North Carolina Learner's Permit and Driver’s License

GDL requirements

Full Privilege Minimum Age
16, 6 months
Learner Stage: Minimum Age (Years/Months)
Learner Stage: Minimum Duration (Months)
Intermediate Stage: Minimum Age (Years/Months)
Intermediate Stage: Nighttime Driving Restriction
9 PM to 5 AM
Intermediate Stage: Passenger Restrictions (Except Family, Unless Noted)
No more than 1 passenger younger than 21; if a family member younger than 21 is already a passenger, then no other passengers younger than 21

How to Get a North Carolina Driver’s License

North Carolina has a Graduated Driver License program, or GDL, that will give you time to learn how to drive in a controlled way. There are four stages to this program, from no North Carolina license to a full license.

Completing the North Carolina GDL takes about a year and a half. First you’ll complete a North Carolina DMV approved driver training course and pass a written test for your limited learner permit. Then, 60 hours of supervised driving for a North Carolina limited provisional license. Drive with it for six months, and you’ll receive your North Carolina full provisional license.

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

Get Your North Carolina Learner Permit 

You can start the process to get your license at 14. To get ready for driving, you can download the North Carolina Driver’s Handbook and start reading through it.

If you attend public school, you’re eligible to attend driver’s education through your high school. It will consist of 30 hours of classroom instruction and 6 behind the wheel.

When you’re ready to enroll in driver education, find a driving school, or find more information by visiting NC Driver Education Courses. Enrolling is your first step toward a learner’s permit.

Once you turn 15 you can apply for your North Carolina learner’s permit. At your local DMV location, you’ll need to fill out an application, bring in your driver’s eligibility certificate and proof of identity and residency, and pay a fee of $20 by debit card or check. You will need to pass a written test as well as vision exam. Make sure to bring any needed corrective lenses with you.

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

All of your driving must be supervised your legal parent or guardian or an adult that’s maintained a driver’s license for 5 years that’s been approved by your parent or guardian. They must be always seated next to you in the passenger seat. You can drive with them between 5:00 A.M. and 9:00 P.M. To move to your limited provisional license, you must log 60 hours of driving time, with 10 of those being at night.

Get Your North Carolina Limited Provisional License

Once you’re 16 years old and have logged your required supervised driving time, you can apply for your North Carolina limited provisional license if you’ve held your learner’s permit for at least 6 months.

You may drive unsupervised between the hours of 5:00 A.M. and 9:00 P.M. and are allowed to have 1 other passenger from outside your household in the vehicle. You may drive between 9:00 P.M. and 5:00 A.M. with a supervisor.

While you have your North Carolina limited provisional license, you will have to log 12 more hours of supervised driving time, 6 of which must be at night.

Get Your North Carolina Full Provisional License

After 6 months with a North Carolina limited provisional license, you will be eligible to move to your full provisional license. You must have completed your supervised hours and cannot have had any mobile phone or seatbelt violations in the last 6 months.

You will have to take a road test before moving on to level 3. Schedule an appointment at your local NCDMV location. Be sure to bring all the necessary paperwork, proof of identification and residency, and any needed vision correction.

Get Your North Carolina Full Unrestricted License

When you reach 18 years of age, or 16 and 6 months having had a full provisional license for 6 months, you’ll be able to apply for a full North Carolina license. Be sure to bring proof of identity, social security card, residency, and insurance with you to your local DMV. The fee for your driver’s license is $5.50 a year. You will have to choose between a 5 and 8 year license.

In North Carolina there are 4 exams you’ll have to pass.

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

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

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

Written Knowledge Test: You will need to be well versed in North Carolina traffic laws and safe driving practices.

Traffic Sign Test: You will have to identify North Carolina’s regulatory and warning signs by color and shape.

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

However, honing your S.P.I.D.E.R.Senses™ defensive driving skills is a lifetime experience. Download the DriverZ Virtual Coach to keep practicing. It will also help you keep track of your practice hours when earning your North Carolina limited provisional license.