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How old do you have to be to drive?

The age at which you can legally obtain a driver’s license depends on your state. In some states you can get a learner’s permit at 15 and a license at 16, and in other states you may have to wait until you are 18 to get a full driver’s license.

Kara McGinley

By

Kara McGinley

Kara McGinley

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley is a senior editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN, WRAL.com, and elsewhere.

Updated|5 min read

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Learning to drive can be an exciting and stressful time, for both parents and teenagers, and many teens want to get their driver’s licenses as soon as possible. That said, every state requires new drivers under the age of 18 to obtain a learner’s permit for a certain amount of time before they can get a fully legal driver’s license. In some states, new drivers over the age of 18 may only need to pass a written permit test in order to be eligible for a full driver’s license.

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Each state has their own rules when it comes to new drivers. Some states allow teenagers to get their learner's permit as young as 14, while others might require young drivers to be at least 16-years-old to take the permit test. Here’s our state-by-state guide to legal driving ages.

Key takeaways

  • Different states have different requirements when it comes to learner’s permits and driver’s licenses. Some states allow teens to get a permit at 14-and-a-half while others won’t issue a full driver’s license until a person is 21

  • If your teenager gets a learner’s permit they will be covered by your auto insurance policy, and likely will not increase your premiums

  • Newly licensed or teen drivers do raise your rates because insurance companies see them as high-risk. Rates typically go down once the driver turns 25

Driving age by state

States have strict rules and requirements for learning how to drive. You should check your local Department of Motor Vehicles or equivalent agency to learn what is required to obtain a driver’s license, some states might require new drivers to take a driver’s education course and others might require a written test on top of a driving test.

After driving with a learner’s permit for the mandated amount of time, many states also require “provisional” or “junior” driver’s licenses for young drivers, typically between the ages of 16 and 18. Provisional driver’s licenses allow teens to drive without an adult, but they come with caveats, like only being allowed to drive during certain hours, and only with a limited number of passengers in the car, until the driver reaches a certain age.

Below are the age minimums for learner’s permits and full driver’s licenses in all 50 states:

State

Minimum age for a learner's permit

Minimum age for a full driver's license

Alabama

15

17

Alaska

14

16 and a half

Arizona

15 and a half

16 and a half

Arkansas

14

18

California

15 and a half

17

Colorado

15

17

Connecticut

16

18

Delaware

16

17

District of Columbia

16

18

Florida

15

18

Georgia

15

18

Hawaii

15 and a half

17

Idaho

14 and a half

16

Illinois

15

18

Indiana

15

21

Iowa

14

17

Kansas

14

16 and a half

Kentucky

16

17

Louisiana

15

17

Maine

15

16 and 9 months

Maryland

15 and 9 months

18

Massachusetts

16

18

Michigan

14 and 9 months

17

Minnesota

15

17

Mississippi

15

16 and a half

Missouri

15

18

Montana

14 and a half

16

Nebraska

15

17

Nevada

15 and a half

18

New Hampshire

15 and a half

18

New Jersey

16

18

New Mexico

15

16 and a half

New York

16

17

North Carolina

15

16 and a half

North Dakota

14

16

Ohio

15 and a half

18

Oklahoma

15 and a half

16 and a half

Oregon

15

17

Pennsylvania

16

17 and a half

Rhode Island

16

17 and a half

South Carolina

15

16 and a half

South Dakota

14

16

Tennessee

15

17

Texas

15

18

Utah

15

17

Vermont

15

16 and a half

Virginia

15 and a half

18

Washington

15

18

West Virginia

15

17

Wisconsin

15 and a half

18

Wyoming

15

16 and a half

Note: In Nebraska, teenagers who live in certain rural areas may be eligible for a “school learner’s permit” at the age of 14. The purpose is to allow a student to legally practice driving if they either reside or attend a school located outside of a city of at least 5,000 people.

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Learner’s permit vs. driver’s license

States require teen drivers to first obtain a learner’s permit before they can get a license. In order to obtain a learner’s permit, depending on the state you live in, a teenage or new driver may need to complete various requirements to prove their ability to drive and their understanding of the laws of the road.

Your state might require:

  • A written learner’s permit test

  • Completed driver’s education courses

  • Specific amount of hours logged driving with an instructor

  • Vision exam

When a teenager has a learner’s permit, they may only be able to drive with an adult over the age of 25 (sometimes 21) in the car. Depending on the state, permitted drivers may not be allowed to drive at night and they may not be allowed to drive with passengers in the car.

What is a Graduated Driver Licensing program? 

Many states have graduated drivers licensing programs, where teen drivers "graduate" to a provisional license, sometimes called a junior or intermediate license before they receive a full driver’s license. These types of licenses are typically restricted, meaning drivers can drive without adult supervision, but will have to abide by certain rules, like curfews and passenger limits.

A full driver’s license is a driver's license without any caveats, meaning young or teen drivers are able to drive on their own, whenever they want, and without any rules around how many passengers they can have in the car. Depending on the state, young drivers may be eligible for full driver’s licenses as young as 16 or as old as 21.

State restrictions for young drivers

When driving with a provisional or junior license, teenagers can often drive on their own without an adult, but they are still subject to certain rules. Below are some common restrictions for drivers with provisional driver’s licenses. 

1. No driving from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Many states restrict nighttime driving hours for provisional license holders. Depending on the state, if you have a junior license you may not be allowed to drive between the hours of 9PM to 5am, however these times can vary state-by-state. 

2. No driving with more than one passenger in the car who is under 21

Another common restriction for drivers with a provisional license is a limit on how many passengers can be in the vehicle at a time. Some states may only allow you to drive with passengers over the age of 21, and others may allow you to have only one passenger who is under the age of 21 in the car at a time.  

3. No electronic devices, including hands free phones

Depending on your state, if you have a junior license you may not be allowed to have electronic devices in the car. It’s illegal to text or hold your phone in your hand while driving in most states, regardless of if you have a provisional license or full drivers license. 

Do you need car insurance with a learner’s permit?

Typically, drivers with a learner’s permit are covered by their parents’ auto insurance policy. The insurance company might require parents to list teens on the policy once they get their learner’s permit, however this typically will not raise insurance premiums, like adding a newly licensed teen driver would.

The only time a teen with a permit needs to have car insurance before they get their license is if they own their own car, in which case they would need their own policy, likely with an adult as a co-signer.

Car insurance for new drivers

When a teenager gets their driver’s license they should be officially added to their family’s car insurance policy (or buy their own, if they own a car). This will probably lead to a pretty dramatic rate increase, because new and teen drivers see higher rates than other drivers until they hit the age of 25.

Car insurance companies consider young and new drivers to be more of a risk, which is why they’re more expensive to insure. If your teenager has their own car and wants their own insurance policy, you should still consider just adding them to your current policy. It can be hard for teenagers to get approved for car insurance, because of their lack of driving experience. Adding a vehicle or new driver to your auto policy is quick and easy. You can typically do it online through your insurance company’s website or over the phone.

Although teenage drivers can raise their family’s rates, they can also be eligible for discounts. You should ask your insurance company if they offer discounts for good students or drivers who complete driver’s education courses. Those can help offset the expense of adding a newly-licensed teen to your policy.

→ Learn more about car insurance rates for new drivers

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Driving age by state FAQs

What states have the lowest driving age?

In Colorado, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota you can apply for a full driver’s license at the age of 16 (after having your learner’s permit and provisional license for a certain amount of time).

Is the driving age always 16?

No, driving ages vary from state-to-state. In the U.S., you can typically apply for your full driver’s license between the ages of 16 and 18.

What states can you drive at 14?

You cannot get a full, legal driver’s license at the age of 14 in any state. You can get a learner’s permit at 14 in Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Author

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

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Kara McGinley is a senior editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN, WRAL.com, and elsewhere.

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