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How to Apply for a New Driver's License in California

Drivers License Online Services Guide

Residents of California must obtain driving licenses to be eligible to operate motor vehicles within the state and around the country. Getting drivers licenses allows applicants to not only legally drive a car, but the credential also serves as a primary form of photo identification, one that is universally accepted. New drivers younger than 17-and-a-half years of age must first complete a driver's education course before applying for a license to drive with the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Did you know? Taking a driving permit practice tests increases the likelihood that you will pass the CA DMV written knowledge test on the first try.

How to Apply for a California Driver's License:

  • Make a DMV appointment online or by phone.
  • Fill out a drivers license application form.
  • Provide the appropriate documents proving your identity, citizenship and residential status.
  • Pass the vision screening.
  • Successfully complete the driving exam, including the knowledge test and road test, if applicable.
  • Pay the application fee.

Get the information you need to know to learn how to apply for drivers licenses in California by viewing the sections below.

Types of Drivers Licenses in California

California driving licenses are available for candidates who meet the minimum qualifications, including age, residency and citizenship requirements. To obtain a license to drive, applicants must fill out either a regular DMV license or a CDL license application.

  • Class C standard driver's license - For drivers who operate a car or truck for personal use.
  • Motorcycle license (Class M1 or Class M2) - For operating a two-wheeled motorized vehicle.
  • Travel trailer/fifth wheel license (Noncommercial Class A) - For trucks and trailers up to 15,000 GVWR.
  • Commercial drivers license(Class A, B or C CDL) - For drivers of large vehicles utilized for commerce.

First-Time Driver (Under 18) in California

Obtaining a license to drive in California is a privilege that requires an applicant to meet specified criteria. In addition to passing the written and road skills driving exam, new drivers license applicants younger than 18 years of age will need to complete a driver's ed program to become eligible for a California DMV driving license.

For more information, visit our Learner's Permit page.

California New Drivers (Over 18)

California residents 18 years of age and older who are applying for a first-time license to drive must pass a knowledge test before qualifying for driving credentials in the state.

CA Driver's Study Guide and Driver's Practice Test

Taking the written drivers license exam for the first time can be an intimidating experience for any new driver. To help ensure yourself a stress-free test-taking experience, begin by taking a California DMV practice test. Our learners permit practice test is a valuable tool in helping beginner drivers to understand the traffic law and road sign topics that will be addressed on the actual California Department of Motor Vehicles knowledge test.

How to Apply for Drivers Licenses in CA

When applying for a new drivers license with the California DMV, begin by scheduling a DMV appointment either by phone or online. At your CA DMV license office, you must present the following documentation:

  • Proof of Social Security Number.
  • Proof of birth date and legal presence in the United States.
  • Proof of California residency.

CA Drivers License Eligibility Requirements

California driving licenses can be obtained by residents 16 years of age and older. Successfully completing the components of a drivers license exam, including the vision test, qualifies an applicant to secure a CA license to drive.

CA Written/Driving Test

California drivers license applicants must pass the written drivers test. To help prepare for this mandatory exam, take a CA DMV practice permit test. The California practice test and study guide contains questions based upon the official California Driver Handbook.

CA Driving Test

The California driving license test was meant to measure each applicant's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle on public roads. The DMV drivers license examiner will assess your ability to:

  • Steer, accelerate and stop the automobile smoothly.
  • Adhere to the posted speed limits.
  • Understand and obey all traffic signals and signs.
  • Use your vehicle's operations properly, including turn signals.

Your drivers test will be conducted by a badged driving examiner. No other passengers or any pets can accompany you during your driving assessment. For your safety, the instructor will not converse with you, except to give you directions and ask questions pertaining to your driving test. Make sure that the car you use for your driving test is in safe driving condition and that it is lawful to drive, as the examiner will conduct an inspection prior to the exam.

Drivers have the option of completing a behind-the-wheel course for additional practice.

New California Resident

Drivers new to California have 10 days from the time they become residents to transfer their out of state drivers license to a CA DMV license to drive. To apply for drivers licenses in California, new residents must make a DMV appointment at an office. Upon your visit, show proof of identity, legal presence in the U.S. and California residency.

California drivers license applicants who own or plan to own a vehicle must also apply for a new car registration with the CA DMV. To register your vehicle from out of state, you will need to supply the appropriate documentation:

  • Car title or registration application.
  • Car title or other proof of ownership.
  • Completed Verification of Vehicle application.
  • Applicable title transfer and vehicle registration fees.

Replace Driver's License in California

Replace lost drivers licenses by requesting a duplicate copy at a CA DMV location. For complete details on what documents you need to bring to the DMV office in order to get a duplicate drivers license, click here.

Locate a DMV in California

Discover CA DMV locations close to your home or work address by clicking here. Each California DMV office listing contains the contact information needed to make a DMV appointment or to inquire about additional services.

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