The Lone Star State is one of the biggest in the country, so having the ability to drive is crucial for getting around. Thankfully, the process of getting your Texas driver’s license is made easy with our guide. You’ll find information on the types of licenses, how to apply for one and frequently asked questions.
Whether you’re a brand new driver or an experienced one, you’ll feel confident taking your Texas driver’s exam with these helpful tips!
Types of Driver’s Licenses in Texas
Like many other jurisdictions, the state of Texas issues different types of driver’s licenses. Each license has different requirements, so the one you’ll need will depend on the type of vehicle you want to drive and your age. Below, we’ll explain the differences between the classes of driver's licenses.
Non-commercial driver’s license
This is the most common type of license, and is known as a Non-CDL. It’s divided into four classes that indicate the type of vehicle you can drive.
Class C License
This class is the most basic of the four, but it works for most people who drive regular-sized cars for personal use. The types of vehicles that require this class of Texas driver's license are:
- Personal vehicles with an estimated gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of less than 26,001 lbs. If using a farm trailer, that it has a GVWR of less than 20,000 lbs.
- Vehicles that can transport up to 16 people (including the driver) or up to 23 passengers if they’re exempt from the Class C commercial driver’s license requirement.
- Cyclecar drivers.
Class B License
In addition to the driving any vehicle included in the Class C list, Class B License holders can also operate:
- Personal vehicles with a GVWR greater than 26,000 lbs.
- Personal vehicles with a GVWR that exceeds 26,000 lbs and a trailer that weighs less than 10,000 lbs, or a farm trailer that weighs less than 20,000 lbs.;
- Vehicles that can hold more than 23 passengers (including the driver.)
Class A licenses
With this type of license, you can drive all of the B and C vehicles and vehicles with a GVWR higher than 26,000 lbs. with a trailer that exceeds 10,000 lbs.
Keep in mind: None of these licenses allow you to ride a motorcycle. You’ll need a Class M license for that.
Commercial driver’s licenses
Commercial driver's licenses (CDL) are required for operating large industrial vehicles. Like the non-commercial vehicles, this driver’s license is divided into three classes:
- Class C. With this type of license, you can operate any type of vehicle or combination of vehicles designed to transport up to 23 passengers including the driver. You can also use it to drive vehicles with dangerous materials and any other vehicle that doesn’t require a Class A or B CDL.
- Class B. This type of license authorizes people to drive any vehicle with a GVWR over 26,001 lbs. with or without a trailer that weighs up to 10,000 lbs.
- Class A. This class of license allows the driver to operate any combination of vehicles with a GCWR over 26,000 lbs, or a vehicle with a trailer exceeding 10,000 lbs.
Steps to Getting a Texas Driver’s License
Obtaining a Texas driver's license is a relatively simple process. To start, find the nearest Department of Public Safety office (DPS.) Then, you’ll have to complete the following steps:
- Fill out a driver's license request form with the required documentation.
- Schedule an appointment at a DPS office.
- Pay the corresponding fee for the type of license you’re applying for.
- Provide your fingerprints for a criminal background check.
- Get your picture taken.
- Pass the vision test.
- Take and pass the driver’s test.
How to Pass The Texas Driver’s Tests
In order to get a Texas driver's license, you’ll have to pass two tests: a theoretical test and a practical test. During the practical test, you’ll have to show an evaluator your driving abilities. On the theory test, you’ll answer questions about Texas driving laws and traffic signals. You'll have to get a passing score on both to get your driver’s licenses.
We know that driving tests can be stressful. That’s why our team prepared a series of recommendations that will help you feel more prepared and safer when you take the test.
- The answers to the written exam can be found in the Texas Driver's Handbook, so we recommend that you read it carefully and study it before taking your test.
- To strengthen your theoretical knowledge, check out this list on Youtube with sample questions and the answers with explanations.
- For the practical exam, we recommend that you practice the basic maneuvers on your car.
- To get an idea of the maneuvers you’ll be tested on check out this helpful video.
Driving Restrictions in Texas
Driver’s licenses in Texas can have a few restrictions, especially when they’re issued to minors under 18. The main type of licenses for minors are learner’s permits and provisional licenses. Learner’s permits only allow them to drive with someone over 21 with a valid license, and they can’t drive alone. Once they’ve gotten a provisional license, they can drive alone with a few restrictions:
- They can’t drive between 12:00 AM and 5:00 AM.
- They aren’t allowed to drive anyone under 21 except for family members.
- They can’t use wireless communication devices unless they’re hands-free.
The Graduated Driver’s License Program
The Graduated Driver's License (GDL) is a program run by the Texas government to increase safety while teens learn to drive. This program has two phases and is valid for Texas driver's license applicants under 18. The two phases to getting a regular license are as follows:
In this phase, driver’s license applicants are given a learner’s permit or conditional license. These licenses apply to 15-17 year olds and are subject to the restrictions above. The young driver has to keep this document for six months to continue to the second phase.
Once the driver has had their learner’s permit or conditional license for at least six months, they can apply for a provisional license with the same restrictions mentioned above. This license will be valid until they turn 18. Once they turn 18, they’ll have to apply for a regular license without restrictions.
How To Renew Your Texas Driver's License
There are two ways for Texans to renew their driver’s license: online or in person at their local DPS office. The easiest way to do it is online, but not everyone is eligible for this service. You can only renew your Texas driver's license online if:
- Your last renewal was in person.
- Your current license will expire in less than two years.
- Your previous license expired less than two years ago.
- You have a provisional driver’s license, and you’ll turn 18 in less than 30 days.
- Your browser supports 128-bit encryption.
- You’re a U.S. citizen.
- Your social security number has been registered at the DPS.
- You’re under 79.
- The license you need to renew is C, M, or CM.
- There haven’t been any changes in your physical or mental capacities that could affect your ability to drive.
- You don’t have any pending traffic tickets or court orders.
- Your license hasn’t been suspended, disqualified, or revoked.
Keep in mind: If you don’t meet a requirement above, you’ll have to renew your license in person at a DPS office. You can use this site to find the office closest to you.
Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants in Texas
Currently undocumented immigrants aren’t able to obtain a Texas driver's license. In 2021, legislature proposed bill HB1058 which intends to give undocumented immigrants the right to a driver’s license in the Lone Star state. Unfortunately this bill faced some roadblocks, and there aren’t any signs of it being passed anytime soon.
Keep in mind: If you live in Texas and are undocumented, considered reading this article on your options to drive legally. There are other states (like California and New York) that issue driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, and any U.S. driver’s license is considered legal in the rest of the country.
How much is the fine for driving without a license in Texas?
Driving without a license is a crime with a fine of up to $200. If it happens more than once, it's considered a misdemeanor and has a similar fine. If the crime is committed again, the perpetrator can face from three days to six months in jail.
How much do Texas driver's licenses cost?
Learner’s permits and intermediate licenses cost $16, while regular class A, B, or C licenses are $33.
How many questions does the driver’s license exam have?
The written portion of the test has 30 questions. You need to answer at least 70% (21 questions) correctly to pass.
How long can I drive in Texas with an expired license?
Texas driver’s licenses are valid for six years after being issued unless they’re learner’s permits, intermediate licenses, or restricted licenses. There isn’t any grace period for this time period, and the fines for driving without a license are the same as those for driving with an expired license. Remember that you can renew your license up to two years before it expires.