Do You Need a Driving License to Ride an ATV?

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ATVs or All-terrain vehicles are motorized vehicles optimized for use on dirt and off-roads. ATVs are largely designed for recreation purposes. Some weigh more than 600 pounds with powerful engines powering speeds of 65 mph or more.


Need a Driving License to Ride an ATV?

ATVs can be unstable and they are challenging to control. They are involved in many collisions, where the rider is at risk of accumulating significant injuries because the vehicles commonly tip over. ATVs have a high center of gravity while the lack of seatbelts, roll bars, and safety cages means that it easy for riders to be thrown off.

Who can Ride an ATV?

In many states, teens and older kids can ride ATVs without a driver’s license. There are no federal age limits or regulations when it comes to the use of the vehicles.

Some states need the riders to be 16 years and to have a safety certificate. In other states, kids as young as 10 can use the vehicles with supervision from an adult with a driver’s license.

The AAP discourages ATV use among kids who are below 16 years. The vehicles can prove too large for younger kids to handle effectively, even if they are no legal age limits.

To operate an ATV safely, the rider will be required to make and implement quick decisions like slowing down abruptly and shifting their weight to adjust to the environment.

This is why the rider needs to be older. If you let your kid on an ATV, get acquainted with the guidelines in your state. These guidelines include:

  • Complete a safety training course to be educated on the safety levels needed on an ATV.
  • Always equip yourself with a helmet and eye protection. In most states, the two are necessitated by law, especially for kids.
  • Ride during the day.
  • Ride at a safe speed and use designated trails.
  • Know basic first aid practices to address minor injuries.

In some states, kids under certain ages are not authorized to carry passengers on ATVs. ATVs are also not legal on public roads except when crossing them. A rider should not carry more passengers than is recommended by the manufacturer.

What You Need to Ride an ATV

Riding an ATV is thrilling, and the entire family should enjoy it. Getting into the sport does not only mean buying a model and hitting the trail.

It is a process that will only enhance your safety on the dirt road. You can follow the resource below as a guide:

– Buying the Right ATV

The first decision is the size of the ATV. Generally, children should be put on vehicles that are below 200cc. Bigger sizes are for more experienced people and those who have multiple uses for the bikes. Your physical size is another determinant. You should be comfortable on the ATV and should be able to control it on the trail.

The ATV you get will also be dictated by the places you intend to drive the ATV. Bikes of 550 CC or under are ideal for easy trail riding.

A model that is between 500 to 700 cc is good for more aggressive riding, hauling and towing, and steeper hill climbing. If you are planning to venture into harsher terrains, you are better equipped with a 700 to 1000 cc range model.

The price is another consideration. Used models are priced cheaper than new ones. Basically, buy a sports quad for recreational riding. A utility ATV is ideal for farmers and ranchers who need to transverse across their farms and haul things.

– Choose Gear

Riding an ATV is as fun as it is risky. You will need to keep yourself and your youngsters equipped with safety gear to hit the trail. The helmet comes first, and it should be “DOT” or “Snell” certified.

You want a quality helmet that will offer the highest level of safety. It should be complemented by a pair of goggles to keep off stick, dust, branches, mud, and bugs out of your eyes.

A quality jersey paired with riding pants protects the skin underneath from bruises and cuts. Invest in a pair of gloves as your hands will constantly be rubbing and squeezing the handles. Another safety equipment to get is quad-style boots.

Your gym boots are not designed to withstand the rigors of off-road riding. For additional protection, you can get a neck and chest protector to minimize the impact of a collision.

– Get Training

Once you have acquired your preferred your model, you will need to learn how to ride it and use it safely. It is easy to hop on the machine and take off.

The trick is in doing things like negotiating turns and navigating through obstacles. Training is easily accessible from the ATV Safety Institute.

– ATV Insurance

Not every state needs insurance for ATVs. Some, however, need some coverage if you intend to ride the vehicle in public parks and land and states parks.

ATV insurance will not only protect you and your machine but other people and their property. In the case of another party, liability coverage will address any medical bills or property compensation.

Collision coverage will settle the fees for repairing your ATV if it is involved in a crash. Comprehensive coverage takes into account external risks like fire and hail.

Your ATV needs its own insurance because your auto or homeowner’s policy will typically not include it.

Check the state regulations as well as the guidelines of the designations you plan to ride your ATV. If you are uninsured, you will end up being liable for any damages in case of a crash.

ATV Registration and Permits

Some states need registration and licensing. To register the machine, you will need proof of insurance. The device can also not be registered to a ride below 16 years. In some states, all you need is a land-use permit or a kind of land pass.

Consult the Bureau of Motor Vehicles in your state. A title of ownership may be necessary to take your ATV to public land.

Check with your local club to get daily, monthly, or annual permits. You can get daily passes to sample the trails around your locality before committing to one. ATV riders should additionally familiarize themselves with trail regulations and rules.

Engaging in loud and reckless riding makes owners of these areas revoke the use of their property and may result in a trail being closed. Stay on the major trails at all times. Making new and unauthorized trails may compromise the integrity of the park.

Can You Make an ATV Street Legal?

Some states criminalize the use of ATVs on public roads, but you make your machine street legal by implementing several modifications. Turning the ATV to be street legal is a significant investment.

It is an ideal move if you live in an area where you can access numerous trails from city/county roads. The goal is to get maximum use from the vehicle and to make ownership convenient.

Every state has differing laws when it comes to the legality of motor vehicles. It is common to treat an ATV like a motorcycle while state statutes commonly recognize vehicles as four or two-wheeled machines.

Your ATV is therefore similar to a car than a motorcycle. When you take into account all the requirements of a car, it seems impossible to make your quad legal. The modifications you will probably need include:

  • Tires: The tires on the ATV are among the major reasons why they are not authorized on roads. Street tires will offer better grip, which is essential when braking and taking corners. Off-road tires will quickly depreciate on public roads. The tires you obtain should be DOT-approved and get some that will perform well on roads.
  • Turn Signals: Traffic will need to know the side you are turning. Hand signals are not as effective, especially at night. You can purchase a kit and just plug the signals in. Most kits also come with hazard lights.
  • Mirrors: You are not constantly checking your blind spot on rough terrains as you will be doing on public roads. Most states will necessitate both rearview and side mirrors. Plastic is the cheapest option, but it gets damaged easily. Aluminum is the better alternative.
  • Horn: You may want to equip your ATV with a functioning horn on the road. An ATV will likely get lost in a swam of cars, so you need to remind other road users that you are present.
  • License Plate Holder: A license plate is necessary for all vehicles on the roads. It should also be visible, so you need a holder and light to mount it at the bike’s rear.
  • Tail and Brake Lights: Most models come with these components although you can buy a kit if yours does not have them installed.
  • Speedometer: Public roads have speed limits, and the speedometer will communicate your speed so that you do not exceed the allowed speed.

A street legal ATV should be registered and insured. The ATV will also need to pass a kind of inspection, as required by most states.

The inspection can be done at an appointed shop or by a state official. Supporting documents for the modifications you made will also be required.


The requirements you will need to ride an ATV will depend on your state. States generally have guidelines in regards to age, protection, and designated areas.

As long as a rider is over 16 years of age, they can ride an ATV. Some form of training can be done to ensure the safety of the users. You can also make an ATV street legal to take it to public roads.

Josh Berry - MotoShark Editor
Josh Berry
I'm a off-road enthusiast, extreme sport fan and the editor of MotoShark. If you have any questions or suggestions regarding this article, please leave a comment or contact me.

1 Response

  1. Tyler Johnson says:

    That’s good to know that you would be able to drive one if you are sixteen. My son is sixteen currently, but he doesn’t have his license yet, so I was wondering if he could drive an ATV. If we end up riding some on vacation this year, I’m glad that he would be able to not just ride the whole time.

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