Your First-Time Virginia Drivers License Guide

by Jim Thompson | Last Updated: January 11, 2021

Most first-time drivers in Virginia must complete a drivers ed course to learn how to drive safely. This step is required by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (VA 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 Virginia License

If you’re looking to get your Virginia 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.

For first-time drivers in Virginia, how you’ll get your license depends on your age.

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 Virginia DMV terms. In some cases, it seems they’ve gone out of their way to make it confusing.

Terms (and abbreviations) you should know:

Told you they make it confusing.

 

BTW, when they say “periods,” they mean 50 minutes.

 

Who Must Take Virginia 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, Virginia only requires drivers ed for driving candidates aged 15 1/2 to 18 years old.

If you are 18 already, you won’t be required to take drivers ed but, if you skip it, you won’t be able to take your driving test for 60 days.

The Path to a Virginia 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 1Take Drivers Ed

A Virginia drivers ed course is broken into three parts:

The classroom portion teaches topics like:

The 14 hours of in-car observation and behind the wheel practice must be completed with a licensed professional driving instructor at a Virginia DMV approved driving school. Depending on where you live, there may be one more drivers ed hoop for you to jump through. If you are under 18, you may have to complete a separate training the DMV calls the 90-Minute Parent/Teen Component. This portion is required to be completed in person if you live in Planning District 8 (a.k.a.the following counties):

Even if you don’t live in Planning District 8, you may still be required to complete the 90-Minute Parent/Teen Component. You need to check if your school division requires it. If they do, the nice thing for those living outside of District 8 is that it doesn’t matter if you complete it in person or online.

As far as drivers ed itself, it can be completed at a driving school or, if it is offered, at your high school.

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.

Important note: When you are shopping for an online course, some providers refer to it as a “30-hour” course. While that is technically true (36 sessions X 50 minutes is 30 hours, after all), don’t think that their course won’t work for you, it will. 

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

Best Virginia DMV Approved Online Drivers Ed Course Providers

Website Name Phone
DriversEd.com Drivers Ed 888-651-2886
IDriveSafely.com I Drive Safely 800-723-1955
DriverEdToGo.com Driver Ed To Go 866-749-4445
USDriverTraining.com National Driver Training 800-942-2050

 

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

Virginia Driver Education for Homeschoolers

Homeschooled teens can complete the driver portion of their driver education course supervised by their parents. For this training to be recognized by the state, your parent or guardian must become authorized by completing the following:

Once this information has been assembled, it should be mailed to:

Department of Motor Vehicles Commercial Licensing Work Center

P.O. Box 27412

Richmond, VA 23269

Hold It, You’re Still Not Quite Done

Successful completion of drivers ed requires the passing of a final exam. The test comes in two parts:

To pass the multiple-choice section, 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 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 DMV will give you another try, three, in fact, but there are some rules.

  • If you are under age 18, by law you must wait a full 15 days before you can retake the exam.
  • If you are age 18 or older, you must pay a $2.00 re-examination fee if you retake the exam within 15 days.

How to Retake Your Permit Test

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

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

Exams are administered at approved driving schools. You will need to schedule your time to take the test with the school. On test day you’ll need to bring:

After you have passed the test, be sure to have your examiner sign Form DTS 63. You’ll need it when you apply for your permit. Speaking of that…

Step 2—Getting Your Permit

Application for a permit will happen at your local DMV office. You will need to contact them in advance for an appointment. When you arrive, be sure to have the following:

Check out the VA DMV list of acceptable documents to see exactly what you should bring. You can also start the “Proof Process” online. We’ve also provided a list of links to all of the documents mentioned on the DMV list at the bottom of this post.

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

Step 3—45 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 45 hours of practice driving, and at least 15 of those will need to happen after dark.

Your permit does come with some restrictions. You must be accompanied at all times by a licensed driver in the front passenger seat.

If you are at least 16 years, 3 months and under age 18, your driver education certificate and a valid learner’s permit allow you to drive without a licensed driver beside you, as long as you have held your learner’s permit for nine months and the certificate is signed by a parent or legal guardian.

A couple more things to know

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. Since you’ll be using your permit anywhere from two to nine months, there’s no reason not to drive WAY more than 50 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.

This part has gotten interesting in the age of Covid-19. The Virginia DMV has changed the administration of the test entirely.

The biggest change is that your test will be happening on a closed course and the examiner won’t be in the car with you. Make sure you are in a car with a working driver window so he can tell you what to do. Seriously, it’s in the instructions. The site says road skills will be given rain or shine. Kinda feel sorry for the examiners. How are they going to keep their clipboards dry while holding umbrellas?

What hasn’t changed are the things you will need to bring on the day of the test. These things include:

You should take a long look at the road skills test prep sheet. It is very detailed about what maneuvers you will be expected to execute during your test and how long you will have to complete them. take time to practice these so you can impress your examiner and pass easily.
 
The prep sheet also lists things that will result in automatic failure of the road skills test.  Basically, if you manage to get through the test without running into something, driving over the curb, or ignoring the examiner you should be golden.
 
Once you have passed the test, there’s one more step that is unique to Virginia, the Licensing Ceremony. If you are a first-time teen driver, your license will be sent to the juvenile and domestic relations court in your jurisdiction. The court will then contact you to invite you to the ceremony. I’d like to think there will be cake, but I doubt it.
 

Using Your New License

Per the rules of the Indiana 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.

TIME:

If you are under age 18, you can’t drive from midnight to 4 A.M. except when driving:

  • To or from work
  • To an adult-supervised activity sponsored by a civic, religious, or public organization
  • Accompanied by a licensed parent or spouse age 18 or older as a front-seat passenger
  • In case of emergency, including responding to emergency calls as a volunteer firefighter or rescue squad personnel

PASSENGERS:

If you are under age 18, you may carry only one passenger under age 21, unless accompanied by a licensed parent or spouse age 18 or older as a front-seat passenger. Once you have held your license for a year, you may carry up to three passengers under age 21 in the following situations:

  • Traveling to and from a school-sponsored activity
  • when accompanied by a licensed driver 21 or older in the front passenger seat
  • In case of an emergency.

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!