How to Get a Washington Learner's Permit

You can enroll in driver’s training as early as 15, or wait until you’re 15 ½ to take a knowledge test for your Washington state learner’s permit.
Written by Cameron Thiessen
Reviewed by Pat Roache
In Washington state, you need to be at least 15 1/2 before you can get your Washington learner’s permit. You can pre-apply for the permit as soon as you turn 15 if you opt to take a driver training course. Alternatively, you’ll have to wait until you’re 15 ½ if you want to take the knowledge test to get your permit before driver’s ed.
Getting a learner’s license is a big life moment, but you don’t need to be nervous! We’ll go over all the steps you need to take to get your Washington state learner’s permit as well as important rules you’ll need to be aware of.

How to get a Washington learner’s permit

Washington driving age
to get a learner’s permit is 15 ½, but you can
for your instruction permit by enrolling in a driver’s education course via the
Washington State Department of Licensing (WA DOL) website
as early as 15. You must wait until 10 days or less before your driving training course starts to pre-apply. Make sure that you’re taking driver’s education from a
licensed training school
You’ll need to pass a
knowledge test
to get your instruction permit. You can take it before, during, or after taking a driver training school program. If you’ve chosen to delay driver’s ed, you’ll need to wait till you're 15 ½.
You’ll need to pre-apply for the test online if you don’t already have a WA ID card. Or, you can simply make an appointment at your local WA DOL office if you already have a WA ID card with a WDL number. If you are currently in driver’s ed, you must submit a waiver form certifying to the DOL confirming that you are taking the course and delaying the knowledge test requirement until it is completed.
The knowledge test consists of 40 multiple-choice questions, and you need to get at least 32 correct (80%) to pass. If you don’t pass, you might need to wait a certain amount of time before being allowed to take the test again. Before going to take the test, make sure to study the
driver guide
—the questions on the knowledge test are based on material from this guide. The driver guide is available online in English, Spanish, Traditional Chinese, Korean, Russian, Vietnamese, and Japanese.
To take the knowledge test, you’ll need to pay a fee, which will vary depending on
where you take your test
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What to bring to WA DOL

Once you’ve pre-applied, you’ll be assigned a WDL number, allowing you to schedule your knowledge test. you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared for the trip.
The primary thing that you’ll need to bring is adequate
proof of identity
documents. There are multiple options for providing proof of identity, but you can provide fewer documents if you are accompanied by your parent or guardian at the DOL. Your parent or guardian must provide proof of identity, too.
Here is the full list of valid proof of identity documents
You’ll also need your Social Security number (SSN) if you have one. Documents cannot be copied, scanned, or photographed.
MORE: How education level affects car insurance

Washington learner’s permit regulations

Once you have your learner’s permit, you’ll only be allowed to drive with proper supervision. Here are the regulations to be aware of when driving with a learner’s permit:
  • You must always be accompanied by a licensed driver with at least 5 years of driving experience in the front seat.
  • All passengers must be wearing seatbelts
  • You cannot use a phone or mobile device while driving unless you have to call 911. Also, note that your Washington instruction permit may not be accepted in another state.
Your instruction permit isn’t technically a driver’s license, because it doesn’t allow you to drive without supervision. Here’s the full list of requirements you’ll need to meet before taking your driving test for a license:
  • You need to be at least 16 when you are issued your license.
  • You must be a Washington resident.
  • You’ll need to have passed an approved driver training course, including 30 hours of classroom time, 6 hours of on-road driving instruction, 40 hours of daylight and 10 hours of nighttime driving practice with someone who has had a driver's license for five years or more.
  • You need to have had your WA instruction permit for at least 6 months.
  • Your driving record must be free of traffic violations within six months and alcohol/drug offenses for the entirety of the time you’ve had your instruction permit.
So if you want to get your
Washington driver’s license
as fast as possible, let’s look at the big picture. You might as well start by enrolling in driver’s ed and pre-applying for your instruction permit as soon as you turn 15 so you can pass your knowledge test as soon as possible. Then, you’ll be able to get the most practice time in before you have to ace your driver’s test.
It might be difficult to get your driver’s license right when you turn 16 since you need to have your instruction permit for at least six months and fulfill all the education and practice requirements, but it is possible! Good luck!
MORE: How to get cheap car insurance for young drivers
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