Iowa 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?

If you are an Iowa driver, or would like to become one, you will need an Iowa driver's license. All you need to do is provide the correct documentation to the Iowa DOT, pass a knowledge test and demonstrate your ability to drive safely.To save you some time, here is a step by step guide that you will need to follow to get a driver's license in Iowa.

Get an instruction permit

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 Iowa

For each license type there's a corresponding type of instruction permit
Iowa Class C Driver's License
Class C - Operator (Non-Commercial)
It's the most common driver's license. It allows you to drive cars, trucks and pickups whose gross vehicle weight is 16,000 pounds or less. Read the IA Driver's Manual or take a free IA DOT practice test.
Iowa Class D Driver's License
Class D - Chauffeur (Non-Commercial)
It allows you to operate light straight trucks and small passenger-for-hire vehicles. It is required for taxi drivers, firefighters or farmers who drive a farm truck-tractor semitrailer combination. Read the IA Driver's Manual or take a free IA DOT practice test.
Iowa Class A/B/C Driver's License
Class A/B/C (Commercial)
Class A is for a combination vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 or more pounds where the GVWR of the towed unit is 10,001 or more. Class B is for a single-unit vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds and towing a unit with the GVWR of less than 10,001 pounds. Class C is for a single unit vehicle with a GVWR of 26,000 pounds or less and is designed to carry 16 or more persons--including the driver, or is carrying hazardous materials. Read the IA CDL Manual or take a free CDL practice test.
Iowa Motorcycle Driver's License
Class M – Motorcycle
It allows you to ride motorcycles. Read the IA Motorcycle Operator Manual or take a free IA motorcycle practice test.

How to Apply for Your Class C-Operator Driver’s License

To apply for a Сlass С driver’s license in Iowa you should collect the documentation required, pass vision screening and license tests. This is your step-by-step plan depending on your age.

How to Apply for Your Instruction Permit in Iowa

Instruction permit is the first step of graduated driver’s license (GDL) system for drivers under the age of 18. It will allow you to drive with adult supervision only. The responsible adult must be your parent, guardian, or an immediate family member at least 21 years of age, a driver education instructor, or a person at least 25 years with written permission from your parent or guardian. The adult supervisor must have a valid driver’s license.

1APPLY IN PERSON

You must apply on a walk-in basis at a driver’s license station convenient to you. Check this map to find a license station near you.

2BRING DOCUMENTATION

You will have to provide documents to verify your

  • Age and identity
  • Iowa residence
  • Social Security Number

Use this interactive guide to collect your documents quickly.

3PROVIDE PARENT CONSENT

Your parent or guardian can either visit a driver’s license station with you or complete the consent form beforehand if you are younger than 18.

4PASS THE VISION TEST

Its purpose is to make sure you have at least 20/40 vision in at least one eye, with or without corrective lenses.

5PASS THE KNOWLEDGE TEST

The test is administered by automated testing equipment using a touch screen. You will answer 35 multiple choice questions about road signs, traffic laws, and safe-driving practices. Practice online before you go.

6PAY THE INSTRUCTION PERMIT FEE OF $6.00

7RECEIVE THE INSTRUCTION PERMIT

The permit will be valid for 4 years. Now you may start supervised driving and prepare for the next step of the GDL system, which is the intermediate license.

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How to Apply for a Minor School License (Optional)

You should consider getting a minor school license only if you have to drive yourself to school. This license allows you to drive without supervision between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. only for the following:

  • to your school or school sponsored activities using the most direct route.
  • to a school that is not your school of enrollment for extracurricular activities conducted with your school.
  • to and from your home to the closest school bus stop.
  • to stop for fuel on route or at the closest station off route.

You must drive supervised by an adult for all other reasons.

  1. HOLD AN INSTRUCTION PERMIT FOR AT LEAST 6 MONTHS

    Your driving record must stay clean.

  2. LIVE ONE MILE OR FURTHER AWAY FROM SCHOOL

  3. COMPLETE AN APPROVED DRIVER EDUCATION COURSE

    The course includes 30 hours of classroom instruction and minimum 3 hours of behind the wheel practice.

  4. GET APPROPRIATE SIGNATURES

    Your parent or guardian AND your school principal, superintendent, or school board chair are required to sign your Affidavit for School License (form 430021). The form is available at a licensing office.

  5. APPLY IN PERSON

    You must apply on a walk-in basis at a driver’s license station convenient to you. Check this map to find a license station near you.

  6. PAY THE FEE OF $8.00

  7. RECEIVE YOUR MINOR SCHOOL LICENSE

    It will be valid for 2 years.

Note that you may also be required to pass a driving test.

How to Apply for Your Intermediate License

Intermediate license is the second stage of Iowa graduated driver’s license (GDL) system for 16 year olds. This license allows you to drive without supervision between 5 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. If you have to drive after hours for school or work purposes, your parent or guardian may complete form 431170 to waive this restriction. You must carry this form in the vehicle. For the first six months, passengers are limited to only one unrelated minor passenger unless, again, this restriction is waived by the parent/guardian.

  1. COMPLETE AN IOWA-APPROVED DRIVER ED COURSE

    The course must include 30 hours of classroom instruction and 6 laboratory hours with minimum 3 hours of behind the wheel practice. If you are home-schooled, your parent may teach this course at home.

  2. HOLD YOUR INSTRUCTION PERMIT FOR AT LEAST ONE YEAR

    You must drive without accidents and violations for 6 consecutive months immediately prior to applying for an intermediate license.

  3. LOG SUPERVISED DRIVING

    You are required to log 20 hours of supervised driving, at least 2 of them must be between sunset and sunrise.

  4. APPLY IN PERSON

    You must apply on a walk-in basis at a driver’s license station convenient to you. Check this map to find a license station near you.

  5. GET PARENT/GUARDIAN CONSENT

    Your parent or guardian can either visit a driver’s license station with you or complete the consent form in advance if you are younger than 18.

  6. BRING DOCUMENTATION

    You will have to provide documents to verify your

    • Age and identity
    • Iowa residence
    • Social Security Number

    Use this interactive guide to collect your documents quickly.

  7. PASS A DRIVING TEST IF REQUIRED

    Driving tests are administered mostly by appointment. Call a driver’s license station to make an appointment. You will have to provide a vehicle for the test.

  8. SURRENDER YOUR INSTRUCTION PERMIT AND PAY THE FEE OF $8.00

    Your new license will be valid for 2 years. Intermediate license will have the words “intermediate license” on it.

You may apply for your full (adult) driver’s license at the age of 17 if you:

  • hold your intermediate license for 12 months
  • log 10 hours of supervised driving; minimum of 2 hours must be between sunset and sunrise
  • drive without accidents and violations for 12 consecutive months immediately prior to applying for a full license.

Once you turn 18, you can obtain a full license without meeting the requirements above.

How to Apply for Your Full (Adult) Driver’s License in Iowa

You can get your full driver’s license at the age of 17 if you meet all the licensing conditions.

First timer? Start with Step 1.

Instruction permit holder? You must meet all conditions of intermediate license.

Intermediate license holder? You may apply for your full license at the age of 17 if you have held your intermediate license for 12 months, logged 10 hours of supervised driving; minimum of 2 hours must be between sunset and sunrise and had a clean driving record for the last 12 months. Once you turn 18, you can obtain a full license without meeting the requirements above.

1APPLY IN PERSON

You must apply on a walk-in basis at a driver’s license station convenient to you. Check this map to find a license station near you.

2BRING DOCUMENTATION:

You will have to provide documents to verify your

  • Age and identity
  • Iowa residence
  • Social Security Number

Use this interactive guide to collect your documents quickly.

3PROVIDE PARENT CONSENT IF UNDER 18

Your parent or guardian can either visit a driver’s license station with you or complete the consent form.

4PASS THE VISION TEST

Its purpose is to make sure you have at least 20/40 vision in at least one eye, with or without corrective lenses.

5PASS THE KNOWLEDGE TEST

The test is administered by automated testing equipment using a touch screen. You will answer 35 multiple choice questions about road signs, traffic laws, and safe-driving practices. Practice online before you go.

6COMPLETE AN IOWA-APPROVED DRIVER ED COURSE IF UNDER 18

The course must include 30 hours of classroom instruction and 6 laboratory hours with minimum 3 hours of behind the wheel practice.

7PASS A DRIVING TEST

Driving tests are administered mostly by appointment. Call a driver’s license station to make an appointment. You will have to provide a vehicle for the test.

8PAY THE FEE

$4.00 per year.
Until Dec. 31, 2018, Iowa driver’s licenses will be issued with a randomly assigned expiration date between five and eight years.

Iowa Knowledge Test aka Written Test

Take a free practice test
What does the test include?
There are 35 multiple-choice questions about road signs, traffic laws, and safe-driving practices. Choose one correct answer out of 3 options. All the material you need to take the test can be found in Iowa Driver’s Manual.
How is the test administered?
The exam is administered by automated testing equipment using a touch screen. Audio assist is also available.
Where and when can I take the test?
You can take it at any driver’s licensing station or county treasurer’s office. Find the one convenient to you here. No appointment is needed, but you should start testing no later than 30 minutes before the office closing time.
How to prepare for the test?
Study the IOWA DOT Driver's Manual and take free practice tests available here. 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 mistakes should I avoid?
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 driver’s manual when taking the actual test?
No. This is not an open book test. The purpose of the test is to make sure you understand and apply the rules of the road.
Can I take the test in any other language?
Yes. The exam is available in Albanian, Arabic, Bosnian, Burmese, Cambodian, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hmong, Italian, Korean, Laotian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Somali, Spanish and Vietnamese.

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Road Test

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

This exam will test your ability to drive safely and accurately and will last 15- 20 minutes.

Most offices require an appointment. Please call a driver licensing office near you to secure a spot. Choose a location from this list.

Before the test

You and your testing vehicle must be brought to the test site by a licensed driver unless you can legally drive in Iowa. He or she will not be able to stay in the vehicle when you are taking the driving test, though.

Your vehicle must have:

  • both front and back plates
  • a valid registration sticker on the license plate
  • the registration receipt
  • evidence of liability insurance

Your examiner will inspect your vehicle’s safety equipment including but not limited to

  • seat belts
  • lights
  • turn signals
  • horn
  • brake lights
  • tires
  • windshield wipers
During the test

During the test, the examiner will sit in the front seat with you. The examiner will give you directions and score your driving ability. You will not be asked to do anything unlawful. Just follow directions and show your ability to drive safely.

Make sure you do the following:

  • Fasten your seat belt
  • Use mirrors
  • Obey speed limits
  • Bring your vehicle to a complete stop at stop signs
  • Turn left and right safely
  • Obey the rules of the road
  • Change lanes safely
End of the test
    After the test, the examiner will explain your errors and let you know if you pass or fail. If you did not pass the test, the examiner will explain when and how you may take the test again.

How to Replace or Renew Your Driver License in Iowa

  • Your license expires on the expiration date printed on the license; however, the license is valid for driving for an additional 60 days after the expiration date. (This 60-day grace period does not apply to licenses that are issued to foreign nationals.)

    You can always renew your license in person at one of 100 Iowa issuance sites, but you must renew in person if you are not eligible to renew online.

    Plan of Action:

    1. Apply in person without an appointment.
    2. Bring your license and provide documents to verify your
      1. Age and identity
      2. Iowa residence
      3. Social Security Number.

      Use this interactive guide to collect your documents quickly.

    3. Pass the vision test.
    4. Surrender your current driver’s license
    5. Pay the fee of $4.00 per year.

      Until Dec. 31, 2018, Iowa driver’s licenses will be issued with a randomly assigned expiration date between five and eight years.

    6. Your new license will arrive by mail within 21 days. You can check its status here.

    If your license has been expired for more than one year and 60 days, you will have to pass the vision screening, and the knowledge and driving tests.

    You can also renew your license at a self-service kiosk if:

    1. you are between 18 and 70 years old
    2. you are a US citizen
    3. you don’t need to make any changes in your name, sex, class type or restrictions.

    Learn here how self-service kiosks work.

  • If you are temporarily out of state, are unable to renew your driver's license in person and are not eligible to renew online, you may apply for a temporary extension by mail.

    Note that the extension mustn’t exceed six months.

    1. Make a request in writing within 30 days before or 60 days after the expiration date.
    2. Provide an out-of-state address and/or out-of-state fax number.
    3. Mail or fax your request to:
      Driver & Identification Services
      Iowa Department of Transportation
      P.O. Box 9204
      Des Moines, Iowa 50306-9204
      Fax:  515-239-1837
  • You may renew online only if you meet all of the following qualifications:

    1. You have a valid Iowa driver’s license.
    2. You are at least 18 years old, but younger than 70 years old.
    3. Your license has not been expired for more than a year.
    4. It is less than 180 days to the renewal date on your current license.
    5. You are a U.S. citizen.
    6. You do not have any medical or vision conditions that would impact your ability to drive.
    7. You do not need to change your name printed on your license.
    8. Your current driver’s license was not renewed online.

    To renew online:

    1. Go to the DOT online renewal page.
    2. Have your driving license information handy
    3. Follow instructions on the website
    4. Pay the fee by card ($ 4.00 per year) and a $1.50 online processing fee.

    Your new driver’s license will be valid for 5-8 years (selected randomly) and  arrive by mail within 21 days. You can check its status here.

New Residents: How to Get an Iowa Driver's License

If you hold an out-of-state driver’s license issued by another state or country, you must normally apply for a driver’s license transfer when you become an Iowa resident.
Out-of-state license Foreign license
Not sure if you are an Iowa resident?
Are you an Iowa resident?

You are considered an Iowa resident if you have

  • registered to vote in this state
  • enrolled your children in public school
  • accepted a permanent job in the state
  • lived in Iowa continuously for 30 days
Residing temporarily?
Are you visiting Connecticut

Good news! If either of the following applies to you, you do not require an Iowa driver’s license.

  • You are a student or visitor and have a current license from your home state or country.
  • You are driving a military motor vehicle while on duty with the U.S. Armed Forces.
  • You are driving farm equipment between the home farm and any nearby (not more than two miles) farmland or farm operation.

I’ve Got a Valid Out-of-State License

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

You must transfer your driver’s license on a walk-in basis at a driver’s license station convenient to you. Check this map to find a license station near you. You won’t have to take a knowledge or driving test if your current license issued by another state is valid or expired less than a year ago.

Plan of Action
  1. Bring documentation to verify your
    • Age and identity
    • Iowa residence (2 documents)
    • Social Security Number.

    Use this interactive guide to collect your documents quickly.

  2. Take a vision test. Its purpose is to make sure you have at least 20/40 vision in at least one eye, with or without corrective lenses.
  3. Pay the fee of $4.00 per year.
  4. Have your picture taken.
  5. Surrender your out-of-state driver’s license.
driver's license in Iowa

You will receive your new Iowa driver’s license by mail within 21 days. Note that until Dec. 31, 2018, Iowa driver’s licenses will be issued with a randomly assigned expiration date between five and eight years.

I've Got a Valid Foreign License

Moving from another country? Welcome to Iowa!

The procedure for transferring your foreign driver’s license is similar to applying for a new driver’s license in Iowa. It means that you will have to take a vision, knowledge and driving test to obtain a license. Follow the full procedure here.

However, if you hold a valid driver’s license from Germany, France or South Korea, the procedure of getting an Iowa driver’s license is similar to transferring an out-of-state driver’s license and doesn’t require knowledge and driving tests. Follow the procedure here.

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