Iowa DMV Handbook and Regulations FAQ

If you’re planning on applying for your Iowa driver’s license in the near future, then you’ll definitely want to make sure you pick up and review a copy of Iowa’s official state handbook. However, you may also find the following frequently asked questions (and answers) helpful. Don’t forget to study for your written road knowledge test using a good practice exam to maximize your chances of passing.
How old do I have to be before I can apply for my Iowa driver’s license?
In Iowa, you need to be a minimum of 14 years old before you can apply for your state driver’s license.
What documents do I need to bring with me when I arrive at the DMV to apply for my license?
As is the case in other U.S. states, you should arrive to apply for your Iowa license prepared to prove your identity, your social security number, and your residency. If you are a minor and you won’t be bringing a parent or guardian with you, you will also need to prove that you’re properly enrolled in school. Acceptable documents for proving your identity include a United States passport, a military ID, or a student ID. You can prove your social security number with your social security card or a pay statement. Residency and address can be proved using a utility bill, a bank statement, or a current insurance card.
What kinds of tests will I need to pass before I’m eligible for my license/permit?
In Iowa, you will be required to take and pass a written test covering safe driving practices and state road rules, as well as a behind-the-wheel test. You’ll also need to take and pass a vision test at the time you arrive to apply for your permit. To pass your vision test, you need to receive a score of 20/40 or better.
I’m a teen driver. Do I need to bring my parents with me when I apply for my license?
If you’re an underage driver that doesn’t yet have your license, your parent or legal guardian should bring you if you’re not going to be taking public transportation to the field office. However, they are not required to. If they are unable to accompany you, you can bring a completed and signed Parent’s Written Consent Form instead.
Does Iowa have a graduated driver’s licensing (GDL) program in place? What are the different stages involved?
Most states these days have GDL programs in place and with good reason. GDL programs help ensure that young drivers go into their lives as adult motorists equipped with all the skills and knowledge they need to be safe and responsible. Iowa is no exception. In Iowa, the sequence of GDL stages go as follows:
  • Learner’s permit
  • State-approved driver’s ed
  • Minor school license (optional)
  • Intermediate/junior driver’s license
  • Full privilege/unrestricted driver’s license
All new drivers that are younger than 18 years of age will be required to complete all of the above steps in order to eventually obtain their adult driver’s license complete with unrestricted privileges.
Once I have my learner’s permit, what are the rules as far as when/how I can drive?
Once you have your Iowa state learner’s permit, you can legally drive. However, you must take care to adhere to the applicable restrictions. You must be supervised at all times, preferably by your parent, your legal guardian, or your diving instructor. However, you can also drive with any licensed adult that is at least 25 years of age, so long as they have written permission from your parent or legal guardian. Alternatively, you can drive with a member of your immediate family that is at least 21 years of age. You are also not allowed to drive with more than one passenger that is a minor unless you:
  • Are an immediate family member
  • Have proper adult supervision from another licensed driver
I’m getting ready to sign up for Iowa driver’s ed. What can I expect from the program?
Before you can apply for your Iowa state intermediate/junior license, you are required to complete a state-recognized driver’s education course. The course will consist of:
  • 30 hours of sit-down classroom instruction
  • 4 hours of substance abuse education
  • A bare minimum of 20 minutes education on safe railroad crossing, as well as additional information pertaining to organ donation
  • 6 hours of instruction in a laboratory style setting
What are all of the requirements I need to meet before I’m eligible for my unrestricted Iowa driver’s license?
You must be a minimum of 17 years old before you can successfully obtain your unrestricted Iowa’s driver’s license. You also need written approval from your parent or legal guardian. Lastly, you must have fulfilled all of the following criteria:
  • Having held your intermediate license for a minimum of 12 months
  • Have a clean driving record with no incidents for a minimum of 12 months
  • Have successfully completed 10 hours of supervised driving time with 2 of those hours having been night hours.
However, if you are 18 years of age or older, you will not need to meet these requirements. When you are ready to attain your unrestricted license, simply bring your provisional license in to your nearest DMV field office along with payment of the $4 per year license fee.
I need to renew my Iowa driver’s license. How long can I wait before I have to retake my driver’s test?
In Iowa, your license is actually still valid for driving purposes for up to 60 additional days after the specified expiration date. (Unless you are a temporary foreign national, in which case you do not enjoy the same privilege of a 60-day grace period.) You can renew your Iowa driver’s license without having to retake either the written test or the behind-the-wheel driving test if your license has been expired for less than one year. After that, you will need to retest. Avoid this by renewing sooner rather than later. (In Iowa, you can renew up to 30 days before your expiration date.)
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