Washington DMV Handbook and Regulations FAQ

If you’re planning on applying for your Washington driver’s license or your Washington state learner’s permit, then you are required to review and learn all of the material contained in the official state DMV handbook in order to pass your written test. However, you are also free to peruse the following frequently asked questions in order to get a better idea of what you can expect from the experience of being a licensed Washington driver and becoming one as well.
Do I need to take a driver’s education course before I can apply for a Washington driver’s license?
If you are between 15 and 15 ½ years of age, then yes. You must successfully complete a Washington-approved driver’s education course before you’ll be able to get your driver’s license. You can enroll in such a course once you are 15 years of age. All courses approved by the state of Washington include the following:
  • 30 total hours of classroom instruction (up to 2 hours per day maximum)
  • 6 hours of hands-on behind-the-wheel driver’s instruction (up to 1 hour maximum per day)
  • One complete hour of behind-the-wheel observation
  • 50 total hours of behind-the-wheel practice driving outside of a classroom setting. A total of 10 of these hours must be completed at night.
Please note that before you can undertake the behind-the-wheel portions of the program, you must have successfully obtained your learner’s permit.
What are the age limits attached to the process of getting a Washington driver’s license?
In the state of Washington, you need to be 15 years of age to enroll in a state-approved driver’s education course and you need to be 15 ½ years old to apply for a learner’s permit without taking driver’s education first. You are eligible for an intermediate junior license at 16 years old and a full, unrestricted adult driver’s license at 18 years old.
Can I apply for my intermediate license online?
Yes. In Washington, you can begin the application process for your intermediate license online if you’ve already received your instruction permit. However, you will need the assistance of your parent or legal guardian to help you. They will need to verify that you have completed any required driver’s education, as well as give their official legal consent. Make sure you also have the following handy, even if you’re applying online:
  • Your official instruction permit.
  • The last four digits of your social security number.
  • A credit or debit card with which to pay the applicable fees. The Washington DMV accepts Visa, Mastercard, and American Express.
  • A valid e-mail address and/or a printer.
Make sure that you save and/or print the receipt you receive after you complete the application process. It will serve as your temporary license until your permanent license arrives in the mail.
How does an intermediate license differ from an unrestricted license?
Intermediate license holders are subject to a number of restrictions and limitations that will fall away once they get their unrestricted license. The following rules must be strictly followed at all times:
  • You may not use any wireless device in any manner. This includes talking on the phone, texting, utilizing email, or viewing social media.
  • For the first 6 months after you get your license, you are not allowed to carry passengers under 20 years of age unless they are immediate family members.
  • For the second 6 month period, you may not carry more than 3 passengers under 20 years of age unless, of course, they are immediate family members.
  • For the first year you have your license, you are not allowed to drive between the hours of 1AM and 5AM unless you are accompanied by an adult licensed driver at least 25 years old. (Exceptions are made if you are driving for agricultural reasons or delivering farm products/supplies.)
How long is a Washington driver’s license valid for?
As of August 11th of 2014, your new or renewed Washington driver’s license remains valid for a total old of 6 years. Prior to that date, it would have been valid for five years. When it is time for your driver’s license to be renewed, you will receive a notice stating as much by mail. Said notice will further let you know what your options are as far as renewal. Everyone may renew in person, but certain circumstances allow for renewal by mail or online instead.
What do I need to bring with me if renewing my driver’s license in person?
If you want or need to renew your Washington driver’s license in person, make sure you bring your existing Washington license and enough money to cover the renewal fees. You should also be prepared to pass a vision test, as well as have your photo taken. The fees you should be prepared to cover are $54 for a standard license, $72 for an enhanced license, and $5 for a license extension of 12 months (for out-of-state drivers).
How do I transfer my existing license to Washington if I’m already a licensed driver?
If you’ve recently become a Washington state resident (or are planning to in the near future), then you will have 30 days to complete the process of transferring your license. You will need to provide all of the same documents you would need to provide if applying for a brand new license including birth certificate, social security number, and government-approved form of identification. You will also need to pass a vision test. If you already have a valid driver’s license from another state, British Columbia, South Korea, Taiwan, or Germany you will not need to take a written test or a behind-the-wheel test.
I’ve heard I can pre-apply for my Washington license. Is that true?
Yes. If you are at least 18 years of age, are an official Washington resident, and have had a Washington license, learner’s permit, or state identification card in the past, you can pre-apply for your new license online. However, while this will save you time, you will still need to visit a Washington DMV field office in order to complete the process.
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