How to Get A Driver’s License in California (A Complete 2024 Guide)

How to Get A Driver's License in California (A Complete Guide)

The driver’s license process in California can be confusing since there are several steps you need to take before you get issued the official license. 

And if you don’t know your way around these things, you might end up wasting a lot of time going back and forth to your local DMV. 

This is where we can help.

Today, we’re going to give you a complete 2024 guide on how to get a driver’s license in California. We won’t leave anything out, so you know exactly what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. 

So shall we? 

California Driver’s License Requirements 

If you are 15½ to 17½ years old, you’ll have to undergo the full GDL program, which consists of 3 stages:

  • Instruction Permit
  • Provisional License
  • Full license

How to Get An Instruction Permit in California

The first step for minors is to secure an instruction permit. 

This allows you to practice your driving. However, you should always be accompanied by a licensed driver over 21 years old and who has at least 2 years of driving experience. 

That said, here are the steps to getting your instruction permit in California: 

  • Complete 30 hours of driver’s ed with a DMV-approved driving school
  • Fill up the California Driver’s License or Identification (DL/ID) Card Application form (click here to do it online). NOTE: if done online, you do not have to print it, just save the confirmation number.
  • While there, submit proof of identity, date of birth, SS number, legal presence in the US, California residency, and completion of the driver’s education course
  • Give a thumbprint and have your photo taken
  • Pass a vision test
  • Pass the written exam
  • Pay the application fee of $39. Can be paid through cash, check, money order, or debit card. 
  • Get your instruction permit

Keep in mind that if you’re between 15½ and 17 ½ years old, your parent or legal guardian is the only one allowed to sign your application sheet. They will also be automatically liable for the insurance required for cars registered in California. 

How to Get A Provisional License in California

To get your provisional license, you must:

  • Be at least 16 years old
  • Held your instruction permit for 6 months
  • Complete 50 hours of behind-the-wheel training, 10 of which were done at night
  • Driven 6 hours with a certified driving instructor

If you’ve done all that, follow these steps: 

  • During the day, bring proof of your date of birth and legal residence, a copy of the insurance document of the car that you will use, driver’s ed certificate of completion, proof of completion of the 50 hours of behind-the-wheel training, and your instruction permit. 
  • Pass the driving test
  • Get your provisional license

Now, this license will give you more freedom. However, there are still restrictions, such as: 

  • You cannot drive with a passenger below 20 years old unless you are accompanied by your parent/guardian or someone older than 25. 
  • You cannot use a cellphone or handheld device while behind the wheel unless it is an emergency.
  • You cannot drive between 11 pm to 5 am, unless:
    • It is a medical necessity
    • It is an employment necessity 
    • It is a school necessity
    • It is an immediate family necessity

How to Get A Full License in California 

Once you have held your provisional license for 12 months or turned 18  years old (whichever comes first), your provisional license will be upgraded to the official driver’s license. That means that all your restrictions will be removed. 

You don’t have to change the provisional license until it expires. But if you want, you can have the DMV exchange it right away for a fee of $33. 

But what if you start working on your license when you’re already over 18 years old?

Here are the steps you need to follow:

  • Apply for an instruction permit (see steps above)
  • Pass the driving test

That’s it!

Note: Adults do not need to hold their instruction permit for 6 months. They can take the driving test whenever they feel ready. The permit is just proof that you passed the vision test and written exam, as well as paid the application fee. 

Frequently Asked Questions

To help you out even more, we’re going to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the licensing process in California. 

Can you take the permit test online in California?

Yes, you can. The DMV has just recently allowed applicants to take their permit test online through a computer. On top of that, the test-taker has to be monitored throughout. 

Plus, you can only take the test on weekdays (excluding state holidays) from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. 

If you wish to take your permit test online, please contact the DMV at (916) 657–6437 or through

How long does it take to get a driver’s license in California?

If you are below 18 years old, you need to wait until you are of legal age to get the full license in California. That can take quite a while. 

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t ever drive until you reach 18. If you get an instruction permit or provisional license, you can start driving, be it with restrictions. 

Can I take my driver’s ed online in California?

Yes! The only requirement is that you should take the program from a DMV-approved online driving school.

You can check out some of these approved online driving schools in California:

The best part about taking it online is that it’s SUER convenient. You get to study it at your own pace, from the comfort of your home! 


There are a lot of steps to get your driver’s license in California. This is why it’s important to be familiar with them. 

And with this complete 2024 guide on how to get a driver’s license in California, you learned everything you need to know – from getting your instruction permit to your full license. 

So what are you waiting for?

If you’re eligible to apply for an instruction permit, go ahead and get started!

Good luck!

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