How to Register a Custom Build Motorcycle – Motorcycle Legal Foundation (2023)

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You've been watching those TV shows about building a custom motorcycle and you've spent the last few years in your garage building your dream bike. Once you've completed the build, all you have to do is officially register your motorcycle for your masterpiece to be roadworthy. This process can be a little tricky for anyone who chooses to build their own motorcycle, but don't worry, we've got you covered.

Registration of your motorcycle

Each state in the US differs in what you must provide to the registrar at the time of registration. Correspondingthe California DMV, a custom motorcycle is "built for personal use, not for resale, and is not built by a licensed manufacturer or remanufacturer". There are small details that can slow down and complicate the registration process of a motorcycle. Here are the things you need to make the registration process go smoothly:

property title

When you buy the frame and/or engine parts, make sure theVehicle identification number (vin)on the frame or engine block matches the VIN shown on the title deed. This allows you to easily transfer the title to your name during registration time.

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If you bought a frame without a chassis number:

If you buy a frame or motor without an associated VIN, you may receive oneManufacturer's Declaration of Origin (MSO)instead from the seller. This shows that they legally purchased the component but never received an official VIN number. You can initially use this in place of the VIN, but you should discuss with your local registration office how (and if necessary) you can obtain a proper VIN before attempting to register the motorcycle.

If you built your own frame:

If you built your own frame instead of buying one, you don't have a VIN number or MSO to use as documentation of the frame's provenance. In this case, the registration office can issue you with a self-made VIN, which must be permanently affixed to the frame of the motorcycle. Be sure to discuss with the registrar the correct location for affixing the VIN and how it should be affixed in order for it to be legal. Do this as early in the process as possible, perhaps before you start building.

There are instances where you may buy a salvage motorcycle (or motorcycles) for parts. They may have been in an accident and be totaled by insurance, but they have serviceable parts that can make a new bike. The most important detail here is the documentation of where each component comes from. Having multiple parts with different titles does not mean you cannot register the new design. As soon as possible (preferably before you begin purchasing salvaged parts), check with your local or state licensing agency for the guidelines required in this case to ensure you understand the requirements.

A "homebuilt, purpose-built, or kit vehicle" is a vehicle built for personal use, not for resale, and not built by a licensed manufacturer or remanufacturer. These vehicles may consist of a kit, new or used parts, a combination of new and used parts, or a vehicle declared for dismantling (scrap) that after rebuilding no longer corresponds to the original make of the dismantled vehicle.

– California Department of Motor Vehicles

security inspection

Safety is a priority when riding a motorcycle, and checking your motorcycle's readiness is well worth the extra money. When it comes time to have your custom built motorcycle inspected by a local law enforcement agency to ensure it is roadworthy, they will ensure that the VIN numbers on your parts match those listed on the manufacturer's Certificates of Origin are.

How to Register a Custom Build Motorcycle – Motorcycle Legal Foundation (1)

To save yourself a headache, make sure you shave as much paperwork as possible out of the building process. Whether you are building a Frankenstein bike from salvaged parts or from a kit, create a file and keep all documentation that proves ownership. This includes invoices and sales contracts for all important components such as the engine, frame, body and transmission.

You may also want a local motorcycle shop to inspect the motorcycle before law enforcement does. A professional store can charge a simple inspection fee for the service and may have knowledge of the entire registration process so you can complete your process with ease. Think of it as a sham registration and they can give you advice on your readiness to complete the process quickly.

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emissions certification

Your state may or may not require emissions validation for your purpose built motorcycle. If there is no emissions validation, there are most likely still certain standards required by law. Be sure to check with your local or state DMV registration office for guidelines on emissions and what is required prior to the registration process. This may include limitations on tailpipe emissions and noise levels. Ask where you can have your fully assembled motorcycle tested to obtain the approved emissions certificate.

Builder Title Limitations

Some states limit the number of master builder degrees you can obtain per year. If you frequently build custom motorcycles, your state may limit the number of titles that can be applied for in a year. Some have a maximum of six, while others limit it to 10. It varies from state to state, so be sure to check how many you're limited to if you plan to build multiple custom motorcycles without registering as a dealer or company.

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A completed application for title or registration.

When you have done all your homework and feel ready to start the registration process,make an appointmentat your local DMV office. Whether you are trying to register the motorcycle for the first time or a second attempt, you must pay the registration fee. Some DMV offices may have offers of fee forbearance if you don't pass the first time. Be sure to check the exact policies of your local registrar. As well as all the above documents required to attempt to register the motorcycle, you should also have insurance on the motorcycle and be prepared to present this information to the registrar at the DMV office.

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All DMV forms you need are availablehere. These are California specific but are a good representation of what to expect from your local DMV office. You can also search your state DMV office's website if you are not a California resident.

What to bring to your motorcycle registration appointment

Be sure to bring the following items with you to your registration appointment:

  • A completed application for title or registration.
  • A completed building declaration.
  • Proof of ownership documents such as receipts and bills of sale. Your state may require a notary to review and verify the documents, and you may also request pictures of the motorcycle and components. A vehicle deposit is required if proof of ownership cannot be provided for parts valued at $5,000 or more.
  • A vehicle inspection conducted by the California Highway Patrol. Make your DMV registration appointment before planning the CHP vehicle inspection.
  • A Smog Check Certificate issued by a Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) Referee Station. Since bespoke motorcycles do not have a year of manufacture stated by the manufacturer, they must be inspected by a BAR.
  • Referee station in lieu of a regular smog check facility (call (800) 622-7733 to schedule an appointment).
  • Official brake and light adjustment certificates. If an official brake and light control center that tests motorcycles is not within a reasonable distance, the DMV will accept a completed testStatement of facts (REG 256)Document from a workshop that certifies that the brakes and lights are working properly. (Off-highway vehicles do not require brake and light certificates.
  • All title, sales tax and registration fees are due. Building your own custom motorcycle is an exciting experience that you will definitely enjoy. The last major hurdle is the registration process as it involves a lot of documentation of your custom build and ownership of each part of the bike. With a little organization during construction, you can have all the necessary paperwork upfront and ready to sail straight through the registration application and hit the road. Much luck!

How to Register a Custom Build Motorcycle – Motorcycle Legal Foundation (2)

Michael Padway

Michael Padway uses his expertise in personal injury and motorcycle accidents to represent a wide range of clients dealing with life-altering and permanent injuries for the first time. Its offices are located at 235 Montgomery St., Ste 668, San Francisco, CA 94104 and at 3140 Chapman St. Oakland, CA 94601. For more information, please call (800) 928-1511.

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Can you build a motorcycle from scratch? ›

It's possible to create a motorcycle entirely from aftermarket or custom pieces, avoiding some of the design flaws that can be present in OEM parts and designs. When designed and built carefully, a completely non-stock bike might be superior to factory offerings.

How do I register a custom motorcycle frame in California? ›

Registering a Specially Constructed Vehicle
  1. A completed Application for Title or Registration (REG 343) form.
  2. A vehicle verification by an authorized DMV employee. ...
  3. A completed Statement of Construction (REG 5036) form.
  4. Bills of sale and/or receipts for major component parts (the engine, frame, transmission, and body).

Can you register a motorcycle without a title in Illinois? ›

Motorcycles use their own titling system to prove ownership, just like cars. When you go to register your bike for the first time, you must bring your title with you along with your license. You will need several critical pieces of information about the bike: The vehicle identification number (VIN)

How much does it cost to build a custom motorcycle? ›

Costs. Costs can range from $1,000 to $12,000+ depending on what is being done.

Can you custom build a bike? ›

While it's not always as easy or affordable as buying a complete bike, building a bike piece by piece allows you to customize the spec. If you want to spend your money on a particular component and save somewhere else, you can.

How long does it take to build a custom motorcycle? ›

The Reveal Once you've combined all these elements, you have a custom bike, built by you, to your specifications. It might take two years, or five years, or ten years—but you'll have the ultimate satisfaction knowing that it was all done by you.

What is considered a custom motorcycle? ›

Custom motorcycles and trikes are any homemade or custom-built bikes and bikes with significant modifications to the factory-built design, such as engine swaps and frame alterations.

Are custom bikes legal? ›

Is Bike Modification Legal in India? According to the Supreme Court judgement in 2019, bike modifications are permissible and legal until and unless they do not change or alter the specifications of the vehicle. The Supreme Court authorises RTO to grant permission for colour and engine changes or minor adjustments.

How much does it cost to build a bike from scratch? ›

Cost of Project: Thoughts and Musings

The cost of a bike “built from scratch” starts at $1000. We use approximately $500 in “new bike parts” and a “used bike frame”. You will go step by step from choosing a frame to ordering and installing the parts.

Can you customize a motorcycle? ›

But I'm here to tell you, no matter what skills you have, customizing your own motorcycle is within reach. Especially today, when there are so many aftermarket parts available for hundreds of common models, and when enthusiasm for custom motorcycles is at an all-time high.

What can be legally modified in a bike? ›

What Type of Bike Modifications Are Legal In India? Minor adjustments or modifications like engine belly, tail tidy, decals, visors, winglets, etc are allowed. Because such modifications do not necessarily change the specifications and are hence permissible. Modification in tires can be allowed.

Can you get custom motorcycle plates in Florida? ›

Personalized license plates for motorcycles are only available as a "Florida Graphic" or "Motorcycle Specialty" license plate. A mount Includes A ll Fees (SEE "FEE EXCEPTIONS" BELOW). *Graphic design is centered on the plate **Graphic design is on the far left/right side of the plate.

Can I register my motorcycle online in Florida? ›

Online Registration Renewals

For a quick, convenient way to renew a vehicle or vessel registration online at MyDMV Portal where the following motor vehicle services are offered: One-year or two-year registration renewals for motor vehicles.

Are custom license plates legal in Florida? ›

Personalized license plates may be ordered in person at motor vehicle service center throughout Florida. The cost is an additional $15 annual fee for each personalized license plate, and Application for Personalized License Plate (HSMV form 83043) will need to be completed and brought to a local office for processing.

How do custom license plates work? ›

The owner of the vehicle pays extra money to have their own choice of numbers or letters, usually portraying a recognizable phrase, slogan, or abbreviation, on their plate. Sales of vanity plates are often a significant source of revenue for North American provincial and state licensing agencies.

How many letters can you put on a custom license plate in Florida? ›

Such plates shall consist of no more than a total of seven characters, including both numerals and capital letters, in any combination, except that a hyphen may be added in addition to the seven characters if desired or needed.

How many letters can be on a custom license plate in Florida? ›

Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

License plates with a center design may have up to 7 characters (with an additional space or hyphen). Left design plates may have up to 5 characters.

How to make a custom bike road legal? ›

You will have to obtain a No Objection Certificate (NOC) for the RTO first to allow you to change the engine and then apply for re-registration once the engine is changed. If your old engine is in working condition then this won t be allowed. Also, both the old and the new engines have to run on the same fuel.

What is the highest CC without motorcycle license? ›

Motorcycles have only two wheels and an engine that is over 150cc in size. Motorcycles must be registered and their drivers must have a valid motorcycle (M1) license. Motor-Driven Cycles have engines that are 149cc or less. These vehicles must also be registered and require drivers to hold an M1 license.


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