Getting your first driver’s license is exciting, but it can also be a nerve-wracking experience. For many people, waiting until age 18 to apply for a license makes sense. For example, if you live in an urban area like New York City or Buffalo, you may have access to public transportation that makes it fairly easy to get around without a license as a teen. The longer you wait to get a license, the more you’re likely to save on car insurance, too.
So if you’ve waited until you turned 18 to get a New York driver's license, you’re not alone. Here’s your step-by-step guide to getting your first license in New York State as a young adult.
1. Study for the Written Test
As in most states, New York drivers must pass a written exam to show that they understand the fundamentals of driving and traffic laws. To be prepared, you’ll need to study the New York State Driver’s Manual to familiarize yourself with the rules.
2. Take a Practice Test
To make sure that you’ve learned all the information, it’s important to take a practice test. This will help you prepare for the types of questions you’ll face and give you confidence that you know what to do when you arrive in person for the real thing.
3. Gather Your Documents
When you arrive at the DMV, you’ll need to provide proof of identity and residency. These generally include:
Your Social Security card
Your birth certificate
A utility or tuition bill, income tax return, or other approved document that proves residency
Additional documentation with your exact name
New York has a points system that assigns values to different documents. To prove your identity, you must bring enough documents to earn six points in the system. Use the New York DMV guide to see what combination of paperwork will work best for you.
4. Apply for Your Learner’s Permit at the DMV
At the DMV, you will fill out an application and pay the appropriate fees with cash, personal check, or a credit card. Fees vary depending on your age; check the fee schedule ahead of time to know what you owe.
5. Take the Written Permit Test
Once you pay, you’ll be able to take the written test at the DMV. If you pass, you’ll get a temporary learner’s permit right away and a permanent one in the mail in a few weeks. Your learner’s permit is valid for five years.
If you fail the written exam, you can retake it as many times as needed for free.
6. Complete the Five-hour Pre-licensing Course
Even if you’re over 18, you’ll still need to take this course.
"New York is one of the few states that requires you to take a driver's ed or pre-licensing course when you get your license for the first time, regardless of age," says Megan Shepherd, insurance expert at Finder.
This course is available through local high schools, colleges, and DMV-approved driving schools. If you’re over 18, you’re also eligible to take the course online. Once you pass, you’ll be issued a certificate of completion valid for one year.
7. Practice Driving Under Supervision
You’ll need to practice driving until you feel confident that you can handle your car in all types of conditions and circumstances. Your learner’s permit allows you to drive only with a licensed driver over the age of 21, so you’ll need to schedule time to do this. Once you’re over 18, there is no minimum requirement for the number of practice hours.
8. Schedule Your Road Test
When you feel ready, schedule your road test at a location that works for you. When you arrive, you’ll need to have:
Your learner’s permit
Your certificate of completion for the pre-licensing course
A licensed driver over age 21 with you
A properly registered and inspected vehicle to drive during the test
Your glasses or contact lenses, if applicable
If you pass your road test, you’ll get an interim license on the spot. Your regular license will arrive in the mail in a few weeks. If you don’t pass, you get one free retake, though you can also pay an additional fee for more retakes if necessary.
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