Renewing your driver’s license
Most states allow you to renew a license online, but you may need to renew your driver's license in person if your previous license has expired, important details have changed, or you're applying for a REAL ID. Check with your state's DMV because regulations vary by state. Common steps to renew a license include completing forms, providing documentation, and paying a fee.
When should I renew my license?
Each state has guidelines on how often drivers need to renew their license — typically every four to eight years. Consider starting the process one to three months before the expiration date to give yourself enough time to complete all the steps. If you miss your expiration date, you can still renew an expired license.
If your grace period has ended, the DMV may require you to retake a vision test, written exam, or even the full driving test before you can be issued a new license. Note that you can't drive with an expired license. Depending on where you live, you may need an updated license if important details have changed, such as your address or name.
Can I renew a license online?
Most states allow drivers to renew their license online as long as the previous one hasn't expired and no important information has changed. You may need to visit the DMV to renew your license if you meet one of the following provisions:
- Your license has expired: Most states require expired licenses to be renewed in person.
- You need to change the details on your license: The DMV may need to verify documents in-person when important details have changed, such as your name or address.
- You're applying for a REAL ID: The first time you get a REAL ID, you'll need to do so in person.
- You're a senior: Some states allow seniors to renew a license online, while others don't. Seniors may also need to renew their license more often than younger adults and may be required to take vision tests more often.
How do I renew my license?
The exact process of renewing a driver's license may vary from state to state. These general steps apply to most drivers in the United States:
- Pay off outstanding tickets: Many states won't allow you to renew your license while you have unpaid tickets or fines.
- Decide how you'll be renewing your license: Determine whether you're able to renew your driver's license online or if you'll need to do it in person. If you're going to the DMV to renew, allow plenty of time there — license renewal lines are notoriously long. Avoid going during the after-work and weekend peak times if you're able.
- Complete driver's license renewal documents: Check with your state's DMV to make sure you're filling out all necessary forms. Forms verify the information on your license, such as your address, appearance, organ donor status, and medical issues that may impact your ability to drive.
- Provide necessary documentation: When renewing your license, you'll need to bring your most recent one with you, even if it's expired. Bring proof if any information needs to be changed, such as a new address or name change. If your previous license has expired, you'll also need to bring some additional forms of identification along with you, like your passport, birth certificate, or Social Security card. You may also need to bring your residence card or naturalization papers if you were born outside of the United States.
- Take a vision test if necessary: Some states require an updated vision test each time you renew, while others require regular eye exams from seniors. Depending on the state, you may need to renew in person when an updated vision test is needed. Others allow you to renew online if you submit a report from your eye doctor.
- Take a new driver's license photo if needed: Some states want a new photo each time you renew, while others only require a new photo every 10 years or so. The DMV will take your photo if you're applying in person. If you're applying online, you may be able to upload one that meets the official guidelines.
- Pay the license renewal fee: The amount typically falls somewhere between $25 and $50. If your previous license has expired, you may have an additional fine, which can reach as high as about $300.
Once you've completed the steps to renew your driving license in some states, a temporary one will be issued while your new license is being made. The temporary license is valid for 30 to 60 days, depending on the state, and you can start using your new license as soon as it arrives. Learn more about car insurance requirements by state.
Do you need proof of insurance to renew a license?
Most states don't require proof of insurance to renew a license, but some need to see proof of insurance before you can take your first driving test. You'll need to provide proof of insurance to your state's DMV when registering a car, and it's illegal to drive without insurance in most states.