Tennessee Driver’s License

TennesseeDriversServices.org is here to help you renew, replace, update or apply for a new Tennessee Driver’s License.

Everything You Need to Know About Regular Driver’s License (Class D License)

A regular driver’s license (Class D license) is a permit that a driver must possess in order to operate passenger vehicles with a GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of 26,000lbs. The vehicles should not be used for transporting:

  • Children to school (as a school bus)
  • Hazardous materials that need to be placarded, or
  • Over 15 passengers along with the driver.

If you intend to use the vehicle for the above-listed purposes, then you will have to get a CDL (Commercial Driver License). Most people applying for Class D license are looking to operate vans and pickup trucks in addition to regular passenger vehicles.

Any information about getting a regular driver’s license can be found in this manual.

How to Get a Driver’s License in Tennessee

In the state of Tennessee, new drivers are required by Graduated Licensing law to comply with some conditions so as to drive on their own. Through supervised practice, learner drivers improve their driving skills while gaining maturity at the same time.

The Graduated License Program includes 3 phases, each of which has different requirements, such as:

  1. Learner’s Permit (1st phase) – It is necessary to pass a vision test and be 15 years of age or older to get a learner permit. Aside from that, the driver is required to provide proof of school enrollment and attain a passing score on a written examination. Furthermore, the letter shouldn’t be older than thirty days and it must include a signature of the guidance counselor or principal. That’s not all. A legal guardian or parent is required to prove legal guardianship besides providing financial responsibility proof. The former can be delivered like either a court document or birth certificate.
  2. Restricted Intermediate Driver’s License (2nd phase) – In Tennessee, the applicants must be 16 or older and hold a driving license (that’s valid for 180 or more days) to get an intermediate (aka graduated) driver’s license. They are also required to provide the 50-Hour Certification showing that they have a minimum of fifty hours of behind the wheel driving practice, including at least 10 hours of night driving. Just as with the learner permit, a guardian or parent has to sign the certification form. It goes without saying that the applicants must pass a driving skills exam. Only the applicants who want to exchange their learner permits from other states need to undergo vision screening.
  3. Unrestricted Intermediate Driver’s License (3rd phase) – In addition to obtaining an intermediate driver’s license, the driver has to be 17 years of age or older. The applicants can’t have over 6 penalty points as well as 2 or more seat belt traffic violations. Those having at-fault car accidents are also not allowed to apply for an intermediate driver’s license in Tennessee. It should be pointed out that this driving license is going to become a Class D license, i.e. a regular driver’s license, after reaching 18 years of age.

What Documentation is Required

Depending on what driving license you’re applying for, you’ll need to provide:

  • Hardship letter that contains driving times and routes (must be authorized) issued by the TN Department of Safety & Homeland Security as well as Required Documents for a Hardship (Class H) Driver’s License.
  • Required Documents for a Class D Driver’s License.

The applicants under age 18 also need to provide:

Here are the essential things every driver needs when making a formal application for a driving license in Tennessee:

  • Proof of Permanent Residence and US Citizenship Status
  • 2 Proofs of TN residency
  • Primary and Secondary Identity Proof
  • Social Security Number (SSN)

Aside from all of this, teen drivers should provide Minor/Teenage Affidavit along with proof or certificate of school attendance and certification of 50 hours behind the wheel driving.

Additional Requirements for Teen Drivers

Applicants under 18 years of age are required to prove their driving experience to get their first driver’s license. There are two options:

  1. Obtaining a learner permit for a minimum of 180 days (6 months), or
  2. Having a driving license that has been issued in another state and that’s not older than 90 days.

Signing a Minor/Teenage Affidavit as well as Cancellation form is mandatory for every applicant under age 18. Applicants can either download these documents or pick them up at driver license stations.

Who’s not Eligible for a Driver’s License in Tennessee?

  • Those having a revoked or suspended driver’s license
  • Habitual drunkards and those dealing with opioid addiction
  • Applicants for whom the commissioner reasonably believes can’t operate motor vehicles safely due to their physical or mental disabilities.
  • Anyone who doesn’t provide proof of financial responsibility and is required to show it
  • Applicants under age 18 who don’t make satisfactory school progress or who have quit school before graduation
  • People who aren’t Lawful Permanent Residents or US Citizens

Who Can Drive in Tennessee without a Driver’s License?

  • People who aren’t US citizens but can operate a vehicle with a valid driver’s license that has been issued by another country or state for a period of 6 months while being employed in a technical or managerial position in Tennessee.
  • Any non-resident possessing a valid driver’s license obtained in his/her home state/country, which matches a relevant type or class of license in Tennessee.
  • Those operating a farm tractor or road machinery temporarily moved or operated on a Tennessee highway.
  • Students who pursue a driver training course in either public/private secondary schools or licensed CDTS (commercial driver training schools).

Where to Get a Driver’s License?

Check Driver Services Center Locations for more information.

Download a Proper Driver’s License Manual

Anyone looking for a comprehensive manual designed specifically for potential and current drivers in Tennessee should download the Comprehensive Driver License Manual. The manual contains:

  • Details on requirements and documentation required for driver’s license application
  • Explanation of various sorts of licenses
  • Information on Intermediate Driver Licenses
  • Explanations of the tests for Driver Licensing

Renewing your Tennessee Driver’s License

Tennessee requires that you renew your drivers license every 5 years. To make this process simple, receive our step-by-step guide for renewal of your TN Driver’s License.

Replacing your Tennessee Driver’s License

It is required by law that any person operating a motor vehicle has their driver’s license on their person. Avoid any hassle for not having your license and begin the process of replacing your Tennessee Driver’s License.

Updating your Tennessee Driver’s License

You are required to change the address on your Tennessee Driver’s License within 30 days of moving to a new address. Here is our step-by-step guide for how to change the name on your license, or to change the address on your license.

Real ID & New Standards for Driver Licensing

What’s REAL ID?

It is an Act establishing security standards for the production and issuance of driver’s licenses. Additionally, it forbids Federal agencies to accept identification cards and driver licenses that don’t meet the minimum standards of the Act. It come into effect on October 1st, 2021.

Who Will Need REAL ID and Why?

Here are some reasons for upgrading a driver’s license to REAL ID license:

  • Security – It includes standards that increase identity security.
  • Access – REAL ID compliant license, passport, or other credentials will be necessary to gain access to federal buildings, commercial flights, or nuclear power plants in the U.S.
  • Options – The residents of Tennessee won’t need a REAL ID license. Getting this credential will be entirely up to them. However, it will be necessary for getting access to certain federal facilities flying domestically.

Where a Real ID Can Be Used?

A new Real ID must be used to enter commercial airline flights, as well as nuclear power plants and federal government facilities. You will not have to use it at any federal site where identity credentials are not currently required.

It will still be possible to use non-compliant identification cards and old driver licenses for other purposes.

What’s the Cost of Real ID in Tennessee?

Just like an ordinary driver’s license, the Real ID is going to cost $28. This is actually the cost of renewing an expired license in Tennessee. If your current driver’s license is about to expire and you plan on getting a Real ID beforehand, then expect to pay 8 dollars for the first and 12 dollars for the 2nd or 3rd replacement.

How to Obtain a Real ID?

Whether you want to get your first-time driver’s license or renew your old license, you will have to show proof of your legal residence or citizenship (like a passport or birth certificate) besides providing required documentation.

As an applicant, you also need to prove a Social Security Number is really yours. You can use Form 1099, an actual card, or a recent W-2 for this purpose. In addition, it is necessary to provide 2 proofs of Tennessee residency like a current driver license, bank statement, utility bill, lease, or tax return.

If you are not capable of meeting these requirements but you still meet qualification requirements for a previous driver’s license, then you can get a license with mark “Not for federal identification.” With this license, you can drive, vote, buy cigarettes, and alcohol. However, it cannot be used for the TSA security checkpoints at airports.

NOTE: Name changes must be documented properly. Photocopies of documents are not allowed. Only certified documents and originals are accepted.

Can You Get Your License at 18 Without a Permit in Tennessee?

No, if you are 18 and over you can get a regular (Class D) Tennessee driver’s license only after getting a learner’s permit.