Driver’s Ed: How Does it Work in California?
New drivers in California are able to attend education programs in one of three places: Private high schools, public high schools, or at a state-licensed driving school. The California DMV will also accept out of state driver’s ed programs that were taken in secondary schools but require a letter of verification from the school.
The California drivers ed program requires the following professional training for new teen drivers working to get their California drivers license:
- 25 Hours of Classroom Training (which may be done online). The program must consist of at least 25 hours of instruction, which does not include breaks or mealtimes. This requirement can be met through a home study or an internet training program.
- 6 Hours of Behind-the-Wheel Training. Behind-the-wheel education has to include at least six hours of driving with a professional instructor, but the student can’t complete more than two hours in one day. Riding in the car as an observer with another driver does not count toward the requirement.
Online Driver’s Ed Courses in California
Easy, Low-Cost Options To Satisfy Your Classroom Requirement
The state requires that driver training be taken at a licensed driving school. Many of us remember hitting the roads with our nervous classmates and a no-nonsense teacher hovering a foot over the second brake pedal, but many public schools are phasing out hands-on training because of budget cuts and liability issues. Luckily, California allows online driver’s ed to take the place of in-classroom training, but new drivers will still have to find a way to get seat time to meet the requirements for a driver’s license.
Car Talk sifted through several of the options in California to find the most highly-rated online courses. These classes are sanctioned by the state DMV and offer the same benefits as classroom training, often at a much lower price and without the headache of commuting.
- My California Permit claims to be California’s “official” online drivers education course. Whether that’s true or not is anyone’s guess, but the programs offered here are comprehensive and affordable. The entire curriculum is available for $65, and the price includes a certificate mailed to the student’s house.
- California Drivers Ed Course dot com is all-online and completely approved by the California DMV. They offer the ability to contact an actual person for training needs and have 24/7 support for students. Prices are quite affordable, starting at just under $25.
- Allstate Drivers Ed offers online courses that are more expensive than the others on our list, checking in at $118, but have very specific new-driver training that is tailored for teens without any driving experience. The company also offers behind-the-wheel training, but only in the San Diego area.
Complete Driver’s Ed Training in California with Online Classroom
Combined Online Classroom + Professional Driver Training
Students wanting hands-on training in addition to an online course have a few options in California. There are several programs that offer regionally-limited courses to drivers in and around metro areas, but we’ve chosen two that cover large portions of the state. Both of these schools offer a home pickup service that lets teen drivers take courses without having their parents drive them to classes every time, which can be a major time saver.
DriversEd.com offers online and hands-on programs and claims to cover 80% of the state’s population for in-person training. Their ten-hour hands-on comprehensive package ranges between $650 and $700 depending on discounts. The online course comes with an app and unlimited practice tests for $56.
CaliforniaDrivingSchool.com has online and hands-on training programs and offer home pickup across much of Southern California. They promise 20 in-person lessons across 10 hours for $895. Their online “Driver Ed Internet Course” starts at $99.
Getting a Learner’s Permit in California
If you’re under 18 and at least 15 and a half, you can apply for what California calls a Provisional Instruction Permit. The permit has a few restrictions, however:
- All traffic laws must be obeyed.
- You must drive without having a collision.
- The driver must be accompanied by a parent, guardian, or spouse, or adult that is 25 years of age or older. The person riding with the young driver has to possess a valid CA driver’s license.
- The permit must be held for at least six months before the test can be taken to obtain an actual driver’s license.
Getting a Driver’s License in California.
Once a person reaches 16 years old, they can apply for and take the state driving test. Primary requirements include:
- Having held the instruction permit for at least six months.
- Having completed a driver’s education class.
- Having completed at least six hours of professional driver training.
- Having completed at least 50 hours of hands-on training with an adult 25 years of age or older. The adult must have a valid CA driver’s license and certify that the 50 hours were completed. At least ten of those hours must be done at night.
The state advises that you check the address on your permit before scheduling a driving test. The DMV will need an updated address if it has changed. You’ll also be required to show valid insurance before taking the test. If you don’t have insurance, the test will be postponed until you’re able to show insurance. California’s insurance requirements can be found here.
Q: Can I teach my child driver’s ed as a parent?
A: California doesn’t offer the parent-taught driver’s ed programs that a few other states do, but there are resources available for parents of new teen drivers. The state’s DMV offers guidelines for parents to learn the best ways to model proper driving habits and communicate the risks involved with being behind the wheel. The state also offers a Parent-Teen Training Guide that outlines the best ways to get started.
Q: What happens if I fail my driver’s test?
A: It’s not the end of the world! You’ll have to wait two weeks before you can take the test again, and there are only three mulligans before you have to start the application process over again. There’s also a retest fee of $7 each time.
Q: How long after my test will I have to wait for a license?
A: Your mileage may vary. The California DMV office will issue a temporary license on the spot that is valid for 90 days. If you haven’t received the license after 60 days, call 1-800-777-0133 to check on the status.
Q: What do I need to apply for a permit?
A: If you’re over 15 and a half and younger than 18, you can apply, but there are quite a few things to keep in mind before you do. Both parents or guardians will have to sign the application, and there are quite a few pieces of paperwork required to get the process started. See the full list here.