Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Melanie Musson is the fourth generation in her family to work in the insurance industry. She grew up with insurance talk as part of her everyday conversation and has studied to gain an in-depth knowledge of state-specific insurance laws and dynamics as well as a broad understanding of how insurance fits into every person’s life, from budgets to coverage levels. Through her years working in th...

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Reviewed by Melanie Musson
Published Insurance Expert Melanie Musson

UPDATED: Mar 12, 2022

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Just What's Essential

  • In most cases, renewing your driver’s license involves a simple visit to your local DMV or BMV
  • You may be required to take additional tests to renew your driver’s license
  • Driving with an expired license will get you in trouble, so it is essential to renew your license as soon as possible

Like taxes, renewing your driver’s license is an unavoidable part of adulthood. The driver’s license renewal process can vary by state, but it is typically a painless ordeal. A simple visit to your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles is usually all that is required when renewing your driver’s license. There are certain circumstances in which you may need to take additional tests to renew your license.

Even if there are more steps to the process, renewing your license before driving your car is critical. Operating a motor vehicle without a valid driver’s license is a crime that carries heavy penalties. If you get caught driving without a license, it can significantly increase your car insurance rates. To make sure you get the most affordable rates on car insurance, you should obey all road laws, including having a valid driver’s license.

What do you need for a driver’s license renewal?

Suppose your driver’s license is about to expire, and you don’t have any significant restrictions. In that case, renewing your license shouldn’t be difficult. The process varies by state, so always check your local laws to complete this process correctly. The first step in renewing your license is to make an appointment at your local Department or Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

You can find your state’s DMV or BMV website with a quick internet search. In most states, you can set up an appointment online to renew your driver’s license.

Some states even allow you to save time by hopping into the queue online before your appointment. This trick will enable you to get straight to your appointment when you arrive at your local DMV or BMV instead of waiting in line for hours.

Once you get to the DMV or BMV, you will likely need to fill out a few forms to renew your license. As long as your license recently expired and was issued by the state you are renewing in, the required documents should be minimal.

You will likely have to take a vision test to ensure that you do not need corrective eyewear to drive safely. The test simply involves the task of reading numbers on a chart. You will not be required to visit an optometrist unless the state deems your vision too poor to operate a motor vehicle without corrective eyewear.

After you complete the requirements for a driver’s license renewal, you will need to wait for your replacement license to arrive in the mail. Each state differs on how you can legally drive during this interim period. Some states will punch a hole in your expired driver’s license and provide you with a paper certificate saying that your license has been renewed and is on its way. Other states may require you to turn in your expired license to receive the replacement.

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What do you need to renew your driver’s license in a new state?

If you moved to a new state and need to renew your license, the process can be lengthier. In the United States, national road laws are the same across states, but local rules may vary. You must take a written driving test to renew your license in a new state because of differences in local road laws.

You must also prove that you have been a resident in the new state for longer than a year to get a new driver’s license. If your license expires soon, but you have not been a resident in your new state for a year, you might need to return to the issuing state to get a replacement driver’s license.

Since some states have different local laws, you should consider studying the road laws in your new state. Since you will need to take a written driving test, you should study state laws well enough to achieve a passing score. If you fail this written test, you can schedule another appointment to retake it. Learning these laws beforehand is a wise decision that will save time.

What if your driver’s license expired more than six months ago?

If your driver’s license expired more than six months ago, the renewal process is sometimes much more involved. If your license is long expired — particularly if you have an expired out-of-state driver’s license — you will need to restart the licensing process from square one. This process includes taking a written test to get your learner’s permit before taking a driving test.

If you haven’t driven in a while and need to renew your license, it can be frustrating to learn that you’ll need to start from the beginning. Going back to having a learner’s permit after already driving for years can be an embarrassing inconvenience. Since you need to have a licensed adult over the age of 21 ride with you if you only have a permit, this restricts your ability to be self-sufficient.

Even if you’ve been driving for 20 years and have a spotless record, it is imperative not to drive with an expired license to keep your car insurance rates reasonable.

The good news is a driver’s license renewal as an adult does not usually end up being as tedious as getting your first license when you’re under 18. Even though you need to get your permit, you likely will not be required to take driver’s education. Laws can be different across states and depending on your driving history.

Furthermore, young drivers are typically required to drive 30 to 50 hours with a licensed adult before they can upgrade their learner’s permit to a valid driver’s license. For adults renewing an expired license, states usually waive this requirement.

After successfully getting your learner’s permit, you can immediately schedule your full driving test. The law still requires a licensed adult to ride with you to your driving test since operating a motor vehicle without a valid driver’s license is illegal. You cannot drive alone if you hold only a learner’s permit, no matter your age.

Even if you’ve been driving for 20 years and have a spotless record, this driving restriction still stands. It is imperative not to drive without a license to keep your car insurance rates reasonable. Breaking any law is risky behavior, and car insurance companies will assess this as high-risk. Any high-risk behavior will increase your car insurance rates substantially.

The Driver’s License Renewal Process

If your license is current and the renewal is standard, then the process for renewing your driver’s license is straightforward. There are situations where renewing your driver’s license can be more complex and involved. If you are moving to a new state or if your driver’s license expired more than six months ago, then you can look forward to more tests and forms before you can get your license renewed.

To avoid issues with renewing your driver’s license in the future, you should always get your license renewed before it expires. Keeping your license current will help you avoid a tedious renewal process. It can also protect you from situations where you inadvertently operate a motor vehicle without a valid driver’s license. You can get better rates on your car insurance if you obey all road laws. Comparing quotes from leading insurance companies is also critical to getting the best rates.