Have you ever wondered if ATVs are street legal in California? Well, look no further because we have all the info you might want to know. And probably some that you are not aware you should know.
Per state law, ATVs are not permitted to use either highways or streets in California. But there are three exemptions when this can be done, by a properly registered ATV, and if the driver is properly licensed and equipped.
So, let’s move on with this question in greater detail.
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Are ATVs Street legal in California?
State law defines which vehicles are allowed on streets and highways. And it stipulates conditions when ATVs are allowed to travel them.
The first condition is that they are registered and have an appropriate red or green sticker, California non-resident OHV use permit, or Arizona license plates.
Even then, only in three situations, they can be legally on a street or highway:
- while crossing a two-lane road,
- while crossing a street wider than two lanes at a marked OHV crossing,
- on a street with stoplights, during the day, if that street is designated for use by OHVs.
These rules apply only to lands and roads that are accessible by the public, whether they are privately or government-owned properties.
On privately owned properties that are not publicly accessible, such as farms and ranches, these rules do not apply.
Do I need to register my ATV?
Yes, it is required for an ATV to be registered so you would be able to use it in California. The only exception is if such a vehicle is used only for husbandry or in competitive events on closed courses that are organized by recognized governing bodies.
Registration reciprocity is enforced. In other words, if your ATV is registered in another state, such registration is valid.
But, such reciprocity does not apply to street legality. If it is allowed on the streets of your home state, it doesn’t translate to California.
What is the Green Sticker?
California Air Resources Board is one of the agencies that enforce air pollution standards. One of the ways they do it is through certification of engines for ATVs with the manufacturers of these vehicles.
While manufacturers have obligation to certify their engines that they meet emission standards, it is your obligation to purchase a green sticker if they do.
A green sticker can be purchased at any DMV office for $52 if your ATV’s emissions met the standards. And are valid for two years.
What is the Red Sticker?
In case your ATV is not certified for a green sticker, you will be eligible for a red sticker. This can be easily checked from your VIN, if the 8th digit is 3 or C it doesn’t meet the emission standards.
ATVs with red stickers are limited to use in public areas only during the riding season which varies between parks. You can see the exact dates in this list.
What is the California non-resident OHV use permit?
In case you are visiting California and coming from a state that does not require registration of ATVs, you will have to acquire the California non-resident OHV use permit.
For all intents and purposes, it is a valid replacement for a registration that allows you to ride your unregistered ATV. After purchase, they are valid till December 31st of the year they were purchased.
It costs $30 and can be purchased from vendors in California, but also in Arizona and Nevada. A list of these vendors you can find here.
I have an ATV registered/titled in Arizona; can I use it in California?
If you are an Arizona resident, your ATV can be deemed registered only if it has a proper OHV decal or MC registration plates.
The RV plates are only proof of title and are not valid on their own in California.
If your ATV has RV plates, you will need to either also have Arizona OHV decals or purchase a California non-resident OHV use permit.
Do I need a driver’s license to ride an ATV in California?
Persons 18 years of age and older must have a valid driver’s license to be able to use an ATV in California, both on private and public lands.
And do not have to pass a safety course of any kind, unless they do not have a valid driver’s license or are accompanying a person younger than 14 years.
Riders that are between 14 and 17 years of age must pass a safety course organized through ATV Safety Institute.
Persons younger than 13 are also allowed to ride ATVs, but only if they are 6 years or older, can reach all ATV’s controls with ease, and are supervised by an adult with a safety course certificate.
What equipment must my ATV have?
For an ATV to be allowed on designated roads and trails in California, it must be equipped with headlights and tail lights if driven at night.
For riding during the day, they need to have brakes, muffler, and spark arrestor.
Is wearing a helmet mandatory in California?
All riders must wear a helmet in California at all times when riding ATVs. While in some other states only underage riders are required, in California all are.
Also, it is strictly forbidden to have more passengers on an ATV than there are individual seats on them.
California is a state with many parks and trails that are a thrill to visit and enjoy on an ATV.
But that still leaves the question of how to reach them, are ATVs Street legal in California?
Generally, ATVs are not allowed on streets and roads in the Golden State. But many roads are designated by proper authorities as permitted.
To use these roads, your ATV must be properly registered and equipped with a green or red sticker, or with the California non-resident OHV use permit.
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