How to Get a North Carolina Learners Permit

You can apply for a learner’s permit in North Carolina as soon as you’re 15, but you’ll need to take a driver education course, first.
Written by Melanie Johnson
Reviewed by Pat Roache
Young drivers can apply for a learner’s permit in North Carolina as soon as they turn 15. However, you’ll need to take a driver education course before applying, which you can take as early as 14 ½. 
Like many other states, North Carolina uses a graduated driver’s licensing program. The first step in the program is securing your learner’s permit. If you’re wondering how you can apply for this important step, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’ll cover how to get a North Carolina learner’s permit, what you need to apply for, and the permit regulations. Let’s dig in.

How to get a North Carolina learner’s permit

To qualify for a learner’s permit in North Carolina, you must be at least 15 years of age
That said, don’t just head to the closest North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (NC DMV) office as soon as you turn 15! You must first enroll in an approved
North Carolina driver education course
, which you can start taking as soon as you’re 14 ½.  
The driver education course consists of two parts:
  • Thirty hours of classroom instruction and an eye exam
  • Six hours of behind-the-wheel instruction
You must be currently enrolled in high school or pursuing your GED to enroll. Upon completing the course, you will receive a Driver's Education Certificate, which you will present to the NC DMV to apply for your learner’s permit.
Pro Tip You’re never too young to start studying the
North Carolina Driver Handbook
, which will help you understand road signs and the rules of the road.  

What to bring to the DMV

Skip the line by
making an appointment
at your
local DMV office
. To apply for your limited learner’s permit, make sure to bring the following documents with you:
You’ll also need to be prepared to take and pass
written, sign, and vision tests
—that’s where that early studying of the North Carolina driver’s handbook will come in handy! 
MORE: How education level affects car insurance
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North Carolina learner’s permit regulations

Once you’ve presented your documents, passed the tests, and paid the $21.50 fee, you’ll have your limited learner’s permit—congratulations! You’re ready to hit the open road—but keep in mind that the permit comes with a few caveats.
North Carolina learner’s permits come with the following restrictions:
  • You must have the permit in your possession at all times when driving.
  • You must have a qualifying supervising driver in the front seat.
  • You may not have anyone in the front seat who is not your supervising driver.
  • For the first six months, you may only drive between the hours of 5 am and 9 pm. After the first six months, you may drive anytime with supervision.
  • You must ensure that all persons in your vehicle use seatbelts and/or child safety restraints
A supervising driver may be a parent, legal guardian, grandparent, or an adult approved by your parent or legal guardian. They must have been a licensed driver for at least five years.
Once you’re 16 and have held your limited learner’s permit for at least a year, you may apply for a limited provisional license. You will be required to pass a road test and log at least
60 hours of driving
North Carolina limited provisional licenses come with the following restrictions:
  • You must have the license in your possession at all times.
  • You must have a supervising driver (but they do not have to sit in the front seat) when driving between the hours of 9 pm and 4:59 am.
  • You may drive without a supervising driver when driving to and from work or from a volunteer fire department, rescue squad, or emergency medical services activity if you are a member.
  • You must ensure that all persons in your vehicle use seatbelts and/or child safety restraints.
Next, you can apply for a full, provisional
North Carolina driver’s license
once you’ve held your limited provisional license for at least six months. You must not have received any moving violations or seatbelt infractions during this time. 
You will have full driving privileges at this level—no more supervised driving! 
And that’s the process for applying for and securing a learner’s permit in North Carolina. To land the
cheapest car insurance
in the Tarheel State, be sure to compare quotes from at least three different insurance providers. Good luck!
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