a vehicle to be considered a motorized scooter, it must:

  • Have handlebars.
  • Have a floorboard or base that is designed stood on while riding.
  • A propulsion system powered by a motor.

Unlike mopeds of type CVC §406(a), motorized scooters do not need to be registered or have a license plate. They can be driven by anybody with any valid California driver’s license of any kind.

When You Need a Motorcycle License

If your vehicle is of type CVC §406(b), or if it is unable to go more than 20 mph on level ground, then you do not need a motorcycle license to ride. However, you must be at least 16 years old.

To ride a vehicle of type CVC §406(a), or if your vehicle can go 30 mph or more, then you will need either an M1 or M2 California motorcycle license.

Want a Motorized Bicycle?

We have a great selection of motorized bicycles for sale! While we recommend getting an e-bike of type CVC §406(b), we also have motorized bicycle kits for sale and bicycle accessories for sale. All of our listings are highly reviewed, as you will see for yourself!

4 thoughts on “Motorized Bicycle Laws in California

  1. I’ve read that there is now a (c) category as well for 2016, to add to the confusion. And in 2017, electric bikes will be required to have decals on them showing the wattage, max speed and category they fall into, etc…probably to help the poor cops who aren’t going to be able to figure out all these bikes they encounter.

  2. I’m thinking of getting a gas powered bicycle under 49cc but ,I’m not clear of California laws. I live in San jose CA. can you clarify the law?

    • I have a motorized bike here in 29 Palms ,CA. All you need to do is to wear a helmet and if cops are around make sure your are only going 20MPH. I’ve never been stop even going 30 in the bike lanes.

  3. The article above makes the statement: “Have pedals and an electric motor that produces no more than 1,000 watts. The federal and California codes I have read specify 750 watts maximum. Can you clarify please?

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