How to Renew Drivers License in California

Updated on March 12, 2024
At a Glance:
  • To renew your driver’s license in California, you have four options: by mail, online, by phone (if eligible), or in-person.

  • Renewal notices are sent two months before expiration.

  • In-person renewal is required for certain cases.

  • Expired licenses can be renewed within 60 days.

  • Suspended licenses require restoring privileges first.

  • Out-of-state residents can request a one-year renewal.

  • Lost or stolen licenses must be reported.

  • Active duty military personnel have extensions.

  • Non-U.S. citizens with provisional licenses must request extensions.
  • Renewing a driver’s license is probably one of the most routine activities in the lives of most American citizens.

    As routine as it is, though, it can be one of those activities that we may just push to the side until we run out of time. But contrary to what most people believe, renewing your license doesn’t have to be a complicated, topsy-turvy, time-consuming process, especially in the state of California.

    This article will tell you how to renew your driver’s license in CA.

    How to Renew Your California Driver’s License

    All California licenses expire on the owner’s birthday 5 years after issuance. You can renew your licenses from six months before the expiration date to two months after the expiration date.

    Although most people will say that renewing their driver’s license is a huge hassle, that’s not always true.

    For instance, CA DMV has an efficient, even beginner-friendly process that is sure to be a breeze. As long as you know what to do and have the right documents with you, you won’t encounter any issues with renewing.

    There might be some conditions for particular classifications of licenses but they’re not entirely different from the regular criteria.

    California Driver’s License Renewal Through Mail

    Instructions for Renewing Your California Driver's License by Mail:Receive a renewal notice two months before your license expires.Complete the California Driver’s License Renewal Form.Include the form and your renewal fee check in your mail.Send to: Department of Motor Vehicles, ATTN: Renewal By Mail Unit, P.O. Box 942890, Sacramento, CA 94290.

    You can renew your driver’s license in California through mail.

    As mentioned above, two months before your license expires, you’ll receive a renewal notice. You can send this back with your details via mail by filling up a California Driver’s License Renewal Form.

    Include in your mail the form and the check for your renewal fee. Then, send it to this address:

    Department of Motor Vehicles

    ATTN: Renewal By Mail Unit

    P.O. Box 942890

    Sacramento, CA 94290

    California Driver’s License Renewal Online

    Online Renewal Eligibility Requirements:Address within the last 5 yearsActive and not suspended licenseUnder 70 years oldDid not renew by mail for the last two renewalsNo missed court cases in the last two yearsNot on driving probationIf you meet these requirements, renewing online is easy:Visit the DMV's online services website.Log in or sign up for an account if you don't have one.Verify and confirm your profile information.Pay the applicable fee: $34 for Class A or B licenses, $41 for Class C licenses.

    Residents who have their Social Security Number (SSN) at the California DMV and haven’t changed their address within the last 5 years can do their renewal through the DMV’s online website.

    There are also other requirements:

    • Your license is active and not suspended
    • You’re under 70 years old
    • You didn’t do your last two renewals via mail
    • You didn’t miss any court cases in the last two years
    • You’re not on driving probation

    If you meet all the requirements, all you have to do is to go to DMV’s online services website and log in or sign up for an account if you don’t have one yet. After reviewing the information on your profile and confirming that it’s correct, you just have to pay the corresponding fee for your specific type.

    Those with a Class A or B license will have to pay $34 for the renewal fee, while those under Class C will have to pay $41.

    California Driver’s License Renewal By Phone

    Phone Renewal Eligibility and Process:Not everyone is eligible for phone renewal.Eligible citizens will see the option on their renewal notice.Look for the Renewal Identification Number on the notice.Call the DMV at 1-800-777-0133.Provide the Renewal Identification Number, license plate number, and last five digits of your VIN number.Be prepared to provide credit card or debit card information for the renewal fee.Ensure you call the official DMV number to avoid scams.

    Not everyone is eligible to renew their driver’s license via phone. If you’re one of the eligible citizens, however, you’ll see the option on the renewal notice sent to your mail.

    A number, called the Renewal Identification Number, will be included on this notice. You can call the DMV at 1-800-777-0133 and provide this number to prove that you’re eligible for a phone renewal, as well as your license plate number and the last five digits of your VIN number.

    Take note, in order to pay the renewal fee, you’ll also be asked to provide your credit card or debit card information. Make sure you call the right number to avoid getting scammed.

    California Driver’s License Renewal In-Person

    In-Person Renewal Requirements and Benefits:Most people renew in person every ten years (every other renewal).Exceptions: Above 70 years old, change of address, first-time REAL ID application.In-person renewal is also possible if your license is expired or suspended.Advantage: Instant physical copy issuance.Temporary license valid for 90 days; permanent version arrives within 60 days via mail.

    Most people nowadays only need to renew their licenses in person once every ten years, or, in other words, every other renewal.

    However, if you’re above 70 years old, if you’ve changed your home address, or if it’s your first time applying for a REAL ID, you need to go to the DMV to renew your license.

    Additionally, if your California driver’s license is already expired or has been suspended, you can still opt for in-person renewal.

    Although it may seem like a hassle, one advantage to renewing your license in person is that you’ll receive a physical copy instantly, as opposed to the 3-4 week wait with other renewal methods. This temporary license will be valid for 90 days – you’ll receive the permanent version within 60 days via mail.

    Things You Need To Renew Your Driver’s License in CA

    Before you can renew your driver’s license in person, here are some things that you need:

    • Your completed Driver’s License application. You can also save time by doing it online.
    • An appointment schedule with CA DMV. You can also do it online. Make sure to select the option specifying renew driver’s license.
    • Proof of your identity. This can be California State ID or your Social Security Number.
    • Proof of legal presence. Your US passport is one of the easiest examples of this.
    • 2 documents proving that you’re a resident of California. This can be your mortgage documents, your rental agreement, or your utility bills like internet bills or phone bills. Basically, anything showing that you live in California.
    • Renewal fee. DMV accepts both cash and card.

    When to Renew Your California Driver’s License

    In California, your driver’s license is set to expire every five years on your birthday. The window to renew begins six months before its expiration and extends to two months post-expiration. Approximately two months prior to your license’s expiration date, the DMV will send a renewal notification to your mailing address.

    CA Driver’s License Renewal Fees

    For a standard, Class C driver’s license renewal, the fee is $41. Should you require a behind-the-wheel driving test, there’s an added cost of $8.

    If you find yourself needing to replace a lost, damaged, or stolen driver’s license, the fee stands at $33.

    When it’s time to settle the payment, the DMV accepts cash, check, credit cards, debit cards, digital wallets, and money orders. However, note that using a debit or credit card may entail additional service charges.

    How to Renew When Your License is Expired

    If your license has already expired, you have three options for renewing: in-person, online, or by mail, provided that you meet all the other requirements.

    CA DMV gives you 60 days after expiry to renew your license. While there are no late fees if you neglect to renew your expired license, do keep in mind that you can’t drive your vehicle until you renew your license. Driving would be illegal, and you can even go to jail.

    If it’s been 60 days and you still haven’t renewed your license, you’ll have to complete a new application for a driver’s license, which has more requirements.

    If it’s been over two years since your license expired, you can still get a new license, but you have to take the road skills test once again.

    How to Renew When Your License is Suspended

    Before you can renew your suspended driver’s license, you need to restore your driving privileges first. The process depends on why the license was suspended. You may also be subject to the same restricted permissions as your learning license.

    License Renewal for Out-of-State Residents

    Residents who will be leaving the state when their license expires may request a free one-year renewal. Before your license expires, you must send a letter containing your name, driver’s license number, California address, date of birth, and out-of-state address.

    Send your request to:

    Department of Motor Vehicles

    P.O. Box 942890

    Sacramento, CA 94290

    How to Renew When Your License is Lost, Damaged, or Stolen

    If your California driver’s license was lost, damaged, or stolen, you first have to report it to your local DMV by contacting (886) 6585758 or by sending a message to [email protected].

    After this, you have to fill out a new Driver’s License or Identification Card application at the DMV. Bring the requirements listed above.

    Renewing a License If You’re a CA Military Member

    Active duty military personnel do not have to worry about license expiration (and can get better car insurance rates).

    If you’re on active duty, your driver’s license won’t expire as long as you have the DL 236 card, also known as the Extension of License for Person in Armed Forces. The card has the CVC 12817 – with this, your driver’s license, as well as your spouse’s, will be eligible to use past its expiry.

    Once you go back to California, you and your spouse have an additional 30 days to use your licenses before having to renew it.

    Driver License Renewal for Non-U.S. Citizens

    All non-U.S. citizens with provisional driver’s licenses must request an extension. CA DMV will send you renewal instructions before your provisional license expires.

    You must also provide your updated personal information, date of birth, and updated documentation on legal presence.

    How to Renew Driver’s License CA: Conclusion

    Your car plays an important part in your life. California, in particular, has one of the highest rates of vehicle ownership in the entire country. Having an up-to-date license ensures not just your safety, but also your passengers and the pedestrians on the road. We hope this guide helped you when renewing your driver’s license in California!

    Other Helpful CA Driver’s License Renewal Resources

    Renewing a License in California: Common FAQs

    When it comes to renewing a driver’s license in California, there are several common questions that users often ask. Here are the top five:

    How do I renew my California driver’s license?

    You can renew your California driver’s license online, by mail, or in person at a DMV office. If you are eligible to renew online or by mail, the DMV will send you a renewal notice with instructions.

    When should I renew my California driver’s license?

    You should renew your California driver’s license before it expires. The DMV allows you to renew up to six months before the expiration date.

    Can I renew my California driver’s license online?

    Yes, if you meet certain requirements, such as your license is not a commercial license, your license is not suspended or revoked, and you’re not changing your name, among others. You’ll receive a renewal notice from the DMV if you’re eligible to renew online.

    How much does it cost to renew a California driver’s license?

    The cost to renew a regular driver’s license in California is $41. Should you require a behind-the-wheel driving test, there’s an added cost of $8.

    What documents do I need to renew my California driver’s license?

    If you’re renewing in person, you’ll need to complete a Driver’s License or Identification Card Application, provide a thumbprint, have your picture taken, and pass a vision exam.

    How long is a California driver’s license valid, and when should I renew it?

    A standard California driver’s license is typically valid for five years. You should renew it before it expires. The DMV often sends renewal notices by mail, but it’s your responsibility to renew on time even if you don’t receive a notice.

    What should I do if I lose my California driver’s license or it gets stolen?

    If your California driver’s license is lost or stolen, you should report it to the DMV and the local law enforcement agency. You can apply for a replacement driver’s license at a DMV office for a fee.

    Can I drive with an out-of-state driver’s license in California?

    Yes, if you are a visitor or a new resident, you can drive in California with a valid out-of-state driver’s license. However, you must eventually obtain a California driver’s license if you become a California resident.

    Are there any special requirements for teen drivers in California?

    Yes, there are specific requirements for teen drivers, including completing driver’s education and obtaining a provisional driver’s license. Teens are subject to certain restrictions and must complete a certain number of practice hours with a licensed adult.

    Can I make an appointment at the DMV for driver’s license services?

    Yes, you can schedule an appointment at the DMV for various driver’s license services, such as applying for a new license, renewing your license, or taking a driving test. It’s recommended to make an appointment to save time.

    What types of driver’s licenses are available in California?

    California offers various types of driver’s licenses, including regular Class C licenses, motorcycle licenses, commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs), and more. The type of license you need depends on your specific driving needs and vehicle type.

    How do I apply for a California driver’s license?

    To apply for a California driver’s license, you must visit a local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office, fill out an application, provide necessary documentation, pass a vision test, written knowledge test, and a behind-the-wheel driving test if required.

    What documents do I need to bring when applying for a driver’s license?

    You will typically need to provide proof of identity, residency, and legal presence in the United States. Common documents include your birth certificate or passport, Social Security card, and proof of California residency (e.g., utility bills or rental agreements).

    What is the minimum age to apply for a learner’s permit or provisional driver’s license in California?

    The minimum age for a learner’s permit in California is 15 and a half years old. For a provisional driver’s license, you must be at least 16 years old.

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    Frank Gogol

    I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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