Wherever you live in the country, you’re likely to know a considerable number of people with driver’s licenses.
In 2020, the number of licensed drivers in the USA was roughly 231,652,000.
Whether you have a child under your roof who wants to learn how to drive, a friend or a relative elsewhere who’s looking to do the same thing, or it’s you who wants to be in that driver’s seat—the most common question everyone has is: how long does it take to learn how to drive?
The truth is, there isn’t a straightforward answer to this question.
It all depends on your home state, how old you are, and whether your state requires drivers to get learner’s permits before their driver’s license.
How long does it take to learn how to drive? Read on to find out!
Is a Driver’s Education Course Necessary?
Some people assume that everybody must take a driver’s ed course to obtain a license.
But that’s not the case.
Not every state requires a driver’s education course, and the age requirement also varies a great deal by state.
Currently, 32 states require new drivers to take a driver’s education course (this is primarily a requirement of young adults,) but the age requirements aren’t the same in every state.
No matter your age, successfully passing a driver’s ed course sometimes gets you a discount on car insurance.
For instance, anyone in Colorado between 15 years old and 21 years old must take a driver’s ed course to learn how to drive.
On the other hand, in Maryland, anyone of any age who wants to learn how to drive must pass a driver’s ed course and receive training in the driver’s seat.
For specific answers to questions about how long it takes to learn how to drive in your state, contact your local DMV for statewide requirements and timelines.
How Long Are Driver’s Education Courses?
If your state requires a driver’s ed course for new drivers in a specific age category, the course length is generally between 30 to 50 hours in class.
After the in-class portion, you will book a specified number of hourly driving lessons with a driving instructor, typically amounting to 20-25 hours of in-car driver training.
It’s good to research driver training schools in your area for the length of courses and class times.
The best driver training courses offer various in-class times (days, evenings, and weekends).
Some driving schools offer convenient online courses for the in-class portion.
Keep in mind that some states require a driver’s ed course and then a learner’s permit before you’re able to book a road test at the DMV to obtain your full driver’s license.
How Much Do Drivers Ed Courses Cost?
Cost depends on your age and your home state.
If your state requires all new drivers to take a driver’s ed course, the adult cost is $50-$70, and the teen cost is $60-$90.
Look around for deals because some driving schools offer discounts on courses or free roadside assistance for a limited period.
And remember that many car insurers offer discounts to new drivers with a driver’s education course certificate.
Whatever the age of a new driver, all drivers benefit from the training received in a driver’s ed course.
What Do You Learn in a Driver’s Education Course?
In-class, you’ll learn city, highway, and rural traffic laws and road signs from a licensed driving instructor.
These details are essential because the road rules can get complex in some states and cities.
During in-car training with your instructor, you’ll learn defensive driving techniques and other essential things like parallel parking, U-turns, and three-point turns.
Lowdown on the Learner’s Permit
Whether you’re a new driver between 16 and 18 years old or an adult learning how to drive, most states will require you to successfully achieve a learner’s permit before obtaining your full driver’s license.
Documents Required to Obtain Learner’s Permit
Your local Motor Vehicle licensing agency requires ID, including an original birth certificate and a social security card.
Other documents may be required from your local DMV.
Contact them in advance of your written test to confirm.
If you’re under 18, you need a parent or guardian’s signature.
Adults over 18 need to show proof of residency.
Examples of residency proof include a bank statement or a utility bill in your name.
Part of the learner’s permit process also includes a vision test.
To drive a vehicle safely, you must demonstrate the following during a vision test: your visual acuity is sharp, you can distinguish color (a factor in recognizing road signs), and your peripheral vision (important in busy traffic situations and at intersections).
For example, in Massachusetts, if you’re between 16 and 18 years old, you must take a driver’s ed course, followed by a written test at the DMV to acquire your learner’s permit.
If you successfully pass the test, you’re able to drive, but only if you’re accompanied in the vehicle by a licensed driver over 21 years of age.
A new driver can schedule a road test to obtain their full driver’s license after six months with a learner’s permit and no vehicular offenses committed.
New drivers over 18 years of age in Massachusetts also require a learner’s permit.
However, they aren’t required to take a driver’s ed course, and they can schedule a road test to get their driver’s license immediately after they receive their learner’s permit.
There is a cost to obtain your learner’s permit.
Research your local DMV for the learner’s permit costs in your state.
The Final Steps on the Road To a Driver’s License
While a road test is nerve-wracking, it’s the final, necessary step before you’re officially a licensed driver.
If you’re a new teenage driver, it’s taken anywhere from a few months to approximately nine months to get to your road test.
For adult drivers, you’ve probably reached this point in under half a year.
Important Details About Your Driver’s License Road Test
Again, always check with your local DMV for specific requirements on the day of your road test (also called the practical exam).
Generally speaking, you need to pre-book a road test with your local DMV, and you need to drive a registered and insured vehicle during your road test.
Some states require a sponsor to drive you to your test.
Your sponsor must be over 21 and be licensed to drive for longer than one year.
Remember there are also fees to obtain your driver’s license, generally in the $80 to $100 range to pay for the exam fee, followed by the license fee if you successfully pass your road test.
After all of that said and done, congratulations! You’re a licensed driver.