Dirt bikes are typically manufactured for tough terrains and an off-road experience. However, if you want to ride your dirt bike on the streets, public roads, and highways of California, it is probably a good idea to first understand the dirt bike laws and if it is street legal in California.
In order for a two-wheeler to be considered street legal in the state of California, it has to comply with regulations governing safety, emission, and antitheft standards. Since dirt bikes are not manufactured to comply with any of those federal and state statutes, they are not considered street legal in the state of California. That being said, there are some mechanical and non-mechanical procedures to make your dirt bike street legal in the state of California.
Each state in the US relies on its own regulations and guidelines to determine if a vehicle is safe to ride on the roads. However, if you’re a beginner rider, the regulations and guidelines may initially become a bit overwhelming. But don’t worry, I have compiled an extensive guide on making a dirt bike street legal in the state of California.
Is it Illegal to ride dirt bikes on California roads?
Riding a dirt bike is a lot of fun. However, you can not ride your dirt bike anywhere you want in California. There are state rules, regulations, and laws you’ll need to follow while riding your dirt bike in California. Since dirt bikes in stock form are not street legal in California, it is illegal to ride them on California roads, streets, and highways.
Dirt bikes can only be ridden on the public roads and streets of California if it is registered and plated. In order to register a dirt bike in California, you’ll need to make it street legal in California first. Not following the California laws on dirt bikes may likely lead to a citation(ticket). Moreover, your dirt bike may be towed and a small fine could be imposed.
Where can you ride your dirt bikes legally in California?
If your dirt bike is not registered and plated, you can not legally ride it on public roads, streets, and highways of California. Therefore, the best place to ride your dirt in California, if it’s not registered, is probably your own backyard.
Although no one can stop you from riding a dirt bike on your private property, there are laws and regulations regarding pollution and noise violations in California. Therefore, if your property is close to other homes, you might not be able to ride your dirt bike even on your private property.
Since every city and county in California has its own laws and regulations regarding pollution and noise violations, I would highly recommend taking some time to research and understand these local regulations before riding dirt bikes on private property.
The next best place to ride your dirt bike is the local state park trails or public dirt bike parks. However, make sure you glance at the park’s basic rules, as some parks or trails in California only allow certain types of vehicles to be ridden and some may even require you to buy a permit.
How do you make a dirt bike street legal in California?
California is one of the hardest state to make your dirt bike street legal. The state of California has myraid of rules and regulations regarding the legalities of dirt bikes on its public roads and highways. The first and most important thing to remember while making your dirt bike street legal in California is making sure your dirt bike adheres to the state’s emissions guidelines. The next step is to make your dirt bike resemble more like a street bike or a motorcycle. But in keep in mind, if your dirt bike isn’t street legal, you might be able to transform it to into a street-legal model, but only if it already meets the California’s emissions requirements. Therefore, in most cases it is easier to buy a street-legal dirt bike than to register an older dirt bike.
In California, a motorcycle is defined as any motor vehicle that has a seat or saddle for the use of the rider, and is designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground per California Vehicle Code (CVC) 400 (a) and whose motor displaces more than 150 cubic centimeters (150cc).
The process of making your dirt bike street legal in California includes CARB certification, some mechanical adjustments as well as the non-mechanical procedures. Let’s discuss it in more detail.
California Air Resources Board (CARB) Certification
A dirt bike in its stock form is classified as an off-highway vehicle (OHV) in California. And unfortunately, OHVs are subjected to the state’s stringent emissions regulations. Therefore, before riding your dirt bike in most californian OHV trails your dirt bike has to be certified compliant by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
All OHVs, including dirt bikes, receive either a red or a green sticker from CARB. Bikers can use OHV trials in California all year long if they own a dirt bike made in 2003 or later because these dirt bikes will recieve the green emissions badge from the CARB. Red-stickered dirt bikes with low emissions from more recent models or older versions may only be used during specific seasons.
All in all, always keep in mind that for your dirt bike to be considered street legal in California, your bike has to have a green CARB sticker. No matter what changes you make to the emissions system, you won’t be able to turn it into a street-legal dirt bike if it isn’t a green model.
If you’re temporarily visiting from another part of the country and driving a dirt bike that’s registered outside California, you aren’t subject to the same laws as Californians. You don’t need to display a green or red sticker to use the state’s OHV tracks. Your dirt bike still isn’t street legal, though. And it’s illegal not to re-register your bike with California plates if you move to the state permanently.
If your dirt bike is not eligible for a green CARB sticker but still want to ride on California OHV trails, your best option is to register your dirt bike in a non-title, no residency requirement, mail-in registration application state. One such state in the US is Vermont.
Mechanical Additions to make a dirt bike street legal in California
Even green-stickered dirt bikes aren’t necessarily street legal. While you can buy green-stickered dirt bikes in California, they may not have the necessary equipment that would enable you to drive them safely on the roads of California. Knowing the parts you need in your dirt bike to make it street legal in may sound pretty simple. However, assembling all the required parts and modifying your bike can be an overwhelming process. Be at ease, though! I have linked exactly where you should go to purchase every part you require to legally ride your dirt bike on the public roads of California.
Your dirt bike should have the following equipment in order to be even considered for registration as a street legal bike:
- A working headlight (high and low beam) and a taillight,
- A windshield,
- A working brake light,
- A functioning pair of front and back brakes,
- A functioning turn signal and a horn,
- Two Rearview Mirrors,
- DOT-approved Tires,
- A License Plate Bracket,
- Additional Components (Odometer, Kickstand, Charging System, Stator )
Keep in mind, California restricts the sound that the dirt bike makes. Therefore, every motor vehicle subject to registration must be equipped with an adequate muffler in constant operation and properly maintained to prevent any excessive or unusual noise, and no muffler or exhaust system shall be equipped with a cutout, bypass, or similar device.
Non-mechanical procedures to make a dirt bike street legal in California
Once you have a green CARB sticker and install all the safety components in your dirt bike and make it look more like a street bike, you’ll need to follow a few more steps in order to make your dirt bike street legal in California.
1. Complete a Verification of Vehicle (Form REG 31)
The first non-mechanal step to get your dirt bike street legal in California is to complete the Verification of a Vehicle (Form REG 31) by getting your motorcycle inspected by a licensed inspection center. A DMV employee can inspect your vehicle for free. However, you can also have an inspection station or law enforcement officer complete it ahead of time—note that you may be charged a fee.
Once the inspection is complete, you’ll receive a certificate of verification of the vehicle. Don’t lose this, as it’s one of the crucial documents while registering your dirt bike in California.
Dirt bikes registered in California are also required for safety or emissions inspections. Moreover, it is also required to get a vehicle identification number (VIN) inspection performed either by a law enforcement officer or an inspection station before you can register it for the first time.
2. Register your dirt bike with your local DMV office in California
The registration of your dirt bike in California depends on where you purchase your dirt bike from. When you plan to take the trip to the DMV Office in California, you must provide some crucial documents to complete the registration.
- A copy of the title or Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin,
- Bill of Sale,
- A dealer’s affidavit if the motorcycle was bought in another state,
- Proof of Californian Liability Insurance,
- VIN inspection Report,
- DMV vehicle verification Report.
- A completed Application for Title or Registration (Form REG 343),
- Receipts of all the paid fees and taxes.
You’ll need to pay some fees for registration and title at the Department of Motor Vehicles in California for your dirt bike. There will be a $29 California Highway Patrol (CHP) fee, $65 registration fee, 0.65% of your dirt bike’s value as a vehicle licensing fee, and 7.5% to 10.25% usage tax (varies by county) on the purchase price. Keep in mind, local county taxes and surcharges between $1 and $19 each (varies by county) may also apply.
If you purchased your dirt bike from the dealer and the dirt bike’s certificate of Origin doesn’t mention your dirt bike being off-road only, you don’t need to do anything. The dealer will submit your documents to the DMV Office in California. You’ll receive copies of the documents sent for your records.
However, if you bought a dirt bike, which already has a title, from a private seller, it is your and the seller’s responsibility to register the motorcycle at the Department of Motor Vehicles in California. The titling can be done at the same time. To register your dirt bike:
- You and the seller must sign the title
- Provide proof of insurance
- Present the current registration
- Present the proof of ownership (MSO, title, or Bill of Sale)
- Pay all the applicable fees
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of making your dirt bike street legal in California yourself, DirtLegal provides a dirt bike legal service for just $299. After you complete your order, they’ll be getting the paperwork ready for you and send you within 24 hours.
Do dirt bikes have titles in California?
Yes, it is possible to title a dirt bike in California. However, you will need either the Manufacturer Statement of Origin (MSO) or a Bill of Sale that meets the DMV requirements.
In case you don’t have the MSO, you can contact your dealer or the manufacturer to obtain this information. If you bought the dirt bike from someone else and the dirt bike is not yet titled, you may ask them for the certificate of origin. Furthermore, even if the previous owner doesn’t have the certificate of origin, you can use the VIN number to find out who the first owner is. This way you can contact them and ask them if they have the MSO of your dirt bike.
In order to register your dirt bike, the MSO of your bike must state that the bike meets or exceeds all federal emissions, safety, and anti-theft standards. If this statement is not present in y our dirt bike’s MSO, it is usually considered for “off-road” purposes only and thus will be very difficult to get registered or even titled in California.
How to get a title for a dirt bike in California?
The process of getting a title for a dirt bike in California is very similar to getting a title for a motorcycle, car, or truck. The most important document you’ll need in order to get a title and registration in California is proof of ownership. Proof of ownership can typically be provided with one of the following documents:
- Title from the previous owner that has been filled out and signed,
- Bill of sale,
- Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin from the dealership(MSO), or
- Documents that demonstrate the full chain of ownership.
If you purchased your dirt bike in another state and want to title and register it in California, you’ll also typically need to complete a VIN verification and inspection.
Once all the documents are ready, visit your local DMV office in California and:
- Provide all the proof of ownership documentation,
- Photo ID,
- Complete an Application for California Certificate of Title or Registration (Form REG 343),
- Smog Inspection Certificate,
- Pay the $23 new title fee.
If you’re buying a used dirt bike and the previous owner doesn’t have the title, or the state doesn’t issue titles to dirt bikes, a bill of sale will often suffice. To register/title a dirt bike in California with just a bill of sale, you’ll need to be sure that it meets the DMV’s bill of sale requirements, which typically include:
- Full name, address, and signature of the seller,
- Full name, address, and signature of the buyer,
- Details of the dirt bike including year, make, model, and VIN,
- Details of the sale including date, sale price, and any other details.
California also requires you to notarize the signatures on the bill of sale. Alternatively, you can also request that the seller applies for a duplicate title before proceeding with the sale.
How to register your dirt bike with no title in California?
Registering your dirt bike without a title is next to impossible in the state of California. Howver, you can try some of the following things prior to visiting a DMV office for registration.
- Get a valid bill of sale from the seller along with any other ownership and registration documents they may have. The more documentation you have that proves the chain of ownership, the easier the process will be in.
- Run the dirt bike’s VIN to be sure that it’s not stolen and matches the dirt bike you’re buying.
- The California Department of Motor Vehicles also requires you to get a certificate of Vehicle Verification from either a DMV employee at your local DMV office, CA licensed vehicle verifier, Certified auto club employee, California law enforcement/peace officer.
- Pass a smog inspection.
Do you need a license and liability insurance to ride a dirt bike in California?
You don’t need a license or insurance if you plan to ride your dirt bike strictly off-road or even on your private property in California. However, if you plan to link trails by roads or want to experience riding your dirt bikes on public streets and roads or highways of California, you’ll need a California motorcycle license(Class-M1 or M2) and have insurance in place.
California dirt bike riders must also purchase an insurance coverage that is equal to or exceeds the following limits:
- $15,000 bodily injury liability coverage for injuries to one person in an accident
- $30,000 bodily injury liability coverage for total injuries in an accident
- $5,000 property damage liability coverage
Keep in mind, license and insurance is only required if you plan on making your dirt bike street legal and ride in on public california roads and highways. And lastly, always carry your license, title, and insurance papers with you while taking your dirt bike on California roads.