How to Get A North Carolina Driver’s License (A Complete 2024 Guide)

How to Get A North Carolina Driver’s License

To get your North Carolina driver’s license, you’ll have to go through several steps. 

But don’t worry – we’re here to detail all those steps for you. 

We’ll even add an FAQ section to answer your burning questions. 

So are you ready to learn how to get a North Carolina driver’s license?

Let’s begin!

North Carolina Driver’s License Requirements

There are two ways to get through this guide. 

If you’re already 18 or older, you can go directly to our “How to Get an Adult Driver’s License” section.

If you’re anywhere between 15 to 17, you have to complete the NC Graduated Licensing program — which we detail in the following sections. 

This program has 3 stages:

  • Limited learner’s permit
  • Limited provisional license
  • Full provisional license

Let’s walk you through each stage. 

How to Get a Limited Learner’s Permit in North Carolina

Here are the steps to getting your limited learner’s permit in North Carolina:

  1. Complete a state-approved driver’s education program. You are eligible to enroll if:
    1. You’re at least 14½ years old 
    2. You’re in school (or pursuing a GED)
  1. Prepare the following:
    1. One proof of your identity and birthdate
    2. Your Social Security Card (or something that shows your Social Security Number)
    3. Proof of North Carolina residence (for U.S. citizens) or legal presence (for non-citizens)
    4. Your Driver’s Education Certificate
    5. A Driving Eligibility Certificate (this is provided by your school)

 NOTE: Click here to ensure you have the correct documents.

  1. Schedule your visit to a DMV office.
  1. On your scheduled visit, bring your parent or legal guardian, fill up an application form, and submit your documents. 
  1. Pass all required tests:
    1. Vision screening
    2. Road sign test
    3. Knowledge exam
  1. Pay the $21.50 fee with cash, credit and debit cards, money order, or check. 
  1. Receive your Temporary Driving Certificate. You’ll receive your permit in the mail within 20 days.

You can now practice your driving! 

Remember, though, your parent or legal guardian must supervise you from the front passenger seat at all times. 

Also, for the first 6 months, you cannot drive between 9 pm to 5 am. 

How to Get a Limited Provisional License in North Carolina

To get a limited provisional license, you need to pass a road test. 

However, before you can do that, you have to meet these requirements: 

  • You’re at least 16 years old.
  • You’ve had your limited learner’s permit for at least 12 months.
  • You’ve earned at least 60 supervised practice driving hours, with 10 hours done at night. NOTE: You cannot drive more than 10 hours in a week. 
  • You have no moving violation convictions or seat belt infractions within 6 months before you apply for a limited provisional license.

If you’re able to meet all that, here are the steps to getting a limited provisional license in North Carolina: 

  1. Make an appointment for your road test. 
  1. On your visit, ensure that you have the following with you:
    1. Your valid limited learner’s permit
    2. A filled-out driving log (DL-4A form)
    3. Documents to prove identity, birthdate, SSN, residency, and liability insurance 
    4. Your parent or legal guardian
    5. A vehicle to use for the road test
    6. The vehicle’s insurance and registration 
  1. Pass your road test.
  1. Pay the $21.50 licensing fee.
  1. Get a Temporary Driving Certificate. You can expect your official Level 2 limited provisional license to arrive within 20 days through the mail.

With this, you’ll have more driving freedom!

But, don’t forget that there are still restrictions on your driving privileges. These are:

  • You cannot drive unsupervised between 9 pm to 5 am unless:
    • You’re going to or from work
    • You’re volunteering for a fire, rescue, or emergency medical service
  • You cannot use any mobile device while behind the wheel. 
  • You cannot have more than 1 passenger under 21 years old unless they are a member of your household. This does not apply if you are being supervised. 

How to Get a Full Provisional License in North Carolina

Here’s what you need to do to earn your full provisional license:

  1. Be at least 16-17 years old.
  1. Have your limited provisional license for 6 months.
  1. Don’t have any moving violations, cellphone, or seat belt convictions in the last 6 months. 
  1. Earn another 12 hours of driving experience, 6 of which must have been after sunset.
  1. Make an appointment through the DMV’s online portal.
  1. Bring the following documents to the DMV office:
    1. Your valid Level 2 limited provisional license
    2. Completed Driving Log (DL-4B form)
    3. If you want to get a REAL ID, you must also bring the basic documents (listed above)
  1. Pay the licensing fee of $5.50 per year. 
  1. Get your Temporary Driving Certificate. Expect your official credential by mail within 20 days.

You now have full driving privileges. 


How to Get an Adult Driver’s License in North Carolina

So you’re getting your NC driver’s license for the first time at 18 or older?

Then follow these steps: 

  1. Gather the following documents:
    1. Proof of identity and birthdate
    2. A document showing your Social Security Number
    3. Two items to prove your North Carolina residence (for U.S. citizens) or legal presence (for non-citizens)
    4. Liability insurance

NOTE: Click here if you’re unsure what documents to use

  1. Schedule a DMV appointment through the Driver Service Appointment Scheduler.
  1. On your appointment, do the following:
    1. Submit all the necessary documents
    2. Pass the vision screening, road sign test, and knowledge exam
    3. Pay the $21.50 permit fee. NOTE: This is only if you want to practice supervised driving before taking the road test. 
  1. Pass the road test. NOTE: You can take the road test on the same day if you don’t get a permit. Otherwise, you can schedule it for a different date.
  1. Pay the license fee of $5.50 per year.
  1. Receive your Temporary Driving Certificate. You can use it to drive while waiting for your official driver’s license to arrive in the mail. 


Got some questions? Then let’s answer some of the most frequently asked ones. 

What can I expect from the driver’s education program in North Carolina?

An approved driver’s education program will have the following:

  • 30 hours of classroom instruction
  • An eye exam
  • 6 hours of behind-the-wheel training

These are the required hours in North Carolina. However, the program provider can add more hours for more learning. 

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

If you go through the graduated licensing process, it’ll take you at least 1½ to 2 years to get a full provisional license. However, applicants who are 18 and older can complete the entire process in a day.

How much will it cost to get your license in North Carolina for the first time?

Applicants who are completing the graduated licensing process will spend around $400. Here are your fees:

  • Driver’s ed: average of $350
  • Permit fee: $21.50
  • Licensing fee (Level 2 limited provisional): $21.50
  • Licensing fee (full provisional): $5.50 per year

For those 18 and older, you only need to pay the $5.50 per year licensing fee and $21.50 (if you choose to get a permit).

Is driver’s ed required in North Carolina?

All aspiring drivers under 18 years old must complete a state-approved driver’s education program. If not, you won’t be able to get a learner’s permit. 

Can a parent teach a child to drive in North Carolina?

Yes, North Carolina has a Parent’s Supervised Driving Program. This provides a structured guide for parents or guardians to teach their teens good driving techniques. 

This resource doesn’t only focus on driving skills. It begins with essentials, such as touring the vehicle, adjusting mirror and seat settings, becoming familiar with hand signals, and checking for blind spots.

Parents can also download the RoadReady App, which helps them log their child’s driving hours in place of the traditional form. 

Is North Carolina still waiving road tests?

During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the North Carolina DMV waived the need to undergo a road test for the following applicants:

  • Those 18 and older applying for a Class C driver’s license
  • Those 16 or 17 years old and getting their Level 2 limited provisional license

However, the COVID-19 State of Emergency officially ended on August 15, 2022. In line with this, the DMV discontinued the road test waivers on September 14, 2022.

Does North Carolina test parallel parking?

Your road test examiner won’t ask you to demonstrate parallel parking since the DMV doesn’t require it. However, it’s a skill that may come in handy, so taking the time to practice it is a good idea.

What score do you need to pass the NC driving test?

North Carolina’s permit test has 25 multiple-choice questions. You must get a score of at least 80% to pass.

There’s also room for error during the road test. You don’t need to get a perfect score to pass. 

You’ll get your license even if you commit 15 minor errors. The common ones include waiting too long at a stop sign and making unnecessary lane switches.

How long must you wait to retake a driving test in North Carolina?

Ideally, you should pass your driving test on your first attempt. However, don’t take it to heart if you don’t. You can try again in 7 days. 

What happens if you fail your driving test three times in North Carolina?

You might need to undergo additional training — that means taking another behind-the-wheel program before you can retake the driving test.

Can I get my license at 18 without a permit in North Carolina?

Yes, 18+-year-olds don’t need to get a learner’s permit. However, if they want to practice supervised driving before taking the road test, then they should consider getting a permit. 

The Wrap Up

And that was everything you needed to know on how to get a North Carolina driver’s license. 

If you follow the steps one by one, you’ll soon have a driver’s license with full driving privileges. 

So what are you waiting for?

The best time to get started is now!

Good luck!

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