Everything You Need to Know About Getting a Driver's License

Leonardo Castro
November 3, 2020

Getting a driver license can be a relief if you want to legally drive to places and not have to ask anybody for a ride. But before getting a car and enjoying all the freedom on the road, you must get your driver’s license.

A driver’s license is identification that allows you to operate a motor vehicle on the road. Every state has their own driver’s license and own licensing agency. Each of these licensing agencies is in charge of licensing and vehicle registration. These agencies are generally called the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) or Department of Public Safety or Department of Driver Services. Before you apply for your driver license, you must understand that every state has different laws and regulations.

You will need to learn the specific state traffic laws and signs before you apply. To get a license, you’ll have to pass a written test and a driving test.

Why Get a Driver’s License?

The most important reason for your driver’s license is to let law enforcement know that you are legally allowed to operate a motor vehicle. When you are pulled over by a police officer the first thing that they ask you to do is to show your driver’s license to show that you are allowed to drive or else you run the risk of being fined and having your car taken away.

Not only does a driver license show that you are legally able to operate a motor vehicle but it can help serve as an official personal identification. A driver’s license can help prove who you are for many reasons such as applying for programs and opening accounts. This card can also help you travel within the United States.

Types of Driver Licenses

It is important to know that there are different types of driver licenses based on the type of motor vehicle that is being operated. The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GCWR) determines the type of driver license that one gets. The most common type is Class C driver’s license allows you to drive a 2-axle vehicle with a GCWR of 26,000 lbs or less (most vehicles). There is also a Class C non commercial driver license that allows truck driver to operate much bigger vehicles.

Requirements for Getting a Driver’s License

Every state has their own age requirements for a driver license but in most states you need to be at least 16 years old to apply. In some states you have to wait until you turn 18! You must also complete the resident requirements for each state. For example the state of California has rules that the applicant must be a California resident for six months or longer in a 12 month period. When applying they will ask you to prove your identity so be prepared to have documents proving residency before applying.

Applying for Your Driver’s License

Before going to your local licensing agency you must study their state driver’s handbook, which can help you become familiar with the traffic laws and signs. You will have to take a written test based on your knowledge of that handbook that explains the rules and regulations. Usually these handbooks can be picked up at your local DMV or can be found online.

Once you finish studying for your test, make an appointment to take your written test. At the DMV you will be asked for some legal documents to verify your identity and where you live. Typically to prove your identity you may be asked to show your birth certificate, state-issued ID or passport. If you are under 18, you may also have to show proof that you are attending school. To prove your residence you may need to provide utility bills or a similar document that shows your name and address.

Once you pass your written test, you will have to pass a vision test. The reason for a vision test is because you need to see well when operating a motor vehicle so you won’t be a hazard to other drivers. So make sure to bring your glasses or contacts to pass your eye exam.

If all of the previous are completed then congratulations! You have just received your drivers permit but still have not yet received your driver license. The final step to receiving your driver license is to take the driving exam which tests your ability to move a vehicle while following the traffic rules. Before taking your driving test consider taking a driver’s education course to have a professional teach you how to drive and correct your mistakes before taking the driving test. Even after taking a driver’s education course, you will need to have someone help you practice driving before the test. Take into consideration that the person testing you will see if you really understand the traffic rules while being on the wheel. Once you feel ready and prepared, make an appointment to have your behind-the-wheel test.

I Got My Driver's License -- Now What?

Congratulations you are now legally able to operate a motor vehicle and can now use your license as an identification card in various places.

It is important to remember that a driver’s license, like any other form of identification, has an expiration date and needs to be renewed. For example, California the driver’s license expires on the 5th birthday of the applicant following the date of the date of the application for license. Check with your local DMV to see how long your driver license is valid for. You must also continue to drive safely or else your driver license may be revoked. However, getting a driver license is not the only responsibility that one must complete for owning a car. 

To own a car one must take into account other requirements to owning a car such as car insurance and other costs. When you're ready to buy a car and get it insured, make sure you get car insurance by visiting SmartFinancial. To get the lowest rates on car insurance now, start shopping by entering your zip code below.

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