California Driving Test 2021: DMV Requirements, Maneuvers & Tips

What is the minimum age you can take the driving test?

You must be at least 16 years old to take the driving test in California.

When can I take the CA driving test?

If you are under 18 years old, you can take the driving test once you have passed the permit test and practiced driving for at least six months, under supervision. You must also have completed:

  • Six hours of behind-the-wheel training with a certified instructor
  • At least 50 hours of supervised driving which must include at least 10 hours at night

How much does the driving test cost?

It currently costs $38 to take the California driving test. You can check for changes to application fees by visiting the DMV website at www.dmv.ca.gov.

Do I need to make an appointment to take the driving test?

Yes. You can book your driving test by calling 1-800-777-0133 or online at www.dmv.ca.gov.

What documents should I bring to the driving exam?

You must bring your California instruction permit, a parent, guardian, spouse or adult 25 years of age or older, who has a valid California DL, and proof of financial responsibility. The instruction permit must be signed by a driving school instructor, you must also bring your six hour behind-the-wheel certificate of completion.

Do I need to bring my own car to the driving test?

Yes, the DMV will not provide a vehicle for you to take the driving exam. You must bring your own vehicle. If you do not have a vehicle available to you, contact your local driving school to arrange for an instructor to accompany you. It is usually acceptable to use a parent, spouse or sibling’s car during the driving test but this may not be permitted in all cases. If in doubt, contact a DMV representative to discuss your options.

Can I drive to my driving test appointment alone?

No. Prior to passing your driving test you are not permitted to drive alone under any circumstances. You must be accompanied to the DMV test center by an a parent, guardian, spouse or adult 25 years of age or older, with a valid California driving license.

What documents can I bring to prove financial responsibility?

You must be able to demonstrate that your vehicle is properly insured before starting the driving test. You can do so with one of the following:

  • An insurance document which includes a policy number
  • An insurance policy or copy of an insurance policy, signed or countersigned by a representative of your insurance provider
  • An assigned risk insurance card which includes coverage dates, file number and the name of the insuring company
  • An acknowledgement of self-insurance or of a cash deposit, issued by the DMV
  • A letter from your insurance provider stating that the vehicle is insured
  • A rental vehicle contract which lists you as an insured driver

What are the test vehicle requirements?

The vehicle you bring to your driving test must have:

  • Two license plates including a rear plate that displays current registration
  • Clean and functioning turn signals and brake lights
  • A functioning horn
  • Tires without bald spots
  • Functioning brakes with sufficient pressure
  • Functioning parking brake
  • Working safety belts
  • A windshield that allows an unobstructed view of the road for both you and the DMV examiner
  • A glove compartment that can be securely closed
  • A driver’s side window that can be rolled down
  • Two rear view mirrors, one of which must be outside and on the left of the vehicle
  • Front doors that can be opened from the inside and outside

You will be asked to reschedule your exam if you attend the test appointment in a vehicle which does not meet these criteria.

What can I expect during the California driver’s test?

When you arrive to take your driving test, the examiner will check that your documents are in order and that your vehicle is fit for use during the exam. You will then spend a few minutes demonstrating that you know your way around the in-car controls. The examiner will sit next to you during the driving portion of the exam, directing you to make turns and maneuvers as necessary.

What driving maneuvers will I be expected to perform?

The CA road skills test will focus on basic actions you need to perform while driving. These include:

  • Left and right turns
  • Stopping at different types of intersection
  • Making lane changes
  • Reversing in a straight line
  • Maintaining space in ordinary street traffic

In some cases, you may be required to drive on a freeway. If this occurs, it will be brief, and serves only to demonstrate that you can enter and exit a freeway safely.

What will happen during the pre-test portion of the exam?

Your examiner will inspect your car to make sure it meets the test vehicle requirements. While doing so, they will ask you to locate and and demonstrate that you can operate the following in-car controls:

  1. Driver’s side window
  2. Windshield wipers
  3. Left and right turn signals
  4. Brake lights
  5. Horn
  6. Emergency brake (parking brake)
  7. Defroster
  8. Hazard lights (emergency flasher)
  9. Headlights
  10. Seat belts (You must be wearing your seat belt before starting the car)

You will also be asked to demonstrate the arm signals you would use in the event that the vehicle’s lights are not functioning.

How long does the driving test take?

You can expect your DMV driving test to take approximately 30 minutes.

How should I prepare for the driving test?

The best way to prepare for your California driving test is to practice driving as much as possible. The more behind-the-wheel experience you have, the less likely you will be to make mistakes during the test or in the future. Ideally, you should drive every day in the run up to the exam. The DMV examiner’s top priority is to make sure you can operate the vehicle and navigate roadways safely. For this reason, safety should be your focus while practicing maneuvers.

Will I automatically fail the driving test if I make a mistake?

Not necessarily. Your driving instructor will deduct points for minor errors. Only critical errors lead to an automatic fail.

How many mistakes can I make during the driving test?

You can have up to 15 points deducted for minor errors during the driving test and still pass. However, even a single ‘critical error’ will lead to an automatic fail.

What constitutes a critical error during the CA driving test?

A ‘critical error’ is any mistake which creates a serious threat to your safety or the safety of somebody else using the roadway. For example, striking an object, driving at an unsafe speed or making an error which warrants intervention from your examiner would all constitute critical errors.

Will I receive my driver’s license right away if I pass?

If you pass the driving test you will be issued a temporary license card until your permanent driver’s license arrives in the mail.

What happens if I fail the driving test?

If you fail your driving test you must wait two weeks before taking another shot at it and pay a small fee for each subsequent attempt. If you fail three times in a row, you will have to wait another year before reattempting the exam. At the end of this 12-month period you will need to submit your documents and pay the full administration fee again.

Will I still be subject to restrictions once I have passed the driving test?

Yes, if you are under 18 years old. Holding a minor’s driver’s license does permit you to drive on your own but you will be subject to the following restrictions until you turn 18:

  • You may not drive between 11pm and 5am during the first 12 months after you pass the driving test
  • You may not transport any passengers under 20 years old unless you are accompanied by a California-licensed adult over 25 years old or a certified driving instructor.