Michigan Driver's License: A Step-by-Step 2018 Guide

Learn what to expect and how to get behind the wheel faster.
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On this page: Types of licenses How to apply Knowledge test Road test Replace or renew New residents

How Does It Work?

Driving in Michigan will help you enjoy your life, football season and survive cold winters. To get a Michigan driver’s license, you are required to fulfil several age-based requirements. Here is a step by step guide that will help you save time and effort on the way while getting, renewing or transferring your driver’s license in Michigan.

Get a learner's license

Allows you to practice driving under supervision.

Get an intermediate license

Allows you to drive unsupervised with restrictions.

Get a Full (Adult) License

Allows you to drive with no restrictions.

Types of Driver's Licenses in Michigan

For each license type there's a corresponding type of instruction permit
Michigan Operator’s license
Operator’s license
It's the basic license that allows you to operate common cars. Read What Every Driver Must Know Guide and take a free MI SOS practice test.
Michigan Chauffeur’s license
Chauffeur’s license
It allows you to operate a motor vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 10,000 pounds or more for employment purposes. You will be able to work as a carrier of passengers or as a common or contract carrier of property, or a bus or a school bus operator. You will have to pass a chauffeur’s knowledge test.
Michigan Commercial driver license
Commercial driver license
It allows you to operate a single vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, a combination vehicle (towing a trailer or other vehicles with a GVWR of 10,001 pounds or more), to transport 16 or more people (including the driver), or carrying hazardous materials in amounts requiring placarding. Read the MI CDL Manual or take a free CDL practice test.
Michigan Motorcycle Endorsement
Motorcycle Endorsement
It allows you to operate a motorcycle. Read the MI Motorcycle Operator Manual and take a free MI Motorcycle practice test.

How to Apply for Operator's License in Michigan

To apply for operator’s license in Michigan for the first time, you must pass the vision and health standards test, knowledge test, and a driving skills test. This is your complete plan of action depending on your age.

How to Apply for Level 1 Learner’s License in Michigan

GDL Level 1 License (supervised learner's license) is the first step of Michigan Graduated Driver Licensing system which teaches teens to drive by gradually increasing their driving privileges. Level 1 license will allow you to operate a car supervised at all times by a licensed parent/guardian or any licensed driver at least 21 years of age if designated ( in written form) by your parent/guardian.

1GET YOUR PARENT/GUARDIAN PERMISSION TO ENROL IN DRIVER EDUCATION

You will need it to apply for the education course. You may start the course when you turn 14 years and 8 months.

2COMPLETE DRIVER EDUCATION SEGMENT 1

It includes:

  • 24 hours of classroom instruction
  • 6 hours of behind-the-wheel instruction
  • 4 hours of observation time in a training vehicle
  • 40-question Michigan Original Operator License Test. (a minimum of 70% required). Take free practice tests online before you go.

Driver education programs are provided by school districts and private driving schools. Click here for a list of approved driver education programs.

3RECEIVE A CERTIFICATE OF COMPLETION

You must present the green Certificate of Completion at a Secretary of State office.

4VISIT A SECRETARY OF STATE BRANCH OFFICE

You may schedule an appointment or reserve your spot in line with MI-TIME Line. Your parent/guardian must come with you to sign the application form.

5BRING DOCUMENTATION REQUIRED

You must bring proof of the following:

  • Your identity
  • US citizenship or legal presence
  • Social Security Number
  • Michigan residency (2 documents, may be in the parent's name)

Use this chart to choose documents correctly.

6PASS A VISION TEST

You must have visual acuity of 20/40, and a peripheral field of vision of 140 degrees or less to and including 110 degrees.

7GET YOUR LEVEL 1 LICENSE

There is no fee for this type of license.
Start preparing for Level 2 license right after getting your Level 1 license if you want to be able to drive unsupervised by the age of 16.

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How to Apply for Level 2 Intermediate License in Michigan

GDL Level 2 License (intermediate license) is the second step of Michigan Graduated Driver Licensing system. It allows you to drive without supervision with certain restrictions:

  1. No phone calls
  2. No driving between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
  3. No transporting more than one passenger who is less than 21 years old unless they are your immediate family members.

Exceptions to rule 2 and 3 include driving to or from work, or authorized activity (school-sanctioned activities, official sports league events, classes of vocational instruction, religious organization activities, transporting another person in case of emergency or personal protection). You may also disregard rule 2 and 3 if you are accompanied by a licensed parent/guardian or any licensed driver at least 21 years of age if designated (in written form) by your parent/guardian.

  1. PREPARE FOR DRIVER EDUCATION SEGMENT 2
    • Complete and log in at least 30 hours of the required 50 hours of behind-the-wheel practice driving with your parent/guardian. At least 2 hours must be at night.
    • Hold your Level 1 license for at least 3 months.

  2. ENROLL IN DRIVER EDUCATION

    Choose a driver education provider who is certified to teach teenagers. Check with your school or click here for a list of approved driver education programs. Your course must include at least 6 hours of classroom instruction and a written exam.

    You may need to present the following:

    • Your L1 license
    • Your driving log or parent certification of your driving hours
    • Segment 1 Certificate of Completion

  3. PREPARE FOR THE DRIVING SKILLS TEST

  4. SCHEDULE YOUR DRIVING TEST WITH A THIRD-PARTY PROVIDER

    Find a test provider near you. Note that test fees vary in different locations but you can expect to pay around $50.00.

  5. PASS THE DRIVING SKILLS TEST

    To pass, you must not get more than 25 points or receive an automatic failure. Read here ( ccылка вниз на road test) more about the driving skills test. If you fail, you can reschedule another test after 24 hours. If you pass, the examiner will issue a skills test certificate.

  6. APPLY FOR LEVEL 2 LICENSE AT A SECRETARY OF STATE BRANCH OFFICE

    You may schedule an appointment or reserve your spot in line with MI-TIME Line. Your parent/guardian must come with you to sign the application form.

  7. BRING DOCUMENTATION REQUIRED
    • Level 1 License
    • The white Segment 2 Certificate of Completion
    • Driving skills test certificate
    • Your driving log signed by your parent/guardian

    You must also bring proof of the following:

    • Your identity
    • US citizenship or legal presence
    • Social Security Number
    • Michigan residency (2 documents, may be in the parent's name)

    Use this chart to choose documents correctly.

  8. PASS THE VISION TEST

    You must have visual acuity of 20/40, and a peripheral field of vision of 140 degrees or less to and including 110 degrees.

  9. PAY THE FEE of $25.00

    You can pay by cash, check, money order. Discover, MasterCard and Visa are accepted , but a small fee is charged.

Your Level 2 license will be automatically upgraded to Level 3 (full) driver's license if you are 17 years of age and have held your Level 2 license for 6 months.

How to Get Your Level 3 Full Driver’s License in Michigan

Level 3 license is the last step of Michigan Graduated Driver Licensing system. It doesn't have any restrictions. GDL system ends for teens when they turn 18 years of age. You will be given full driving privileges if you are eligible.

1HOLD YOUR LEVEL 2 LICENSE

The minimum time for holding your Level 2 license is 6 months.

2TURN 17 YEARS OF AGE

3DRIVE CAREFULLY

For 12 consecutive months, you must stay violation and suspension free and without at-fault crashes.

4RECEIVE LEVEL 3 LICENSE BY MAIL

You don’t have to visit a Secretary of State office to upgrade to Level 3 license, it will be automatically mailed to your address on file. There is no fee.

Note that your parents/guardians may restrict your license to Level 2, Level 1 or even cancel it if they believe you are not ready for driving privileges. Your parent may complete and mail this form 30 days before your 17th birthday to prevent you from getting the full license.

How to Apply for Your Adult Driver’s License in Michigan

To get your first Michigan driver's license if you are 18 years of age or older and have never been licensed, you will first pass the written test, get a Temporary Instruction Permit and then pass the driving skills test. If you already have a permit, start with step 8.

1APPLY IN PERSON AT A SECRETARY OF STATE BRANCH OFFICE

You may schedule an appointment or reserve your spot in line with MI-TIME Line.

2BRING DOCUMENTATION

You must bring proof of the following:

  • Your identity
  • US citizenship or legal presence
  • Social Security Number or letter of ineligibility
  • Michigan residency (2 documents)

Use this chart to choose documents correctly.

3PASS THE VISION TEST

You must have visual acuity of 20/40, and a peripheral field of vision of 140 degrees or less to and including 110 degrees.

4PASS THE WRITTEN KNOWLEDGE AND ROAD SIGNS TESTS

There will be a total of 80 questions. To pass, you will have to score at least 70%. Check frequently asked questions about the written test and take free practice tests online before you go. If you fail the test, you can retake it 2 more times on a later date.

5PAY THE FEE of $25.00

You can pay by cash, check, money order. Discover, MasterCard and Visa are accepted, but a small fee is charged.

6HAVE YOUR PICTURE TAKEN

7RECEIVE YOUR TEMPORARY INSTRUCTION PERMIT (TIP)

It allows you to practice driving with a licensed adult for up to 180 days.

8PRACTICE SUPERVISED DRIVING

You must practice driving with a licensed adult for at least 30 days before you can proceed to the driving skills test. If you have a valid foreign driver's license, a license from another state or were previously licensed in Michigan, the 30-day practice period may be waived. Driver education is not required, but is highly recommended.

9SCHEDULE YOUR DRIVING TEST WITH A THIRD-PARTY PROVIDER

Find a test provider near you. Note that test fees vary in different locations but you can expect to pay around $50.00.

10PASS THE DRIVING SKILLS TEST

To pass, you must not get more than 25 points or receive an automatic failure. Read here more about the driving skills test. If you fail, you can reschedule another test after 24 hours. If you pass, the examiner will issue a skills test certificate.

11SUBMIT YOUR SKILLS TEST CERTIFICATE

You will have to visit a Secretary of State branch office again and provide:

  • Your driving skills test certificate
  • Your TIP
  • Identity documents (Use this chart to choose documents correctly.)

There’s no extra fee for getting the license.

Note that if this is your first license, you will be on probation for three years. If you are a resident with temporary legal presence, you will get a limited-term license.

Michigan Written Test (aka Knowledge Test)

Take a free practice test
Where do I take the test?
If you are 18 or older, you will take the test at the Secretary of State office while applying for a Temporary Instruction permit (TIP). If you are younger than 18, you will take Segment 1 and 2 paper tests at your school.
When is the good time to visit the Secretary of State office?
Make sure you arrive at least one hour before the office closure to have enough time for the test.
What does the test include?
It includes a knowledge test checking your knowledge of safe driving practices and traffic laws, and a road signs test. In total, there are 80 questions. 70% score is required to pass the test which is is administered on the computer (kiosks with a touch screen) The test questions are multiple choice and true-false.
How to prepare for the test?
Study What Every Driver Should Know Manual as all questions are based on the information provided there. Then prepare with the help of our free practice tests available here. When you feel comfortable with your score, you are ready! You can also download our free DMV Genie app to study on the go. Get it on the App Store or on Google Play.
What common errors must I avoid when taking the MI written test?
The most common mistake comes from not knowing enough information out of the manual. This happens when people study solely with practice tests. Make sure you read the manual first. Another problem is rushing through questions. Take your time and remember what you have studied.
Can I use the manual when taking the actual test?
No, it’s considered cheating. Moreover, you mustn’t use your phone or other wireless devices.
What happens if I fail the test?
You can still retake it 2 more times on a later date within 90 days. If you fail 3 times, your application will be closed, and you will have to apply again.
Can I take the test in another language?
Yes, printed translations of knowledge tests are available in many languages. Branch offices can also provide you with a list of available interpreters. To get the list in advance, call the Department of State Information Center at 888-SOS-MICH(767-6424).

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Road Test

Step-by-Step Guide
What to expect during MI road test
Road Test FAQ

Driving skills tests are administered by independent third-party testing organizations approved by the Secretary of State. Contact them directly to schedule your road test. The test may take 45- 75 minutes and always consists of 3 parts: vehicle inspection, basic control skills and on-street driving test.

Before the test

Before scheduling your appointment, learn about all the fees you'll have to pay. Note that fees differ and are not regulated by the Michigan Department of State.

Provide the following:

  • vehicle in safe working order
  • proof of valid insurance, registration and a license plate
  • your Michigan level 1 license, driving log and Segment 2 Driver Education completion certificate ( if under 18)
  • valid Michigan temporary instruction permit or foreign license with a validated road test receipt from the Secretary of State (if 18+)
  • an interpreter (if needed)
  • if under 18, your parent/guardian or legal representative must be in the vehicle with you
Vehicle Familiarization and Safety Inspection Test

This part of the test is not scored. Your examiner together with you will inspect specific components of your vehicle and check if your vehicle is safe for the test. The following equipment must be in working order:

  • Brakes
  • Brake lights, headlights, taillights
  • Driver and passenger doors work from the inside and outside
  • Fuel level
  • Heater/defroster
  • Only one lug nut may be missing per vehicle
  • Muffler
  • Mirrors (rearview and outside left)
  • Safety belts and seats
  • Speedometer
  • Tires (inflated, not damaged)
  • Turn signals (front and rear)
  • Windshield without cracks that obstruct driver's view
  • Windshield wipers and washers
Basic Controls Skills Test

    It takes about 10 minutes and involves 3 off-road exercises:

    • Forward Stop Line (stop your vehicle within 2 feet of the stop line without passing or touching it)
    • Y-turn (backing your vehicle from a 90-degree angle into a simulated driveway)
    • Parallel parking (driving by the entrance of a parking space located on the passenger side of your vehicle, then backing your vehicle into the space. Your car does not have to be evenly centered within the front and back boundary lines.)

    You will be penalized each time

    • your car touches an exercise boundary
    • you reposition your car to correct your path of travel

    The examiner will assess your final position each time as well.

    You must get no more than 6 errors to proceed to the next stage of the exam.

On-street Driving Test

In this part of the test, you will have to demonstrate your ability to drive safely in different traffic situations including city, residential and expressway driving. You are required to follow the examiner's instructions; the instructions will be given as far in advance as possible. During the whole test, you are required

  • to wear your safety belt
  • to obey all traffic signs, signals and laws
  • to complete all traffic checks by moving your head
  • to keep both hands on the steering wheel (unless shifting)
  • to avoid accidents and moving violations

The examiner will score you on the following maneuvers:

  • Left and right turns
  • Going through intersections that involve stopping and then driving straight through
  • Going through intersections that involve driving straight through without stopping
  • Expressway or rural highway driving (lane changes required)
  • Urban and residential driving (lane changes required)
  • Avoiding collision (simulated head-on collision)
  • Driving through curves
  • Railroad crossing (actual or simulated)
  • Turning a radio on and off while driving

Automatic Failures

You will fail the test automatically if you perform any of the following:

  • refusal to perform a maneuver
  • repeated failure to follow instructions
  • not wearing a seat belt
  • accident involvement or accident prevented by others
  • traffic violations or hazardous actions
  • failure to yield when required
  • speeding
  • following another vehicle too closely (one warning)
  • passing a stopped school bus with its red lights flashing
End of the Test
At the end of the test, your examiner will give you a test review that explains your errors. If you pass, the examiner will issue a skills test certificate, which you will bring to a Secretary of State office to get your license. If you fail the test, you will have to get the information about retesting. Usually, you may reschedule another test in 24 hours. The retesting fee will be required.

How to Renew Your Driver License in Michigan

  • The Department of State sends a renewal notice about 45 days before expiration. You may renew your driver's license at a Secretary of State office up to 12 months before the expiration date. If your renewal notice states that your license is not REAL ID compliant, you have to decide whether or not you want to apply for it. Check here if you need a REAL ID-compliant license. If you decide to get a REAL ID document, renew in person.

    Plan of Action:

    1. Visit a Secretary of State office. Find a location convenient for you. You may schedule an appointment or reserve your spot in line with MI-TIME Line.
    2. Provide documentation.

      You must bring proof of the following to get your first REAL ID license:

      1. US citizenship or legal presence (passport or other approved document)
      2. Name-change documents (if applicable) Make sure you get your name updated with the Social Security Administration and wait 3 business days before visiting a Secretary of State office.
      3. Social Security Number or letter of ineligibility (only if your renewal notice asks for it).

      If you renew a REAL ID license or want to receive a standard license, just bring your license or any other acceptable ID.

    3. Pass the vision test. (Have your glasses on you if used for driving.)
    4. Have your picture taken.
    5. Pay the fee of $18.00 by cash, check, money order. Discover, MasterCard and Visa are accepted, but a small fee is charged. Add a $7 late fee if renewing after the expiration date.

    You will also renew in person if

    1. Your Social Security number has not been verified by the Secretary of State office.
    2. Your name has changed.
    3. There is a change in your physical or mental condition.
    4. You renewed online or by mail last time.
    5. It has been more than four years since you last renewed in person.

    Note that you must take a written and road skills test if your driver's license has been expired at least four years.

  • If you are eligible to renew by mail, it will say so on your renewal notice. If the notice says "You cannot renew your license by mail," renew in person at a Secretary of State office.

    You may renew your valid Michigan driver's license by mail if all the following conditions apply:

    1. You are not listed on the sex offender registry.
    2. You did not renew by mail last time.
    3. Your Social Security number has been verified with the Social Security Administration.

    Plan of Action

    1. Note any address changes if needed.
    2. Provide your SSN.
    3. Sign the renewal notice.
    4. Add a check or money order for $18.00 payable to the State of Michigan.
    5. Mail the renewal notice and payment using the enclosed envelope, or mail to:
      Michigan Department of State
      7064 Crowner Dr.
      Lansing, MI 48980-0001

    Once your renewal application has been processed, your new license will be mailed to you. It is valid for up to four years.

  • You may renew your standard driver's license online only if you are a U.S. citizen and you renewed last time at a Secretary of State office. Online renewal is not available for enhanced driver's licenses.

    Plan of Action:

    1. Go to ExpressSOS and choose online renewal.
    2. Provide the last four digits of your SSN, your license number, date of birth and eye color
    3. Pay $18.00 by card ( a small fee will be charged for paying by card)

    Once your renewal application has been processed, your new license will be mailed to you. It is valid for up to four years.

New Residents: How to Get the Michigan Driver’s License

If you move to Michigan, you must transfer your current driver’s license as soon as your Michigan residency is established.
Out-of-state license Foreign license
Not sure if you are a resident of Michigan?
Are you a Michigan resident?

You're considered resident if you reside in Michigan and have established that you are legally present in the state.

Evidence of residency for driver license purposes includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Utility bill or credit card bill issued within the last 90 days
  • Mortgage, lease or rental agreement
  • Pay stub or earnings statement
  • Life, health, auto or home insurance policy

I’ve Got a Valid Out-of-State License

Moving from another US state? Welcome to Michigan!
Moving from another state?

You may use your out-of-state driver's license until your Michigan residence is established. To get your Michigan driver's license, visit a Secretary of State office. You may schedule an appointment or reserve your spot in line with MI-TIME Line.

Plan of Action
  1. BRING DOCUMENTATION

    You must bring proof of the following:

    • Your identity
    • US citizenship or legal presence
    • Social Security Number or letter of ineligibility
    • Michigan residency (2 documents)

    Use this chart to choose documents correctly.

  2. PASS THE VISION TEST

    You must have visual acuity of 20/40, and a peripheral field of vision of 140 degrees or less to and including 110 degrees.

  3. SUBMIT YOUR CURRENT DRIVER'S LICENSE

    It will be invalidated and given back to you as you may hold only one driver's license at a time according to Michigan law.

  4. HAVE YOUR PICTURE TAKEN
  5. PAY THE FEE of $25.00

    You can pay by cash, check, money order. Discover, MasterCard and Visa are accepted, but a small fee is charged.

driver's license in Michigan

Your New Michigan Driver’s license will arrive in the mail in about 3 weeks. It will be valid for 4 years or less if you have temporary legal presence in the US.

If your out-of-state license has been expired for at least 4 years, you will have to apply for a temporary instruction permit and pass a driving skills test. Learn here how to do it.

I've Got a Valid Foreign License

Moving from another country? Welcome to Michigan!

If you hold a driver's license from Canada, Germany or South Korea, you may convert your driver's license to a Michigan license without the written knowledge test, temporary instruction permit or driving skills test. The procedure is similar to converting an out-of-state driver's license.

If you hold a driver's license from another country, in most cases you will have to apply for an instruction permit and pass a driving skills test. Learn how to do it with the help of our step-by-step guide to Applying for Your Adult Driver's License in Michigan.

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