How to Get Your California Driver License
Need a California driver license? We’re here to lend a hand. We’re Aceable: an Online Drivers Ed course that’s helped thousands of Californians learn to drive. But enough about us. This absolutely amazing guide exists so that you can get started on the road to becoming a licensed California driver. Pretty exciting, right? Our goal is to make this easy for teens to find all the answers they seek about driver licenses in California. Let’s get started.
California Drivers Ed Requirements
We associate learning how to drive with our 16th birthday, but guess what: In California you can start Drivers Education at age 15 and 6 months. Woot-woot.The catch? Before age 16 you can only hold a learner permit (meaning mom and dad have to be in the car while you’re driving). But once you turn 16 and you’ve completed all your Drivers Ed requirements, you’re eligible for a California driver license like a big boy or girl.
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You might be thinking, "I’m already 16. Can I skip this whole permit part?"" Not so fast, friend. Everyone ages 15.5-17.5 must take California Drivers Ed and hold a learner permit before they can obtain a California driver license. If you’re older than age 17.5, Drivers Ed isn’t required, but we recommend it because how else you gonna learn the rules of the road? By watching The Fast & the Furious? We don’t think so.
How Does California Drivers Ed Work?
California Driver Ed is a mandatory 30-hour driver education course for anyone seeking a California driver license age 17.5 and under. Read: You have to do this. (But it’s not so bad. We promise.) You can take Drivers Ed online or at a brick-and-mortar school, whichever you prefer. After you finish the course, you’ll take six hours of driver training with a professional instructor. Simple enough, right?
There’s one more thing: After you’ve attended the first two hours of driving class, you’re allowed to practice driving with a parent or licensed driver over age 25. You’ll need to log 50 hours of driving practice before you can get a California driver license and 10 of those hours must be completed at night. Switch those headlights on.
Classroom vs Online Drivers Ed
As previously mentioned, you can take Drivers Ed online or at local driving school. We’ll explore the differences between each so that you can decide which is right for you.
There are several California Department of Motor Vehicles (CA DMV) approved providers of online Drivers Ed, including *cough* Aceable. After you sign up with an online provider, you’ll simply go through the course at your own pace and when you’re finished, the provider will send you a certificate of completion to apply for a learner permit.
Benefits of Online Drivers Ed
- The course is self-paced
- Convenient for people with busy schedules (can take anytime, anywhere)
- Accessible (don’t have to get back and forth to a school -- after all, you can’t drive yet!)
Classroom Drivers Ed
Classroom Drivers Ed is definitely becoming more obsolete in California, but you can certainly find it if that is your preference. Some driving schools offer classroom teaching in addition to behind-the-wheel instruction, and classes typically meet once a week for several hours. When you’re finished in the classroom, you’ll get a certificate of completion to apply for a learner permit and then move on to the behind-the-wheel phase.
Benefits of Classroom Drivers Ed
- Take the 30-hour driver education course and six hours of instruction under one roof
How Do I get a Permit?
You’ve finished your 30-hour Drivers Ed course and received a certificate of completion. What’s next? It’s test time -- your favorite! Don’t worry. This one’s a lot better than your math teacher’s pop quizzes.
To get your learner permit, you’ll need to make an appointment at the California DMV office to take a written exam composed of 46 questions. You need to get 38 questions right to pass, but even if you fail you’ll have the chance retake the written exam two more times. Show that permit test who’s boss.
If you're feeling nervous, we got your back with unlimited free CA DMV practice tests. After you take a practice test or two, you'll be ready to rock the written exam.
By the way, you’re going to need some documents when you go to the California DMV office. These documents simply serve as a kind of ID card to prove you are who you say you are (and are not secretly Batman.) We’ll make sure you’re prepared so you don’t have to take another trip.
What to Bring the California DMV to obtain a Learner Permit
- An original or certified copy of your birth certificate. If you don’t have that, check out a list of other acceptable documents
- Social Security card (or just remember your social security number)
- Certificate of completion from an approved Drivers Ed program
- A California driver license application, which you can pick up at your local CA DMV office or request by mail. Both of your parents must sign it. Bug them until they do.
- Application fee of $33
What to Do at the CA DMV
- Take the permit exam (Don't forget to prepare with a free practice test!)
- Take a vision screening
- Get your picture taken
- Give your thumbprint
How To Obtain a California Driver License
If you’re at least 16 years old and have finished Drivers Ed, driver training and logged 50 hours of driving practice, you’re ready for a California driver license! (Note: You must also hold a learner permit for at least six months.) Make another appointment at the California DMV office to take your driving test and show off those stellar behind-the-wheel skills.
If you fail your road test, take a deep breath -- it’s all good. You can take it again in two weeks and you have three chances to pass. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Before you ace that driving test you need to make sure you have the proper documents & paperwork.
What to Bring the DMV for a Driver License
- Your permit. The second page should be signed by your parents, saying you’ve completed 50 hours of driving practice with them.
- Certificate proving you completed the course from a driver training school.
- Proof of financial responsibility. See list of acceptable documents here.
If you have all your documents and pass the driving test, then congrats -- YOU’RE OFFICIALLY A LICENSED DRIVER! Welcome to the club of peeps with driver licenses. It's a cool club.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles will issue you a temporary license ID and you’ll get the real thing in the mail within 90 days. Woo-hoo! See you on the road.
Ready to get started? Start taking California drivers ed online today!