Applying for a New License (Drivers 18+) in Montana
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Teen drivers, first-time drivers, and folks who've just moved to Montana are striving to get their Class D driver's licenses―the licenses that allow you to operate regular passenger vehicles in Montana.
However, the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) of the Montana Department of Justice offers various licenses to fit every driver's needs, so check below to make sure it's not something else you're looking for before continuing:
- Motorcycle Permits and Endorsements are for driving motorcycles.
- Commercial Driver Licenses (CDLs) include Class A, B, and C licenses for driving commercial vehicles.
NOTE: Teen drivers must complete Montana's graduated driver licensing (GDL) program before they can get full, unrestricted Class D licenses. If this is you, head over to our Teen Drivers at this point.
Younger than 16―You must enroll in a state-approved traffic education program if you want to start driving at 14 1/2 years old, and you must complete that program before you can apply for a learner's license at 15 years old.
16 and Older―You don't have to complete a traffic education program, but taking a supplemental education course will definitely help you sharpen your skills.
Driver exam stations are located throughout the state; however, some rural counties either don't have driver exam stations, or have them but the stations don't accept payments (in which case you'll need to make payments at your County Treasurer Motor Vehicle Office before testing).
So, before heading out, call ahead to find out which station you should visit, whether you need to first make a payment at your County Treasurer Motor Vehicle Office, and if you need to make an appointment (some stations require them).
Before you test for your Class D driver's license, be sure you:
- Call ahead and find out where you need to make your payment, where you need to test, and if you need to make an appointment.
- Have two proofs of identity.
- Have one proof of Montana residency.
- Have one proof of authorized presence.
- Are ready to take a vision test (this applies to first-time drivers and new-to-Montana drivers).
- Can pay the $40.50 license fee. This fee applies to drivers 21 and older (drivers 18 years old pay $15.50; drivers 19 years old pay $10.50; drivers 20 years old pay $5.50). Depending on where you live, you may need to make this payment at your County Treasurer Motor Vehicle Office.
If you're a new-to-Montana driver with a valid out-of-state driver's license, you generally won't need to take the written test. You'll simply need to take the vision test and exchange your current license for a Montana license within 60 days of establishing residency. Keep in mind this is always at the discretion of the examiner.
If you're a first-time driver, or your out-of-state license is expired, you must take the written test. Studying the Montana Driver License Manual is helpful, as is enrolling in a supplemental driving course.
You can schedule an appointment online for the following stations: Billings, Bozeman, Columbus, Glendive, Great Falls, Hardin, Helena, Miles City, Missoula, Red Lodge, Sidney, Superior and Townsend.
All first-time drivers and new residents must show up with the same documents and fees as described above.
NOTE: Audio tests are available for applicants with special needs.
Once You Pass
Your next move depends on time and availability. You may be able to take your driving test the same day, or you may have to wait for the next available day or make an appointment.
If You Fail
You have three tries to pass your written test, and you must try on three different days. So, if you fail one day, you can try again the next available day or when you make your next appointment.
NOTE: If you fail three times, you must start the entire process over again, including paying the fees.
The MVD doesn't provide a vehicle once it's time to take your driving test; that responsibility falls on you. You may be able to borrow a relative's or a friend's car if you don't have your own, but make sure the vehicle you bring to your test is in good working order. The examiner will also check to see if the vehicle is properly registered and insured.
Once you're ready to buy your own vehicle, make sure you shop around for one that fits your needs. Keep in mind the benefits of purchasing a used vehicle in good condition. Vehicle history reports are great tools for making sure the used vehicle you're considering is indeed a good deal.
Not only do you need car insurance to drive in Montana, but you also need car insurance on the vehicle you use for your driving test. Check out our Insurance Center to learn about Montana's minimum liability insurance requirements and to shop for the best rate.
While drivers who are new-to-Montana generally don't have to take the driving test, the decision is up to the examiner.
All first-time drivers, and drivers with expired out-of-state licenses, must take the driving test. Make sure you show up in plenty of time (depending on where you live, you may need to make an appointment) with a vehicle that is properly registered and meets Montana's minimum liability insurance requirements. Visit our Insurance Center if you're unsure about those requirements.
Once You Pass
The driver exam station will issue you a temporary paper driver's license to use while you wait for your permanent hard copy to arrive in the mail.
If You Fail
As is the case with written tests, if you fail your driving test you can take it again the next day (or during your next appointment). You also have three chances to pass, and if you need to take it a fourth time you must start the entire process over again―fees included.
It normally takes between two and six weeks to receive your permanent hard copy to arrive in the mail.
If six weeks pass without receiving it, please call the MVD Customer Service Center at 1 (866) 450-8034. Have your temporary paper copy handy to answer questions.
If you're visiting Montana from another country, your valid foreign license allows you to drive for up to 60 days within the state. After 60 days, or if you establish residency in the state, you'll need to apply for a Montana license.
It's also a good idea to get an International Driver's Permit from your country of origin. This permit does not replace your foreign license, but it translates the license into a format that U.S. officials can better understand.
How to Apply as a Non-Citizen
If you're a non-citizen ready to apply for a Class D driver's license in Montana, you'll follow the same application process as described above; however, your proof of authorized presence will focus more on immigration-, naturalization-, and refugee-related documents. The MVD provides a complete list of accepted proofs of authorized presence online.
NOTE: If you're only temporarily residing in the U.S., the expiration date of your license won't exceed the expiration dates of your visa or related Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) documents.
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