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California License and Permit DMV Checklist

So you've completed your California drivers ed course - congrats! Now it's finally time to head to the DMV to get your drivers license or learners permit. We know you don't want to mess up and have to wait in that nightmare of a line more than once, so we’re gonna make this really simple for you to nail right from the start.

Here is everything you need to bring with you to the California DMV for a learners permit and a drivers license.

California Teen Drivers Ed

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What to Bring to Take Your Written Test for Your California Driver Permit

What you need to bring with you for a learners permit depends on how old you are. We’ve broken it down into two groups based on age: teen drivers and adult drivers.

PROVISIONAL INSTRUCTION PERMIT FOR TEEN DRIVERS

  1. A completed California Driver’s License or Identification (DL/ID) Application with your parents’/guardians’ signatures
  2. Your birth certificate (original or certified), valid passport or residence card (temp or permanent)
  3. Your social security number
  4. Proof of residency in California
  5. $33 application fee
  6. Certificate of Completion of Driver Education (a pink DL 400C - the form Aceable sends you) or proof that you are currently enrolled in drivers ed.

If you’re between 15.5 and 17.5 years old, you need to bring ALL of the five items above. If you’re between 17.5 and one day less than 18, you need to bring the FIRST FOUR items above. Drivers ed isn’t required, but it’s still a good idea.

INSTRUCTION PERMIT FOR ADULT DRIVERS

  1. A completed California Driver’s License or Identification (DL/ID) Application
  2. Your birth certificate (original or certified) or passport, residence card (temp or permanent)
  3. Your social security number
  4. $33 application fee
  5. Proof of residential address in California. Two types of residency proof are needed for a REAL ID.

If you’re 18 and older, you still need to bring much of the same information to the DMV for a learners permit, but you won’t need parents for signatures or drivers ed.

What to Bring to Your Driving Test for a California Drivers License

Once you’ve held on to your permit for the required period of time you can move up to a Basic Class C drivers license. That means making another trip to the DMV to take the driving road test. Here’s what you’ll need to take the driving test.

TEEN DRIVERS

  1. Your permit
  2. Parent signature certifying you received 50 hours of driving practice.
  3. Proof of financial responsibility (car insurance)
  4. Certificate of Completion of Driver Education (DL 400C)
  5. Your Behind-the-Wheel completion certificate (DL 388 or DL 400D)

If you’re between 16 and one day less than 18, you need ALL of the items above in order to upgrade to a Class C drivers license.

ADULT DRIVERS

  1. Your permit
  2. Proof of financial responsibility (car insurance)

If you’re 18 or older, you only need an instructional permit and auto insurance to take the California driving test.

What’s Covered on the California Driving Test

If you're applying for the basic, Class C license, the driving test will be the same, no matter how old you are. Your examiner will test to ensure you know the rules of the road, including (but certainly not limited to):

  • Accelerating, stopping and steering smoothly
  • Obeying the posted speed limit
  • Maintaining a safe following distance
  • Understanding all traffic signals and signs
  • Proper signal usage for lane changes and turns
  • Identifying road hazards
  • Checking mirrors at appropriate times
  • For manual vehicles, ensuring you're in the correct gear without grinding

What Your Vehicle Needs for the Driving Test

You'll need to provide your own vehicle for the road test. The state of California has a set of safety standards and features all test vehicles must have. Your DMV examiner will check for all of the following:

  • License plates on the front and back, the rear plate showing up-to-date registration
  • Functional turn signals (front and back) and working brake lights.
  • Tires in good condition
  • Sufficient brake pressure
  • A functional driver's side window you can roll down
  • A windshield that doesn't obstruct your view
  • Two rear view mirrors, including one mounted outside, to your left
  • Front doors on both sides that you can open from the inside and outside of the vehicle
  • Functional safety belts
  • A functional emergency or parking brake
  • A functional horn

It may not be a bad idea to take your car into a mechanic before your driving test. There's nothing worse than getting pumped up to get your license, only to have someone at the DMV tell you your vehicle isn't test-worthy.

Navigating your visit to the California DMV is a lot easier when you know what you need and when you need it. If you need more information about getting your license or permit in the Golden State, check out our California drivers ed guide. It has all of the details about the licensing process, plus a few more tips for acing the both California drivers license tests. We also have California permit practice tests that can help you pass the knowledge test on your first try.

Good luck, and drive safely out there!