Renewing Your License in North Carolina
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You'll need to possess a valid driver's license to operate a vehicle within the state. Thus, you need to pay close attention to when your license is set to expire. You can renew it up to 180 days before its expiration date.
Of course, you'll also need to have current auto insurance coverage to drive a car. Find the best rates available or search for a new carrier by visiting our Insurance Center.
Licenses are valid for varying lengths of time. If you're between the ages of 18-53, your license is good for eight years. If you're 54 or older, your license is valid for five years.
You may only renew in person, unless you're temporarily living outside the state (and for at least 30 days) or are away as a current armed forces member.
Commercial drivers should consult our Renewing Your CDL page for directions on how to handle your situation.
If you're unclear as to your current license status, you can always check it by obtaining a copy of your driving record.
Although it's illegal to drive with an expired license, you have up to one year after your license expires to renew it. Just follow the same instructions listed below for how to renew in person. After a year, you'll have to complete the testing process again. If you want to check your license status, you can purchase a copy of your driving record.
Obtaining a driving record is a good way to check on your driving status. Also, since your insurance rates will likely go up, search through our Insurance Center to find the best rates available for you.
See our Suspended License section for complete details on how to deal with your situation, including how to reinstate your license and the fees you'll pay.
See our Replacing a Lost License article for information on how to obtain a duplicate license.
About two months before your license expires, you'll receive a renewal reminder notice. The notice will alert you to exactly when your license expires. Although it's helpful to have your renewal card with you when you head to the driver's license office, it's not necessary.
You must renew in person or through the mail because the online option is not offered.
Only those who are temporarily living outside the state―and have been doing so for at least 30 days―may renew by mail. You'll only receive a temporary license, though, and you must apply for a renewal within 60 days of your return to the Tar Heel State.
Active armed forces members (and their families) stationed outside the state for any length of time may also apply by mail. See our Drivers in the Military section for more information.
The DMV reviews each renewal by mail situation on a separate basis, and can ask for additional requirements accordingly. If you're a commercial license holder, you can't renew your license by mail, period.
For renewal related questions, call (919) 715-7000.
If the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) doesn't have your Social Security number already on file, you must provide your Social Security card, too. (If you're not eligible for a number, bring documentation proving your legal presence in the country.)
To renew, you must:
- Pass a vision test. You may need to brush up on your road sign test skills; review this page for some study time. Click on the practice test page and chose the Traffic Sign Test option.
- Pass a traffic sign recognition test.
- Pay the renewal fees.
In some cases, the examiner may request that you take a road test, too.
It's a long time between license renewals. Be sure to keep your driving skills fresh. Taking a traffic safety course is a good way to do this while keeping on top of any traffic law changes. You may even lower your insurance rates in the process; check with your provider for more information, or look for a carrier that offers the discount by searching through our Insurance Center.
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