How To Renew Your Driver's License


An outline of what to expect when applying for a renewal of your driver's license in the USA

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In the USA, you will usually be required to do a driving license renewal every four to eight years, depending on where you live. Each state has its own legal process and administrative structure surrounding issuing and renewal of licenses, with the commonality that an updated, recent photograph needs to be supplied at least once every 12 years, and, should any of your personal details change, it's your responsibility to update the DMV. In some states like Arizona, for example, the license is valid until the applicant's 65th birthday, with renewal only required every five years thereafter.

Regardless of when you need to renew, the process can be a lot of admin. Luckily, you are provided with a number of ways to undertake the task, assuming you meet certain criteria. These are, once again, state-dependent, but many share certain commonalities.

So, when renewing your driver's license, these are the kinds of hurdles you can expect.

Driver License

How and Where to Renew Your Driver’s License

After you pass your very first driver's license examination, the DMV office will issue you a permanent license card. In many cases, this will expire by your 21st birthday, after which you will need to renew it in accordance with your state regulations. In almost every state, there are four ways to do so. Here is a list of where to renew your driver's license and how the process generally works:

  • In-person: While you could go into the DMV every time you need to renew, you are only required to do so at certain intervals, depending on the state you live in. For example, if you renewed online or via mail at the last opportunity, you may need to go in person at the next. If your license is expired or suspended, you will have to visit the DMV for a new one, too. You are required to do an in-person renewal in special circumstances:
    • You are over the State age limit (usually 65-75+)
    • You have medical conditions that impair vision or motor skills
    • You have recently changed your name or address
  • By mail: Generally, you will be notified within 30 days that your license is set to expire. This includes receiving a letter that contains forms that can be used to do so. Alternatively, you may want to pick up some renewal forms when you visit the DMV so that you can renew via the mail the next time.
  • By phone: Similarly to the mail situation, you will receive a notification that your license will expire soon. This should include a telephone number you can call along with a renewal identification number, which you will need to quote to the consultant.
  • Online: You will need to set up your login details with your local DMV portal beforehand. This will include entering all the pertinent details that go along with acquiring a license. Then, when renewal time rolls around, you simply need to log in then follow the prompts when you click on the appropriate tab. Unless any of your information has changed, it should be quick and painless.

Since each state has its own regulations, we strongly recommend familiarizing yourself with your state's regulations and renewal processes, long before expiry. You can also ask for an extension under special circumstances. Most DMV offices allow you to submit a request for renewal anytime within the final year of your license's validity. However, if you fail to do so, and will be out of state when your renewal period passes, you will have to submit a letter to your DMB with pertinent details, such as your name, license number, address, and out-of-state address, requesting the extension. If you plan on moving to a new state, you will have to surrender your license to the new local DMV and request a new one.

For those on active duty in the military, special exceptions are made. Their licenses do not expire, so long as they remain on duty. They also receive a grace period upon returning home or after an honorable discharge, which is generally between 30 to 90 days of leeway during which they can submit for renewal. However, if they are dishonorably discharged, their licenses are immediately considered expired.

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What You Need in Order to Renew Your License

Now that you know more about when and how to renew your driver's license, you also need to know what documents are required and what steps to follow. Here is a quick breakdown of the general list of requirements; however, keep in mind that every state has its own set of laws and regulations, so you should check with your local DMV or its website to clear up any doubts.

Generally, the process is rather painless, but in situations where you need to go into the DMV in person, it can get a bit more complicated. Luckily, you shouldn't be required to go in every single time, and you could submit via a remote method. Here's what admin and documentation you may need per renewal method:

  • Mail - Simply fill out the forms you receive in the mail or print the relevant forms from an online source. A valid credit card number will need to be provided to pay the fees. Some states may ask for proof of an eye test, too.
  • Phone - Quote your renewal identification number to the consultant (found on the mailed notice), answer any pertinent questions, and give them a credit card number to charge your fees.
  • Online - Your information should already be filled in, if you set up your account properly. Review it and confirm the payment of the fees. When you fill out your details for the first time or update them, you will need to include:
    • Your identity/social security number
    • Current name file with the DMV
    • Current address
    • Driver license number and control number
    • Credit card details

When remote applications are not viable, you will need to jump through a few more hoops. At the DMV, you will need:

  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of social security number
  • Proof of residency
  • A filled out renewal application
  • A suitable photo of yourselfonline
  • Proof of visual acuity (generally performed on-site)
  • Cash or credit card to pay fees

If you are reapplying for a license after it has expired or been suspended, you will also need to complete a written exam. Also, if you change your legal name, you will need to update your driver's license information accordingly.

DMV Renewal Online

Lost Your Driver’s License?

If your license is lost, stolen, or damaged to the point where it cannot serve its purpose, you will need to apply for a replacement. In the cast of theft, you will also need to report it to the DMV to avoid legal complications, such as those related to identity theft. If it was close to expiring, you can normally just request a renewal in the process. Otherwise, you will just get a replacement.

You may be required to provide more concrete proof of identity, though, to ensure there is no funny business involved. But who knows, with the future of cars leaning towards autonomous driving, there may be a time that the whole idea of driver's licenses have to be revisited, too.


What do you need to renew your license?

While states differ in their processes and requirements, it is best to take the following with you to your local DMV - remember to check whether you need to schedule an appointment: A completed application form, proof of identity and social security number, proof of residency, an eye test clearance certificate, and cash or a credit card to pay fees. You will also need the correct pictures of yourself, unless your state takes it on site.

Can I renew my driver’s license online?

Most States allow the option to perform an online renewal. However, you cannot use this option if you renewed via the online, mail, or telephonic method at the last renewal interval. Check with your local DMV's website to see if you are eligible for online renewal. In some states, those over a certain age may not renew by mail or online, and are required to appear in person.

How much does it cost to renew a car driving license?

The price of renewal depends on your vehicle code, but for a standard passenger car such as a Kia Optima or one of the more popular pickup truck models, you can expect to pay anywhere between $12.50 to $72.00, depending on the State.

How often do I need to renew my license?

Every state has its own term of validity. Vermont requires that you renew your license every two years, while in Arizona, the license is valid until the applicant's 65th birthday. However, if you are over the age limit for the state - usually between 65 - 75 - you will need to renew more regularly and often take an eye test with every application.

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