Guide to ATV Laws in Michigan for Off-roaders

Last Updated on November 18, 2023 by ATVNotes

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One of the best times to ride your ATV in Michigan is during summer and spring. You can step out alone or with friends and head to your favorite trail here. However, knowing the ATV laws in Michigan can avoid getting penalized or jailed unawares. 

As per Michigan ATV laws, all ORV operators in Michigan must have a valid driver’s license or ORV safety certificate while operating their vehicle. And riders under the age of 16 must wear a helmet at all times while riding an ORV on public lands or trails. It is also illegal for anyone under 10 to operate an ORV in Michigan unless they are on property owned by their family. As for riding locations in Michigan, there are a variety of public trails and state parks that allow off-road access. 

However, all ATV riders must check local ordinances a-z before hitting any trails to know which areas have restrictions or limitations and which don’t have any such bindings on ORV use based on season or time of day. That is where this article comes to your rescue showcasing all about the Michigan ATV rules, regulations, and ordinances. Read on, and you will be all set.

ATV Laws in Michigan

What does an ATV mean in Michigan?

Simply put, like other popular ATV laws zones in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado and more in US; an ATV in this state refers to any 4 or 3-wheeled vehicle purposely made to be used on off-roads. These vehicles must have low-pressure tires and a seat where riders can sit as they ride the quad.

Additionally, this vehicle should be powered by a gasoline engine whose capacity ranges from 50cc to 500cc. It is important to note that the ATV can also be called a UTV or OHV. All these terms mean the same thing

Do you need to title your ATV in Michigan?

Yes. If you own an ATV in Michigan, you need to title it via the Secretary of the State. This requirement mainly applies to those who reside in Michigan. However, if you are a foreigner and have visited Michigan, you do not need to title your ATV.

Suppose you purchase your ATV from any dealer operating in Michigan; you must ensure that your model has a certificate of origin. With this certificate, you can trust that you will have all the details you need to title your model via the Secretary of State.

Lastly, selling an ATV in Michigan without a title is prohibited. Also, if you are a buyer and do not have a title for your ATV, ensure that you apply for it within 15 days from the date you purchased your model.

Do I need to license my ATV in Michigan?

Yes. Apart from titling your ATV, you are required to license your quad. Here, you should license it with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to utilize it on Michigan public roads. The same applies to non-residents who want to ride their ATVs in Michigan.

The license mentioned above attracts an annual fee of up to $26.25. Besides having a license, you need to obtain an ORV trail permit anytime you want to ride your ATV on state-designated routes, areas, trails, etc. To get the ORV trail permit, brace yourself to part with $10.00.

Once you have the license in place, place it in a visible section on your ATV. Ideally, it should be on a flat metal surface or your ATV’s bumper. Better still, you are at liberty to place it on the rear section of your quad as you did in Utah. Yes, ATV laws in Utah tells ATV owners to hang the license plate in the rear section of the ATV.

Am I allowed to ride my ATV on Michigan public roads?

To start with, let’s take the 4000 miles of public off-road trails in this state, where you can ride your ATV and have fun. Previously, we had stated that you are not allowed to ride your ATV on Michigan public roads. The good news is that it is now possible for you to ride your ATV on those public roads purposely allowed by the municipal council.

However, to ride your quad on these roads, your model needs to be licensed and contain vital equipment. Additionally, you need to have an ORV trail permit in order to access these designated areas.

Am I allowed to ride my ATV on private land?

Unlike public roads, one is now allowed to ride their ATV on private property worry-free. However, you must have outright permission from the property’s owner. If you own the property, you can ride your ATV and have fun.

Regarding the requirements for the ATV, it is important to note that your model needs to be titled. This way, you can ride it on a private property whose owner resides in Michigan.

Which equipment should your ATV have in Michigan?

If you want to ride your ATV in this state, your ATV should come with the following equipment: 

  • A good braking system
  • An effective throttle system
  • A muffler that is in a mint condition
  • A spark arrestor that is U.S Forest Service approved

Supposing your ATV will be in use 90 minutes before sunrise or 90 minutes after sunset, your model should have this equipment:

  • Brake lights. Compared to the tail lights, the brake lights of your model should be brighter.
  • Tail lights
  • Headlights.

Besides the above-mentioned equipment, every passenger should remain seated in the seats that are manufactured and designed for passenger use.

What do Michigan ATV helmet laws state?

Well, both ATV passengers and operators should wear a helmet whenever they are on the trails. For optimal results, consider wearing an O’Neal helmet. Unlike other conventional helmets, this one is more affordable and high-quality. 

In case your helmet does not come with a face guard, consider wearing a pair of goggles. Again, you need to invest in a high-quality pair of goggles if you have an ATV helmet with a peak instead of a visor. Thus, your eyes can remain safe during your riding escapades.

At some point, you do not have to wear a helmet if your seatbelt is on and the model has met the much-needed roof safety standards. However, wearing a snug fit ATV helmet is a must for safety, if not for legal bindings. 

When is a helmet not mandatory at ATV escapades in Michigan?

Yes. Supposing you are riding your ATV on private property, you are not required to wear a helmet. Also, if you are riding your model at 10 mph, be certain you don’t need to wear a helmet.

Finally, if you are 18, you do not always have to wear your helmet. However, those 16 years and below should wear helmets anytime they want to ride an ATV. Unless they do so with the permission of their parents, such minors need to put their helmets on, all the time during their riding escapades. Safety comes before everything, so you must be with your chosen ATV helmet.

Youth ATV Rider in Michigan, which requirements to meet?

In Michigan, youth ATV riders are required to meet certain requirements in order to legally operate their vehicles. These requirements include:

  • If you are a youth below 16, you must complete your safety education before you can start riding an ATV in Michigan. This training has to be carried out by a professional operator all the time.
  • Say, you are under 16, be certain you will not be allowed to ride a 3-wheel ATV.
  • You must be at least 10 years old to operate an ATV. The only exemption is when you want to ride it on a private farm or do some farm-related activities with it.
  • If you are between 10 and 15 years old, you can ride an ATV provided you have a valid ORV safety certificate and are riding your model on a property your guardian or parent owns. Additionally, you need to be visually supervised by an adult during your riding escapades.
  • If you are below 12, you cannot ride an ATV when crossing a county road, highway, or street.

Are there places where I can ride my ATV in Michigan?

Yes. You can now ride your ATV on designated trails and roads. However, you need to remain on these sections as leaving them can lead to environmental damage, making you get arrested.

Besides these areas, you can ride your ATV on private property if the owner approves that action. As far as the designated trails and roads are concerned, the rules of riding an ATV vary from one region to another.

In the southern part of Michigan, one is not allowed to ride an ATV. Additionally, you are not permitted to ride your ATV in all the recreation areas and state parks in this state. However, if you visit Silver Lake State park, there are some designated areas where you can enjoy your ride and have fun.

Can I ride my ATV on a paved street in Michigan?

To be precise, No.

In Michigan, riding your ATV on any paved public street, road, or highway is illegal. The law states you can only operate an ATV on private property with the owner’s permission or at designated trails and parks. So, the meaning is clear. You cannot use your ATV as a mode of transportation on roads, regardless of whether they are paved or not.

The reason for this law is to ensure the safety of riders and other motorists sharing the roads. ATVs are designed for off-road use and are not equipped with certain features such as turn signals, headlights, and brake lights, which make them unsafe for road travel. Above all, riding an ATV on a paved road increases the risk of accidents due to their narrow tires, which can easily lose traction.

However, if you need to cross a paved public street while riding

your ATV from one off-road trail to another, you can do so, but only at designated crossing points. In such cases, it is important to follow all traffic laws, including stopping at stop signs and traffic lights and yielding to pedestrians and other vehicles before crossing. Failure to comply with these laws can result in fines or even loss of driving privileges. 

Am I allowed to hunt using my ATV in Michigan?

Well, if you have a permit to hunt from a standing vehicle such as an ATV, note that you are not allowed to hunt or even pursue an animal in Michigan. Also, you are not supposed to use your ATV for hunting during the firearm deer season in November from 7.00 AM to 11.00AM and from 2.00PM to 5.00 PM. However, there are some exemptions to take note of. These include:

  • If you want to hunt on a private property whose owner has given you express permission.
  • You are going to a hunting camp that can hardly be accessed using a typical car or vehicle.

What other regulation ought I know?

Yes. Apart from the abovementioned laws, here are additional Michigan ATV rules and regulations you should familiarize yourself with. To start with, you are not allowed to operate your ATV in the following areas:

  • Airport
  • Cemetery
  • Railroad

You are also not allowed to ride your ATV in a way that will damage crops or even trees. In addition, you are not allowed to ride your ATV under the influence of alcohol or any other drug.

If you have to transport alcoholic beverages, ensure that you do it in a separate compartment away from the section where the passengers are seated. Otherwise, you are not allowed to transport alcoholic beverages in your quad.

If your license is suspended, you should not ride your ATV. You are also not allowed to carry passengers in your quad if it was not designed to undertake such activities by the manufacturer. Finally, you are not allowed to ride your ATV in a way that leaves debris, dirt, and litter behind.

Should I ride my ATV at high speed?

No. Ideally.

There is no doubt that ATVs are fun to ride, and riding them at high speeds adds an extra thrill. However, it’s important to remember the risks of speeding on an ATV. Even though these vehicles are designed for off-road use and can handle rough terrain, they still have limitations when it comes to safety.

Firstly, riding an ATV at high speeds increases your chances of losing control of the vehicle. A sudden turn or obstacle in your path could cause you to lose balance and crash. Additionally, high-speed impacts can be much more dangerous than low-speed ones. Injuries sustained during a high-speed crash are often more severe and life-threatening.

Furthermore, riding an ATV at high speeds can also put others in danger. If you share trails or paths with other riders or hikers, fast-moving ATVs can startle people and cause accidents. It’s essential always to be mindful of your surroundings and adjust your speed accordingly.


Can I carry a firearm on my ATV in Michigan?

Well, if your firearm is loaded and not cased, be sure you are not allowed to carry it in your quad. In fact, the only firearm that you should carry along is a pistol, and you must have a Concealed Pistol license. If you have to carry your firearm, ensure that it is cased. The same applies to a strung bow.

What should I do in case of an accident when riding an ATV in Michigan?

If you are a victim of an ATV accident, you must stop what you are doing and then seek immediate medical attention. Also, if your accident leads to the injury or even death of a person or leads to property damage worth $100 and above, ensure that you report the incident to the local sheriff near your or to the State police officer of the county where the accident has taken place. As for accidents, ATV laws and rules in Arizona, Michigan, and other ORV zones in US are identical.

Can I ride my ATV on a river in Michigan?

No. You cannot ride your ATV on any water source in Michigan. Common water sources include rivers, streams, wetlands, quagmires, swamps, marshy places, and so much more. In fact, the only place where you can ride your ATV about a water source is when you want to cross a bridge or a culvert. You are also prohibited from riding your ATV along the shorelines or stream banks.

How can you have a ‘Permit to Hunt from a standing vehicle’?

Yes. To obtain this permit, you need to be a person suffering from a disability due to disease, paralysis, injury, or amputated a few months ago. As a result, you might find it difficult to walk from one place to another during your hunting escapades. Conversely, your condition must be certified by a licensed physician or a professional occupational therapist.

Bottom Line

Known to have some of the largest networks of well-maintained trails, Michigan is one of those states where you can ride your ATV and explore different areas. However, certain regulations govern how ATV riders should ride their quad and where they should do it.

By now, you have learned all about the ATV laws in Michigan and how to avoid getting caught on the wrong side of this state’s law. So, enjoy your ATV ride either alone or with your loved ones.

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