Tennessee Driver’s License Requirements

To get your Tennessee driver’s license, you’ll need a valid ID and SSN, proof of residence, and successful completion of the road, vision, and knowledge tests.
Written by Amber Reed
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
Updated on Mar 23, 2023
To obtain your Tennessee 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. The fee for a Regular Class D Driver’s license is $28, and a Learner Permit is $5.50 to $10.50.
Getting your license to drive is a time-honored rite of passage and something that most of us eagerly look forward to. The process changes from state to state and can be a little complicated depending on where you live and what your circumstances are. 
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What are the requirements for a driver’s license in Tennessee?

You need to be at least 15 years old to get your driver’s license or learner’s permit in Tennessee. Locate the
Driver Services Center
that is convenient for you, then round up and bring the following documents: 
  • 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 types of proof 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.
Tennessee law stipulates that there are certain individuals who are not eligible for a driver’s license in Tennessee. These include those that the Commissioner has reason to believe are not able to safely operate a motor vehicle due to physical or mental disabilities, those who don’t provide proof of financial responsibility, or “habitual drunkards” and drug addicts.

What are the requirements for young drivers? 

Tennessee’s Graduated Driver License Program is a
three-phase process
for drivers under the age of 18. Reference TDSHS’s website for the full details of each phase, but here are the basics:
  • Phase one—Learner Permit: you must be at least 15 years of age and pass a vision and knowledge exam. You will also need to have a parent or guardian present to provide proof of financial responsibility, and you must submit proof of school attendance and satisfactory grades. 
  • Phase two—Intermediate Restricted Driver License: you must be 16, have held your Learner Permit for at least 180 days, and pass a road test. You must also have
    signed documentation
    of 50 hours of driving experience.
  • Phase three—Intermediate Unrestricted Driver License: you must be 17 years old and have had your Intermediate Restricted Drivers License for one year. When you turn 18 or graduate High School, you automatically move to a Regular Class D License. 
Tennessee law prohibits high school dropouts under the age of 18 from getting a driver’s license. 

What are the requirements for out-of-state drivers? 

If you are just visiting Tennessee and have a valid driver’s license from another state, you don’t need to do anything additional to legally drive (as long as you have your license with you.) 
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 as well. 
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How to get a driver’s license in Tennessee

Start by familiarizing yourself with the
Tennessee Comprehensive Driver License Manual
. This has detailed information on all the various types of licenses and the steps needed to get each one. But let’s assume you are over 18 and getting your class D license for the first time. Here’s what you can expect:

Vision test

Tennesseeing is Tennebelieving! You’d better believe you need to see properly to drive safely.
You will need to pass a vision test that shows you have at least 20/40 vision when using each individual eye and both eyes together. 
You can take the test 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. 

Knowledge exam

The knowledge portion of the Tennessee Driver License exam consists of approximately four equal sections: traffic signs and signals, safe driving principles, rules of the road, and 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. 

Road test

You’re almost at the finish line! The final hurdle is your road 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. Arrive 15 minutes early to make sure you have time to complete any paperwork. 
You will need to demonstrate your ability to use the following on your vehicle:
  • Safety belts
  • Brakes (regular and emergency)
  • Headlights (high and low beams), tail, and brake lights
  • Windshield wipers, windshield defroster, and fan control
  • Rearview mirrors
  • Horns
During the exam, the instructor will be giving you instructions to follow and evaluating you on how you:
  • 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 to other drivers and share the road
Upon completion, your examiner will go over any errors you may have made and what you need to do to correct them in the future. If you didn’t pass, the amount of time until you are allowed to take the test again depends on how many points you lost on the exam. 
If you passed, hooray! You just need to pay the $28 fee and you’re golden. You’ll get a temporary license to use until your shiny new permanent one arrives in the mail. 

How to save money on car insurance in Tennessee

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