Drivers Permits in California
Whether you are in need of your first driver license or want to get a more specialized license for towing, you will first want to obtain an instructional permit. This permit will allow you to practice for the licensing exams.
Before continuing, note that the DMV does not initiate any exams after 4:30 p.m.
If you are between 15 1/2 years and 17 1/2 years old, you may apply for the instructional permit if you:
- Have completed a driver education and driver training program.
- Have completed driver education and are currently taking driver training.
- Are currently taking an approved combination driver education/driver training program.
You will have to show appropriate documentation. If you have met these criteria, you will need to follow the steps outlined below.
If you are between 17 1/2 and 18 years of age, you are not required to have completed a drivers education or drivers training program. Simply follow the steps outlined below.
Follow These Steps
While at the DMV you will need to:
- Submit an original application form (DL 44) with your full name (no copies).
- Include your parent's or guardian's signature (assuming liability) on the application document.
- Provide a thumb print.
- Provide your social security number.
- Verify your date of birth or legal presence with sufficient documentation.
- Pass a vision exam.
- Pass a traffic laws exam; the test includes 46 questions, and to pass you need to answer 38 correctly. If you have 3 attempts to pass the test and must wait 7 days between each attempt. Should you fail the exam 3 times, you much start over by filling out a new DL 44 and paying a new fee so BE SURE YOU ARE FULLY PREPARED. Check out DMV.org's practice tests, as well as the sample exams the CA DMV offers.
- During the minimum of 6 months that you must hold a learner's permit, you're required to practice driving for an additional 50 hours with a parent or guardian supervising you from the passenger seat, 10 of these hours must be at night.
- Make a driving test appointment by calling (800) 777-0133, or going online.
- Provide proof of insurance for the car you're testing in (rental cars are not allowed).
- Make sure the vehicle you're testing in is in good working condition (functional seat belts, two license plates, two rear view mirrors, etc.).
- Leave pets at home.
After passing the road test you'll be given a provisional license. If you're younger than 18 years old this requires you to be accompanied by a parent, guardian, licensed driver 25 years old or older, or a licensed, certified driving instructor while:
- Driving between 11 pm and 5 am. for the first year or until you turn 18.
- Driving with any number of passengers under 20 years of age years old, for the first year or until you turn 18.
If you lose your instructional permit, simply head to your local DMV office with all identification and residence documents you used when you applied for your original permit (see above), and request a new one. There is no charge.
If your instructional permit expires, you'll need to take the same documentation and the $27 fee, as well as complete another written test. Your time will accumulate, as long as you retain possession of the original and the new permit.
If you plan on doing some hauling, check to see if the type of hauling warrants a more specialized license than the one you already have.
You will need to obtain a noncommercial Class A license if you plan on towing:
- A travel trailer more than 10,000 pounds Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), and your hauling is not for hire.
- A fifth-wheel trailer more than 15,000 pounds GVWR and not for hire.
- A livestock trailer, not used for hire, between 10,000 and 15,000 pounds GVWR operated within 150 miles of a farm and you are a farmer who will transport livestock.
You will need to obtain a noncommercial Class B license if you plan on driving a housecar between 40 and 45 feet long.
You're exempt from having to apply for the noncommercial Class B license if you already have:
- A commercial driver license either Class A or B.
- A noncommercial driver license Class A.
- Any form of firefighter license.
If you need to get a noncommercial Class A or Class B driver license but first need some towing practice, the California DMV offers instructional permits.
Upon receiving an instructional permit you will be able to drive with a person holding the same class of license for which you will be applying, as long as the license holder meets the age requirements.
At the DMV you will have to:
- Submit a completed application form (DL 44); the original document must be submitted, no faxes or copies.
- Provide a thumb print.
- Have your picture taken.
- Provide verification of birth date and legal presence (your California driver license will suffice).
- Pass a vision exam.
- Submit a Health Questionnaire (DL 546), completed within two years of the date of your application.
- Pass the traffic law and signs tests for the class of vehicle you currently drive.
- Pass the noncommercial Class A or Class B vehicles test.
Other Topics in This Section
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- Drivers Training Requirements: Do You Have to Enroll in Drivers Training?
- How to Choose a Drivers Training Program
- Who’s Required to Take Drivers Training
- Transferring a Learner Permit to a New State
- Teen Driver Safety: Seat Belt Use
- Graduating From a Drivers Permit to a Restricted Drivers License
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