As most of us know, driving with an expired license is illegal. So it’s important to keep your driver’s license up to date. In California, you can renew your license up to 60 days before its expiration date, though there are a few exceptions for those who might be undergoing international travel, are in active military service, or have other extenuating circumstances. Renewing your license is relatively simple, but it’s important to know what is required and how you can go about getting your renewal handled easily.
The items needed for renewal will depend on your status of renewal. Extension renewals, which are those that happen in between major renewals, require only a few documents and verification. Major renewals require more substantial documentation in order to meet federal requirements for REAL ID. If you’ve received renewal paperwork in the mail, it will indicate the status of your renewal and whether you are required to renew in person at a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. Major renewals happen every 15 years or when circumstances such as court orders, traffic violations, etc. are not present.
If renewing in person, it’s worth calling or going online and making an appointment to save wait times. Most DMV offices in California have an appointment system for renewals, taking tests, and so forth. Your in-person renewal will likely involve a photo, thumb print, vision test, and the potential for a written test.
Paperwork for extension renewals involves address verification. If you are renewing online, you cannot have an address change as part of the renewal. If you do, you’ll be required to renew by mail instead. If you have not received your renew-by-mail notice, you can fill out form DL 410 FO (available here).
If renewing in person, you will likely have to bring the following items:
You may also be required to undergo:
Upon successful completion of your renewal, you’ll receive a temporary license that is good for 90 days. Inside that timeframe, your new, full license should arrive by mail at your verified address. You’ll be instructed to call after 60 days if your new license has not arrived.
Most renewals require no documentation beyond a current driver’s license you’re looking to renew. Renewals involving address changes may require proof of the new address, which could include:
For a major renewal to comply with REAL ID requirements, the documentation required is much more extensive. This includes:
A complete list of acceptable documents is given on the DMV’s website at www.dmv.ca.gov.
Fees range from $33 to $48, depending on the type of license and endorsements. There are some discounts for senior citizens (over age 62) and provisions for those who are financially disadvantaged.
If you have received a mail-in renewal form or have a DMV online account and a valid credit or debit card or checking account number to pay fees. Some other restrictions apply, however:
If the license is not more than 60 days past its expiration, renewals are as normal. If the expiration date is beyond 60 days, you will be required to apply for and complete all driver’s testing as if you were a new driver.
A note for active duty military members: your license is automatically renewed until 30 days after your discharge from service. The above expiration requirements do not apply to you.
If your driving privileges are reinstated, you may renew your license or reactivate it over the phone or online. Some circumstances may indicate that you are required to have a restricted permit, which requires in-person renewal. If your license expired while it was suspended, you will likely have to re-complete all driving tests to get a new license.
Yes. If you are eligible for online or mail-in renewal, you can renew at some AAA offices.
Up to 60 days before expiration. Some extenuating circumstances can push that date to 90 days.
If you are eligible for mail-in renewal and do not have an address change, you can likely perform your renewal online as well.
If you do not already have a REAL ID via your California driver’s license, you can add this by submitting to full verification in person at any California DMV.
Call the DMV directly at 1-800-777-0133 or go online to dmv.ca.gov.
Taking classes online is often faster and cheaper than the classroom.