What is the driver’s license renewal process?

The driver’s license renewal process differs from state to state, but you will likely need to provide five to six points of identification for renewal. Some states add requirements, like vision or written exams for license renewal. Also, you may need to pay a fee for renewal or to receive a replacement driver’s license. Always keep your driver’s license current to avoid a license suspension and higher auto insurance rates.

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Written by Rachel Bodine
Insurance Feature Writer Rachel Bodine

Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insurance...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years Leslie Kasperowicz

UPDATED: Jun 6, 2022

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What You Should Know

  • Most states have three to seven basic steps for their driver’s license renewal process
  • Depending on your state, you may only need to present your current license for documentation
  • If you allow your license to expire, you may need to undergo extra testing or re-apply for a DL

What is the driver’s license renewal process like in your state, and what do you need to expedite the process? Also, how can you apply for a replacement driver’s license?

As with many things involving driver’s licenses, states have their unique processes and requirements. Also, there are special rules for minors and seniors past the age of 65.

That said, states generally follow similar guidelines in their driver’s license renewal processes. And they often require the same types of documents to prove your identity.

Whatever you do, you will need to prepare for the process and be careful not to let your license expire before renewal. There are consequences to having a lapse in your license status, including increased rates for auto insurance in your state.

Read on to know more about the driver’s license renewal process. We will discuss fees and special requirements, among other things. And if you need to see quotes from top auto insurance companies in your area, enter your ZIP code into our free quote tool above.

What is the driver’s license renewal process like in general?

The driver’s license renewal process in your state will generally go like this:

  • Fill out and submit a driver’s license renewal form
  • Provide all your required documentation
  • Surrender your current state driver’s license
  • Get your photo taken
  • Pay a renewal fee
  • Receive your temporary DL and wait for the official card
  • Contact your state Department of Motor Vehicles or its equivalent if you do not receive your official DL within a specified period

Note that states may require you to submit biometric information or take vision, knowledge, or other specific tests, among other things.

Also, some states allow you to initiate the process online or by mail. However, in most cases, you will need to complete the process in person so a DMV clerk can take your picture and help you create a digitized signature for your license.

The process to replace a lost or stolen driver’s license is like the renewal process. However, you need to report the status of your license. In many cases, you may initiate the process online or by mail. However, you will likely need to complete the process in person.

Below is some state-specific information.

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Driver’s License Renewal Periods

Here are the renewal periods for each state, plus the District of Columbia:

Standard Driver’s License Renewal Period

StateRenewal Period (in Years)
Arkansas4 or 8
District of Columbia8
Idaho4 or 8
Mississippi4 or 8
New Hampshire5
New Jersey4
New Mexico4 or 8
New York8
North Carolina5 or 8
North Dakota6
Rhode Island2-5
South Carolina10
South Dakota5
Virginia5 or 8
West Virginia5
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* Arizona requires drivers to update their DLs every 12 years until they turn 65, and then their DLs expire.

Also, note that senior drivers often have shorter renewal periods in most other states. Additionally, younger drivers (those under 21 years old) may have even shorter renewal periods than what is listed above.

Special Requirements

Most states have special requirements for drivers who are renewing their licenses. For example:

  • California requires a thumbprint, vision test, and a written test for renewals
  • Colorado requires a written exam and road skills test for drivers who let their DLs lapse for more than a year. Also, all drivers must undergo vision screenings
  • The District of Columbia requires a knowledge test or traffic school course after a 365-day lapse. Drivers must take a knowledge test or road skills test after a 545-day lapse
  • In Missouri, seniors at least 70 years old must take a road sign recognition test and vision test

Additionally, most other states require vision screenings or exams, especially for drivers aged 40 years or older.

Driver’s License Renewal and Replacement Fees

Of course, all states set their licensing fees. If you lose your license, you will likely pay a license replacement fee as well. Renewal fees tend to be nominally lower than the fee for an original license.

Standard Driver’s License Renewal and Replacement Fees

StateRenewal FeeReplacement Fee
District of Columbia$47$20
Idaho$35Not specified
Indiana$21.35Not specified
New Hampshire$50-$60$10
New Jersey$24$11
New Mexico$18- $34$18-$34
New York$64.50-$80.50$17.50
North CarolinaNot specified$14
North DakotaNot specified$8
Rhode Island$22.50-$62.50$27.50
South Carolina$25$10
South Dakota$28$15
Virginia$32 ($10 Real ID fee)$20
West Virginia$5.50-$25.50 ($10 Real ID fee)Not specified
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In many cases, the lower fees are for seniors. Also, some states waive renewal fees for veterans, seniors, or others with specific distinctions.

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What do I need to renew my license or replace it?

In other words, what type of documentation do you need to provide for renewal or replacement?

In some states, all you need to provide is your current license for renewal. License replacement will require other forms of identification. But in general, you need to prove your identity in a few ways.

For example, the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles requires that drivers present valid documentation that confirms the following:

  • Full legal name
  • Date of birth
  • Legal presence in the United States
  • Social Security number
  • Ohio street address
  • Proof of name change (if applicable)

That is generally the same across the states.

For an example of the extra documentation a driver might need to provide, here are some suggestions based on Arizona’s requirements:

  • One primary document – Primary documents include a current driver’s license, a birth certificate, a passport, and a passport card
  • One secondary document – Secondary documents include an employee ID, a school ID, and a health insurance card
  • Proof of residence – This documentation can include a current utility bill, a paycheck stub, mortgage documents, and rental documents
  • Proof of name change (if applicable) – However, to change your name with your state’s DMV, you must update your Social Security card first
  • Immigration status documents for non-U.S. citizens – For example, a non-U.S. citizen may need to present a permanent resident card

In states like California, you may need to bring a DMV renewal notice when renewing in person. However, you might not even need to present extra documentation unless you apply for a Real ID.

What happens if I do not renew my driver’s license in time?

Generally, you need to renew your driver’s license before your birthday, within the renewal period. In some states, when drivers allow their licenses to lapse for a year or more, they will need to undergo more testing or re-apply for a driver’s license.

However, some states have grace periods whereby drivers have weeks or a couple of months before getting their renewal licenses. A state like Alaska does not grant you a grace period.

Even though most states have a grace period, you may not drive without a valid and current license afterward. Doing so is a serious traffic violation, and you can get points on your DL and have it suspended.

Also, with points on your licenses, your auto insurance rates will increase. Additionally, your auto insurance company might deny your claim if you get into an accident. In short, you do not want to know what happens if you get caught driving with an expired license firsthand.

Is there any other advice for renewing my driver’s license?

Here are a few tips for you before you renew your license:

  • Check your state’s requirements for license renewal by visiting your state DMV’s website. USA.gov has a handy tool to help you find the website.
  • When you are initiating the process, take the opportunity to ask questions about the documents you need to provide. Some state websites have a virtual assistant, or you can contact the DMV via mail or phone.
  • Be prepared to get your Real ID. According to the Transportation Security Administration, you will need a Real ID starting on May 3, 2023, to fly within the United States.

And once again, never let your driver’s license expire early. Keeping a current license will help your driving record keep your auto insurance rates manageable.

We hope we have helped you understand the driver’s license renewal process better. And if you’re ready to see rates from top auto insurance companies in your area, enter your ZIP code into our free quote tool below.

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