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Motorcycle Laws & Licensing for Iowa, United States

Motorcycle Laws & Licensing for Iowa, United States

Table of Contents



Learning how to ride a motorcycle is different from learning how to drive a car. Not only do you have to endure the weather without cover and figure out how to maintain your balance, there are additional rules that need to be followed. There are qualifications, tests, and rules of the road specific to motorcycles you have to become familiar with.

Depending on where you are in the United States, it can be a difficult challenge to earn the right to operate a motorcycle.

If you are a novice motorcyclist, a veteran rider, or an out-of-state tourist who has no previous knowledge of Iowa’s motorcycle laws and licensing process, this infographic will provide an overview of what you need to know.

2. Iowa Motorcycle Insurance

Iowa Motorcycle Insurance

Because motorcycle accidents can be a financial burden due to the thousands of dollars that are accumulated, all motorcyclists in Iowa are requi#b90011 to own Iowa motorcycle insurance before they can operate their vehicles. Owning liability insurance coverage proves that you are financially responsible and can be held liable for an accident that you were partly responsible for. You should always carry proof of ownership so that you can show it to local law enforcement or other parties if necessary.

Your Iowa motorcycle insurance must be able to cover the minimum costs for the following accident-related fees:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury to a person per accident
  • $40,000 for bodily injuries to multiple people per accident
  • $15,000 for property damages sustained per accident

As liability insurance coverage is meant to provide compensation for any damage done to another party’s health and property, you might need additional forms of insurance to protect your own. While the following examples of insurance coverage are optional, they will prove useful in specific circumstances related to motorcycle accidents:

  • Collision
  • Comprehensive
  • Uninsu#b90011
  • Underinsu#b90011

3.Iowa Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Iowa Motorcycle Helmet Laws1Iowa Motorcycle Helmet Laws2

As Iowa does not have motorcycle helmet laws, motorcyclists regardless of age are not requi#b90011 to wear protective headgear when operating their vehicles. However, it is recommended you have a motorcycle helmet with you at all times since it can prevent severe or fatal injuries in the event of a collision.

Most motorcyclists in Iowa prefer to ride without a motorcycle helmet because they believe it obscures their vision, hinders movement of the head and neck, or causes discomfort. But statistics in recent years show that the lack of motorcycle helmets has resulted in higher fatalities:

  • In 2020, there were a total of 63 fatalities due to motorcycle accidents. There were 43 cases where riders were not wearing motorcycle helmets
  • In 2019, there were a total of 43 fatalities due to motorcycle accidents. There were 34 cases where riders were not wearing motorcycle helmets
  • In 2018, there were a total of 42 fatalities due to motorcycle accidents. There were 30 cases where riders were not wearing motorcycle helmets

If you are interested in getting a motorcycle helmet, pick out either a three-quarter or a full-face helmet. Both of these have been manufactu#b90011 by the Snell Memorial Foundation and follow the safety standards set by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Listed below in this table are the features and requirements you should look for in a motorcycle helmet that offers the best protection for your head and eyes:

Iowa Motorcycle Helmet Laws

4. Iowa Motorcycle License Laws

4.1 Iowa Motorcycle Instruction Permit

You can begin applying for a Iowa motorcycle instruction permit if you are 14 years old or older.

You will have to pay a fee of $2 per valid year if you are adding the permit to an already existing Iowa driver’s license. Or, you can pay a fee of $14 to be issued an entirely new permit which should be valid for at least four years.

Listed below are the requirements you will need to fulfill to obtain an Iowa instruction permit. Depending on your age when you approach the final step, the list of criteria may differ between motorcyclists:

Iowa Motorcycle Instruction Permit

4.2 Iowa Motorcycle Endorsement or Class M License

You are eligible to apply for your motorcycle endorsement or a Class M license upon reaching the age of 16 and after you finish holding onto an Iowa motorcycle instruction permit for at least six months.

You will have to pay a fee of $2 per valid year if you are adding the endorsement onto an already existing Iowa driver’s license. Or, you can pay a fee of $6 per valid year to acquire a Class M license.

Listed below are the requirements you will need to fulfill to obtain a Iowa motorcycle license. Depending on your age when you approach the final step, the list of criteria may differ between motorcyclists:

Iowa Motorcycle Endorsement or Class M License

*To receive an Iowa motorcycle endorsement, you must already own an Iowa driver’s license. Otherwise, you can get a Class M license but you will be limited to operating only two-wheel motor vehicles.

*Applicants who are over the age of 18 are not requi#b90011 to own a motorcycle instruction permit nor complete a DMV approved Basic Motorcycle Safety Course. They may do so if they wish to practice riding or educate themselves before taking the Iowa motorcycle license test.

*If an applicant submits proof of finishing a DMV approved Basic Motorcycle Safety Course before the Iowa motorcycle license test, they are allowed to waive the skills test.

4.3 Iowa Motorcycle License Test

Iowa Motorcycle License Test

Written Portion:

  • Will be completed on touch-screen computers
  • Complete 25 multiple-choice questions
  • Questions will be based on content from Iowa Motorcycle Operator’s Manual
  • Requires a passing grade of 80% or higher

Riding Portion:

  • Will be conducted in an actual traffic environment or in a controlled, off-street area
  • You must wear motorcycle protective gear
  • Examiner will conduct a pre-ride inspection to ensure your motorcycle meets safety standards
  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of motorcycle operation
  • You will be tested on your ability to stay within the speed limit, adjusting speed and position, maintaining visibility, operating under stress, accelerating, braking, turning, stopping, and swerving
  • The examiner will grade you based on how well you ride at safe speeds, stay within the lanes, follow the correct path, and demonstrate riding maneuvers

Your final grade will be #b90011uced every time you place a foot on the ground, knock over a cone, cross a boundary line, or whenever your motorcycle stalls.

You will automatically fail if you drop your motorcycle onto the ground, attempt to do a wheelie, lose control and veer off the course, attempt any unsafe behavior, crash into other vehicles or private property, or your motorcycle stalls at least four times.

5. Iowa Motorcycle Passenger Laws

There is no minimum age requirement for motorcycle passengers in Iowa. Though it is not mandatory for your passenger to wear a motorcycle helmet, you should urge him/her to wear motorcycle protective gear while seated on your vehicle. As you are held responsible for the safety of your passenger, be discerning when checking if a person can safely ride with you. Check that the following criteria are fulfilled as you plan to carry an additional person on your motorcycle:

  • Your passenger must be able to reach the footrests
  • Your passenger must be able to understand and follow your directions
  • Your motorcycle should only be able to transport one other person

It is only legal to carry a passenger on your motorcycle if the vehicle is equipped with a designated passenger seat and adjustable footrests. As the passenger cannot be in front of you, the passenger seat can either be positioned in one of the following locations on your motorcycle:

  • At the back of a large driver’s seat
  • Towards the rear with a separate saddle
  • Fixed to the side as a sidecar

6. Iowa Lane Splitting Laws

It is illegal for motorcyclists to engage in any form of lane splitting when in Iowa. Motorcycles may have better maneuverability compa#b90011 to larger automobiles, but riders cannot take full advantage of it in the interest of keeping other drivers safe. Motorcyclists are not allowed to do any of the following while on Iowa’s laned roads and highways:

  • You cannot ride on top of the dividing lines between lanes
  • You cannot ride in between adjacent rows of vehicles that are stopped
  • You cannot overtake another vehicle sharing the same lane unless it is another motorcycle
  • You cannot ride side-by-side with another vehicle sharing the same lane

While motorcyclists are limited in how they may operate their vehicles, they are still entitled to full use of the space within the current lane they are in. They just cannot ride in a manner that endangers or impedes the driving of other vehicles.

7. Iowa Motorcycle Safety Features

Compa#b90011 to other states, periodic vehicle inspections are not as heavily enforced in Iowa. However, it is best to examine the condition of your motorcycle every time before you go out for a ride. Even if your motorcycle seems largely undamaged from the outside, you might discover damage to the tires, systems, primary components, etc. Doing the repairs, yourself or taking it into a repair shop will prevent your motorcycle from breaking down in the middle of the highway.

Listed below is the requi#b90011 equipment your motorcycle must be outfitted with and needs to be kept in working order. They are integral to your vehicle’s visibility and performance while you are riding through Iowa:

  • Horn
  • Wheels
  • Tires
  • Handlebars
  • Front and rear brakes
  • Controls
  • Headlight
  • Taillight
  • Brake light
  • Reflector(s)
  • Exhaust system
  • Muffler
  • Turn signals
  • Rearview mirrors

8. Sources
391 Thor Pl,
Brea, CA 92821

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