How to Get a Driver's License

In the 50 United States and DC, teen driving license requirements are – pun intended – all over the map. In New Jersey, teen drivers have to wait until the age of 17 to get a license, which doesn’t become permanent for six months. In South Dakota, on the other hand, teen drivers can get a license as early as 14 and three months with a certificate from a driver’s ed program.

Depending upon your state’s driver’s license requirements, the steps required to obtain a driver’s license are typically similar.

We’ll cover each one of these steps:

Step 1: Obtain your Learner’s Permit

State-issued Learner’s Permits allow new drivers to practice driving, supervised by a licensed and insured adult over the age of 21.

Several states have graduated Learner’s Permits that allow drivers to practice driving without supervision. For example, in the states of Indiana, California, Iowa, Texas, Rhode Island, Maryland, Virginia, and Kentucky, learner’s permit holders over the age of 17 can drive unsupervised during daylight hours to school or to work.

It’s important that you understand the restrictions imposed by the state on your Learner’s Permit. Be aware of any time restrictions that your Permit may have.

Most Learner’s Permits are good for 12 months, and allow you to take a driving test after six months provided you’ve followed the other requirements for licensure.

Read more on How to Get Your Learner’s Permit here.

Step 2: Take a Driver's Education Class

Driver’s Education classes are typically split between classroom time, where you’ll study the basic driving laws in your state and best practices to stay safe on the road, and a number of hours behind the wheel with a driving instructor. If you need help choosing a course, see our recommendations for the best online driver's ed courses:

Step 3: Log a Number of Hours of Behind-the-Wheel Training

Depending on the state, in order to get a license at the minimum age, drivers must complete a minimum number of supervised practice hours with a professional driving instructor. You’re encouraged to practice with a parent or guardian, too, but some states don’t consider that practice time as counting toward your minimum number of hours.

Step 4: Take a Driving Test

Once you’ve passed your driver’s education class, logged your driving hours and obtained a certificate from driving school, you can then schedule a time to take your state’s driving test at the minimum age. Driving tests can either be administered by approved test proctors or State Police officers, depending on your state.

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Does my state have unique requirements? Probably. But you don't need to guess. Here is a list of the web pages of all fifty states' motor vehicle departments (or other state agencies) where you can find out how to get a driver's license:

How to get a first time driver's license or learner's permit in:

We realize that web links change from time to time. If you find one of the state website links to be broken, we'd appreciate you letting us know. Thank you!

FAQ

What do you need to get a driver’s license?

This depends on the state in which you live. In general, you’ll need a proof of identification, proof of residency in that state, and proof of citizenship. Click the appropriate link above to see what your state requires.

What class of license do I need?

This entirely depends on your circumstances. There are a few different classifications of licenses in the country. The most common classification is Class C, the general license for driving your car, day to day. If you’re planning on driving a motorcycle, you’ll need a Class M license. And if you are trying to make a career out of driving large vehicles, you’ll need a CDL, which is a Commercial Classification.

Can I drive alone with a learner’s permit?

No, you cannot. A learner’s permit is exactly that, a permit to learn from a seasoned, licensed driver. You can read more on How to Get Your Learner’s Permit here.

What do I do if my license expires?

Well, hopefully, you will have avoided this instance by renewing your license when that little notice comes in the mail, telling you to do so. However, if you let this slip, each state has different criteria for renewing your license. Read our full guide on How to Renew Your License by State here.

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