Wisconsin has a Graduated Driver License program, or GDL, 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.
You can begin the Wisconsin GDL program at 15 and 6 months. You’ll need to enroll in driver education and pass a written exam. Drive with your instruction permit for 6 months. Pass a road test for your probationary license, drive for another 9, and you will qualify for your unrestricted license.
The steps below have the details you’ll need to know to get your full, unrestricted WI driver’s license.
You can start the process to get your license at 15 years and 6 months old. To get ready for driving, you can download the Wisconsin Motorists Handbook and start reading through it.
Before you apply for your learner’s permit, you’ll need to be enrolled in a driver education course. This will consist of 30 hours of classroom instruction, six hours of behind the wheel time, and 6 hours of in car observation. If you’re ready to enroll in driver’s education find a driving school to get started.
At your local DOT location, you’ll need to fill out an application, bring in proof of identity, and pay a fee of $35 by debit card or check. You must also be enrolled, or graduated from, high school or a high school equivalence program.
You will have to pass a written knowledge test, Wisconsin road signs test, and vision exam, so be sure to bring along any corrective lenses you require.
The written knowledge and road signs tests cover information found in the Wisconsin Motorist Handbook, so be sure to study ahead of time. You can also take a few practice tests to make sure you’re fully prepared.
When you’re ready, find your local Wisconsin DMV service center. You will not have to make an appointment ahead of time, but you do want to make sure your desired location offers testing services. Most offer do, but it’s best to double check.
The Wisconsin DMV written knowledge exam is 50 questions and should take your around 45 minutes. You’ll need to answer 40 out of 50 correctly to pass.
Don’t worry if you fail the test on your first try. You can take it up to 4 more times. You’ll have to wait until at least the next day for your next attempt.
Should you fail your written knowledge test on your 5th attempt within one year, however, you will need to get permission from the Wisconsin DMV to take it again.
After passing, you will be given an official paper which is your Wisconsin instruction permit. You’ll need to have that with you every time you’re behind the wheel.
You must have your permit for at least 6 months before you can apply for a regular Wisconsin driver’s license. During that time, you’ll need to have 30 hours of supervised driving practice with 10 of those being at night. You may only drive with a qualified instructor 19 or older, a parent guardian or spouse 19 or older, or a licensed driver 21 or older.
Once you’ve completed the required amount of instruction and supervised driving time, you can apply for your Wisconsin driver’s license.
Receiving your WI probationary license requires that you’ve completed certain requirements. You must be 16 years old, held your WI instruction permit for 6 months, and have finished your Wisconsin DMV approved driver education course and supervised driving hours. Now you’re ready for your road test.
You will be required to pass a driving test with a Wisconsin DMV 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.
When you’re ready you can schedule an appointment online. The fee for your road test will be $15 dollars. You may retake the test if you fail, but you will have to pay the $15 again. Note that cancellations will require at least 24-hour notice, or you will automatically receive a failure on your road test.
It is possible to obtain a waiver for your road test if you’ve met all qualifications if you’re adult sponsor is willing to accept responsibility by vouching for your safe driving skills.
You can go to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation for more information on the Road Test Waiver Program.
The application fee for your license is $34.
Your Wisconsin probationary 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:
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. Unless traveling to or from work or school you are not allowed to drive between midnight and 5:00 A.M.
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 16 years and 9 months old, and have had your probationary license for 9 months, you can get your full, unrestricted Wisconsin driver’s 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 Wisconsin 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™ 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.
Here are answers to some common questions you might have as you start out on your WI graduated licensing journey.
Can I drive with an out of state learner’s permit in Wisconsin?
Out of state drivers visiting Wisconsin may drive with learner’s permits issued from other states, however they will have to comply with restrictions and requirements from their home states, as well as the State of Wisconsin.
How long is a Wisconsin instruction permit valid?
A Wisconsin instruction permit is valid for 18 months. If you want some more time behind the wheel before you move on to your Wisconsin probationary license, you may renew your instruction permit for another 18 months. Note that renewing will require proof of completion or enrollment in a Wisconsin DMV approved driver education course.
For comprehensive information on everything related to the Wisconsin graduated licensing program, visit the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles. You can also call 1-608-264-7447 between 7:45 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Monday through Friday.
Prepare for your license journey by reviewing the Wisconsin Motorists’ Handbook, and taking a few practice tests.