What is the Driving Age in Tennessee?

You have to be at least 15 years old to start the Graduated Drivers License program in Tennessee to get your unrestricted license at 18 years old.
Written by Macy Fouse
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Like most states,
has a Graduated Drivers License program (GDL) for
teenage drivers
, starting at 15 years old. This program has three phases to work through before gaining an unrestricted license at age 18. 
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What is the driving age in Tennessee?

Tennesseeans can’t hit the road until they’re at least 15 years old with a
Learner’s Permit
. At 16 years old, they can get a Restricted Licensed, then a
full Tennessee driver's license
at 18 years old

What is the Graduated Drivers License program in Tennessee?

Like most other states, Tennessee follows a
Graduated Drivers License program
(GDL), first implemented to make the roads safer for young drivers. According to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC), car accidents are the second leading cause of death for teens.
Tennessee’s GDL program contains three phases, each allowing young drivers to get more experience behind the wheel:
  • Learner permit stage: supervised driving
  • Intermediate restricted license stage: limited unsupervised driving
  • Intermediate unrestricted license stage: unrestricted standard driver’s license

How to get your learner’s permit in Tennessee

Teenage drivers under 18 must follow the GDL program through the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security (TDOSHS). Before you pop into one of the state’s
Driver Services Centers
, though, you’ll need to gather up all the required documents to apply for your permit.
Here are all the necessary steps and requirements for getting your learner’s license: 
  • You have to be at least 15 years old
  • Pass a standard vision test
  • A parent or legal guardian (with proof of guardianship) to sign the necessary forms
  • Proof of current school attendance in a Tennessee school
  • Pass the required road test 
  • Pay the $28 fee 
The knowledge exam will be based on the content found in
Tennessee Comprehensive Driver License Manual
, so make sure to study up! To get the green light, you’ll need to get 24 questions correct out of 30. If you don’t pass on your first try, you only have to wait seven days before retaking the test.  
If you pass, you’ll be the lucky new owner of a Tennessee learner’s permit

Learner’s permit restrictions

Having a Tennessee learner’s permit means you can drive under the following conditions:
  • You have a licensed driver in the front seat who is 21 years or older
  • You aren’t driving between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  • All passengers are wearing a seatbelt 
When you’ve got a learner’s permit, you have to have it for 180 days before graduating to the next level—the Intermediate Restricted License.

How to get your intermediate restricted license in Tennessee

Once you’ve had your learner’s permit for 180 days and you fit all the requirements, you can move up to the next stage in Tennessee’s GDL program. 
Here are all the requirements to get your intermediate restricted license:
  • You have to be at least 16 years old
  • You’ve had your Tennessee learner’s permit for at least 180 days 
  • You can’t have more than six points on
    your driving record
    in the 180 days before your application 
  • You need a
    verification form
    from a parent, guardian, or driving instructor confirming you’ve had 50 hours (at least 10 of them at night) of driving 
  • All
    required documents
    , including proof of U.S. citizenship, your Social Security Number, and two
    proofs of Tennessee residency
  • Pass the road skills test
Once you submit all of the necessary information to apply for your intermediate license, you’ll finally be in the driver’s seat—for the road test. Just schedule your test through a Driver Services Center nearest to you, then show off your safe driving skills. You’ll need to use the car you’ll be driving in real life, so make sure it’s up to the task.
Key Takeaway Remember to bring your learner’s permit, proof of required driving experience, and show up ready to take your driving exam before you can obtain your intermediate restricted license. 
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Intermediate restricted driver’s license restrictions

Ready to hit the road by yourself for the first time? You’re ready to go—as long as you know your new license limitations
The second level of Tennessee’s GDL program requires drivers to follow these rules with their intermediate restricted license: 
  • You can only carry one passenger with you
  • You cannot drive between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. 
  • All passengers must be wearing a seatbelt
Be sure to note that in “
Hands Free Tennessee
,” it’s illegal for all drivers to use a cell phone while driving, including holding a phone, reaching for a phone, sending a text, recording, or watching video while driving. When you turn 17, you’ll graduate to the final phase of the GDL program: the intermediate unrestricted license

How to get your intermediate unrestricted license in Tennessee

When you’re 17 and have held an intermediate restricted license for a year, you’re eligible to upgrade to the intermediate unrestricted license—as long as you haven’t accumulated six points on your record and you don’t have more than one seatbelt violation.
As the name of the license implies, there are no restrictions on this license other than all passengers must be wearing seatbelts. 


In Tennessee, if you’re at least 14 years old and are experiencing family hardship with specific needs, you may be able to qualify for a
hardship license
. Each application is considered on a case-by-case basis. In general, though, here are the restrictions for a Tennessee hardship:
  • You can only drive between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m.
  • You can only have immediate family members as passengers
  • You can drive up to 25 miles and only on the most direct route
  • You cannot tow other vehicles or trailers
  • You can only travel to necessary destinations, like work, school, or medical appointments. 

How to save on car insurance in Tennessee

With a Tennessee license in hand, the sky’s the limit—but not so fast! Before hitting the road, you need to make sure you’re set with proper
insurance coverage for a teen driver
. Lucky for you, the insurance comparison app
makes finding
cheap car insurance
in TN simple.
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licensed broker
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car insurance
Teen drivers can get stuck with sky-high rates, but average Jerry users save over $800 a year on coverage!
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In Tennessee, you can get an intermediate restricted license at 16—but only if you’ve had your learner’s license for 180 days, have proof of 50 hours (including 10 at night) of driving practice, and pass your road skills exam.
Yes! You can actually drive alone at 16 when you have your intermediate restricted license. Until you’re 17, you can only have one passenger with you—and you can’t be on the road between 11 pm and 6 am.
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