Apply for a License (Under 18) in Tennessee
COVID-19 Effects on Licensing Services
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, state DMVs nationwide have closed driver licensing offices, extended license and registration expiration dates, and/or limited the transactions they are processing. If possible, residents should use the DDS' online services to complete any relevant transactions. Follow the DDS' most recent updates for the latest information.
We've made the Tennessee driver's license process easy to understand by explaining it in a simple, easy-to-follow manner.
Tennessee REAL ID Driver's License
The TN DDS issues federally-compliant REAL ID driver’s licenses in addition to non-compliant licenses. As of October 1, 2021, only the REAL ID will function as federal identification for domestic travel and entry into federal and military buildings—a standard license will not after this date.
You have the choice to apply for a non-compliant license or upgrade to a REAL ID license. For more detail, visit the DDS' guide to REAL IDs.
New to Tennessee?
If you're new to Tennessee, you can transfer your out-of-state learner's permit or license as long as you meet the following requirements:
- Be at least:
- 15 years old to transfer a permit.
- 16 years old to transfer a driver's license.
- Have held your learner's permit for 180 days (needed to apply for a TN driver's license).
- Submit a certified driving record from previous state (must be dated within 30 days of transfer).
- Pass a vision test.
- Pay the required fee:
- Learner permit: $10.50.
- Intermediate restricted license: $24.50.
- Intermediate unrestricted license: $2.
- Unrestricted Class D license: $10.
- Hardship license: $9.
About the Tennessee Graduated Driver License (GDL) Program
Tennessee is one of many states that have adopted a graduated driver licensing (GDL) program, in an effort to reduce the risks that are associated with teen drivers. These programs put specific steps in place so that teens meet gradual requirements as they earn their full driver's license privileges.
Teens who complete this process will go through the following stages: a learner permit, an intermediate restricted driver's license, an intermediate unrestricted driver's license, and a regular driver's license.
- 14 years old―may be eligible for hardship license.
- 15 years old―eligible for learner permit.
- 16 years old―eligible for intermediate restricted driver license.
- 17 years old―eligible for intermediate unrestricted driver license.
- 18 years old―eligible for regular unrestricted driver license.
TN Learner Permit
To get a Tennessee learner permit, you must be 15 years old. You can choose whether or not you want to start the process of getting a REAL ID based on the documents you bring with you.
You'll need to visit a TN Department of Safety (DOS) office and complete the following steps:
- Have your parent or legal guardian sign a Tennessee Minor/Teenage Affidavit and Cancellation Form (SF-0259).
- Show proof of school enrollment that confirms good attendance and satisfactory progress (must be signed and dated within 30 days prior to applying).
- If you've already graduated, present your diploma or a GED certificate.
- Provide proofs of your:
- Identity and U.S. citizenship/legal presence.
- Tennessee residency (2 documents).
- Social Security number.
- Bring a completed Proof of School Attendance/Progress (SF-1010). This form cannot be downloaded. Obtain through your school.
- Pass the:
- Class D knowledge exam.
- Vision test.
- Pay the $10.50 permit fee.
With a learner permit, you are allowed to operate a vehicle, provided you're accompanied by a licensed driver 21 years old. You cannot, however, drive between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
After obtaining a TN learner permit, your next step is to complete supervised behind-the-wheel training. You will be required to complete 50 hours of driving practice, with 10 hours at night. This training must be completed with a licensed driver 21 years old.
Once you have completed your behind-the-wheel requirement and have held your learner permit for 180 days, you're ready to apply for your intermediate license.
Intermediate Restricted Driver License
When you're 16 years old and have held a valid learner permit for 180 days, you can graduate to a Tennessee intermediate restricted driver license. You'll need to make a road test appointment. When you arrive for the skills test, have with you:
- A completed Certification of 50 Hours Behind the Wheel Experience form (SF-1256) signed by your parent or guardian.
- A financial responsibility form, also signed by your parent or guardian.
- Proof of enrollment in school, confirming good attendance and progress (signed and dated 30 days prior) IF you applying with an out-of-state permit or driver's license.
- Your learner's permit.
- Be prepared to show the same proofs of identity, residency, and Social Security number you brought when you applied for your permit.
- If you didn't bring REAL ID-compliant documents for your permit application and you want to upgrade, bring them with you now.
- Proof of car registration and auto insurance for your road test vehicle.
Pass the road test and you'll need to pay a $24.50 licensing fee.
With a restricted driver's license, you're allowed to drive without supervision. But there are still a couple of restrictions you must follow:
- You are not allowed to drive between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless:
- You're with a licensed driver 21 years old.
- You're traveling to and from a work or school-related purpose.
- You're traveling between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. to or from fishing or hunting, and you have a valid fishing or hunting license.
- You can't drive with more than 1 passenger, unless:
- At least one of the passengers is 21 years old.
- The passengers are your brothers, sisters, step-brothers, or step-sisters, or they are adopted or foster children who also reside in your home with you, and you have written permission from your parent or guardian to transport them.
Intermediate Unrestricted Driver License
Once you're 17 years old and you've held a valid restricted driver's license for one year, you're eligible to get your Tennessee intermediate unrestricted driver's license. Make sure to bring to your local DOS office:
- Your current restricted intermediate license.
- If you didn't apply for a REAL ID-compliant license before and you want to upgrade now, bring all required documents with you.
- A secondary form of identification.
- Payment for $2 license upgrade fee.
At this point, your driving restrictions are lifted. The word “Intermediate" will still be present on your license, but you may drive unsupervised at any hour.
Regular Unrestricted Driver License
Once you're 18 years old, you may apply to have the “Intermediate" removed from your driver's license and receive a regular unrestricted driver's license. You will be required to pay an $10 license upgrade fee.
You also have the option of keeping your intermediate unrestricted license (with the word “Intermediate" on it) until it expires after 5 years. You will then be automatically issued a regular TN driver's license.
Share your progress with your friends when you follow our new license checklist.
Other Tennessee Licenses
Tennessee offers a special circumstance hardship driver's license in cases of family hardship. To apply:
- You must be at least 14 years old.
- Complete a Hardship License Application form (SF-0263).
- Have a state-approved Driver Education/Training course completion certificate (this requirement may be waived if you've had a permit for at least 3 months).
Send required documents to:
- Department of Safety and Homeland Security
- Driver Services Division― Hardship License
- 1150 Foster Ave.
- Nashville, TN 37243
If your application is approved, the Department of Safety and Homeland Security will send it back along with a letter of approval. You will then need to head to your local DOS office with:
- Primary and secondary proofs of identitification.
- Proof of your Social Security number, or, if you don't have one, a completed Social Security Number Affidavit.
- Your letter of hardship approval from the DOS.
Your hardship license will carry the following restrictions:
- You may only drive during daylight hours (5 a.m. to 7 p.m.).
- Your travel is limited to authorized locations as specified in an approval letter from the DOS (common allowances are school, work, and medical needs).
- You may only drive within a perimeter of 25 miles.
- You are only allowed to drive with passengers who are immediate family members.
Your hardship license will automatically expire when you turn 16 years old.
Teen Motorcycle & Moped Licenses
If you're at least 15 years old and looking to ride a moped or motorcycle, you can apply for the following:
- A restricted license for a motorized bicycle less than 50 cc.
- A limited license for a motor-driven cycle/scooter 51 to 125 cc
- A motorcycle learner permit for motorcycles 125 cc and over.
For more information about motor-driven cycles and scooters, visit our Mopeds and Scooters page.
At 16 years old, you can get a motorcycle endorsement to operate a motorcycle in addition to a car. Visit our Motorcycle License page for detailed information on requirements and testing.
Auto Insurance in Tennessee
Having auto insurance is required by TN law. To find coverage that best suits your family and your budget, check protection plans from a variety of car insurance providers.
Learner Permit Insurance
Teens with permits may be covered under the insurance of the adult licensed driver riding with them. If you're unsure about this, contact your car insurance agent. If your teen driver is not covered, strongly consider upgrading your auto insurance policy.
Intermediate (Restricted and Unrestricted) License Insurance
Teen drivers applying for an intermediate driver's license are required to show proof of insurance. Teens may be added to an existing family policy, a parent's policy, or they may get their own policy.
There may be opportunities for teens and their families to qualify for discounts from insurance companies. For more information about discounts, rates, and coverage, visit the following pages:
- Proof of School Attendance
- Proof of school enrollment required for minors applying for a Tennessee graduated driver's license (GDL). Must be obtained from the school. Not available online.