Washington Learner's Permit and Driver’s License

GDL requirements

Full Privilege Minimum Age
Learner Stage: Minimum Age (Years/Months)
15 if enrolled in driver education
Learner Stage: Minimum Duration (Months)
Intermediate Stage: Minimum Age (Years/Months)
Intermediate Stage: Nighttime Driving Restriction
1 a.m. – 4 a.m.
Intermediate Stage: Passenger Restrictions (Except Family, Unless Noted)
first 6 months—no passengers younger than 20; second 6 months—no more than 3 passengers younger than 20

How to Get a Washington Driver’s License

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

Completing the WA GDL program takes about 2 years. You can apply for an instructional permit at 15. Drive for 6 months, complete driver education and supervised hours, and pass a road test for your intermediate license. 6 more months, turn 17, and you’re eligible for a full WA driver’s license.

The steps below have the details you’ll need to know to get your full, unrestricted Washington driver’s license.

Get your Washington instruction permit

You can start the process to get your license at 15 years and 6 months old, unless enrolled in Washington Department of Licensing approved driver education, in which case you may apply for your WA instruction permit at 15 years old.

If you’re ready to enroll in WA DOL approved driver education, find a driving school to get started today.

To get ready for driving, you can download the Washington DOL Handbook and start reading through it. At your local Department of Licensing location, you’ll need to fill out an application, bring in proof of identity, and pay a fee of $20 by debit card or check.

You’ll be required to pass a written knowledge exam based on the information found in the handbook. The test consists of 40 questions. You’ll need to answer 32 correctly to pass.

Don’t worry if you fail, you’ll be able to retake the test 4 hours later.

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

If you didn’t complete a driver education course before applying for your WA instructional permit, this is the time to so.

You must have your permit for at least 6 months before you can apply for a regular license. During that time, you’ll need to have 50 hours of driving practice with 10 of those being at night. These practice hours must be conducted with a driver that’s had their license for a minimum of 5 years.

Once you’ve completed your WA DOL approved driver education course, met your required driving time, and have had your permit for at least 6 months, you can apply for your WA intermediate driver’s license.

Get your Washington intermediate license

Receiving your WA intermediate license requires that you’ve completed certain requirements. Those are reaching the age of 16 and completing a WA DOL approved driver’s education training course. You’ll also need your parent’s permission if you’re under 18. If you are over 18 you may apply for your license without the training, but it is still recommended.

Driving Skills Test: You will be required to pass a driving test with a WA DOL 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, so if you need glasses make sure you’re wearing them.

The application fee for your license is $54.

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 license will come with the following restrictions:

For the first 6 months of your restricted license period, you will not be allowed to carry passengers younger than 20. For the second 6 months you can only have up to 3 passengers younger than 20.

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 1:00 am to 5:00 am.

Get your full unrestricted WA driver’s 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 12 months, or you’ve reached age 18, you can get your full license.

This means that previous restrictions are lifted. However, you will not receive an updated 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 Washington graduated licensing process, or are just starting out, you should also 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™ to 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 some other details which are good to know as you start out on your WA graduated licensing journey.

Can I drive in Washington with an out-of-state learner’s permit?

Yes. Drivers that are at least 15 years old may drive in Washington, if they are in possession of the learner’s/instructional permit issued by their home state. They must also be accompanied by a driver that’s maintain a valid driver’s license for at least 5 years.

What if I’m under 18 but have an unrestricted license from another state?

All drivers under 18 years of age must follow the appropriate WA graduated licensing requirement, as well as acquire a WA intermediate license.

Washington State Department of Licensing information

For comprehensive information on everything related to the Washington graduated licensing program, visit the Washington State Department of Licensing.

Prepare for your license journey by reviewing the Washington Driver Guide, and taking a few practice tests.