North Carolina driver's license

How to Get Your North Carolina Driver’s License: The Ultimate Guide

by Zutobi · Updated Sep 13, 2021

Getting your driver’s license can be an exciting time for teenagers and young adults. However, there are certain steps that must be taken in order to gain full driving privileges – in the state of North Carolina, the Graduated Driver’s License Program is required for new drivers and can be started by anyone that is over 15 years old.

In this guide, you’ll learn exactly how to get your North Carolina driver’s license – from beginning to end.

Limited Learner Permit 

You can apply for a limited learner permit over the age of 15, and it is a required step for all new drivers until 18. It is the first step (of many) towards getting your full driver’s license in North Carolina.

To get a permit, you need to complete the following:

  • A state-approved driver’s education course that consists of 30 hours of classroom instruction and 6 hours of behind-the-wheel training.
  • A vision test that ensures your visual acuity is at least 20/40.
  • A written knowledge and road recognition test that tests your ability to understand North Carolina traffic laws and common U.S. road signs. You need to score at least 20/25 to pass.

Since about 50% fail the written knowledge test nationwide, we strongly recommend that you use Zutobi to study for your test. Our popular platform helps prepare you so you’ll pass the actual test on the first try. Our North Carolina course contains a summarized driver’s handbook and tons of exam-like permit practice tests.

Permit Restrictions

  • You must have permit with you while driving
  • You must have supervising driver in front seat
  • You may only drive between 5am and 9pm for first six months, but may drive at all times under supervision after the first six months
  • All people in vehicle must wear seatbelt at all times

If you would like to know more about this part of the licensing process, we recommend that you read our in-depth North Carolina learner’s permit guide.

North Carolina Limited Provisional Driver’s License

The Limited Provisional Driver’s License is the second step of the GDL for teenagers. It allows drivers who are 16 and 17 years old to drive unsupervised.

You will need to hold your permit for at least 12 months to be eligible for a limited provisional license. You must not have had any moving violations or other traffic infractions during the six months before application. You must also complete 60 hours of driving, with 10 of these hours occurring at night. You and your parent/legal guardian will be responsible for keeping up with this time.

How to Get a Limited Provisional Driver’s License

Once you have determined you are eligible, you will need to schedule an appointment with the NCDMV. If you would prefer to walk-in, you can do that as well. However, you will be subject to a wait. On your visit, be sure to bring your permit, completed driving log, and a safe vehicle to use on the test. A parent or guardian will need to accompany you to provide proof of insurance on the vehicle and sign off on your application.

A road test will be administered before you can receive your limited license. This exam will test your abilities on the road as well as how well you can safely operate a motor vehicle. You will be asked to perform maneuvers such as left/right turns, parking, reversing, amongst others driving actions. Those with the most experience practicing behind the wheel tend to do the best on their driving exam. Once you pass, you’ll be charged a $20 fee.


Certain restrictions will exist while holding a limited provisional license:

  • Must have license in possession at all times
  • May drive without a supervising driver from 5am to 9pm, unless driving to school, work, or for emergency purposes
  • Must have all passengers wearing seat belts

Full North Carolina Provisional Driver’s License

The full provisional driver’s license is the last step for teenagers to complete before receiving their adult driver’s license in North Carolina. You will be allowed to drive unsupervised at all times, but will still be prohibited from utilizing cell phone or electronics while driving.

Full Provisional License Requirements

To gain access to a full provisional license, you’ll be required to hold your limited provisional license for 6 months with no moving violations or traffic infractions. You will also be required to complete 12 additional hours of driving, with half of those hours occuring at night. You will need to log these hours and present them to the NCDMV.

How to Get a Full Provisional Driver’s License in North Carolina 

You can apply at your nearest NCDMV location. At that time, they’ll ask you to present documents; proof of identity, date of birth, social security, and two documents proving North Carolina residency.

After you paid the $40 license fee, the DMV will give you a temporary certificate and your license will arrive in the mail within 20 days.

Unrestricted North Carolina Driver’s License

If you’ve completed the graduated driver’s license program, congratulations! Once you turn 18, you can simply go to the DMV and receive your unrestricted North Carolina driver’s license.

New Drivers Over 18

If you’re over 18 and haven’t gone through the graduated driver’s license program, then you will need to complete a couple of steps before you can receive your unrestricted driver’s license. But, this process is much simpler than the one teens have to go through.

First, you’ll need to visit the NCDMV with appropriate documentation. You will be asked to take the road signs recognition test, vision test, and written knowledge test. If you’d like, you can get a learner permit, but it is not required. Afterwards, you’ll be given a road test to examine your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely and perform key driving maneuvers. After passing, you’ll be charged a $40 license fee before being given your license.

That’s It!

That’s all you need to know about getting your driver’s license in North Carolina. It may seem like a long and difficult process, but it doesn’t have to be. Be sure to reference this guide early and often as you begin your path towards gaining full driving privileges in the state. And when you are about to sit your knowledge test, be sure to study our exam-like permit practice tests thoroughly so you’ll pass on your first try.

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