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Division 1 Words and Phrases Defined

§ 415. "Motor vehicle"

(a) A "motor vehicle" is a vehicle that is self-propelled.

(b) "Motor vehicle" does not include a self-propelled wheelchair, motorized tricycle, or motorized quadricycle, if operated by a person who, by reason of physical disability, is otherwise unable to move about as a pedestrian.

(c) For purposes of Chapter 6 (commencing with Section 3000) of Division 2, "motor vehicle" includes a recreational vehicle as that term is defined in subdivision (a) of Section 18010 of the Health and Safety Code, but does not include a truck camper.

Enacted Stats 1959 ch 3. Amended Stats 1990 ch 400 § 1 (AB 2953), effective July 20, 1990; Stats 1996 ch 124 § 112 (AB 3470).
Amended Stats 2003 ch 703 § 1 (SB 248).
Amended Stats 2004 ch 404 § 1 (SB 1725).



1990 Amendment:
Added the second paragraph.

1996 Amendment:
(1) Added subdivision designations (a) and (b); and (2) substituted "that" for "which" in subd (a).

2003 Amendment:
(1) Substituted "quadricycle, if" for "quadricycle when" in subd (b); and (2) added subd (c).

2004 Amendment:
Substituted "motorized" for "invalid" in subd (b).

Historical Derivations:
(a) Former Veh C § 32, as enacted Stats 1935 ch 27.
(b) Stats 1923 ch 266 § 3.
(c) Stats 1915 ch 188 § 1, as amended Stats 1917 ch 218 § 1, Stats 1919 ch 147 § 1.
(d) Stats 1913 ch 326 § 1.
(e) Stats 1905 ch 612 § 1.
Cross References:
Motorcycle as motor vehicle: Veh C § 400
Motor truck as motor vehicle: Veh C § 410
Truck tractors as motor vehicles: Veh C § 655
"Vehicle": Veh C § 670
Term "motor vehicle" with reference to sales and use taxes: Rev & Tax C § 6022
Term "motor vehicles" with reference to motor vehicle fuel license tax: Rev & Tax C § 7303
Term "motor vehicle" with reference to use fuel tax: Rev & Tax C § 8603
Collateral References:
Cal Environmental Law & Land Use Practice (Matthew Bender) ch 42 "Federal and State Regulation of Motor Vehicles" § 42.40
Witkin Summary (9th ed) Contracts § 443, Torts § 1038
Law Review Articles:
What is motor vehicle. 5 UCLA LR 204
Attorney General's Opinions:
"Nurse rig" as motor vehicle. 2 Ops. Cal. Atty. Gen. 331
Wheel tractor or road tractor as within definition of this section. 42 Ops. Cal. Atty. Gen. 129
What is a "motor vehicle" within statutes making it an offense to drive while intoxicated. 66 ALR2d 1146
What is "motor vehicle" within automobile guest statute. 98 ALR2d 543
Airplane or other aircraft as "motor vehicle" or the like within statute providing for constructive or substituted service of process on nonresident motorist. 36 ALR3d 1387


1. In General

2. Particular Vehicles

3. Bicycles; Motorcycles

4. Bulldozers

5. Mobile Cranes; Forklifts

6. Trucks and Trailers

1. In General
Only distinction between terms "vehicle" and "motor-vehicle," as defined by former § 2 and § 3, was that motor vehicle was device self-propelled, while vehicle was device propelled by some force other than by its own, or by human power. Di Guilio v Rice (1937, App Dep't Super Ct) 27 Cal App 2d Supp 775, 70 P2d 717
Though vehicle designed for self-propulsion on land, which may be so self-propelled or restored to that condition with reasonable cost and effort, may be considered automobile, such is not case where there is no evidence that particular vehicle would or could be so restored. Civil Service Employees Ins. Co. v Wilson (1963, 5th Dist) 222 Cal App 2d 519, 35 Cal Rptr 304
Not all motor vehicles are required to be registered and exemption of motor vehicle from registration does not make it any less motor vehicle or signify its removal from all other applicable sections of this code. Travelers Indem. Co. v Colonial Ins. Co. (1966, 1st Dist) 242 Cal App 2d 227, 51 Cal Rptr 724
The provisions of the Vehicle Code defining "vehicle" and "motor vehicle" must be considered a part of every policy of liability insurance, though the policy itself does not specifically make such laws a part thereof. Donahue Constr. Co. v Transport Indem. Co. (1970, 1st Dist) 7 Cal App 3d 291, 86 Cal Rptr 632

2. Particular Vehicles
Train of vehicles, consisting of tractor, wagon-load of grain, oil wagon and cook-house built upon truck platform, is motor vehicle. Western Indem. Co. v Wasco Land & Stock Co. (1921) 51 Cal App 672, 197 P 390
A four-wheel Le Tourneau "scraper or carry-all," designed for automatic pickup and moving of free earth without regard to where the earth may be or whether the purpose be farm, leveling highways, building sites or other industrial uses, is a vehicle within the meaning of this statute. People v Pakchoian (1952, App Dep't Super Ct) 114 Cal App 2d Supp 831, 250 P2d 767
Inclusion of an agricultural chemical spray rig within the definition of "motor vehicle" under Veh. Code, §§ 415, 670, and 16451, and Ins. Code, § 11580.1, as formerly phrased, did not operate to take spray rigs out of the definition of "automobiles" under a comprehensive liability policy, where the policy was stated not to apply to automobiles and defined automobiles as "land motor vehicles". Cal-Farm Ins. Co. v Fireman's Fund Ins. Co. (1976, 5th Dist) 54 Cal App 3d 708, 126 Cal Rptr 704
In a declaratory relief action by an insurance company, the trial court correctly held that an insured's moped was not a "motor vehicle" within the meaning of an uninsured motorist insurance policy exclusion clause. The insured and his son, who was injured when he was involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist while riding the moped, were entitled to uninsured motorist benefits. The insurance policy defined motor vehicle as "a land motor vehicle or a trailer." A reasonable insured could have believed that the term "motor vehicle" did not include mopeds. Moreover, a moped is not a "motor vehicle" within the meaning of either Veh. Code, § 406, defining "motorized bicycle," Veh. Code, § 415, defining "motor vehicle," or Ins. Code, § 11580.06, also defining "motor vehicle." Farmers Insurance Exchange v Galvin (1985, 1st Dist) 170 Cal App 3d 1018, 216 Cal Rptr 844

3. Bicycles; Motorcycles
A bicycle is not a motor vehicle. Green v Pedigo (1946) 75 Cal App 2d 300, 170 P2d 999
Self-propelled bicycle was excluded by former section from definition of motor vehicle. Tomson v Kischassey (1956, 4th Dist) 144 Cal App 2d 363, 301 P2d 55
An automobile liability policy covered the named insured and his parents as "relatives" in connection with an accident in which the insured was involved while operating a rented motorcycle not described in the policy, even though the policy mentioned only non-owned "automobiles"; while a motorcycle is not an automobile, it is a motor vehicle (Veh Code, § 400), and the public policy of the state requires that any owner's motor vehicle liability policy must provide coverage for the operation of the vehicle therein described within the continental United States and with the consent of the named insured, unless, by proper endorsement, some particular person is expressly excluded, and any operator's policy must provide coverage for the named insured for any non-owned motor vehicle that he operates, whether therein described or not, so long as the operation is within the continental United States. Mid-Century Ins. Co. v Hernandez (1969, 2nd Dist) 275 Cal App 2d 839, 80 Cal Rptr 448

4. Bulldozers
Bulldozer is motor vehicle within commonly understood meaning of term. Behling v County of Los Angeles (1956, 2nd Dist) 139 Cal App 2d 684, 294 P2d 534
Vehicle Code comprehends those vehicles which may require special safeguards or special permits in order to be legally operated on highways as well as those vehicles which comply with existing statutory limitations, and where bulldozer involved in accident appears to be a "motor vehicle" as matter of law provisions of Vehicle Code pertaining to negligent operation thereof apply. Lambert v Southern Counties Gas Co. (1959) 52 Cal 2d 347, 340 P2d 608
For purposes of classification as a "motor vehicle" under broad definition of Vehicle Code, it is not required that device be one that may legally be "self-propelled on a highway;" hence, it is immaterial that bulldozer involved in accident may have exceeded the limitations regarding weight, size and construction of equipment that may "lawfully" be moved on highway. Lambert v Southern Counties Gas Co. (1959) 52 Cal 2d 347, 340 P2d 608
Fact that bulldozer was being used on private property rather than in construction of public highway at time it punctured gas pipeline does not affect basic definition of a "motor vehicle" for purposes of application of Vehicle Code. Lambert v Southern Counties Gas Co. (1959) 52 Cal 2d 347, 340 P2d 608
A bulldozer, more particularly described in complaint as a "Caterpillar D8 Tractor equipped with a Bulldozer 8S blade attachment and No. 29 Cable Control attachment" constitutes a "device" which "may be propelled, moved, or drawn upon a highway" and is "self-propelled" so as to be a "motor vehicle" within terms of Vehicle Code. Lambert v Southern Counties Gas Co. (1959) 52 Cal 2d 347, 340 P2d 608

5. Mobile Cranes; Forklifts
Mobile crane that is self-propelled vehicle capable of moving under its own power from one job to another is motor vehicle. Colby v Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. (1963, 2nd Dist) 220 Cal App 2d 38, 33 Cal Rptr 538
The trial court did not err in finding that forklifts were automobiles within the meaning of a forklift lessor's policy where the insurer conceded that its policy covered injuries resulting from the use of automobiles whether liability arose out of operations performed by an independent contractor or on the lessor's premises or ways immediately adjoining and the policy defined an automobile as a land motor vehicle, trailer or semitrailer. Pacific Employers Ins. Co. v American Mut. Liability Ins. Co. (1966) 65 Cal 2d 318, 54 Cal Rptr 385, 419 P2d 641
Former § 142.6, exempting forklifts from registration, did not show legislative intent to exclude them from definition of motor vehicle, and motor-driven, self-propelled forklift, which was device by which persons or property might be propelled on highway, was vehicle within definition of former §§ 31, 32. Travelers Indem. Co. v Colonial Ins. Co. (1966, 1st Dist) 242 Cal App 2d 227, 51 Cal Rptr 724
The only distinction between a "motor vehicle," as defined in Veh Code, § 415, and a "vehicle," as defined in Veh Code, § 670, appears to be that a motor vehicle is a device self-propelled, while a vehicle is a device propelled by its own force or by some other nonhuman force or power; and under these definitions, a mobile truck-crane was both a "vehicle" and a "motor vehicle," where it was self-propelling and, even while at rest, was also a device that could be propelled, moved, or drawn on a highway. Donahue Constr. Co. v Transport Indem. Co. (1970, 1st Dist) 7 Cal App 3d 291, 86 Cal Rptr 632
A crane was covered as a vehicle under a policy, as amended by its endorsements, where, though the exclusionary clause in the body of the policy limited coverage to use solely for the purpose of locomotion, such provision was superseded by endorsements providing compensation to persons injured as the result of the negligent operation of devices coming under the Vehicle Code definition of "vehicle" and "motor vehicle." Donahue Constr. Co. v Transport Indem. Co. (1970, 1st Dist) 7 Cal App 3d 291, 86 Cal Rptr 632

6. Trucks and Trailers
A truck tractor is a motor vehicle. Miller v Berman (1942) 55 Cal App 2d 569, 131 P2d 18
A semitrailer is not a motor vehicle. Miller v Berman (1942) 55 Cal App 2d 569, 131 P2d 18
A truck tractor and a semitrailer joined for the purpose of moving over the highways become one motor vehicle. Miller v Berman (1942) 55 Cal App 2d 569, 131 P2d 18
Term "motor vehicle" includes truck. Rogers v Los Angeles Transit Lines (1955) 45 Cal 2d 414, 289 P2d 226
Defendant was not improperly convicted of one count of willfully discharging a firearm at an occupied motor vehicle (Pen. Code, § 246), notwithstanding that the evidence indicated that the vehicle he shot at was a trailer being pulled by a tractor. Even assuming that Veh. Code, § 415, defining a motor vehicle as a vehicle that is "self-propelled," applies to the term "motor vehicle" as that term is used in Pen. Code, §§ 246, 247, a tractor/trailer rig is not necessarily only a motor vehicle pulling a trailer. When a trailer and tractor are joined for the purpose of both being moved simultaneously over the highway by the self-propulsion of the tractor portion, such a tractor/trailer rig comes within the meaning of a "motor vehicle" as used in Pen. Code, § 246, and when such a tractor/trailer rig is operated on highway, it is an occupied motor vehicle within the meaning of that phrase as used in § 246. People v Buttles (1990, 4th Dist) 223 Cal App 3d 1631, 273 Cal Rptr 397

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