(Or: The Madness of the Louisiana Motorcycle Endorsement Process…)
Do I need a Motorcycle Endorsement at all?
Nowadays, absolutely. When I was growing up, we rode mini-bikes, dirt bikes, and go-karts without licenses. Then, when we started driving cars, the bikes just got mixed in. Most of us didn’t even know that there was a motorcycle endorsement in Louisiana until we took our driver’s tests. We generally ignored that and rode without the endorsement, assuming that if we had car insurance, the bike was covered as well. Turns out, we were wrong and many of us learned the hard way that motorcycle insurance is separate and most insurance companies require you have your motorcycle endorsement to insure you so we had to “get legal”.
The Louisiana Motorcycle Endorsement Process
- Go to your local Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV) and submit a completed application.
- Provide two acceptable proofs of identification.
- Pay an endorsement fee of $19; if you have a valid Louisiana driver’s license that is less than four years, you pay $15.
- Pass a motorcycle knowledge exam; online practice tests can help you prepare.
- Pass an on-cycle skills test; you must provide a motorcycle (insured in your name and with a current inspection sticker), helmet, and eye protection unless your motorcycle has a windshield. You can waive the on-cycle skills exam if you successfully complete a Motorcycle Safety Course accredited by Louisiana DPS.
Louisiana, unlike most other states, requires that you have a valid in-state driver’s license to obtain a motorcycle endorsement.
The required minimum age to get a Louisiana motorcycle license is 16, and you must obtain a standard driver’s license prior to getting a motorcycle endorsement. In addition, if you are under the age of 18, you must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to apply for your motorcycle license.
Wait, I need to own a motorcycle to take the test?!
Uh-huh. I was surprised when I learned that in order to get a motorcycle endorsement in Louisiana, I had to show up at the DMV with a motorcycle. That seemed odd to me since, in order to purchase a motorcycle, you had to show proof of insurance to the dealer, and in order to get endorsed, you had to have a license and an insured bike. Seemed like a catch 22. To get around this, most of us just borrowed a bike, got endorsed, then bought later, but that doesn’t work anymore. I was told recently by a new rider that the LA DMV would not allow her to test without having an insured bike in HER NAME. How does that work?
This goofy system has its downsides! The main one is safety. When I showed up at the DMV to test, I was riding a crappy craigslist Suzuki 550 GS that was technically a 4-cylinder bike, but only ran on 3. I pulled that ugly beast into the lot of the DMV and saw two other bikers there to get their endorsements. One of them had a shiny, new Kawasaki Ninja 600. When I went over to admire the bike, I noticed the temporary plate on the back said the bike had been purchased 2 days ago. Then, I got a look at the other side of the bike and most of the plastic bodywork was scraped away, and the controls and clutch cover were horribly damaged. The guy had obviously bought the bike with little to no training and he must have laid it down while leaving the dealership! What a shame! But that’s what happens when the DMV insists that ‘unlicensed’ riders show up on bikes they don’t know how to operate!
Ok, but what about that Motorcycle Safety Course option?
Thankfully, times have changed and folks have options that don’t involve rolling the dice with their safety. One great option is to go to take a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) class at riding school that will allow you to waive your on-cycle skills test upon completion. You can find MSF classes near you on their website, but if you’re in the New Orleans area, we recommend NOLA Riding Academy. The owner is Clint Austin who is a damn fine rider and amateur racer. You won’t find a better instructor. His website describes what is offered and the most important part: “Successful completion of this course WILL serve as a license riding test waiver in Louisiana and multiple other states”. That is pure gold considering the other option is to ride illegally or crash your new bike on the way to the DMV. Not all motorcycle safety courses count as your riding test, even if you pass, so be sure and double-check before you waste your time.
Most MSF classes have a classroom portion and a riding portion. They provide the motorcycles, you provide your own helmet, jacket, boots, gloves, and food/beverages. You’ll complete exercises including low-speed maneuvers and basic skills such as shifting, accelerating, braking, cornering, U-turn, and lane change. You’ll gain valuable skills and confidence and make connections in the riding community. You’ll learn just as much listening to your instructors and fellow riders talk about their experiences as you will on the bike.
Do I need Motorcycle Insurance?
When you buy a motorcycle, you have to insure it, both for legal reasons and to cover you if you’re in an accident. Louisiana requires $15,000 bodily injury per person; $30,000 bodily injury per accident; $25,000 property damage per accident. Motorcycle insurance costs are dependent on several factors; age, vehicle, driving record, and the amount of coverage. One of the biggest factors for costs is your driving record; if you’ve had a moving violation or accident in the last three years, if you’ve had any DWIs, if you’ve had your license suspended or revoked, etc., you’ll likely pay more. If you plan on racing your motorcycle, that will also cost more to insure. There are usually discounts available if you have anti-theft devices, if you have a clean driving record and many years of riding experience, or if you belong to a club, like the American Motorcycle Association. Other factors that affect the cost of motorcycle insurance: Is it used for business or pleasure? How many miles is it driven monthly? Where is it kept when it is not being used?
To sum it all up…
Having motorcycle insurance is both required by law and a really, really good idea for practical reasons if you’re going to ride. To get motorcycle insurance, you need a motorcycle endorsement in Louisiana. The way Louisiana has set up its requirements, it’s annoying and difficult to go take the test at the OMV. For people who want to try out riding motorcycles without shelling out thousands of dollars, they make it almost impossible. The best way to ride before you buy is to take an MSF class, then go get your M endorsement, and then you can rent or borrow bikes and ride them legally until you’re ready to buy your first motorcycle. Check out NOLA Riding Academy, get endorsed, and see you out on the road!