Motorcycle Insurance Minimum Requirements in California
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People who ride two-wheel vehicles for use on public roads (that are required to be registered in California) must show proof that they could cover the damages―take financial responsibility―should an accident take place. For many, that means maintaining liability insurance.
Ways to Establish financial responsibility
Some residents find it best to purchase liability coverage. But that is not the only way to establish financial responsibility. All the ways to do so include:
- Go to the CA DMV and make a cash deposit of $35,000. For more info, contact the state agency by calling (916) 657-6520 or write to:
- Department of Motor Vehicles
- financial responsibility MS J237
- P.O. Box 942884
- Sacramento, CA 94284-0884
- Go to the CA DMV and obtain a self-insurance certificate. Contact the agency at the phone number and address above.
- Get a $35,000 surety bond from a company licensed to do so in the state. If you are not sure where to go, visit the Department of Insurance online for assistance or call (800) 927-4357.
- Contact a licensed insurance agent and purchase a liability insurance policy. For more info on minimum requirements, read beyond the following section.
Two-Wheeled Vehicles Defined
If you are not sure whether your vehicle should be registered with the state (and therefore whether it requires motorcycle insurance), inquire with the DMV by calling (800) 777-0133.
The state defines the following as two-wheel vehicles:
- Motorcycle―A vehicle that has a seat for a rider and operates on two (or not more than three) wheels. It can also be electrically powered as long as it weighs less than 2,500 pounds and its maximum speed does not exceed 45 mph.
- Motor-driven cycle―A motorcycle with a 149 cc size engine or smaller. Be sure before you enter a freeway that the state has not posted any signs stating the operation of motor-driven cycles is prohibited on the freeway, you cannot legally ride your motor-driven cycle there.
- Motorized scooter―A motorized two-wheel device with a floorboard for standing on (when riding) and handlebars. It must also have the options of having a driver seat that does not interfere with standing (and riding) and the capability of running via human-powered propulsion.
- Motorized bicycle―Either a moped or a vehicle with an electric motor (not exceeding 1,000 watts) and pedals. For extensive details on the definition of a motorized bicycle, consult the CA DMV.
Keep in mind you are not required to purchase a liability policy if one of the other options listed above. But for many people, obtaining car insurance makes more sense. Here’s the minimum liability coverage the state requires:
- $15,000 for injury/death to one person
- $30,000 for injury/death to more than one person
- $5,000 for damage to property
Shop around when looking for a policy; all providers do not offer the same rates and incentives. While you are looking into what you can afford and what suits your needs, you might also consider signing up for more than the minimum. Your best bet is to research different types of coverage before you buy.
Once you purchase a policy, your provider will give you a document or identification card. Keep this proof of insurance with you whenever you hop on your bike. You’ll need to present this should you get pulled over by a cop or if you are involved in an accident.
Note that the following do not require you to provide evidence of liability insurance:
- Off-highway vehicles
- Special equipment vehicles
- Vehicles registered to a government entity (city, county, state, federal)
- Vehicles registered under a planned nonoperation (PNO) status
How Coverage Affects Helmet Requirements
In some states, you can get away with not wearing a helmet as long as you have a certain amount of insurance coverage. But not in California. The state requires all operators and their passengers to wear an approved safety helmet at all times―regardless of whether you ride a motorcycle, a motor-driven cycle, a motorized bicycle or a motorized scooter.
Once you have signed up for coverage, your insurance provider will electronically report the info on your private-use liability policy to the CA DMV. This process is automatic, so if you let your coverage lapse the state will suspend your registration for failure to maintain financial responsibility. For more details on the penalties associated with this, continue reading.
To reiterate, once you sign up for a liability policy your insurance agency will report this electronically to the DMV. However in some cases, the CA DMV might require you to also:
- Provide a document or ID card from your insurance company that says you have adequate coverage. The state agency will not return any such documents you submit.
- Provide the DMV with an authorization letter if you made a cash deposit or if you are self-insured.
- Provide the DMV with a California Proof of Insurance Certificate (SR-22) for either broad coverage or an owner's policy. If the state has already determined that you need to provide it with an SR-22, simply submitting proof of an operator's policy alone will not suffice.
- Provide the DMV with proof that the vehicle is publicly owned or leased (as defined in Government Code 811.2).
- Provide a statement of facts that indicates you have filed proof of insurance with the Public Utilities Commission or DMV pursuant to California Vehicle Code 34630; this applies to those who fall under the definition of motor carriers (in California Vehicle Code 34601).
- Your vehicle registration could be subject to suspension for the following reasons:
- You do not replace your liability insurance policy within 45 days once it has been canceled.
- Your insurance agent does not electronically provide evidence of insurance within 30 days after the state issued you a registration card on a vehicle that has never before been registered in California.
- You submit false evidence of insurance.
- If you get pulled over by a peace officer and cannot provide evidence of financial responsibility, you could receive a traffic ticket ($1,000 or more).
- Your vehicle could be fined and get your vehicle impounded.
- If you have any part in causing an accident, you could be financially responsible for any injuries or damages.
NOTE: You must deal with the Vehicle Registration financial responsibility Program if your registration is expired by calling (866) 664-4545. The CA DMV does not offer vehicle financial responsibility services.
In This Section
Other Topics in This Section
- Auto Insurance Requirements
California car insurance information center. What insurance to buy in California, how to decide, compare policies, purchase CA car insurance.
- Motorcycle Insurance Minimum Requirements
CA financial responsibility requirements for your moped, atv, scooter or motorcycle. Protect your bike and your liability in California by purchasing motorcycle insurance.
- Commercial Auto Insurance Minimum Requirements
Commercial vehicle insurance requirements in CA. Protect your rig or your fleet by maintaining proper financial responsibility on your commercial vehicles in California.
- Penalties For Driving Without Insurance
Learn More On Penalties For Driving Without Insurance In Your State. No Insurance Violations Vary By State. Avoid Allowing You Car Insurance Policy To Lapse.
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