Nearly 227,754,100 Americans have some type of driver’s license right now. And all of those people will have to renew their license at some point.
It’s just a normal part of a driver’s life.
That said, many people don’t know how to get their license renewer (and many of them don’t know what will happen if they fail to do so). That’s why we’ve put together this guide to walk you through everything you need to know.
So let’s get started!
Why Do You Have to Renew Your Drivers License?
There are several reasons you might need to renew your driver’s license. If you don’t renew your license in these circumstances, you can face serious penalties.
Here’s a quick look at some of the most common reasons you’ll need to renew your driver’s license.
You Moved to a New State
Every state issues their own driver’s licenses. So if you move to a new state, you’ll need to get a new license for that state.
But you only have to worry about this if you establish residency that state. Driving through Louisiana with a Tennessee license isn’t a problem if you are traveling.
You will have a set time frame to renew your license depending on what state you move to. This could be as short as 10 days, so make sure you have a renewal plan in place before you move.
Your License Was Stolen or Lost
If you lost your license, you can simply order a new one. Be prepared to pay a replacement fee, which again will vary by state.
You might have to report your license as stolen to the police if someone took it. But after you make this report, you should be able to order a new driver’s license without a problem.
Your License Was Suspended or Revoked
You can get your driver’s license suspended or revoked for a number of reasons. Some of the most common include the following:
- You’ve received too many traffic tickets
- You’re an unsafe driver
- You failed to report an accident
- You were driving under the influence
In fact, you can even get your license taken away if you fail to pay court-order child support. If your license is suspended or revoked, you won’t be able to get behind the wheel of a car until you get it reinstated.
Because of this, you should address the problem right away.
Your License Is About to Expire
This is the most common reason people need to renew their license.
Every driver’s license will expire after a certain amount of time. For example, licenses in Deleware and Tenessee expire every 8 years while Louisiana licenses expire every six years.
You’ll receive a renewal notice by mail before your license expires.
When Should You Renew Your License?
Once you get that renewal notice, you should renew your driver’s license as soon as possible.
Many states give you 60 days to renew your license. But that doesn’t mean you should wait.
If you miss this timeframe and keep driving with your expired license, you can get some serious penalties. For example, you might get:
- A ticket up to $250
- Your car impounded
- Points on your permanent driving record
Some police officers might make you get out of your car and find another means of transportation to wherever you’re going. That means you’ll also have to pay to get your car towed.
Many states will start charging late fees if you fail to renew your license on time. You may even get insurance penalties if you drive with an expired license.
That’s why it’s a good idea to get a new license as soon as you can.
Where Can You Renew Your License?
You can renew your license with any DMV office near you. You might even be able to do it online, but only if you meet the right requirements.
If you don’t know where the closest DMV office is or you want more information, you can contact your local courthouse. They’ll be able to give you the necessary driver’s license renewal information.
What Should You Bring?
Before you head to the DMV, you should make sure you have everything you need. This will make the renewal process as fast and painless as possible.
Here’s a quick list of what you should have on hand:
- Yoru current driver’s license (even if it’s expired)
- Renewal card (if you have one)
- Two different documents for proof of address (if your address has changed)
- Proof of Social Security number
- Other basic information (name, birthday, etc.)
If you have legally changed your name since the last time you renewed your license, you will also need to bring proof of your new name.
Know What Type of License You’re Getting Before You Start
The next thing you need to think about is what type of license you’re going to get.
This might seem obvious, but since you have to renew your license anyway, now’s a good time to apply for a Real ID driver’s license.
How’s that different than a normal license?
Well, the federal REAL ID Act places several new rules on which types of ID people can use to enter federal facilities or board flights. Without a REAL ID, you won’t be able to get on an airplane or enter a federal courthouse, military base, or other facilities.
A REAL ID also looks a bit different from your normal driver’s license. These IDs will have a small star in the upper right-hand corner.
This act takes effect on October 1, 2020.
That’s right around the corner. Because of that, it’s a good idea to apply for one of these IDs right now (if you’ll need one). To apply for a REAL ID, you’ll need to head to the DMV in person and provide all the right documentation, including proof of residency, identification, and SSN.
You must be at least 16 years old to get a REAL ID. And if you are under 18, you will also need to provide proof of your parent’s consent.
If you don’t plan to enter any federal facilities or take any flights, your regular ID is enough to keep you driving.
What Happens When You Get There?
Once you have everything you need and know what type of driver’s license you’re getting, it’s time to head to the DMV.
It’s a good idea to make an appointment in advance. This will let you skip a lot of the long lines that often form in DMV buildings. You can set up an appointment in person, on the phone, or even online.
The entire renewal process shouldn’t take too long. We’ve put together this quick guide to walk you through the steps.
Complete the Necessary Paperwork
You’ll first have to complete the necessary paperwork to get your license renewed. If you had your license revoked or suspended, you might have to file an SR22.
You may also have to finish an alcohol education program before you can renew your license (if you were driving under the influence). So start by doing these things before you walk into the DMV.
Wait in Line
Even if you make an appointment, you might have to wait in line for a short amount of time.
If you didn’t set up an appointment in advance, the lines you wait in will be much longer. Try getting to the DMV first thing in the morning (right after it opens) to avoid the lines.
It’s always a good idea to bring something to entertain yourself, such as a book or a game. You might be sitting in the DMV for several hours, so pack a snack as well.
Listen for Your Number
When you show up to the DMV, you’ll be given a number. You’ll have to wait for your number to be called before you can get any help.
So make sure you keep an ear out for it.
You might not want to listen to music or watch movies with your headphones. Otherwise, you might miss your number. If you don’t go to the counter when your number is called, the DMV will move on to the next one.
However, there are a few screens around the DMV that show what numbers have been called. So if you do plan to wear headphones, make sure you keep an eye on the screen.
Talk with a Rep
After your number gets called, head up to the desk and talk to the rep. Tell them you’re there to renew your license then follow their instructions.
They might send you to a different window or proceed with the process themselves.
But whatever happens, be patient.
You might have been waiting for an hour or two already, but do your best to stay polite and understanding. Getting angry or snappy won’t do you any good. If anything, it will slow you down.
Take an Eye Test
Before you can get your new license, you’ll have to complete an eye test.
If you don’t pass this vision test, you will be given a Report of Vision Examination (DL 62). You’ll have to leave the DMV and take this document to an eye doctor.
The eye doctor will then update your prescription. You can take this new prescription back to the DMV and start the process over again.
Take a Written Test
At this point, you might have to take a written test.
Don’t think that, just because you’ve been driving for years, you’ll pass this test without a problem. You should still take some time to familiarize yourself with the rules of the road.
One of the best ways to do this is to take a defensive driving course. This course can give you a lot of benefits.
First of all, it can help refresh your memory about the traffic laws and procedures, which will help you pass your driving test without a problem. (This course may be required for people who have had their license suspended or revoked.) It will also help you be a more confident driver when you get your license back.
And it doesn’t take long.
Depending on where you live, you can finish it in as little as an hour.
So don’t worry about the upfront cost. It’s a small investment compared to how much it can help you save. In fact, taking a defensive driving course can actually help you save as much as 10% on your auto insurance.
Get Your Picture Taken
After you pass the written test, you may need to get your picture taken. Because of this, you should make sure you look presentable. You don’t want to end up with a bad picture on your license.
Pay the Renewal Fee
If you’ve had your license suspended or revoked, you’ll have to pay a hefty fee. In Louisiana, this fee can be as much as $300. But it varies depending on which state you live in.
You’ll also have to pay a small renewal fee even if you haven’t had your license taken away from you. However, the fee is much more manageable, normally only $30 or so.
Can You Dismiss Driving Tickets or License Points?
If you got your license suspended or revoked, you probably got some driving tickets or license points to go with it. But that doesn’t always mean you’re stuck with them.
So can you dismiss these things?
The short answer is yes.
In many cases, you can dismiss driving tickets or license points by taking a defensive driving course. This is especially true if this is your first traffic offense.
But make sure you talk to your local courthouse to understand the process. Sometimes you can take a defensive driving course to dismiss a license point, but you’ll still have to pay the fine.
You should also understand that you might not always be able to dismiss driving tickets or license points. Again, talk to your local courthouse. They’ll be able to tell you what you can do to correct your offense.
The Complete Guide to the Driver’s License Renewal Process
The driver’s license renewal process might seem complicated, but if you follow this guide, you should be able to dodge the stress and walk away with a shiny, new license.
And don’t worry if you have to take a defensive driving course first. Not only will it benefit your driving, but it isn’t as hard or expensive as you think.
Are you ready to sign up for a defensive driving course?
Make sure you click here to get started on our one-hour course!