California Permit and Driver's License FAQ

  • Applying for Your CA License
  • Preparing for the CA Permit Test
  • Taking the CA Permit Test
  • Preparing for the CA Driving Test
  • Taking the CA Driving Test
  • Renewing Your CA License
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Applying for Your CA License: Frequently Asked Questions

What are the age requirements for getting started?

California has adopted a Graduated Driver License (GDL) Program, which requires teens to meet certain age and experience-related milestones prior to obtaining their driver’s license. The milestones, which have been set to help lower the risks associated with being a first-time driver, include:

  • 15 1/2 years old: Complete driver’s education course to receive your learner’s permit.
  • 16 years old: Having completed driver’s education, teen is now eligible for a provisional license.
  • 17 1/2 years old: At this age, the teen no longer has to complete a driver’s education course to apply for a provisional license.
  • 18 years old and up: Teen no longer needs to first get a learner’s permit before applying for a driver’s license.

What documents am I required to bring with me when applying for a license in California?

If you are under 18 years of age, you need:

  • Form DL 44 (driver’s license application) which has been signed by a parent or legal guardian
  • Your Social Security Number
  • Your full legal name
  • Birth Certificate/Proof of Legal Residence (Here is a list of examples.)
  • A Completion Certificate for Driver’s Education or Driver’s Education and Driver Training or a Certificate of Enrollment In A Classroom Driver Education And Driver Training Program
  • Application Fee

If you are over age 18, you need:

  • Form DL 44 (Driver’s License Application)
  • Social Security Number
  • Full Legal Name
  • Birth Certificate/Proof of Legal Residence (Here is a list of examples.)
  • Application Fee

Where do I file my CA driver’s license application?

To start the application process, visit your local DMV office.

How can I contact my local DMV office?

You may reach the DMV by calling (800) 777-0133. You may also visit the official website at www.dmv.ca.gov.

Do I have to take a Driver’s Ed Course?

All California teens between the ages of 15 ½ years old and 17 ½ years old must first take and complete a driver’s education course before applying for their license. Once you have passed 17 ½ years old you no longer need to take a driver’s education course. However, it is still recommended that you do complete such a course in order to better prepare yourself to drive safely in all situations.

What if I am New to California?

If you have taken a driver’s education course in another state, California will accept either of the following as proof of course completion:

  • A Form DL 33, the “Secondary Schools Other Than California Schools” form, completed by your out-of-state secondary school. To request this form call (800) 777-0133 or visit your local DMV office.
  • A letter from your out-of-state secondary school that is printed on school stationery and signed by a school official. The letter should state that you completed a driver’s education course that is equivalent to California’s as described in Section 10020 of Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations.

California will not accept your out-of-state learner’s permit as proof that you completed driver’s education.

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Preparing for the CA Permit Test: Frequently Asked Questions

What subjects are commonly covered on the written test?

California rules of safe driving along with traffic laws and road signs are all covered on the exam. Test questions are drawn from the content contained in the state driver’s manual. For example, you might be tested on the following:

  • Drivers 15-19 years old have the highest traffic conviction, collision and injury rates of any age group. In fact, traffic collisions are the leading cause of death among teenagers.
  • At 55 mph, it takes approximately 400 feet to react and bring the vehicle to a complete stop.

How is the test formatted?

All questions are presented in a multiple-choice format.

Are there are lot of “trick” questions on the written test?

There are no “trick” questions on the exam; however, some questions are more difficult than others so you should study intensely. One particular thing to pay attention to is numbers, such as speed limits and percentages.

How many questions are on the test and how many do I need to answer correctly to pass?

The California Permit Test contains 46 questions. You need to answer at least 38 of them correctly to pass.

What are the best ways to prepare for the written test?

You should study the California Driver’s Manual extensively. There are also practice tests available online that are formatted like the real thing and contain questions that are often found on the exam.

Where can I get a free California driver’s manual to study?

You can actually get a free copy of the California Driver’s Manual right on this website.

How can I improve my odds for passing the first time I take the test?

The best way to improve your chances of passing the exam the first time is to thoroughly study the California Driver’s Manual and take numerous practice tests online. Many tests will give you the correct answers when you get a question wrong and you can use your practice test performance to guide your study efforts. Take a practice test now.

What should I do the night before the test?

You can certainly read over the California driver’s manual one more time but the big key is to get a good night’s rest. Taking the test while you are tired is no way to ensure your best performance. Also, be sure to get ready early so that there is plenty of time to get to the DMV. You don’t want to be stressed and have to rush around to get there on time, if you have scheduled an appointment. Also, be sure to eat a good meal before going so you are not distracted by hunger pangs.

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Taking the CA Permit Test: Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to make an appointment to take the written test?

If your local DMV takes appointments, then it is definitely a good idea to schedule one. This will save you from enduring an extended wait time before your test.

Where do I take the written test?

You will take the test at your local DMV office.

What do I need to bring when I sit for the written test?

Those under 17 ½ years old need:

  • Completed Driver’s License or Identification Card Application (Form DL 44). This form will need to be signed by your parent or guardian. It also cannot be downloaded, copied or faxed.
  • Proof of Social Security number – such as your Social Security Card.
  • Original birth certificate or a certified copy.
  • Proof of identity and lawful U.S. presence – examples of this include an unexpired U.S. passport, your original or certified birth certificate or a Certificate of Citizenship or Naturalization
  • Completion certificate for driver’s education or driver education and driver training or proof of enrollment in an approved driver training program.

Those over age 17 ½ years old do not have to provide certificates of completion for driver’s education and driver training. However, you cannot take the driving test until you are 18 years old or older. Who should accompany me to the written test?

You should be accompanied by your parent or guardian, who will need to sign your application form at the DMV.

Do I need to pay a fee to take the written test?

Yes, most states charge a fee to process the application and for you to take your written test. In California, this fee is $33 and it covers a total of 3 exams within a 12 month period. It also covers your provisional learner’s permit and driver’s license. Keep in mind, however, that if all requirements are not met within the 12 month period, you will need to start over and pay the $33 fee again.

What should I expect when I sit for the written test?

The test will include 46 multiple choice questions. You will need to answer at least 38 of them correctly to pass. There is no time limit on the test so you can proceed at your own pace. You will not be able to refer to the California Driver’s Manual or any notes. To get a feel for the exam, take a practice test that is formatted just like the real thing.

What happens after I pass the written test?

After passing the test, and fulfilling any other applicable California requirements, you will be issued your learner’s permit. This permit will give you permission to drive under the guidance of a licensed adult or guardian.

What happens if I fail the written test?

You can retake the test. The DMV does require a wait of at least 7 days before retaking the test. Your $33 fee covers a total of 3 exams within a 12 month period. If you don’t pass within that time frame, you must start over, which includes paying a new $33 fee.

How many times can I retake the written test?

Your $33 fee covers a total of 3 exams within a 12 month period. If you don’t pass within that time frame, you must start over and pay a new fee, which will give you the chance to take the written test three more times.

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Preparing for the CA Driving Test: Frequently Asked Questions

I’ve passed the written permit test, what are the next steps?

Once you pass the written permit test, you must accumulate 50 hours of driver training with licensed drivers who are over 25 years of age. In addition, 10 of those 50 hours must be at night. Finally, you are required to complete 6 hours of training with a professional instructor.

How long after getting my Learner’s Permit can I apply for a Provisional License?

You are required to wait at least six months before applying for the driving test. Remember, you must during that time complete 50 hours of driver training and six hours of training with a professional instructor.

Can I drive anywhere in California with my Learner’s Permit?

Any public road or street is acceptable for driver training. Remember, you must have a licensed driver age 25 or older with you when you are driving.

Should I practice driving solely during the day?

Of the 50 hours of driver training needed to apply for a provisional license, 10 of those hours must be from driving at night.

Does anyone have to be in the car with me when I’m driving with my Learner’s Permit?

Yes, a licensed driver age 25 or older must always be in the car with you.

What should I do if I have a lost or expired California Learner’s Permit?

If your permit is expired, you will need to start over – including paying the $33 application fee again and retaking the written test.

If you lost your permit, take the identification and residence documents you used the first time and go back to the local DMV and request a replacement.

How can I be sure I’m prepared to ace the driving test?

Two things are key here:

  • Practice, practice, practice. Try to get in as much driving practice as possible.
  • Learn the rules of the road and be sure to adhere to them closely whenever you drive. You can learn the rules of the road by studying the California Driver’s Manual and by taking online practice tests that cover the content of the manual.

What are behind-the-wheel training and supervised driving practice and do I need both?

Yes, you need both. Supervised driving practice is under the guidance of a professional driving instructor. You must complete six hours of this type of driver training. Supervised behind-the-wheel training is driving you do while accompanied by a licensed adult age 25 or older. You need 50 hours of this training, including 10 hours in which you drive at night while supervised.

Are there particular driving maneuvers I should practice?

Yes, you should practice parking, making two and three-point turns, stopping, other turns, lane changes, and defensive driving, such as following at a safe distance and using mirrors.

How can I simulate the driving test?

Practice the maneuvers mentioned in the previous question as these are all commonly tested on driving exams. You may also want to visit your local DMV and practice on the same roads that you will be tested on.

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Taking the CA Driving Test: Frequently Asked Questions

How do I schedule my driving test?

Contact your local DMV office or visit the website to find out if an appointment is required or if you can walk in. Most states require you to schedule a driving test appointment. You may be able to schedule the appointment online or by calling.

Where do I take the driving test?

You will take the test at the nearest DMV office that offers the driving test.

What should I bring to the driving test?

You should bring all of the following:

  • The vehicle you are going to use for the test
  • Proof of registration and insurance
  • Learner’s permit (if applicable)
  • Proof that you have met the practice driving time requirements

Who should bring me to the driving test?

If you are under 18 years of age you should be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

What will I be asked to do on the driving test?

During the driving test you will complete a basic maneuver course that includes such things as 3-point turns, parking, acceleration and braking, using vehicle signals and checking mirrors.

You will also venture into traffic so that you can show your on-the-road driving abilities.

Also before the test begins, you will likely be asked to turn on your windshield wipers, headlights, and other car systems to demonstrate your familiarity and ensure your vehicle is safe to drive.

What are the most common reasons new drivers fail the driving test?

Common reasons for test failure include: nerves, insufficient practice, rolling stops during the test, failure to maintain a safe driving distance between vehicles, not controlling speed, using incorrect hand position on steering wheel when driving, improper lane changes, poor parking and poor vehicle condition.

What are five things should I be sure to do when taking the driving test?

  • Make sure you come to a complete stop when required
  • Always maintain a safe distance between yourself and the vehicle in front of you when driving on the road
  • Be very careful not to speed
  • Always signal and check your mirrors when changing lanes
  • Be sure to take the test in a car that is properly maintained

What happens if I fail the driving test?

You can retake the test. You are required to wait seven days before attempting it again.

How many times can I retake the driving test?

You can take the test three times. If you fail all three times you will need to start over, paying the $33 application fee and retaking the written test.

I’ve passed the road test, now what?

If you are 18 or over, you will immediately receive a temporary driver’s license that’s good for 90 days. The DMV will then mail you your permanent license. If you do not receive the license within 60 days, call (800) 777-0133.

If you are under 18, you will receive a provisional license, which will allow you to drive solo but comes with certain restrictions (see next question).

What restrictions come with a CA Provisional License?

Provisional license holders can’t drive between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. You also can’t have any passengers in your car under the age of 20 unless there is also a licensed driver over the age of 25 present.

There are exceptions to the restrictions: a medical emergency or immediate need of a family member; school or work-related necessities; and employment purposes.

Once provisional license holders turn 18 the restrictions are removed.

What are the insurance requirements for drivers in CA?

Auto insurance is required by law and teen drivers are required to show proof of insurance before receiving their provisional or regular driver’s license. To get covered, teens can be added to an existing family policy or they can get their own policy.

Minimum liability insurance requirements for drivers in California are $15,000 for injury/death to one person; $30,000 for injury/death to more than one person; and $5,000 for damage to property.

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Renewing Your CA License: Frequently Asked Questions

What if I need to renew my license or replace a lost/stolen license?

You can renew your license online, by mail, by phone or in person by visiting your local DMV office.

If you have lost your driver’s license or if it was stolen, you should first report it to the California DMV at (886) 658-5758 or by sending an email to dlfraud@dmv.ca.gov. You can then follow regular renewal procedures to get your new license.

Where can I renew my California driver’s license?

You can renew your license online, by phone, by mail unless you meet one of the following conditions, which require you to renew your license in person at the DMV:

  • You are 70 years old or above
  • Your driver’s license expires in more than 60 days
  • Your last 2 renewals were not completed in person
  • You need to take a written test

Will I be required to take a vision test when renewing my license?

If renewing in person, you will need to complete a Driver License or Identification Card Application (DL 44); provide your thumbprint; have your picture taken; pass a vision test; pass a written exam, if necessary; and pay a $34 renewal fee for non-commercial Class A and B and $33 for Class C