Your First-Time Ohio Drivers License Guide

by Jim Thompson | Last Updated: March 16, 2021

Most first-time drivers in Ohio must complete a drivers ed course to learn how to drive safely. This step is required by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (OH BMV) 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 Ohio License

If you’re looking to get your Ohio drivers 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. We know you have a lot of questions, so let’s get going.

No matter your age, getting your license can be an exciting, scary, and confusing time, sometimes all at the same time. First off, let’s clear up some Ohio BMV terms. In some cases, it seems they’ve gone out of their way to make it confusing.

Terms (and abbreviations) you should know:

  • Driver Education Class—A.K.A. “drivers ed.” A state-approved course that will cover driving law and basic driving skills.
  • Temporary Permit—A.K.A. “Learners” or “Driving” or “Instruction” Permit  This permit will allow you to practice drive legally before applying for your license.
  • TIPIC—A.K.A. The “Temporary Instruction Permit Identification CardThe actual name of your permit.
  • Class D License—The license you’re shooting for, allowing you to drive any vehicle besides a motorcycle or commercial vehicle.
  • Knowledge Test—A.K.A. “Written Driving” or “Permit” Test, it’s the one you’ll have to pass to get a permit.
  • Driving and Skills Test—A.K.A. “Road Skills Test” or just plain ‘ol “Driving Test,” it’s the one you’ll have to pass to get your license.
  • GDL—A.K.A. “Graduated Drivers License.” A “Class D” with some restrictions. These restrictions will apply if you are under 18.
  • Driver Exam Stations and Deputy Registrar License Agencies—Fancy ways to say “Your local BMV office.”
  • Ohio Digest of Motor Vehicles—commonly known as a “Drivers Manual.”
  • See? I told you they made it confusing!

Who Must Take Ohio Drivers Ed?

No matter your age, it’s probably not a bad idea for anyone to take a drivers ed course before getting their first license. However, Ohio only requires drivers ed for driving candidates younger than 18. You can enroll in drivers ed at age 15. 

The Path to an Ohio License in a Nutshell

The quick and dirty looks like this:

  • Take drivers ed
  • Get a learner’s permit
  • Complete 50 hours of practice driving
  • Pass a road skills test

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

Step 1—Take Drivers Ed

An Ohio drivers ed course is comprised of:

  • 24 hours of classroom instruction
  • Eight hours of behind the wheel instruction

The classroom portion teaches topics like:

  • Ohio traffic law
  • Meanings of road signs, signals, and markings
  • Your responsibilities as a licensed driver
  • Alcohol safety and drug abuse awareness
  • Motor vehicle operation fundamentals
  • Driving in hazardous situations
  • Driving in emergency situations

The classroom portion of Ohio drivers ed can be completed online, at an approved driving school, or, if it is offered, your high school.

At the end of your course, you will receive a certificate of completion. Hold on to it. You’ll need it when you apply for your license.

Perhaps the easiest way is to complete the classroom portion of driver’s ed is online. Taking drivers ed online means you can complete this portion at a pace and on a schedule that works best for you.

If you think completing a course online might be a good fit, here’s a list of some great Ohio online driver’s ed providers.

Best Ohio BMV Approved Online Drivers Ed Course Providers

Website Name Phone
DriversEd.com Drivers Ed 888-651-2886
Aceable.com Aceable Drivers Ed 512-900-6837
DriverEdToGo.com Driver Ed To Go 866-749-4445
IGottaDrive.com I Gotta Drive 877-336-6872
FirstTimeDriver.com American Safety Council 800-732-4135
AllStarDriverEducation.com All Star Driver Education 800-967-7719
OhioDriverEducation.com Costech Technologies 888-385-3272
OnlineDriverEdOhio.com Jordan Driving School 888-385-3272
TopDriver.com Top Driver 800-374-8373

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

How to Choose the Best Driving School for Your Teen

Step 2—Getting Your Permit

If you are 15 1/2 and have completed drivers ed, you can apply for your instruction permit.

Application for a permit will happen at your local BMV office

When you arrive, be sure to have the following with you:

Check out the BMV list of acceptable documents to see exactly what you should bring. We’ve also provided a list of links to all of the documents mentioned on the BMV list at the end of this post.

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

The test will include questions about motor vehicle regulations and traffic signs. 

The test is available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Japanese, Russian, Somali, and Spanish.  

To pass the 40-question multiple-choice test, you’ll need to score 75%. Here are some suggestions on how to prepare.

How to Pass the Permit Test

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.

Fail Your Permit Test? You’re Not Alone

If you do happen to fail, the BMV will give you unlimited chances to pass. There is a 24 hour waiting period between attempts. 

How to Retake Your Permit Test

Another Note—If you’re new to Ohio and started this whole license dance somewhere else, here are some tips that might help.

I Just Got My Permit and Now We’re Moving?!?

Step 4—Pass a Driving Test

Finally, the last hurdle, your driving test. It’s all good. You got this.

You will need to schedule an appointment for your driving and skills test. You can schedule online or via Live Chat.

Drivers under 18 must arrive at their appointment with:

The road test has two parts: driving and maneuverability. 

During the driving test, you will be asked to perform the following:

The maneuverability test has two parts:

The BMV has a detailed description (with diagrams) of all they expect from driving candidates. It would be best if you spent time studying and practicing this information to increase your chances of passing the test.

If you are 18 or younger and fail the test, there is a seven day waiting period for a retake.

If you are older than 18 and have failed your first attempt at the maneuverability or road portion of the driving test, you will be required to take an Abbreviated Adult Driver Training Course before attempting the driving test for a second time.

This course can be taken by one of the following:

For a list of schools offering abbreviated adult driver training courses in the classroom, click HERE.

For a list of schools offering abbreviated adult driver training courses online, click HERE.

Applicants who choose the option of 24 hours of driving with a licensed driver 21 years of age or older cannot complete more than four hours of driving in one day. Also, applicants who choose this option must complete the Twenty-Four Hour Affidavit (form BMV 5789).

Before the second attempt at the driving test, the applicant must:

Using Your New License

Per the rules of the Ohio Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Program, your new license will come with some restrictions concerning when you can drive and who you can have in the car with you. These restrictions will remain in effect for the first 12 months after receiving your license.

TIME:

If you are under age 18, you may not drive from midnight to 6 A.M. unless traveling:

PASSENGERS:

If you are under age 18, you may not transport more than one passenger unless accompanied by a legal guardian.

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!

Links to the Items on the List of Acceptable Documents

Consular Report of Birth Abroad (FS-240)

Certificate of Birth Abroad (FS-545)

A Certificate of Naturalization (Form N-550 or Form N-570)

A Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-560 or Form N-561)

Permanent Resident “Green” Card (Form I-551)

Employment Authorization Card (Form I-766)

Form I-797

Form I-94

Form I-20