Learn the California requirements for obtaining your instruction permit and driver's license.


If you are under 18, you must complete driver ed classroom and behind-the-wheel driver training at a licensed school before getting your instruction permit. This training gives you the foundational skills, experience, and confidence you need to pass your driving test and become a safe driver for life. 

Driver education (DE) teaches you about traffic laws, road safety, driver responsibilities, and avoiding accidents. You must complete either 30 hours or 2 1/2 semester periods of professional instruction either in a classroom or online.

Driver training (DT) or Behind-the-Wheel (BTW) allows you to practice driving in real-world situations. You must complete at least six hours of behind-the-wheel training with a professional driving instructor.

At age 15, you can begin driver education, and when you are 15 1/2 years old, you can apply for an instruction permit. The permit allows you to drive only with supervision from a parent, guardian, or driver over 25 with an unrestricted license. You must log 50 hours of supervised driving time, including 10 hours after dark.

After six months and 50 hours of supervised driving practice, you can take the road test and get a provisional license. A provisional license allows you to drive alone, but with a few restrictions:

  • You can not drive between the hours of 11 PM and 5 AM
  • You can not transport any passengers under the age of 20 unless supervised by a parent, guardian, or driver over 25 years old with an unrestricted license.

After one year of driving with a provisional license or after your 18th birthday, you become a fully licensed and unrestricted driver.

Learn more about the requirements for first-time drivers in California's Teen Drivers Guide.


If you are over 18 years old and have never had a driver's license, you do not need to take driver education but are still required to get an instruction permit before you get a driver's license. While not required, you may want to take a driver education course to help lower your car insurance costs. Most insurance companies offer discounts for drivers who have taken an education course. Taking driver's ed can also help you become a safer, more prudent driver. 

Even if you're over 18, you cannot drive alone with only an instruction permit. Until you have your regular license, you must have a parent, guardian, spouse, or driver over 25 years old with an unrestricted license in the car when you drive.

Once you have your instruction permit, you can take the driving test when you are ready to get your driver's license.