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.
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
Learning to drive can be an exciting and stressful time, for both parents and teenagers. Many teens want to get their driver’s license 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.
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 and a half, 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.
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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 will also require “probationary” or “graduate” driver’s licenses for young drivers, typically between the ages of 16 to 18. Probationary or graduate driver’s licenses allow teens to drive without an adult, but they come with caveats, like only being legally 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 and a half|
|Arizona||15 and a half||16 and a half|
|California||15 and a half||16 and a half|
|Delaware||16||17 and half|
|District of Columbia||16||18|
|Hawaii||15 and a half||17|
|Idaho||14 and a half||16|
|Kansas||14||16 and a half|
|Maine||15||16 and 9 months|
|Maryland||15 and 9 months||18|
|Michigan||14 and 9 months||17|
|Mississippi||15||16 and a half|
|Montana||14 and a half||16|
|Nevada||15 and a half||18|
|New Hampshire||15 and a half||18|
|New Mexico||15||16 and a half|
|North Carolina||15||16 and a half|
|Ohio||15 and a half||18|
|Oklahoma||15 and a half||16 and a half|
|Pennsylvania||16||17 and a half|
|Rhode Island||16||17 and a half|
|South Carolina||15||16 and a half|
|Vermont||15||16 and a half|
|Virginia||15 and a half||18|
|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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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 tasks 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
When a teenager has a learner’s permit, they may only be able 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.
After driving with a learner’s permit for the state’s mandated amount of time, assuming they haven’t received any traffic violations, a teen driver is eligible for a graduate license, sometimes called a junior license or probationary driver’s license. When driving with a graduate license, teenagers can often drive on their own without an adult, but they are still subjected to certain state mandated rules, such as:
No driving from 9PM to 5AM
No driving with more than one passenger in the car who is under 21
No electronic devices, including hands free phones
If a teen driver receives any traffic violations while driving with a graduate or junior license, the license may be revoked and a learner’s permit could be reinstated.
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 surrounding how many passengers they can have in the car. Depending on what state you live in, young drivers can be eligible for full driver’s licenses as young as 16 or as old as 21.
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 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.
When a teenager gets their driver’s license they should be officially added to their family’s car insurance policy. This will raise the rate of their premiums, often dramatically, because new and teen drivers see more expensive rates until they hit the age of 25.
Car insurance companies see young and new drivers as 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 and lack of credit. 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 rates, they can also be eligible for discounts. You should ask your insurance company if they offer discounts to 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.
Kara McGinley is an insurance editor at Policygenius, specializing in home, auto and renters insurance. She previously worked as a freelance writer and copywriter, and has been writing about insurance since 2019. Kara is an expert at making complicated topics like property insurance simple to understand. Her work can be found in Teen Vogue, The Culture Crush, and more.
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