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License # 2041

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How to Get a Driver's License

Step-by-step guide for new drivers seeking a regular (class C) driver's license in California:

No matter how old you are, you're required to get a permit before you can get a license.  Keep the permit with you whenever you practice.  When you apply for your permit, you're actually applying for a driver's license, but you won't get the license until after you have your permit and pass a behind-the-wheel driving test.  The driving test requires a separate appointment, which cannot be scheduled until you have your permit.

STEP 1:    Apply For Your Permit

Regardless of Age:
Your permit will expire one year after the date you apply, so you must take the driving test before then.  The application requires the following:

●   You must pick up the required DL44 form at the DMV.  Fill it out while you wait for your number to be called.  Fill in your legal name, social security number, address, gender, eye color, height, weight, etc.  (Don't worry — They're not going to weigh you!)  Don't sign the form until asked.
●   You must provide your thumb print and have your picture taken.  The same picture will be used on your license.
●   You must pass a vision exam with 20/40 visual acuity.  Bring any prescription glasses with you.  If you think you should have a license that doesn't require you to wear corrective lenses, you can try the vision test without your glasses.  If you don't see well enough, you can immediately try again with your glasses.
●   You must show verification of your birth date and legal presence.  For most people, a certified copy of your birth certificate is what you need.  If you don't have it, check the DMV website for other forms of verification.
●   You must pay the application fee, which is currently $33.  The fee covers the entire licensing process, so you won't have to pay again when you take your driving test.  The DMV accepts ATM/debit cards, cash, or checks.
●   You must pass a multiple-choice test regarding traffic laws and signs.  The answers to every question are in the California Driver Handbook.
●   See sections below for other requirements depending on your age.

If You're Over 18 (Adult) When You Apply:
Nothing else is legally required to get your permit.  You can drive with your permit only if a licensed driver over age 18 sits in the passenger seat with you.  There is no legal requirement for an adult to use the services of a driving school.  But we can help you pass the driving test, we can teach you to be safer, and we can jump start the whole learning process!  We have more students who are over 18 than we have students under 16!

If You're 17½ to 18 When You Apply:
In addition to the items above, you'll also need your parents' signatures accepting liability for you as a minor.  You can drive with your permit only if a licensed driver over age 25 sits in the passenger seat with you.  However, once you turn 18 until you get your license, the licensed driver sitting next to you can be as young as 18.  You won't be allowed to take the driving test until you turn 18.  There is no legal requirement to use the services of a driving school but it's a good investment in your future safety, and to help you ace the driving test!

If You're 15½ to 17½ When You Apply:
In addition to the list above, you'll also need your parents' signatures accepting liability for you, and a Certificate of Completion of Driver's Education (DL400C).  To get this, we offer our driver's education course online. 

If You're Under 15½:
Yes, you can begin your driver's education course before you're 15½!  In fact, this is the only way to get your license on your 16th birthday!  You won't be allowed to apply for your permit until you're 15½.  However, to get your license on your 16th birthday you must apply for your permit when you're exactly 15½.  That's because all teens must hold a permit for 6 months before you can take the driving test.  So if this is your goal, you must finish driver's education, and receive the completion certificate, before you're 15½!  Enroll now from this website.

If You Don't Pass the Traffic Law Test:
If you don't pass the traffic law test, you can wait seven days and try again without paying a fee.  You can try three times.  If you fail all three times, your application will be void, and you must re-apply, including the DL44 form and paying the fee again.  Remember, the answer to every question is in the California Driver Handbook.

STEP 2:    Get Training and Practice

Inform your Insurance Company, But Don't Pay More:
We're not qualified to advise you on insurance matters, but we know this: You should inform your insurance provider that a new driver with a permit will be driving occasionally, with licensed drivers in the car.  In most situations this should NOT increase your insurance premiums!  If they want more money, you may be speaking to someone who doesn't understand the situation, or someone being paid on commission.  Consider shopping for another insurance provider if this happens.

If You'll be Over 18 When You Take the Driving Test:
Although no behind-the-wheel training is legally required, we can certainly help!  Without practice and with no prior experience, it's almost impossible to pass the driving test.  One or two lessons with a true professional driving instructor can dramatically cut the amount of practice time you'll need and fully prepare you for the driving test.

If You'll be Under 18 When You Take the Driving Test:
You must receive at least six hours of behind-the-wheel driver training from a licensed driving school, and your parents must sign your permit signifying that you have had 50 hours of practice, including 10 hours at night.  A log of these hours is not required, but it's a good idea.  You must also hold your permit for six months before you take the driving test. 

STEP 3:    Take the Driving Test

DMV will not let you take the driving test without an appointment.  You may take the test at any DMV field office, using your own car, or our cars are available for a fee with an instructor who will walk you through the entire process.

Determine When You Should Take the Driving Test:
If you feel you're ready, schedule your appointment for a date when you're eligible to take it.

Over 18: You're eligible to take the driving test immediately, but you must make an appointment.
Under 18: You'll be eligible to take the driving test either 6 months after the day you passed the traffic law test (the day your permit was issued), or on your 18th birthday, whichever is first.  You must also have completed six hours of behind-the-wheel driver training with a licensed driving school.  The driving school will issue a Certificate of Completion of Driver Training (DL400D) which you must have with you to take the driving test.

Schedule Your Appointment in Advance:
From the table above, determine when you're eligible to take the driving test.  If you're ready, schedule it up to 45 days in advance of that date.  The DMV will not let you book an appointment for a date earlier than you'll be eligible, but before you're eligible you may schedule up to 45 days in advance.  We suggest using the online appointment system on DMV's website.

Arrange for a Car:
You may take the test using your family car or a borrowed car.  The DMV does not provide cars for the test.  Our cars are also available for a fee if an instructor has determined you're ready.  The vehicle must have current registration and insurance, a license plate on the front and back, good tires, at least two mirrors, no cracks in the windshield, and the horn and lights must all be working.  The registration and insurance do not have to be in your name.

The Day of Your Driving Test:
If you're taking the test for the first time you won't have to pay any fees because you paid for this when you applied for your permit.  A licensed driver of appropriate age must accompany you to the DMV.  Park in the public parking lot and go inside to check in at the "appointments" window.  Inside you must show the registration, proof of insurance, your permit and, if you're under 18, you must also show your Certificate of Completion of Driver Training (DL400D).  The DMV staff will direct you where to move the car to begin the test.

The driving test takes place on public streets, usually within a one-mile radius of the DMV office.  For new drivers, you'll only drive about 10 to 15 minutes but they cover a lot of detail in that time.  The test has changed over the years.  We'll make sure you know exactly what to expect.

If You Don't Pass the Driving Test:
Don't give up!  You can take the test up to three times.  With the DMV's recent backlog for driving appointments, you may have to wait a couple weeks or more.  Unlike the written test, there is a $6 fee to retake the driving test.  If you fail the driving test three times, your permit will be void and you must reapply for a new permit, paying the $33 fee again.

If You Pass the Driving Test:
Congratulations!  You'll immediately receive a temporary paper license which you must sign.  Within two weeks you should receive your plastic driver's license in the mail.  Your license will have the same photo from when you applied for the permit.

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