Your First-Time Texas Drivers License Guide

by Jim Thompson | Last Updated: March 16, 2021

Most first-time drivers in Texas must complete a drivers ed course to learn how to drive safely. This step is required by the Texas Department of Public Safety (TX DPS) 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 Texas License

If you’re looking to get your Texas 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 Texas DPS terms. In some cases, it seems they’ve gone out of their way to make it confusing.

Terms (and abbreviations) you should know:

See? I told you they made it confusing!

Who Must Take Texas 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, Texas only requires teen drivers ed for driving candidates younger than 18. Teens can enroll in drivers ed at age 14.

If you are age 18-24, you must complete adult drivers ed. If you fall into that age bracket, we invite you to head here for better answers.

First-Time Texas License Guide for Drivers 18-24

The Path to a Texas 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 Drivers Ed

A Texas drivers ed course is comprised of:

The classroom portion teaches topics like:

The classroom portion of Texas 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 drivers 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.

Another great advantage to completing drivers ed online is that the test you’ll take to complete the course will double as your permit exam. You’ll just need to complete your course, get your paperwork together, and grab your permit!

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

Best Texas DPS Approved Online Drivers Ed Course Providers

Website Name License Phone
DriversEd.com Drivers Ed C2548 888-651-2886
IDriveSafely.com I Drive Safely C2267 800-723-1955
Aceable.com/Parent-Taught Aceable – Parent Taught C2839 512-920-6322
Aceable.com/Instructor Aceable – Instructor Taught C2839 512-920-6322
DriverEdToGo.com Driver Ed To Go C2588 800-851-3007
TexasDrivingSchool.com American Safety Council C2386 800-771-2255
VDriveOnline.com Virtual Drive Management C2636 806-418-2474
Safe2Drive.com Safe2Drive C2229 800-763-1297
SafewayDriving.com Safeway Driving C0182 713-468-1313

 

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

Texas also lets teen drivers complete their driver training requirement by completing a Parent Taught Driver Education course. This course falls under the authority of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). You can visit them for more details.

Step 2—Getting Your Permit

In Texas, you can apply for your permit when you turn 15. The journey to your permit looks a lot like the journey anyone would take to get a Texas drivers license:

TX driver license procedure infographic

Application for a permit will happen at your local DPS office. You’ll need to call or make an appointment online to submit your application.

When you arrive, be sure to have the following:

Check out the DPS list of “What to Bring” to know exactly what they will accept for each of these. We’ve also provided links to all of the documents mentioned on the “What to Bring” list at the end of this post.

After you have shown all of this to the folks at the DPS, 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:

To pass the 30-question multiple-choice test, you’ll need to score 80%. 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 DPS 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 DPS will give you two more chances, but there are some rules.

How to Retake Your Permit Test

Another Note—If you’re new to Texas and started this whole license dance somewhere else, here are some tips that might help, or here’s what the DPS has to say about it.

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

Once you finish the permit dance at the DPS office, you will receive a temporary permit. Your new permit will arrive in the mail in 2-3 weeks. You can check on the status of your permit through the DPS mailing status page.

Step 3—30 Hours of Practice Driving

Now it’s time to put that learners permit to good use. Before you can apply for your license, you are required to use it for six months, unless you turn 18 during that time.

Before you can take a driving test, you’ll have to complete 30 hours of practice driving, and at least 10 of those will need to happen after dark. 

Your permit does come with some restrictions, namely, that you cannot drive without a licensed driver age 21 or older in the front seat with you.

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. Take time to learn all you can from the licensed driver who is with 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. 

Since you’ll be using your permit as long as six months, there’s no reason not to drive WAY more than 30 hours! It can only do you good.

Step 4—Pass a Driving Test

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

You must be at least 16 to apply for a full license. You must also have:

IMPORTANT NOTE: The ITTD program is a two-hour course designed to impress upon new drivers the importance of being safe and responsible on the road. The course is free and available to complete at Impact Texas Drivers. but, be advised. The course is only available to be viewed on a desktop or laptop computer. It is NOT compatible with phones or tablets. There are a number of other “known issues” detailed on the Impact Texas Drivers site. It is unclear how long these problems will exist, so visit the site early in your driving test planning process to determine if and how these issues may affect you. ITTD may not only impact your driving; it may impact your scheduling, too.

You must schedule an appointment online with the DPS for a driving test. You can also complete your driving test through a third-party provider.

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

Told you that you wanted to hang on to all the stuff from when you got your permit!

You will also need to provide:

As for the test itself, you should spend a little time with the DPS publicationHow to Prepare for a Drivers Test.” It paints a very clear picture of what you’ll need to (and can’t) do if you want to pass your driving test.

The long and short of it is this.

During the test, you will be observed (and graded) on your ability to:

If you were to fail your driving test, what happens next depends on where you took it.

Like with your permit, after you successfully passed your driving test, you will receive your official Provisional License in the mail in 2-3 weeks. This Provisional License will expire on your 18th birthday.

Using Your New License

Per the rules of the Texas Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Program, your new Provisional License will come with some restrictions concerning when you can drive and who you can have in the car with you.

TIME:

With a Provisional License, you can’t drive from midnight to 5 A.M. except when driving:

PASSENGERS:

With a Provisional License, you may not transport any more than one passenger under age 21 who is not a family member

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!

A Few More Helpful Items from the Texas DPS

Information about testing in other languages

Guide for First Time DL/ID Applicants

Direct link to the Impact Texas Driver Program

Links to items you may need from the “What to Bring” list

VOE form

Consular Report of Birth Abroad (FS-240)

Certificate of Birth Abroad (FS-545)

Certification of Report of Birth of a U.S. Citizen (DS-1350)

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

Form I-327