The learners permit. It’s a right of passage that’s as important for your teenager as homecoming or prom.
Getting a learner’s permit is the first step towards driving alone and unsupervised, followed by a learner’s license.
Now if you’re a parent, or a soon to be driver who’s ready to hit the roads, you’re probably wondering what you can and can’t drive.
Today, we’ll answer that question, both for learning permit holders, and learner license holders. As you’ll see in a second, there’s not much of a difference.
Unfortunately, there’s no one federal law that can answer this question. Each state and Washington D.C has it’s own rules about learners permits.
The good news is, you’ll have a lot of options, as you’re about to see in a second.
But first, to make things a little bit easier, we’ve gone ahead and collected the rules for each state! Take a second and brush up on your local laws, and then scroll down to the bottom for our recommendations.
In Alabama, you can apply for your learners permit at age 15 to operate class D vehicles. Class D vehicles are considered passenger vehicles, which are non-commercial vehicles that are under 26,000 pounds.
In Alaska, you can get your learners permit at age 14, to operate class D vehicles. Class D vehicles are considered passenger vehicles, under 26,000 pounds.
With a class D permit, you can operate motorcycles and motor scooters with an engine displacement of less than 50cc. You’ll also be able to operate any non-commercial vehicle under 26,000 pounds.
You’ll have to wait a little longer to get your permit in Arizona, where you have to be at least 15 years and 6 months old.
In Arizona, your learning permit allows you to operate class D vehicles, even though you’ll technically have a class G (graduated license) until you turn 18.
Your permit will allow you to operate any vehicle that doesn’t require a motorcycle or commercial license.
In Arkansas, you’ll be able to apply for your drivers permit as soon as you turn 14, even though you won’t be able to get a driver’s license until you’re 16.
Holding a permit or a graduated license gives you the ability to operate all non-commercial vehicles up to 26,001 pounds.
You won’t be able to take to the roads of California until you’re at least 15 years and 6 months old, when you can apply for your learners’ permit. You’ll then be able to apply for your license at 16.
Your permit and license give you the opportunity to drive any 2-axle vehicle with a GVW rating of 26,000 lbs. or less, including when such vehicle is towing a trailer with a GVW rating of 10,000 lbs. or less; any 3-axle vehicle weighing 6,000 lbs. or less; any 2-axle vehicle weighing 4,000 lbs. or more unladen when towing a trailer not exceeding 10,000 lbs. GVW rating; any motor home of 40 feet in length or less.
Yeah, California is complicated. That’s why we love it, right?
Colorado employs a graduated license system to ease kids into driving. You can first apply for your permit at age 15, assuming you’ve done drivers education, or at 16 with no driver’s education.
You’ll be able to apply for a minor license once you’ve held a permit for 12 months.
You’ll be able to drive Class R vehicles, which allow you to operate any non-commercial vehicle under 26,001 pounds, including low powered scooters.
In Connecticut, you’ll need to be at least 16 years old before you apply for a permit. If you’re in driving school, you’ll be able to apply for your license in 120 days, while home drivers need to wait 180 days.
This gives you the power to operate any non-CDL vehicle under 26,001 pounds.
Delware’s Level One learners permit requires you to be at least 16 years old with a completed drivers ed course. After 6 months and submission of some paperwork, restricted driving is allowed, followed by unrestricted driving at 17.
The learners permit lets you operate Class D vehicles, which is any vehicle with a gross weight rating (GWR) of less than 26,001 lbs, and cannot be designed to transport more than 15 passengers or carry hazardous material.
In Florida, you must be 15 years old to apply for your learner’s license. Afterwards, you’ll be able to get a Class E license.
A Class E holder can operate a noncommercial vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) less than 26,001 lbs., including passenger cars, 15 passenger vans including the driver, trucks or recreational vehicles and two- or three-wheel motor vehicles 50 cc or less, such as mopeds or small scooters.
An aspiring George Instructional Permit holder needs to be at least 15 year of age prior to applying for the learners permit. This gives allows permit holders to drive a class C vehicle.
A class C vehicle is:
Any single vehicle with a GVWR not in excess of 26,000 lbs. or any such vehicle towing a vehicle with a GVWR not in excess of 10,000 lbs.
Any self-propelled or towed vehicle that is equipped to serve as temporary living quarters for recreational, camping, or travel purposes and is used solely as a family or personal conveyance.
Any combination of vehicles with a GVWR not in excess of 26,000 lbs may be operated under a Class C license if operated by a farmer, used to transport agricultural products, livestock, farm machinery or farm supplies and are not used in the operation of a common or contract carrier.
Getting a learners permit in Hawaii requires any resident to be at least 15 ½ years old. You can then graduate to the provisional driver’s license after 180 days of having a learners permit, or 16 years old.
The permit allows you to operate any class of vehicle, provided your supervising driver also has a license to drive that type of vehicle. This means you can operate up to a class 4 vehicle which means you can go up to 26,000 pounds, as long as the vehicle is designed to carry less than 15 people.
Idaho employs a graduated licensing program, which can begin as early as age 14 ½ . After 6 months, and the completion of supervised driving time, they can apply for a license as early as age 15.
This allows the holder to drive class D vehicles which are: 26,000 lbs. GVWR or less and not placarded for hazardous materials nor designed to carry 16 or more people, including the driver; taxis; limousines; military vehicles; recreational vehicles; farm vehicles not used for hire and if driven within 150 miles of the farm; and fire fighting and emergency equipment.
You can apply for your Instruction Permit at age 15, assuming completion of drivers’ education course. You can drive with a driver licensed to drive the type of vehicle you’re driving. You can then apply for your Initial License once you turn 60 and complete supervised driving.
The Initial License is class D, which means any single vehicle with a GVWR of 16,000 lbs. or less that is not designed to transport 16 or more people or not used in the transportation of hazardous materials which would require such vehicle to be placarded.
In Indiana, you can apply for a Learner’s Permit at age 15 provided you’re enrolled in a driver’s education course.
At 16 ½ you’re able to get your full license, which is a class 1 license allowing you to operate motor vehicles under 26,000 pounds, with 15 or less people, assuming a non-commercial nature.
Iowa residents looking to get an Instruction Permit can do so beginning at age 14. At age 16, following drivers ed, an intermediate license is available.
This allows operation of up to class C vehicles, which are cars, pickups, and trucks that weigh less than 16,000 pounds.
Kanas residents can get their Instruction Permit starting at age 14, with no driver’s education required. A restricted license can be obtained at age 15, and a less restricted license at 16. The full license can be had at 17.
This gets you a class C license with which you can operate: motor vehicles including any single vehicle 26,000 lbs. GVWR or less, any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 lbs. GVWR, or any vehicle with a GVWR of 26,000 lbs. or less towing a vehicle in excess of 10,000 lbs. GVWR, or any single vehicle registered as a farm truck with a GVWR exceeding 26,000 lbs.
If you live in Kentucky, you can obtain your permit at age 16. After holding a permit for a minimum of 180 days, the permit holder can apply for a license.
This allows you to operate with a class D license which allows you to drive passenger cars weighing less than 26,001 pounds and of a non-commercial nature.
The licensing process in Louisiana can start as young as age 15 with drivers education taking place beforehand. After 180 days of driving, and the driver reaching age 16, it’s possible to apply for a license.
This is for a class E license, which allows the holder to drive any single motor vehicle under 10,001 lbs. GVWR or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 lbs. GVWR. This class does not allow a person to transport hazardous materials.
Maine residents can be issued a learner’s permit starting at age 15 or older. After getting your permit, you’re able to apply for a license when the permitholder turns 16, although the permit must be held for 180 days.
This allows the driver to operate class C vehicles, that are under 26,001 pounds and not used commercially.
A new Maryland driver can begin the learning process at 15 years and 9 months old.
At 16 years and 6 months, teens who have held a permit for 9 months will be eligible to apply for a provisional license.
Both allow the license or permit holder to drive class C vehicles which are all non-commercial vehicles or combination of vehicles with a GVW less than 26,001 lbs. (except motorcycles) and tow any non-commercial trailer. Trailer must be 10,000 lbs or less.
Massachusetts residents must be at least 16 years old to apply for a class D learners permit. Afterwards, a junior operator license can be obtained after the completion of drivers education, and upon the permitholder turning 16 ½.
This allows for driving any single vehicle or combination except a semitrailer unit, truck trailer combination, tractor, or truck having a registered gross weight in excess of 26,000 lbs., a bus, or a school bus.
Michigan residents wishing to get a learners permit can do so at 14 years and 8 months, and then you’re eligible to apply for a complete license at age 16.
This allows for a standard operator license, which allows you to drive a passenger vehicle and light duty truck with a gross weight capacity of less than 26,000 pounds.
Getting a learner permit in Minnesota is the first part of a three-stage licensing system, which begins at age 15. You can then graduate to a full license at age 16 with completion of a drivers ed course.
This affords you a class D license which means you can drive: all farm trucks operated by the owner, an immediate family member of the owner, or an employee of the owner within 150 miles of the farm; (2) an authorized emergency vehicle; (3) recreational equipment that is operated for personal use; (4) all single vehicles except vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of more than 26,000 lbs., vehicles designed to carry more than 15 passengers including the driver, and vehicles that carry hazardous materials. The holder of a Class D license may also tow vehicles if: the towed vehicle(s) has a GVW of 10,000 lbs. or less; or (2) the combination of vehicles has a GVW of 26,000 lbs. or less.
In Mississippi, you can get your permit at age 15, followed by your full license at age 16.
Class R allows you to operate regular motor vehicles and passenger cars in a non-commercial setting.
To get a license in Missouri, you have to go through a 3 step process. Your first learners permit can be had at age 15, followed by an intermediate license at age 16. The full license is obtained at 18, which is a class F. The class F license allows operation of any vehicle less than 26,001 pounds with less than 16 people in it, including the driver.
In Montana, you can begin the process of getting your license with a learner permit at age 14 and 6 months. After you turn 16, you can then apply for your full license, which is a class D license. A Class D license allows you to drive regular passenger cars, light trucks, and other non-commercial vehicles under 26,001 pounds.
In Nebraska, you’re able to get your learners permit at age 15, followed by your provisional operators license at age 16, and a full license at age 17.
This allows you to operate Class O vehicles which are less than 26,001 pounds and used non-commercially. You may also two less than 10,000 pounds.
Nevada drivers wishing to get a learner’s permit can do so starting at age 15 ½, followed by a full license at 16.
This allows you to drive any single passenger vehicle that weighs less than 26,001 lbs other than a motorcycle, and tow under 10,000 pounds.
New Hampshire is unique in that it does not issue learners permits, where a driver wishing to learn to drive needs to be 15 ½ and carry proof of age as well as drive a non-commercial vehicle. You can then apply for a license at age 16.
This will give you a Class D license, which allows you to drive non-commercial vehicles under 26,000 pounds while towing under 10,000 pounds.
New Jersey residents looking to get a learner’s permit can do so at age 16, and then obtain a probationary license at 16 ½. After a year of holding your probationary license, you can get a full license at age 17 ½.
This gives you a class D license, which allows you to operate all types of motor vehicles excluding motorcycles that are under 26,001 pounds and non-commercial in nature.
New Mexico residents looking to get a learner’s permit can do so starting at age 15, and then obtain a provisional license at 15 ½. A full license can be had at age 16 ½ with a few other requirements.
This gives you a class D license, which allows the holder to drive any single vehicle weighing less than 26,001 lbs or vehicles towing 10,000 lbs or less.
If you live in New York and wish to get a learner’s permit, you’ll need to be 16 years of age prior to applying. After 6 months of holding your learner’s permit, you can apply for a license starting at age 16 ½.
This gives you a class D license which allows you to operate any passenger vehicle, limited use automobile or any truck with a GVWR of not more than 26,000 lbs., or any such vehicle towing another vehicle with a GVWR of not more than 10,000 lbs. provided that such combination of vehicles has a GVWR of not more than 26,000 lbs., except it shall not be valid to operate a tractor, a tow truck, a motorcycle other than a Class B or Class C limited use motorcycle, a vehicle used to transport passengers for hire or for which a hazardous materials endorsement is required, or a vehicle defined as a bus.
Once you turn 15 in North Carolina, you can apply for a limited learner’s permit. Your provisional license follows at age 16, assuming you’ve held your learner’s permit for 12 months. You can then get a full provisional license at age 16 ½.
This gives you a Class C license, which allows you drive any class C motor vehicle that is not a commercial motor vehicle; or a class A or B fire-fighting, rescue, or EMS vehicle when operated by a volunteer member of a fire department, rescue squad, or EMS; or a combination of noncommercial motor vehicles that have a GVWR of more than 10,000 lbs. but less than 26,001 lbs. Commercial Drivers’ Licenses (CDL):
North Dakota teens can obtain their learners permit as soon as their 14th birthday. Once held for 12 months, or until your teen’s 16th birthday (whichever comes first), the teen will be able to obtain a restricted Class D license.
A Class D license allows a person to operate any single vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,000 lbs. or less or any such vehicle towing a vehicle with a GVWR not in excess of 10,000 lbs. (note: must be at least 18 years of age or under farm exemption if combined weight exceeds 26,000 pounds). Trucks towing trailers over 10,000 pounds provided the combined weight does not exceed 26,000 lbs. Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR). A camper or a vehicle towing a travel trailer being used solely for personal purposes, emergency vehicle, or a vehicle driven by active duty member for military purposes may be driven with a Class D license.
At 15 years and 6 months, Ohio teens can obtain a temporary permit, followed by a probationary license at age 16. This affords you a class D license, which allows operation of any non-commercial vehicle under 26,001 lbs.
In Oklahoma, at 15 ½ years of age, you can apply for a learners permit. An intermediate license can be had at age 16 (after holding the permit for 6 months). A full license can then be had at 16 ½.
The class D license obtained makes you eligible to drive non-commercial motor vehicles. Class D vehicles include any vehicle marked and used as a firefighting or law enforcement vehicle; designed and used solely as a recreational vehicle; is a single or combination vehicle with a GVWR of 26,000 lbs. or less; or is a single or combination vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 lbs. or more, and is used for agricultural purposes.
Oregon teens can get a provisional instruction permit starting at age 15. At 16, a provisional drivers license can be had, followed by an unrestricted license at age 18.
This allows you a Class C driver’s license, which allows you to drive any non-commercial vehicle under 26,001 lbs and to tow a vehicle under 10,000 lbs.
Pennsylvania residents wishing to get a learner’s permit can do so at age 16. After holding the permit for 6 months, and passing driver’s education, a full license can be had. This is a class C license.
A class C licenses allows you to operate any vehicles, except those requiring a Class M qualification, and who do not meet the definitions of Class A or Class B. Any firefighter or member of a rescue or emergency squad who is the holder of a Class C driver's license and who has a certificate of authorization from a fire chief or head of the rescue or emergency squad will be authorized to operate any fire or emergency vehicle registered to that fire department, rescue or emergency squad or municipality(emergency use only). The holder of a Class C license is authorized to drive a motor-driven cycle with an automatic transmission and cylinder capacity of 50 CCs or less, a 3-wheeled motorcycle with an enclosed cab or an autocycle.
Rhode Island teens may get a learner’s permit starting at age 16, followed by a limited provisional license at age 16 ½. The full license can then be had at 18 years old.
This grants you a class 10 license, which allows you to drive non-commercial vehicles under 26,000 pounds.
In South Carolina, once you turn 15 you’re allowed to apply for what’s known as a beginner’s permit.
At 15 ½, you’re able to apply for a conditional license. These allow you to drive Class D vehicles, which are passenger vehicles and all non-commercial vehicles that do not exceed 26,000 lbs. Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW).
Residents of South Dakota must be at least 14 years of age to obtain an instruction permit. A full license can be had at age 16.
This grants you a Class 1 license, which allows you to drive non-commercial vehicles including mopeds provided they come in under 26,001 lbs.
Tennessee teens wishing to get a learner’s permit can do so starting at age 15. An intermediate license follows at age 16, and a full license at age 18.
This grants you a Class D license, which allows you to drive non-commercial vehicles weighing less than 26,000 pounds.
Texas teens may apply for a learner’s license starting at age 15. At age 16, a provisional driver’s license is the next step pending the completion of drivers education.
The Class A License allows holders to drive a single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 26,001 pounds towing a farm trailer with a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 20,000 pounds. It also allows you to drive a vehicle designed to transport 16 or less passengers, including the driver.
Utah teens may apply for a learner’s permit starting at age 15. With completion of a driver’s education course, a full license can be had after holding your learners permit for 6 months.
This enables you to drive Class D motor vehicles not defined as commercial motor vehicles or motorcycles. A person may not drive a motor vehicle as a private passenger carrier for 15 or fewer passengers unless the person has a valid taxicab endorsement or a commercial driver license.
A Vermont learners permit can be had starting at age 15. After holding the permit for 1 year, a Vermont teen can apply for a Junior Driver’s license, which becomes an unrestricted license at age 18.
This enables a teen to drive class D vehicles, which are non-commercial vehicles other than motorcycles, a school bus, commercial vehicles, or any vehicle with a gross weight rating over 26,001 pounds.
Virginia teens may apply for a learner’s permit starting at age 15 ½. After holding the permit for a minimum of 9 months, and completing a driver’s education course, a full license can be had.
A standard Virginia license is a Class D, which allows the operation of non-commercial vehicles with a gross weight rating under 26,001 lbs.
A Washington instruction permit can be had starting at age 15, and then a license can be had after completing a driver’s education course and holding the instruction permit for 6 months.
A standard Washington driver’s license/permit allows drivers to operate any non-commercial vehicle under 26,001 pounds other than a motorcycle.
West Virginia teens are eligible to receive a learner’s permit starting at age 15. After completion of a driver’s education course and upon turning 16, an intermediate license can be had, until turning 18 where a full license is issued.
This Class D license allows the operation of a non-commercial vehicle with a gross weight rating of under 26,001 pounds.
Wisconsin teens can apply for a instruction permit started at age 15 ½, followed by holding the instruction permit for 6 months prior to obtaining a probationary license. A full license can be had at 18.
This allows for a Class D license, which allows for the operation of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 26,001 pounds that are non-commercial in nature.
A regular learner’s permit can be had starting at age 15. An intermediate permit can be had at age 16, and then a full license at 16 ½ following completion of driver’s education.
This grants you a Class C license, which allows for vehicles with a GVWR of less than 26,000 lbs. excluding motorcycles, designed to transport less than 16 passengers including the driver, and not placarded for the transportation of hazardous materials.
In Almost All States, Anything Under 26,001 Pounds Is Good (but check your local laws above regardless):
Considering that the requirements in most states are similar, the question goes from what a learner driver can, to what SHOULD they drive.
For the majority of states, anything under 26,001 pounds, transporting less than 15 people will be legal.
To make your decision a little easier, we’ve gone ahead and assessed several cars you should consider for your soon to be new driver.
All of these vehicles are drivable by a first-time learner’s permit holder, and a teen driver even with a graduated license.
1: Nissan Altima (2013-2016)
I’m biased. Many PMC team members drive Nissans.
And for good reason, as every model of the Nissan Altima going back to 2014 has a NHTSA 5-star safety rating, which is great peace of mind for your young driver, or for you as a parent.
And just because it’s safe, doesn’t mean it’s lacking in the feature department. With push button start, Bluetooth connectivity, and a continuously variable transmission, your new driver will be comfortable as well as safe.
Better yet, it’s affordable, with an average fuel consumption of 32-34 miles per gallon on average.
And you can find them cheap, with many Altimas carrying around 60-80,000 miles being available for under 10,000 dollars. Plus, with the Nissan warranty being a 5-year, 60,000-mile warranty, you can bet these cars will be well taken care of, so your new driver can benefit.
2: Honda Civic (2012-2016):
We know you’ve seen at least one Civic in the last month, as it’s one of the best selling small cars in the United States and it has been for years, with a winning combination of safety, reliability, and price that makes it an attractive first car for a new driver.
The Civic has been an IIHS Top Safety Pick every year from 2009 to 2017, and nearly every model from 2012 onward has gotten a 5-star safety rating from the NHTSA.
Because the Civic is also great on gas, with the EPA estimating around 32 MPG on average.
And you’ll be getting a lot of value with what you’re spending.
A used 2013 Civic has a fair purchase price of around $9,396, according to KBB’s pricing guide.
You can often find them even cheaper, as we’ve seen local listings for similar cars around $5,000-$6,000.
3: Hyundai Sonata (2011-2017):
Hyundai is famous for it’s long lasting warranties, which cover cars for 10 years / 100,000 miles.
The Hyundai Sonata is also extremely safe, with all gas-powered Sonatas earning a 5-star NHTSA safety rating, and all model years except the 2014 earning the IIHS Top Safety Pick distinction.
You’ll sleep a little bit better at night with your new driver in such a safe car.
Base models come with safety features including front and side curtain airbags, and stability control.
The beauty of Hyundai Sonatas however, is in the price.
These cars are affordable.
A 2015 Hyundai Sonata SE with 75,000 Miles in good condition has a KBB Private Party Value of $9,194, which keeps it below our $10,000 dollar threshold, while still affording your young driver 25,000 miles of warranty coverage.
4: Ford Focus (2015-2017):
The Ford Focus from 2012 to 2018 have all earned a 5-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA, which includes sedans and hatchbacks. The 2015 Focus also earned the IIHS Top Safety pick in 2015.
The average Ford Focus has an EPA estimated 28-30 mpg combined, and isn’t lacking in features.
The 2015 Focus model offers a now standard backup camera, blind spot detection, and lane departure warnings.
For parents, Ford also offers the MyKey program, which allows you to program a key that will set limits on the car speed and radio volume, and seatbelt alerts.
You can also get these models for far less then the $10,000 dollar mark.
A 2016 Ford Fusion S Sedan (4D) with 75,000 miles for instance, has a KBB value of only $9,354.
5: Subaru Forester (2011-2017):
Subaru has somewhat of a cult following so we had to include them here. Subaru Foresters in particular are unbelievably safe, reliable, and versatile for younger drivers. Plus, with the proper care, they can last forever.
With a 4-star NHTSA safety rating for 2011-2013, and a 5 star rating for 2014 and newer models, you’ll feel comfortable knowing that your child is safe in all types of weather.
With front, side and rear airbags, it also comes with emergency braking assist. The beauty of Foresters is the reliability which means you can get a higher mileage vehicle but not have to worry about it breaking down too early.
A 2015 Forester with 90,000 miles comes in as low as $10,242 for a private party sale, which puts it slightly above the $10,000 dollar mar, but with good reason.
The fuel economy is also above average for a crossover/SUV, with the Forester clocking in at 27 mpg highway, and 21 city.
New Driver? We can help.
Protect My Car loves shielding new drivers from the dangers of the road.
And let’s face it, they’re going to be facing plenty of dangers.
And while driver’s education has prepared them to handle the road, have you prepared yourself and your new driver for the possible financial implications of driving?
Insurance for new drivers is expensive. So are breakdowns.
But we can help.
For new drivers, we offer a number of discounts on our extended warranty policies.
An extended warranty will cover up to $25,000 dollars of repairs on your new driver’s car, for a flat monthly rate.
Even better, you can bundle your policies and save, with our discount auto insurance finder, where we can compare multiple policies across our vehicle insurance network to find you the best possible rate and save you money.
Now you can cover your child’s car completely. You won’t have to worry about accidents, and you won’t have to worry about breakdowns either.
Plus with our 24/7 roadside assistance, you can rest assured that your kids are driving a safe car.