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Autocycles

Legislation effective July 1, 2016, designated certain three-wheeled motor vehicles as autocycles when defining the title and registration, driver's license, and equipment requirements that apply to the owners and operators of these vehicles.

What is an autocycle?

An autocycle is a three-wheeled motor vehicle that is originally designed with the following:

  • Two front wheels and one rear wheel.
  • A steering wheel rather than handlebars.
  • No more than two permanent seats that do not require the operator or a passenger to straddle or sit astride the vehicle.
  • Foot pedals that control the brakes, acceleration, and clutch, where applicable.

The following are examples of vehicles that meet the definition of an autocycle.

photo examples of autocycles

Seat belt and helmet requirements for autocycles

Autocycles have seat belts that are required for the operator and passenger. The standard vehicle requirements for child restraints also apply to children transported in autocycles.

Iowa law does not require helmets for autocycles or motorcycles. However, because these vehicles are manufactured to meet federal safety standards that apply to motorcycles rather than the more rigorous safety standards that apply to passenger vehicles, it is recommended that operators and passengers wear helmets for their own protection.

A helmet may be required when the autocycle is operated in a state that has a mandatory helmet law. Operators and passengers should check the helmet laws of the states in which they intend to travel.

License plates and registration for autocycles

Although an autocycle will have a vehicle identification number (VIN) and manufacturer's certificate of origin (MCO) that correspond to motorcycles, under Iowa law they are defined as a separate type of vehicle, autocycle, and will be registered as an autocycle rather than a motorcycle. However, an autocycle will be registered for the same flat registration fee as a motorcycle ($20 per year).

An autocycle will be issued one small license plate that will be displayed on the rear of the vehicle, the same as a motorcycle.

Prior to July 1, 2016, these types of vehicles were registered as motorcycles. After this date, they will be registered as autocycles. If you have registered an autocycle prior to July 1, 2016, you will not be required to change the registration. Instead, the county treasurer will amend the registration from motorcycle to autocycle at the next annual registration renewal.

Operator's license requirements

Any license that is valid for the operation of a noncommercial passenger vehicle, including a Class C noncommercial license, may be used to operate an autocycle. A motorcycle license or endorsement is not required.

An autocycle cannot be used to take the motorcycle skills test because an autocycle does not require motorcycle skills to operate. Additionally, autocycles may not be used to complete a driving skills test as a passenger vehicle because autocycles are manufactured to motorcycle safety specifications. This avoids exposing Iowa DOT examiners to risk of crash without a helmet.