What Makes a Motorcycle Street Legal?

Your friend tells you about someone selling a motorcycle or dirt bike for a good deal. Since you've been interested in purchasing a new bike, you're eager to check it out. However, you're also wondering: Is the motorcycle for sale "street legal?" After all, you don't want to invest in a bike you can't ride on all roads.

You'd be surprised how many bikes sold don't meet street legal requirements. And that's an issue if you get in an accident and try to recover damages. Even if you were hurt badly, your claim might be denied because you were riding the wrong type of bike for the road you were driving.

How can you avoid making missteps about buying a motorcycle or dirt bike that's not street-legal? Know the following criteria used to determine the street legality of a bike. As a side note, even if the bike isn't street-legal, some states (including Georgia) allow you to upgrade to change the bike's street-legal status.

Proper Headlights and Brake Lights

The right kind of light system is the first thing your bike will need to be street-legal. Without a motorcycle brake light or headlights, your bike is ill-equipped to be ridden on-road. Remember that other motorists rely on you to signal what you will do next. If you have no motorcycle tail lights, you put yourself and everyone else at great risk. Plus, you need your headlights for riding when visibility may be an issue, such as at dusk or during a pop-up rainstorm.

Full Exhaust System

Your bike needs a muffler and full exhaust system for the open road. Otherwise, it will not pass emissions testing inspections. Besides, a muffler will make your bike less noisy for you and any riders you'll bring along. It will also stop fumes from escaping upward. Not all aftermarket full exhaust system kits will do the trick to make your dirt bike street-legal, though. You'll probably want to work with someone in the auto tech field to ensure any changes you make are appropriate and satisfy state laws for street legality.


Does your motorcycle or dirt bike already have at least one mirror? You may be covered for it to be street-legal. Mirrors enable you to see what's happening in all your blind zones. Whether you need one or two mirrors on your bike will depend on state regulations. In Georgia, motorcycles and street-legal bikes must have at least one mirror that provides 200 feet of visibility.


According to Department of Transportation (DOT) standards, your bike tires must be acceptable. Unsure if you have DOT-rated tires and rims? Get this question answered by a professional before taking your bike anywhere other than off-road. It's not good enough to think you can "get away" using your dirt bike tires for the highway. Off-road tires aren't designed to give you the safe maneuverability you'll need. They may even come apart, leading you to skid out of control or hit another vehicle.

Added Tips About Motorcycles and Street Legal Concerns

Perhaps the best tip you can get about taking any bike on a paved highway is to know it's street-legal. You can't afford the risks of being fined or getting hurt in a crash.

If you're buying a pre-owned bike and are unsure about its street-legal status, you can always conduct a motorcycle VIN check. A VIN check gives you a background on everything from maintenance to prior collisions. This can give you more clarity about how previous owners used the bike.

Even if you do your best to upgrade your bike and make it street-legal, you could be in an accident. Unfortunately, motorcyclists struggle with a lot of bias that can interfere with their ability to recover fair damages after injury. To help you navigate your case, contact the team at Steelhorse Law as soon as possible for a private, personalized consultation.

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