How Old Do You Have Be To Drive?
In the vast majority of countries around the world, you must be at least 18 years old before you can drive. In the United States, the driving laws are a little more relaxed and teens learn from the ages of 14 to 16 on average.
However, there are some caveats to that rule, and it's those that we will discuss in this article.
Learner's Permit vs Restricted License vs Full License
Although you can technically start driving when you're just 14 (in some states), you're not accorded the same freedoms as older drivers.
There are three types of driver’s licenses and these dictate what you can and can't do behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.
Also known as an instructional permit, a learner's permit is typically acquired after the young driver has completed at least 6 hours of practice and has received signed permission from a parent or guardian.
The exact rules and specifications vary depending on the driver's state.
A learner's permit gives a driver the right to supervised driving and allows them to learn the basics. Once they reach the minimum age, they can advance to the next step.
Restricted Driver’s License
A restricted driver’s license or intermediate license permits the driver to operate a vehicle without supervision but places several restrictions on them.
These restrictions vary by state but include a restriction on driving with passengers under the age of 21. If young passengers are present, the driver must acquire a signed note from a legal guardian or have adult supervision.
Full Driver’s License
Once they reach the minimum driving age in their state and assuming they have met the requirements, a young driver can apply for a full driver’s license.
Minimum Driving Age by State
Minimum driving ages vary from state to state. In South Dakota and North Dakota, you can apply for a learner's permit aged just 14 before moving on to a restricted license before your 15th birthday and a full license by the time you turn 16.
In Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and several other states, learner's permits are only offered to 16-year-olds, restricted licenses are available to 17-year-olds, and only those aged 18 or over can apply for an unrestricted license.
See the table below for a full list of driving ages in all states.
|State||Learner’s Permit||Restricted License||Full Driver’s License||Age for Renting a Vehicle|
|Alaska||14||16||16 and 6 months||21|
|Arizona||15 and 6 months||16||16 and 6 months||20|
|California||15 and 6 months||16||17||20|
|Connecticut||16||16 and 4 months||18||20|
|Delaware||16||16 and 6 months||17||21|
|District of Columbia||16||16 and 6 months||18|
|Hawaii||15 and 6 months||16||17||20|
|Idaho||14 and 6 months||15||16||20|
|Kansas||14||16||16 and 6 months||20|
|Kentucky||16||16 and 6 months||17||20|
|Maine||15||16||16 and 9 months||20|
|Maryland||15 and 9 months||16 and 6 months||18||20|
|Massachusetts||16||16 and 6 months||18||20|
|Michigan||14 and 9 months||16||17||20|
|Mississippi||15||16||16 and 6 months||20|
|Montana||14 and 6 months||15||16||21|
|Nevada||15 and 6 months||16||18||20|
|New Hampshire||15 and 6 months||16||18||20|
|New Mexico||15||15 and 6 months||16 and 6 months||20|
|New York||16||16 and 6 months||17 with classes or 18||20|
|North Carolina||15||16||16 and 6 months||20|
|Ohio||15 and 6 months||16||18||20|
|Oklahoma||15 and 6 months||16||16 and 6 months||20|
|Pennsylvania||16||16 and 6 months||17 with classes or 18||20|
|Rhode Island||16||16 and 6 months||17 and 6 months||20|
|South Carolina||15||15 and 6 months||16 and 6 months||20|
|South Dakota||14||14 and 6 months||16||21|
|Vermont||15||16||16 and 6 months||20|
|Virginia||15 and 6 months||16 and 3 months||18||20|
|Wisconsin||15 and 6 months||16||16 and 9 months||20|
|Wyoming||15||16||16 and 6 months||20|
How Old Must You Be to Rent a Car?
Most states require drivers to be at least 20 years old before they can rent a car. This has less to do with the license and more with the fact that younger drivers are in a higher risk category.
The exact age depends on the car rental company, as well as your state. The table above will give you a rough idea of what to expect but you should also consult with local car rental companies.
FAQs About The Minimum Driving Age
Here is a list of the most commonly asked questions about driving ages:
Can You Drive At 15 In the USA?
It depends on your state, as the rules vary by jurisdiction. However, 14-year-olds can acquire a learner's permit (known as a "provisional license" in other countries) in some states and advance to a restricted license shortly thereafter.
In What Country Can You Drive At 14?
As noted above, some US states allow drivers as young as 14 to operate motor vehicles. The same is true for some regions in Canada.
Can You Get Your Full License At 16 In NY?
You can get a learner's permit aged 16, but you can't become a fully licensed driver until you are 17.
Which State Has the Lowest Minimum Driving Age?
Montana, South Dakota, and North Dakota have some of the lowest driving ages in the United States. State laws allow drivers as young as 16 to obtain a full license.
Which State Has the Highest Minimum Driving Age?
In a handful of states, you must be at least 18 to get a full license. Such is the case in Texas, Illinois, Connecticut, Florida, and Nevada.
What is the Minimum Driving Age in Texas?
You can drive from the age of 18 in Texas, with a restricted license available much sooner.
What is the Minimum Driving Age in Florida?
Young drivers in Florida can pick up a permit from the age of 15 and a full license aged 18.
What is the Minimum Driving Age in California?
You can obtain a learner's permit aged just 15 and a half in California. However, you must be at least 20 to rent a car and can't get your full license until you are 17.
Can I Drive in a Foreign Country If I Have a US Driver's License?
All countries have their own driving laws and just because you have reached the minimum age and passed your driving test in the US doesn't mean you have the freedom of the roads in other nations.
You may need to apply for an International Driving Permit, which is recognized in most countries around the world. You need to be 18 to apply for this license.
In many other countries, a US passport and driving license is all you need, but you must also abide by the laws of the country you're in. If drivers are required to be at least 18, you likely can't drive at 16, even if you have a valid US license.
Of course, that's not the only issue you face. You'll likely need to rent a car, and you may struggle to find a rental company willing to hand a car over to a driver under the age of 20. In some countries, including the United Kingdom, you must be at least 23 before you can rent a vehicle and 25 before restrictions on vehicle types are lifted.