How to Get Your Drivers License in Iowa

Iowa is known for its beautiful byways, like Loess Hills and Great River Road, but before you can venture out onto this state’s scenic streets, you’ll need to get your driver license first. Getting a driver license in Iowa involves taking an approved drivers ed course, passing a written knowledge test and practicing with an instruction permit before you can drive by yourself. We’ll go over each step of Iowa drivers ed and learning how to drive in detail so that you know exactly what to expect when applying for your Iowa driver’s license. Ready to cruise down those beautiful Iowa byways? Let’s get started then.

Cheesin' hard about riding down the highway
Cheesin’ hard about riding down the highway

How Do You Get an Iowa Learner Permit?

If you’re an Iowa resident who is at least 14 years old, then you’re officially eligible for an instruction permit, also called a learner permit, which means that you can drive with an adult supervisor in the passenger seat. In order to get your learner permit, all you have to do is pass an eye exam as well as permit test composed of multiple choice questions. To ensure that you ace the test, use an Iowa permit test prep course as your study guide.Once you’ve taken plenty of practice tests and feel fully prepared, head to go to your local Iowa Motor Vehicle Division office to take the test. While you’re there, you’ll also have to show some forms that prove your identity to the MVD agent. Here, you can see a list of the forms you need to bring with. Not so difficult, huh?

Piece of cake
Piece of cake

What Are the Requirements for Iowa Drivers Ed?

In the Hawkeye State, anyone seeking a driver license under age 18 is required to take a 30-hour drivers ed course approved by the Iowa Department of Transportation and complete at least 20 hours of driving practice with a parent or instructor. So yeah, playing Mario Kart does NOT count as your driver’s ed. Once you turn 18, driver’s education isn’t required, but many people still choose to take driver training at a local school. How else are you gonna pass a driving test and get your license, right?

No.
No.

How Does Iowa Drivers Ed Work for Teens?

Teens in Iowa have two options for driver education: parent taught drivers ed or drivers ed at a school. Don’t worry if you’re confused — we’ll go over what each of those mean.

Iowa Parent Taught Drivers Ed

Parent taught drivers ed means that students will complete 30 hours of classroom instruction with an approved online or at-home provider. (So don’t freak out; your parents won’t actually be standing at a chalkboard lecturing you on traffic laws.) You can see a list of providers that offer at-home or online drivers ed here. Meanwhile, you’ll log 20 hours of supervised driving practice with your parent or guardian. Get ready for dad to repeatedly tell you to “watch that lead foot.”

Ugh, Dad ... you'll never understand me.
Ugh, Dad … you’ll never understand me

Before you can start parent taught driver’s education in Iowa, your mom or pops needs to fill out this application to become a parent teacher and email or mail it to the Iowa Office of Driver Services.

  • Email: parenttaught.de[at]dot.iowa.gov
  • Mail: PO Box 9204, Des Moines, IA 50309

After you send in the form, an agent will approve your request and send back a packet with all the materials you need to get started on drivers ed, including a log for recording your driving practice hours. You can choose to have the packet mailed or emailed. We suggest email because it’s usually the faster method. Hey, we know you’re eager to start driving!

Iowa Drivers Ed at a School

While parent taught drivers ed means you’ll learn how to drive from your parents, drivers ed at a school means you’ll learn from — guess what — an instructor at a school. There are several professional driving schools in Iowa that offer both the classroom phase and the behind-the-wheel phase of teen drivers ed. The Iowa DMV maintains a list of such schools here.

Sometimes students have to take teen driver ed at a school because they do not have an eligible parent instructor. Parents might not be eligible if their license has been suspended or if they have serious violations on their driving record. Check with an Iowa Motor Vehicle Division agent if you are unsure if your parent qualifies as an instructor.

Okay, now let's get to the part where you get your license
Okay, now let’s get to the part where you get your license

How Do You Get an Iowa Driver License?

If you’ve taken driver education, held your learner permit for 12 months and are at least 16 years old, you’re eligible to get a driver’s license. Hooray! Now it’s time to head back to the Iowa MVD office and pass the driving test. Before you go, make sure you’ve completed your log for supervised driving practice and have a certificate of completion from an approved driver’s education program. You’ll also need to bring a few other forms to prove your identity, which you can find >here.

After you pass the driving test, or road test, you’re ready to get your license! You’ll still have a few restrictions on when you’re allowed to drive and who can be in the car with you, but still — you can finally drive all by yourself! Welcome to the real world, kiddo.

No more getting asked this question
No more getting asked this question

How Does Drivers Ed Work for Adults?

If you’re 18 years or older and seeking an Iowa driver license for the first time, drivers education is not required, however, you have the option of taking the classroom phase or the behind-the-wheel training phase at a local school. Probably a pretty good idea if you’ve never driven a car before. Visit the Iowa DOT website for a list of schools in the state.

In order to get your driver license, you’ll have to pass a vision screening exam, written test and driving test. Easily prep for the written test with a drivers ed study aid. If you don’t feel ready for a full license yet, you can forgo the driving test and get an instruction permit instead. You’ll be able to practice with another licensed driver, and then when you feel confident in your driving abilities, you can go back to the Iowa DMV office and take the road test. Then that’s it! A driver license is yours. The Iowa byways await you.

Yes! You did it!
Yes! You did it!