Your First-Time Colorado Drivers License Guide

by Jim Thompson | Last Updated: October 17, 2023

Most first-time drivers in Colorado must complete a drivers ed course to learn how to drive safely. This step is required by the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles (CO DMV) to obtain a driving permit or a drivers license. Fortunately, it’s not difficult going through one of these courses, and there are plenty available to choose from.

Steps to Getting Your Colorado License

If you’re looking to get your Colorado license, we’re here to help. Welcome to our step-by-step guide to get you off of your couch and out onto the road. Getting your license is an exciting, scary, and confusing time, sometimes all at the same time. As for the confusing part, the Colorado DMV doesn’t help matters much. Let’s look at some things that might make things easier. First off, let’s clear up some Colorado DMV terms.

Terms (and abbreviations) you should know:

IMPORTANT NOTE: You may be able to skip the behind-the-wheel requirement. If you live more than 30 miles from a certified driving school, you can substitute 12 additional hours of practice driving instead. To see if you qualify for this exemption, check the Behind the Wheel Zip Code chart. Now that you know a little vocabulary, it’s time to tackle another wrinkle in the Colorado Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) process. It seems like potential drivers of every age (including half birthdays) has a different set of hoops to jump through. Let’s take a minute to break these rules down so that you can see the path you’ll need to follow.

After you have had your permit for 12 months, you can apply for a license.

The Road to a Colorado License in a Nutshell

The quick and dirty looks like this:

Now let’s take a look at what it’ll take to get those four steps done.

Step 1—Take Colorado Drivers Ed

In Colorado, drivers ed is a 30-hour course covering topics like these:

The Colorado DMV allows driving candidates to complete drivers ed in a classroom or online. For many driving candidates, an online course makes more sense, especially if they have scheduling or transportation issues. If you think completing a course online might be a good fit for you, here’s a list of some great Colorado online drivers ed providers.

Best Colorado DMV Approved Online Drivers Ed Course Providers




Register NOW!


Best Choice




If you (or your folks) would prefer a traditional driving school experience, check out our guide to selecting the best driving school.

Step 2—Apply for Your Permit

After completing the 30 hours of classroom or online drivers ed, you are now free to apply for your Colorado instruction permit. Visit your local DMV office (you may be able to schedule an appointment.) and be prepared for the following:

If you are aged 15 to 15 1/2, you’ll need to bring:

If you are aged 15 1/2 to 16, you’ll need to bring:

If you are aged 16 to 17, you’ll need to bring:

After you have shown all of this to the folks at the DMV, hold on to it! You’ll need much of it again when you apply for your license.

Now it’s time for your written permit test

At the DMV, the test is available in English and Spanish.

BTW—The permit test can also be taken at an approved driver education school. If you choose this option, be sure to take your test results to the DMV.

To pass the 25-question multiple-choice test, you’ll need to score 80%. Here are some suggestions on how to prepare.

Another way to give yourself a leg up on passing the permit test is to consider one (or more) of the following:

A permit practice test has everything the “real” test does, except the pressure. That’s because practice tests feature questions taken from actual DMV exams. It’s like seeing all the answers before the test even begins! Don’t head to the DMV without a dress rehearsal, you want to pass the first time.

You can find permit practice tests (both paid and free versions) all over the internet.

What If Your Test Didn’t Go Like You Planned?

What if you get to the testing center and, despite all your best preparation, your nerves get the best of you and you wind up failing the test? First, don’t panic. Nearly 1 out of 3 test-takers fail on their first attempt.

The Colorado DMV gives every test-taker three attempts to get a passing score. The only frustrating thing is that you have to wait until the next day before you can try again.

Another Note—If you have recently moved to Colorado and started this dance in another state, here are some tips that might help, and some CO DMV-specific information.

Step 3—50 Hours of Practice Driving

Now it’s time to put that learners permit to good use. Before you can take a driving test, you’ll have to complete 50 hours of practice driving, and at least 10 of those will need to happen after dark. Remember, your permit only allows you to drive with a driving instructor, parent, legal guardian, or a licensed adult 21 years of age or older (authorized by parent/guardian) in the front seat. While you might be nervous at first, do your best to enjoy this time and always pay close attention to what’s going on around you. You never know the kinds of things, good and bad, that you might learn from the drivers around you. Also, do yourself the favor of driving in as many conditions as you can, places like:

It’s better if you don’t see these things for the first time on your own. The DMV won’t allow you to apply for your license until 12 months after receiving your permit. There’s no reason not to drive WAY more than 50 hours! It can only do you good.

BTW—If you are planning a family road trip, you may get the chance to do some practice driving in another state. Check this out to see if you can.

Step 4—Pass a Driving Test

Now’s the time to show off all you’ve learned by passing a driving test. The required driving test to get your license may be administered at the DMV, but it’s more likely you’ll be taking it at an approved driving school.

During the driving test, you’ll be graded on:

Once you’ve passed your driving test, it’s time to head for the DMV.

When you arrive, you will need:

Cross all those items off the list, and you’ll be walking out with your shiny new license!

(I told you that you would want to hang on to the paperwork from getting your permit.)

Using Your New License

Per the rules of the Colorado Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Program, your new license will come with some restrictions:

NOTE: Some municipalities have different driving curfew rules. Be sure to check out the ones that apply to where you are driving.

A Final Note

Any licensed driver will tell you that you will never face a driving situation as complicated, nerve-wracking, and time-consuming as getting your license. By no means should you let your guard down once you’re behind the wheel but, rest assured. You’ll never face anything on the road that will compare with the process it took to get you your license.

Good luck as you work your way through this. Can’t wait to see you out on the road!

A Final Final Note

If you’ve made it this far, may we suggest you bookmark this page? You’ll probably be coming back to it often as you work your way through this!

Other helpful items from the Colorado DMV:

Parent’s Guide (This guide is also available in the Apple app store)

The “Are you ready to put your teen in the driver’s seat?” quiz