Tennessee Driver’s License Requirements

If you’re at least 15, you can get your Tennessee driver’s license by passing your tests, showing proof of identity and social security, and paying a small fee.
Written by Claire Beaney
Edited by R.E. Fulton
To obtain your
driver’s license, you must be at least 15 years old and be able to provide valid identification, your full Social Security number, and two forms of proof of address.
  • You must be at least 15 years old to get a license in Tennessee.
  • You have to pass a vision test, a knowledge test, and a road test.
  • Bring your own car, proof of Tennessee car insurance, and proof of residency.
  • The fee for a standard driver’s license is between $5.50 and $28.

How to get a TN driver’s license

If you are a
new driver over 18
and you’re getting your license for the first time in the state of Tennessee, here’s what you can expect:

Pass the vision test

You will need to pass a vision screening test that shows you have at least 20/40 vision when using each individual eye and both eyes together. 
You can take the test at the
Drivers Service Center
either with or without your glasses or contacts. If you are unable to successfully take the vision test, you can have the eye specialist of your choice fill out an eye statement for the Department to evaluate. 

Pass the knowledge exam

The written test portion of the Tennessee Driver License exam consists of approximately four equal sections: 
  • Traffic signs and signals
  • Safe driving principles
  • Rules of the road
  • Drugs and alcohol 
The test is multiple choice and is based on information provided in the
Tennessee Comprehensive Driver License Manual
, so make sure you study! It doesn’t state this in the manual, but sources report that the test consists of 30 questions, and you need to get 24 of them correct—or 80%.
If you don’t pass the test, don’t be discouraged! There is a mandatory seven-day waiting period before you can take it again, so you’ll have plenty of time to study and ace it next time. 

Pass the road skills test

You’re almost at the finish line! The final hurdle is your driving test, which you will need to schedule at the TDSHS Driver Services Center of your choice. 
Bring your own vehicle, and make sure that it’s in good condition and meets all the safety and registration requirements in Tennessee. You’ll need to pass this test no matter if you’re getting a standard or
commercial driver's license (CDL)
During the test, you will be required to demonstrate your ability to use various vehicle functions such as safety belts, brakes, headlights, wipers, mirrors, and the horn. The instructor will instruct you and evaluate your ability to:
  • Prepare to drive and start your vehicle
  • Control your vehicle and drive in traffic
  • Handle intersections and make right and left turns
  • Obey the traffic signals and posted signs
  • Stop and back up
  • Judge distance and change your speed to suit the situation
  • Communicate with other drivers and share the road
Following that, the examiner will go over any mistakes and offer suggestions for improvement. If you fail, they will tell you when you can retake the test based on your point loss.

Requirements for a Tennessee driver’s license

Age: You need to be
at least 15 years old
to get your driver’s license or
learner’s permit in Tennessee
Documents: Driver license applicants must bring these required documents to the DMV to apply for a license. 
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or legal presence: This can be a U.S. birth certificate, a valid U.S. passport, or a Permanent Resident Alien Card.
  • Proof of your full Social Security number: Your Social Security card, a W-2, or payroll check stub will fit the bill here.
  • Two proofs of Tennessee residency
    : Current utility bills, bank statements, or rental/mortgage paperwork are among the accepted documents—note that each document must have your full name and current address.
Refer to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security (TDSHS) website for a complete list of acceptable documents for
proof of citizenship/legal presence
proof of residency
. All documents must be originals—photocopies are not acceptable.

Requirements for young drivers

For teen drivers under the age of 18, Tennessee has a
Graduated Driver License Program. Here are the basics of each level:
  • Phase 1 (Tennessee Learner Permit): Applicants must be 15 years old and pass a vision and knowledge test. You must show school attendance, satisfactory grades, and financial responsibility from a parent or legal guardian. 
  • Phase 2 (Intermediate Restricted Driver License): You must be 16 years old, have a 180-day Learner Permit, and pass a road test. Also required:
    signed documentation
    of 50 hours of driving practice.
  • Phase 3 (Intermediate Unrestricted License): You must be 17 years old and have a one-year Intermediate Restricted Drivers License. After turning 18 or graduating high school, you get a Regular Class D License. 
Unfortunately, Tennessee law prohibits the issuance of a driver’s license to high school dropouts under the age of 18.

Requirements for out-of-state drivers

If you are temporarily visiting Tennessee and you have a valid driver’s license from another state, you don’t need to do anything additional to legally drive.
If you are moving or returning to Tennessee, then you have 30 days to get a new Tennessee license. As long as your out-of-state license is current, you’ll just need to pass the vision test and pay the fees. If your license has been expired for more than six months, you’ll need to pass the knowledge exam and road test again. 

Different types of Tennessee driver’s licenses

Driver's licenses in Tennessee are classified into several types.
CDL licenses are available in three classes: Class A for commercial vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds, Class B for vehicles weighing more than 26,001 pounds (with towed vehicles weighing no more than 10,000 pounds), and Class C for transporting 16 or more people or hazardous materials.
Class D licenses, also known as regular driver's licenses, are for standard non-commercial vehicles. Class M is needed if you want to drive a motorcycle.
Class H/HX are hardship cases (available beginning at the age of 14) for drivers whose families are experiencing hardship and have specific needs. Finally, Class XD/XM is granted to drivers for a specific purpose and period of time by the government.
On top of those, all Tennessee drivers will need a
Tennessee REAL ID
after May 7, 2025. These are needed to enter nuclear power plants, federal facilities, and federally regulated commercial aircraft, including domestic flights. While the first two may not apply to most people, Tennessee residents who fly domestically should upgrade their license to a REAL ID for TSA checkpoints.

Renewing your Tennessee driver’s license

You can
renew your Tennessee driver’s license
either online, by mail, or in person
Online renewal of your standard Class D license requires U.S. citizenship, a valid driver's license (issued after January 1, 2001), and no name change since your last renewal. Personal identification and a $28 processing fee are required to complete the online process.
In-person renewal at the DMV may be required in specific cases, including if you’re updating your photo ID, are a non-U.S. citizen, or are upgrading to a REAL ID.

Replacing your Tennessee driver’s license

If you’re just looking to
replace your Tennessee driver’s license
, you have two options: online or in person.
If you want to do it online, visit the
tn.gov online services page
and follow the instructions listed there. You'll need to show proof of identity, as well as personal information like your Social Security number and ID number. 
Visit a Tennessee Driver Service Center if you'd rather get a replacement in person. Bring IDs, personal information (like your SSN), and proof of address.
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