North Carolina Driver’s License Types – And How to Get Them

North Carolina Driver’s License Types

There are so many different types of driver’s licenses in North Carolina

Which one should you get?

If you’re not familiar with them, you will only get confused. 

Don’t worry – we’re here to explain the North Carolina driver’s license types for you. 

On top of that, we’ll show you the steps on how to get each one. 

There’s a lot to cover, so let’s dive right in!

What are the Driver’s License Types in North Carolina?

There are 7 (yes, 7!) driver’s license classes in North Carolina. 

Three of them are commercial licenses:

  • Class A CDL
  • Class B CDL
  • Class C CDL

While the remaining 4 are non-commercial licenses (or private licenses):

  • Class C Regular (this is the most common)
  • Class A Regular
  • Class B Regular
  • Class M

Let’s see what vehicle each license class can operate. 

Commercial Driver’s Licenses

  • Class A CDL – It’s for combination commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) with a Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more. The unit it tows must have a weight exceeding 10,000 pounds.
  • Class B CDL – It’s for heavy, straight CMVs with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of at least 26,001 pounds. If it tows a unit, that should not exceed 10,000 pounds. 
  • Class C CDL – It’s for combination and straight CMVs weighing fewer than 26,0001 pounds and towing a unit of fewer than 10,000 pounds. What’s more, these CMVs should be used to (1) haul hazardous materials that require placarding and (2) transport 15 or more passengers

Non-Commercial Driver’s Licenses

  • Class C Regular – It’s for private sedans, SUVs, pick-ups, etc. that do not exceed 26,000 pounds (if towing a unit, the combined weight should not go beyond this)
  • Class A Regular – It’s for private vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 pounds and tow more than 10,000 pounds. 
  • Class B Regular – It’s for private vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 pounds but two fewer than 10,000 pounds. 
  • Class M – It’s for motorcycles. 

How to Get a Class C Regular License in North Carolina

The process of getting a regular Class C license in North Carolina can start when you turn 15 years old. 

You will need to undergo 3 stages:

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

Let’s go through each stage one by one. 

How to Get an NC Limited Learner’s Permit

Here are the steps:

  1. Be at least 15 years old and enrolled in a high school or working towards your GED. 
  1. Complete a state-approved driver’s education program.
  1. Make an online appointment for a limited learner’s permit. 
  1. While waiting for your schedule, gather the following documents:
    1. One proof of your identity and birthdate
    2. Something that confirms 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 Certificate of Driving Eligibility from your school

NOTE: Find a complete list of acceptable documents here.

  1. On your scheduled date, fill up an application form, submit your documents, and pass the following tests:
    1. Vision screening
    2. Road sign recognition
    3. Knowledge exam
  1. Pay the $21.50 permit fee.
  1. Wait for your Limited Learner’s Permit to arrive in the mail within 20 days. While waiting, you can use the Temporary Driving Certificate handed by the DMV. 

How to Get an NC Limited Provisional License

Here are the steps: 

  1. Be at least 16 years old. 
  1. Hold your limited learner’s permit for at least a year. 
  1. Gain 60 hours of supervised driving experience. 10 hours must be done at night. 
  1. Schedule your road test. 
  1. Bring the following to your appointment:
    1. Your driving log (DL-4A form) proving you’ve earned the required driving hours
    2. Your valid limited learner’s permit
    3. Documents to prove your identity and birthdate, Social Security number, and residence in North Carolina (or legal presence for non-U.S. citizens)
    4. Proof of liability insurance
    5. Your parent or legal guardian
    6. A vehicle with a registration and insurance policy 
  1. Pay the $21.50 licensing fee.
  1. Pass the road test.
  1. Receive your Temporary Driving Certificate. Your limited provisional license will arrive within 20 days in the mail.

How to Get an NC Full Provisional License (Class C Regular)

Here are the steps: 

  1. Be at least 16 or 17 years old.
  1. Carry your limited provisional license for at least 6 months.
  1. Don’t have any cell phone/seat belt infraction or moving violation conviction for the last 6 months.
  1. Get more driving experience. This time, you need 12 hours, with 6 hours at night. 
  1. Schedule a visit with the NC DMV. 
  1. Bring a completed DL-4B form (driving log) and your limited provisional license. If you want to get a REAL ID, you must bring the basic documents mentioned above. 
  1. Pay the $5.50/year licensing fee. 
  1. Receive your full provisional license through the mail within 20 days. In the meantime, you can use your Temporary Driving Certificate to drive.

For all the details, including restrictions and how to get your Class C Regular license at 18+ years old, check out our “How to Get a North Carolina Driver’s License” article. 

How to Get a Class A and B Regular License in North Carolina

The process of getting a Class A and B regular license is the same as a Class C regular. The only difference is that the applicants must be at least 18 years old when applying. 

On top of that, they can choose to get a permit to practice supervised driving or not. 

How to Get a Class A, B, and C CDL in North Carolina 

No matter what CDL license you get, the process is the same. 

This includes:

  • Getting your CDL permit
  • Earning your CDL

Let’s walk you through the steps. 

How to Get an NC CDL Permit 

Follow these steps: 

  1. Ensure the following:
    1. You meet all the CDL eligibility requirements 
    2. You know what CDL class and endorsement(s) you need
  1. Sign up for an Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) course. This is mandatory for all applicants who:
    1. Are first-time applicants of a Class A or Class B CDL
    2. Already have a Class B CDL but would like to upgrade it to a Class A CDL
    3. Are first-time applicants for an H, S, or P endorsement (this is usually for a Class C CDL)
  1. Gather the following documents:
    1. One confirming age and identity
    2. One showing your Social Security number
    3. Two proving your residence in North Carolina or legal presence in the U.S. (for non-citizens)
    4. Proof of liability insurance
    5. Your Medical Certificate from an FMCSA-accredited physician (check here if you need this document) 

NOTE: Be sure to bring the correct documents to avoid delays. Click here to see all acceptable documents.

  1. Visit a DMV office to apply for your CDL permit and take the CDL knowledge exam.
  1. Pay the necessary fees:
    1. Application fee: $43.25
    2. Permit fee: $21.50
    3. Endorsement fee (if applicable): $4.25 per year for each
  1. Pass the CDL knowledge exam. 
  1. Get your Temporary Driving Certificate. The DMV will send your CDL permit to your home address. It should arrive within 20 days.

How to Get an NC CDL 

And here is how to get your official CDL: 

  1. Meet these CDL eligibility requirements:
    1. You’ve had your permit for at least 14 days
    2. You’ve finished your ELDT course
  1. Call (919) 715 7000 and schedule your CDL road test.
  1. On the day of your test, don’t forget the following:
    1. The CMV you plan to use (it should be under your CDL class)
    2. Your active NC Class C Regular license
    3. Your valid CDL permit 
    4. Your DOT Medical Card (if necessary)
  1. Pay the $21.50/year licensing fee.
  1. Pass the three parts of the CDL road test.
  1. Get your Temporary Driving Certificate, which the DMV will issue. Your official CDL will arrive by mail within 20 days.

For even more information, you can check out “How to Get a CDL in North Carolina”. 

How to Get a Class M Endorsement in North Carolina

For Class M, know that this is more of an endorsement than a license. This means that you need to add it to any type of driver’s license, whether Class C Regular or Class A CDL. 

Here are the steps to get the Class M endorsement: 

  1. Complete a motorcycle safety course from either of these providers:
    1. North Carolina Motorcycle Safety Education Program
    2. Motorcycle Safety Foundation
  1. Make an appointment to take your knowledge exam.
  1. At the DMV, do the following:
    1. Present written consent from your parent or guardian
    2. Pay the $21.50 permit fee
    3. Pass the knowledge exam 
  1. Get your motorcycle permit.

NOTE: It remains valid for 12 months. If you don’t get your endorsement within this period, you can renew it for another 6 months.

  1. Schedule your motorcycle skills test. 
  1. Pass the motorcycle skills test.
  1. Pay the endorsement fee of $2.55 per year.
  1. Get your Class M endorsement.

The Wrap Up

Now that you know the North Carolina driver’s license types, you won’t get confused. 

On top of that, you know exactly which class you need, as well as how to get it. 

And if you forget — just remember that there are commercial licenses and non-commercial licenses. These are similar except that some are for commercial purposes, while the others are for private use. 

Good luck!

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