Iowa Learner's Permit and Driver’s License

GDL requirements

Full Privilege Minimum Age
Learner Stage: Minimum Age (Years/Months)
Learner Stage: Minimum Duration (Months)
Intermediate Stage: Minimum Age (Years/Months)
Intermediate Stage: Nighttime Driving Restriction
12:30 AM to 5 AM
Intermediate Stage: Passenger Restrictions (Except Family, Unless Noted)
Parental discretion

How to Get a Iowa Driver’s License

The Iowa Graduated Driver License program, or GDL, will give you time to learn how to drive in a controlled way. There are three stages to this program, from no Iowa license to a full license

It takes 2 years to complete the Iowa GDL. Pass a knowledge exam for your instruction permit, complete driver training, and hold it for 12 months. Complete 20 hours of supervised driving for an intermediate license. Drive for a year, and complete 10 more hours, for a full Iowa driver’s license.

The steps below have the details you’ll need to know in order to get your full, unrestricted Iowa license.

Get Your Iowa Instruction Permit

You can start the process to get your Iowa license at 14 years old. To get ready for driving, you can download the Iowa Driver’s Manual and start reading through it. At your local DOT (Department of Transportation) location, you’ll need to fill out an application, bring in proof of identity, and pay a fee of $6 by debit card or check.

Before being issued your IA instruction permit, you’ll have to pass a vision screening and a written knowledge check, which will cover traffic laws, road signs, and safe driving techniques. There are 35 questions, and you need to get 26 correct to pass. Consider working through some practice exams before you take it.

If you fail, you can retake the test the next day.

You will be given an official paper which is your instruction permit. You’ll need to have that with you every time you’re behind the wheel.

You have to have your Iowa permit for at least 1 year before you can apply for an intermediate license. During that time, you’ll need to have 20 hours driving practice with 2 hours of those being at night. There are also limits to your permit and they are:

  • You must drive with adult supervision.
  • Must not use a cell phone, smartphone, tablet, or other electronic communication or entertainment device while driving. This doesn’t apply to equipment permanently installed in your vehicle.
  • You cannot carry more passengers than the number of seat belts in your vehicle, even when driving with adult supervision
  • You cannot drive a commercial motor vehicle, a motor vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of 16,001 or more pounds, or a motorcycle (unless you have a motorcycle privileges).

This is the point also where you’ll need to get driving instruction. The options for this include your parent, guardian, custodian, an immediate family member at least 21 years of age, a driver education instructor, or a person at least 25 years with written permission from your parent, guardian, or custodian. Driver education class consists of 30 hours of classroom instruction, six hours of behind-the-wheel instruction, and six hours in-car observation.

When you’re ready to enroll in Iowa DOT approved driver education, find a driving school to get started.

Once you’ve completed the required amount of instruction, you can apply for your intermediate license.

Get Your Iowa Intermediate License

Receiving your Iowa intermediate license requires that you’ve completed certain requirements. Fortunately, that’s only reaching the age of 16.

Driving Skills Test: You will be required to pass a driving test with a DOT evaluator who will make sure you can perform basic driving tasks safely.

Once you’re ready, you can schedule a driving skills exam at your nearest Iowa Department of Transportation branch.

Before you take the test, you should check out the Top 10 Automatic Fails on Driver Tests, so you’ll know what not to do on test day.

If you fail this test, you’ll need to schedule another appointment and wait at least one day before taking another test.

Vision Test: You will need to take a vision test. If you need glasses be sure you’re wearing them.

The application fee for your license is $8

Your Iowa intermediate license will be mailed to you and will have your photograph on it. They take your picture the day you pass your driving skills test. This license will come with the following restrictions:

  • You may not use a cell phone, smartphone, tablet, or other electronic communication or entertainment device while driving. This doesn’t apply to equipment permanently installed in your vehicle.
  • If the back of your license says you have a passenger restriction, for the first six months you have your intermediate license, you cannot carry more than one minor passenger that is not a relative when driving without adult supervision. A relative means someone that is your brother, sister, step-brother, step-sister, or another minor living in your household.
  • You may not carry more passengers than the number of seat belts in your vehicle, even when driving with adult supervision.

As you continue to learn how to operate a motor vehicle in different conditions, there are certain hours when you won’t be able to drive. Those are:

Get Your Iowa Unrestricted Full License

At a certain point, the state feels that you’ve been able to receive enough supervised driving experience that you can go out on your own. Therefore, once you reach 17 and have had your restricted license for 1 year or turn 18, whichever comes first, you can get your full Iowa license.

This means that previous restrictions are lifted. However, you will not receive an updated Iowa license until that one expires. After you renew your license, you will receive your full, unrestricted license in the mail.

Whether you’ve just finished your Iowa graduated licensing process, or are just starting out, you might also want to consider a telematic companion application to better understand your driving habits, and how to improve them.

The best option is the DriverZ Virtual Coach. Download it today to sharpen your S.P.I.D.E.R.Senses™ and build the driving skills that will keep you safe for a lifetime, track your supervised driving hours, and access bespoke driver training based on your specific needs.

Frequently asked questions

Here are answers to some common questions you might have as you start out on your IA licensing journey.

Can I drive with an out-of-state instructional permit in Iowa?

Iowa does allow drivers to travel through the state with permits from other states, as long as the parameters of the out-of-state permit are followed and the permit is always in the immediate possession of the driver.

Can I replace a lost or stolen learner’s permit?

You can replace a lost or stolen learner’s permit by scheduling an appointment at an Iowa driver’s license issuance site, bringing proof of identification, and paying a $10 fee.

What is an Iowa school license?

In Iowa, drivers’ education graduates who have held an instruction permit for at least 6 months and are at least 14 and 6 months may apply for a school license that permits unsupervised driving between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. The school license limits drivers to direct routes to and from school for classes or school sponsored activities, other schools hosting activities, school bus stops and gas stations. Holders of a minor school license may not use electronic communication devices or electronic entertainment devices (permanently installed equipment exempted), carry more than one unrelated passenger, or drive to another school district without an extra-curricular sharing agreement.

Iowa Department of Transportation information

For comprehensive information on everything related to the Iowa graduated licensing program, visit the Iowa Department of Transportation. You can also call (515) 244-8725.

Prepare for your license journey by reviewing the Iowa Driver’s Manual, and taking a few practice tests.