Do I need to obtain a DMV permit before I apply for a motorcycle license?

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It depends on your state and your age. Rules vary. Most states mandate a motorcycle permit (DMV permit), while very few others make it optional or don't require it at all. See the grid below for your state's motorcycle learners permit requirements.  

If you're in need of a motorcycle drivers permit, you'll need to study before taking the motorcycle permit test. To do so, get hold of your state's motorcycle manual. You can get one from any DMV office or online. All of the material on the test will be based on information contained in the manual. After studying, you'll next want to take a practice permit test.

These can found be online, many times for free. All questions on these practice tests are similar to the ones found on the actual exam, quizzing you on parking, passing techniques, riding in groups and more. Take as many tests as needed so as to feel exam-confident. The quicker you pass, the quicker you can obtain a motorcycle license. 

Alabama No
Alaska Yes
Arizona Yes
Arkansas Yes
California Yes
Colorado Yes
Connecticut Yes
Delaware Yes
Florida Yes
Georgia Yes
Hawaii Yes
Idaho Yes
Illinois Yes
Indiana Yes
Iowa Yes
Kansas Only required if you don't enroll in a motorcycle training school.
Kentucky Yes
Louisiana Yes
Maine Yes
Maryland Yes
Massachusetts Yes
Michigan Yes
Minnesota Yes
Mississippi Yes
Missouri Yes
Montana You instead apply for a learner's license.
Nebraska Yes
Nevada Optional
New Hampshire Yes
New Jersey Yes
New Mexico Yes
New York Yes
North Carolina Yes
North Dakota Yes
Ohio Yes
Oklahoma Yes
Oregon Yes
Pennsylvania Yes
Rhode Island Yes
South Carolina Yes
South Dakota Yes
Tennessee Yes
Texas Yes
Utah Yes
Vermont Yes
Virginia Yes
Washington Only required if you don't enroll in a motorcycle training school.
West Virginia Yes
Wisconsin Yes
Wyoming Yes
Washington DC Optional. You must be 18 or older.

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