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Applying for a New License (Drivers 18+) in North Carolina

Page Overview

Getting a New North Carolina Driver's License

You must have a North Carolina driver's license to legally operate a motor vehicle on public roads and highways.

The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) explains how to apply for a new license if you're new to North Carolina, have never had a license before, or are a non-citizen.

NOTE. This page is for drivers 18 years old and older. If you're a teen who needs to go through the GDL process or has just moved to the state, visit our Teen Drivers page.

New to North Carolina?

If you have a valid out-of-state license and want to continue to drive legally, apply for a NC driver's license within 60 days of establishing permanent residence in the state.

You must pass the vision exam. written test. and road signs tests. Once you pass, you'll receive a Temporary Driving Certificate; your permanent North Carolina driver's license should arrive by mail within 20 days. You may be exempt from the written and road tests if you surrender your valid out-of-state license.

If you don't have a valid out-of-state driver's license *, you'll apply for a first-time driver license in North Carolina. See “Obtain a North Carolina Learner's Permit " and “Apply for Your NC Driver's License " below.

* If you do have an out-of-state license but it's been suspended, revoked, or canceled. you must meet your former state's reinstatement requirements before getting a NC driver license. See our section on Suspended Licenses and choose your former state for details.

Types of North Carolina Driver's Licenses

This page outlines how to obtain a first-time driver license in North Carolina for drivers 18 years old and older.

Before continuing, determine whether you need to visit any of the following pages instead:

  • Our Teen Drivers section outlines how to work through the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program and eventually obtain your full NC driver license.
  • Motorcycle License
    • We explain how to get a motorcycle endorsement on your provisional driver license, regular driver license, or commercial driver license (CDL).
  • Applying for a New CDL
    • Learn the state and federal requirements to obtain a CDL and legally operate commercial vehicles.
  • The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offers the following noncommercial driver licenses for drivers 18 years old and older:

    • Class A *
      • This license allows you to drive combinations of noncommercial vehicles with gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWR) of fewer than 26,001 lbs OR one including a towed unit weighing at least 10,001 lbs.
    • Class B *
      • This license allows you to drive any one noncommercial vehicle with a GVWR of at least 26,001 lbs OR while towing a unit weighing fewer than 10,001 lbs.
    • Class C.
      • This license allows you to operate regular passenger cars and trucks. The Class C license is

        the license most North Carolina drivers need .

    * You'll apply for Class A and Class B licenses the same way you'd apply for a Class C license, except you must bring the appropriate vehicle for the license type to your road test. See “Apply for Your NC Driver's License" below.

    New NC Driver's License Eligibility Requirements

    Again, this page instructs you on how to get a new North Carolina driver's license if you're 18 years old or older; otherwise, refer to our Teen Drivers section.

    You can apply for a new driver's license in NC as long as:

    • You don't have any outstanding suspensions, revocations, or cancellations.
    • You haven't been deemed unfit or unsafe to drive by the NC DMV or a court.

    You do not need a NC driver's license if you're a non-resident *. NC considers the following people non-residents:

    • Military members and their dependents.
      • They must have valid out-of-state licenses.
      • See “Military Drivers in NC" below.
    • Out-of-state NC college or university students.
    • Salespeople** who live in other states but travel to North Carolina.

    * The NC DMV doesn't consider non-residents the same as non-citizens. For information about non-citizens, see “Non-Citizens and NC Driver's Licenses" below.

    ** If you live in another state but conduct business in North Carolina and aren't sure whether that qualifies you as a non-resident, contact the NC DMV.

    Obtain a North Carolina Learner's Permit

    The North Carolina DMV doesn't require you to obtain a learner's permit. but it does make them available should you want to practice driving before applying for your new Class C driver's license.

    Most North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices offer appointments. Call ahead for hours and days of operation, as these vary by office.

    Generally, DMV offices require written exams to be finished by 4:30 p.m.

    To apply for a NC learner's permit, visit your local NC DMV and:

    • Provide the appropriate documents.
      • See “Document Requirements" under “Apply for Your NC Driver's License" below.
    • Pass the vision exam.
    • Pass the written exam:
      • Study the state's driver handbook and take a practice test or two to prepare.
    • Have your photo taken.
    • Pay the $15 fee.
      • You must pay with cash, a personal check, or a money order.

    Prepare For The Written Exam

    The DMV offers a basic practice test to help you study for the written exam. If you really want to ensure passing on your first attempt, we suggest using an online practice test from our certified partner. They even guarantee your success.

    Because learner's permits are optional, you do not have to keep your permit for any specific length of time.

    You'll receive a Temporary Driving Certificate at the DMV and your learner's permit will arrive by mail typically within 20 days.

    Category: Insurance

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