Colorado 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?

To drive in Colorado you are required to hold a valid minor or adult driver license. This is your full step-by-step guide that you will need to follow to get, renew or transfer your driver license easily and without hassle.

Get an instruction permit

Allows you to practice driving under supervision.

Get a minor 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 Colorado

For each license type there's a corresponding type of instruction permit
Colorado Class R Driver's License
Class R
It is the basic license to operate any vehicle (including a low-power scooter) except a motorcycle or commercial vehicle. Read the CO Driver Handbook or take a free CO practice test.
Colorado Class A/B/C Driver's License
Class A/B/C
These are commercial driver licenses (CDL) that allow you to operate any combination of vehicles with gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more provided the GVRW of the vehicle towed is more than 10,000 pounds (Class A); any vehicle with GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more or towing a vehicle with GVWR not in excess of 10,000 pounds (Class B); any single vehicle or combination of vehicles that transports 16 or more passengers (including the driver) or is placarded for transportation of hazardous materials (Class C). Read the CO CDL Manual or take a free CO CDL practice test.
Colorado Motorcycle Driver's License
Class M
It is a motorcycle endorsement that allows you to drive two or three-wheel motorcycles. You must possess a valid Colorado driver's license to apply for a motorcycle endorsement. Read the CO Motorcycle Operator Handbook or take a free CO motorcycle practice test.

How to Apply for Your Class R Driver License

To apply for a Class R driver license you should first apply for an instruction permit, pass a knowledge, vision and road skills test. This is your complete plan of action depending on your age.

How to Apply for Your Junior Learner Permit

For drivers under 21, the driver instruction permit is the first stage in Colorado's Graduated Driver License Program. It allows you to practice driving, supervised by a licensed driver who is at least 21 years of age. The permit is valid for 3 years.

1APPLY IN PERSON

You must apply for the instruction permit in person at a DMV office that issues new permits. You can start the application process online before visiting a DMV office. Walk-ins are usually accepted, but you can make an appointment to help shorten your wait.

Note that if you cannot demonstrate lawful presence in the US, you must make an appointment ( no walk-ins) with one of these offices: Westgate, Grand Junction and Colorado Springs to get your SB251 permit.

2BRING DOCUMENTATION

You are required to verify

  • your identity
  • your address in Colorado
  • your Social Security Number ( unless applying for an SB251 permit)

Select documentation with the help of this checklist.

3BRING PROOF THAT YOU HAVE COMLETED DRIVER EDUCATION

Submit a completed Affidavit of Completion of a Driver Education Classroom Course (DR2956) showing that you completed the classroom or online portion of the driver education course or a Driver Awareness Class no longer than six months ago in the following cases:

  • If you are between 15 and 15 ½, you must have successfully completed a 30-hour driver education course, either in a classroom or online, no longer than six months ago. Here is a list of state-approved course providers.
  • If you are between 15 ½ and 16, you must have successfully completed a 30-hour driver education course, either in a classroom or online, OR 4 hour driver awareness class. Check the list of schools.
  • If you are 16+, driver education is not required.

4BRING YOUR PARENT OR GUARDIAN

If you are younger than 18, your parent or guardian must sign Affidavit of Liability and Guardianship (DR2460) in the presence of a DMV employee or a notary public.

5PASS THE WRITTEN KNOWLEDGE TEST

Alternatively, bring the written test completion form from a driver education school (You must take the test by appointment at a DMV office if you cannot demonstrate your lawful presence in the US.)

6HAVE YOU PICTURE AND FINGERPRINTS TAKEN

7PAY THE PERMIT FEE

Pay the fee of $16.80 for a regular permit or $48.19 for an SB251 permit by cash, check or credit card.

8RECEIVE YOUR PERMIT AND START SUPERVISED DRIVING

The DMV will issue you a temporary instruction permit, your actual permit will come in the mail before the temporary permit expires. Practice driving supervised by a licensed adult as you prepare to pass your drive skills test for a minor or adult driver license, depending on your age. The permit will be valid for 3 years. If you haven't met all the requirements for a driver license by the end of that period, the instruction permit will expire and you will have to renew it.

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How to Apply for Your Minor Driver License

A minor driver license is the second stage of Colorado's Graduated Driver Licensing program. It allows you to drive the same kinds of vehicles that an adult driver license would allow you to drive but with significant restrictions:

  • During the first six months, no passengers under the age of 21 other than your siblings. During the next six months, one passenger under the age of 21 who is not a sibling of yours. After your first year or you turn 18, whichever comes first, more than one passenger under the age of 21.
  • Until you turn 18, no use of a cell phone or other wireless communication device (whether hand-held or hands-free) while you drive, except in an emergency.
  • During your first year, no driving between midnight and 5 a.m. unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, you must drive to or from work or school-related activities, as certified by a signed statement from your employer or school, there is a medical emergency, or you are an emancipated minor.
  1. HOLD AN INSTRUCTION PERMIT FOR AT LEAST 12 MONTHS.

  2. PRACTISE SUPERVISED DRIVING

    You must submit completed drive time log sheets signed by your parent or guardian, showing that you completed at least 50 hours of driving time, 10 hours of which were at night.

  3. COMPLETE 6 HOURS OF BEHIND-THE-WHEEL TRAINING IF YOU ARE UNDER 16 ½

    If you live more than 30 miles from a certified driving school, an additional 12 hours of drive time may be substituted for the behind-the-wheel training (bring a map quest printout to the driver license office showing how far you live from the nearest school within your zip code). The 12 additional hours must be submitted on the drive time log.

  4. APPLY IN PERSON

    You must apply in person at a DMV office that issues new licenses.

    Note that if you cannot demonstrate lawful presence in the US, you must make an appointment (no walk-ins) with one of these offices: Westgate, Grand Junction and Colorado Springs to get your SB251 license.

  5. BRING DOCUMENTATION

    You are required to verify

    • your identity
    • your address in Colorado
    • your Social Security Number ( unless applying for an SB251 license)

    Select documentation with the help of this checklist and submit your instruction permit.

    If you are an emancipated minor, you must submit a completed Affidavit of Liability and Guardianship (DR2460). Your parent or guardian must sign it in the presence of a DMV employee or a Notary Public.

  6. PASS A VISION EXAMINATION

    The minimum vision standard is 20/40.

  7. PASS THE DRIVE SKILLS TEST

    If you passed the test at a driving school, submit the Drive Test Completion Form that the driving school gives you. Alternatively, you can take the test at the DMV office by appointment only. You can make the appointment online for most test locations. Otherwise, call 303-205-5901. To take the test at a DMV office, you must provide a vehicle with a valid registration and proof of valid insurance. If you are applying for an SB251 license, you must take the test at a DMV office.

  8. PAY THE LICENSE FEE

    Pay the fee of $26.00 for a regular license or $79.58 for an SB251 license by cash, check or credit card.

  9. RECEIVE YOUR LICENSE

    The DMV will issue you a temporary license. You should receive your permanent minor driver license in the mail before the temporary license expires. If you have not received it after 30 days, contact the DMV office where you applied for it or call 303-205-5948.

Your license will expire on the 20th day after your 21st birthday, unless it is an SB251 license. An SB251 minor license expires on the 20th day after your 21st birthday or in 3 years, whichever comes first. Between your 21st birthday and the expiration of your minor driver license, you must renew your driver license; this time, you will be issued a full adult driver license.

How to Apply for Your Full (Adult) Driver License

To apply for a Colorado Class R adult driver license, you must first hold a Colorado instruction permit, which certifies that you passed a vision exam and a written exam. As an adult (21 years of age or older), you are not required to hold the instruction permit for any minimum amount of time. You may take your drive skills test as soon as you feel you are able.

Minor license holder? Your minor driver license expires on the 20th day after your 21st birthday. (An SB251 minor license expires on the 20th day after your 21st birthday or in 3 years, whichever comes first.) Between your 21st birthday and the expiration of your minor driver license, you must renew your driver license; this time, you will be issued a full adult driver license. Check here how to renew your license.

First timer? Start with Step 1.

Instruction permit holder? Start with Step 7.

1APPLY IN PERSON

You must apply for the instruction permit in person at a DMV office that issues new permits. You can start the application process online before visiting a DMV office. Walk-ins are usually accepted, but you can make an appointment to help shorten your wait.

Note that if you cannot demonstrate lawful presence in the US, you must make an appointment (no walk-ins) with one of these offices: Westgate, Grand Junction and Colorado Springs to get your SB251 permit.

2BRING DOCUMENTATION:

You are required to verify:

  • your identity
  • your address in Colorado
  • your Social Security Number ( unless applying for an SB251 permit)

Select documentation with the help of this checklist.

3PASS A VISION EXAMINATION

The minimum vision standard is 20/40.

4PASS THE WRITTEN KNOWLEDGE TEST

Alternatively, bring the written test completion form from a driver education school (You must take the test by appointment at a DMV office if you cannot demonstrate your lawful presence in the US.)

5HAVE YOU PICTURE AND FINGERPRINTS TAKEN

6PAY THE PERMIT FEE

Pay the fee of $16.80 for a regular permit or $48.19 for an SB251 permit by cash, check or credit card.

7GET YOUR PERMIT AND PRACTICE SUPERVISED DRIVING

You can practice driving supervised by a licensed adult as you prepare to pass your drive skills test. You can take the drive skills test as soon as you are ready, even on the same day.

8PASS THE DRIVE SKILLS TEST

If you passed the test at a driving school, submit the Drive Test Completion Form that the driving school gives you. Alternatively, you can take the test at the DMV office by appointment only. You can make the appointment online for most test locations. Otherwise, call 303-205-5901. To take the test at a DMV office, you must provide a vehicle with a valid registration and proof of valid insurance. If you are applying for an SB251 license, you must take the test at a DMV office.

9PAY THE LICENSE FEE

Pay the fee of $26.00 for a regular license or $79.58 for an SB251 license by cash, check or credit card.

10RECEIVE YOUR LICENSE

The DMV will issue you a temporary driver license. You should receive your regular license in the mail. If you have not received it after 30 days, contact the DMV office where you applied for it or call 303-205-5948.

A regular adult driver license is valid for five years, whereas, an SB251 adult license is valid for three years and will expire on your birthday.

Colorado Knowledge Test

You can take the written exam at any driver license office on a walk-in basis or by appointment (which is recommended). You can schedule an appointment online. Alternatively, you can take your test at one of certified driving schools. If you are unable to demonstrate lawful presence in the U.S., you must make an appointment at a DMV office that offers these services.
Take a free practice test
What is included in the exam?
The test consists of 25 multiple-choice questions that cover the contents of Colorado Driver Handbook , including road signs, driving under the influence, driving rules, safety rules and legal issues.
How will I know if I have passed?
You’ll be given your grade when you are finished. You must score 80% or above in order to pass. You mustn’t miss more than 5 questions.
How to prepare for the test?
Study Colorado Driver Handbook and take free practice tests available here. When you feel comfortable with your score, you are ready!
What common mistakes should I avoid?
The most common mistake comes from not knowing enough information out of the handbook. This happens when people study solely with practice tests. Make sure you read the handbook first. Another problem is rushing through questions. Take your time and remember what you have studied.
When is the best time to arrive for my test?
Save yourself the hassle and avoid Mondays, Fridays and days after holidays. These are the busiest days. Arrive at least 30 minutes before the driving license office closing time.
Can I take the test in any other language but English?
The test is offered in English and Spanish. Third party schools may offer other languages. Translators are also allowed at the written test if necessary.
Can I use the driver's handbook when I take the actual test?
Nice try, but there will be no handbooks available during the knowledge test.
What happens if I fail?
You can schedule another appointment and try again.

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Road Test

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

The road test measures your skill and knowledge of legal and safe driving practices. Only the driver and the examiner are allowed in the vehicle during the test. You can bring an interpreter if needed for the instruction part of the test only.

All drive tests are by appointment only and will not be scheduled within one hour prior to the scheduled office closing time. If you are late for your appointment, you will have to reschedule. Note that not all driver license offices offer drive tests.

Before the test
  1. Bring a legally licensed vehicle with evidence of insurance and registration.
  2. Note that your examiner will check the following features of your vehicle:
    • brake lights
    • turn signals
    • seat belts
    • windshield
    • tires
  3. Ask all your questions before the test begins.
During the test

Your skills should include:

  1. the ability to see the traffic environment and know what to do
  2. the ability to see, know what to do and do it
  3. the ability to carry out two or more performances at the same time ( steer, control speed, watch)

You should be able to demonstrate the following maneuvers:

  • Left and right turns
  • Lane changes
  • Stop intersections techniques
  • Through intersections techniques
  • Merging to and from traffic
  • Proper lane selection
  • Speed control (smooth deceleration, adjusting speed to react to traffic or conditions)
  • Observing traffic (looking over shoulder before changing lanes, using mirrors, looking left, right, left prior to entering intersections)
  • Lane management (keeping vehicle centered inside the lane)
  • Signaling (Activating and canceling signals in good time)
  • Steering (keeping both hands on the wheel and using approved methods of steering control: hand-over-hand or push-pull- slide)
  • General driving behavior (obeying all traffic laws, signs and signals)
After the test

    Upon your return to the driver licensing office, you will be shown your score and your errors will be commented on. If you fail the skills test, you must wait until the next day before another exam will be given, unless the examiner feels you need more time to practice.

How to Replace or Renew Your Driver License in Colorado

  • You can renew your license at any DMV office in person if you wish but you must renew in person if any of the following is true about you:

    1. You are upgrading from a minor driver license to an adult driver license.
    2. You hold an SB251 license.
    3. You are older than 65 years of age.
    4. You have a Social Security number that is not on file at the DMV.
    5. You need to repeat the written or drive skills tests at a DMV office.
    6. You have unpaid traffic tickets.
    7. You have a poor payment record with the DMV (such as bad checks).
    8. Your name has changed.
    9. You have not had an eye examination by an optometrist or opthalmologist within the last three years.
    10. You have already received two consecutive renewals online.

    You wish to have a new photograph of yourself taken.

    Plan of Action:

    1. SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT OR WALK IN

      Walk-ins are usually accepted at DMV offices, but you can make an appointment to help shorten your wait. Note that you must make an appointment to renew your SB251 license.

    2. BRING DOCUMENTATION
      1. Your driver license
      2. One document to verify your current Colorado address (e.g. a bill, rental or mortgage contract, etc.) If you have changed your address or your license expired more than one year ago, you must supply two documents proving your residency in Colorado.
      3. Proof of your Social Security Number (card, W2, etc.) unless you renew the SB251 license)
      4. A document to demonstrate lawful presence in the U.S. (only required for U.S. citizens and permanent residents whose driver license is currently expired). Please see the DR2300A for document ideas.
    3. PASS A VISION EXAMINATION

      The minimum vision standard is 20/40.

    4. PAY THE FEE

      $ 26.00 for a regular license; $ 79.58 for an SB251 license paid by cash, check or card.

    5. HAVE YOU PICTURE AND FINGERPRINTS TAKEN

    6. WAIT FOR YOUR LICENSE

      The DMV should mail you your new license within the next 30 days. You will not receive a temporary license, so you should consider renewing at least 30 days before your license expires. (It is illegal to drive with an expired license.) If you have not received your new license after 30 days, contact the DMV office where you applied for it or call 303-205-5948.

    If your driver license expired more than a year ago, you cannot renew it; you must go through all the steps to apply for a new driver license.

    Drivers turning 21 years old cannot renew their driver's license prior to their birthday. Drivers age 22 years old or older may renew their license at any time prior to the expiration date.

  • If you are eligible to renew your license by mail, the DMV should mail you a renewal application before your license expires. Alternatively, to check if you are eligible to renew by mail, visit the DMV Renew by Mail webpage and follow the instructions.

    If you are eligible:

    1. Download the renewal application from there.
    2. Fill it out and mail it along with payment of the renewal fee to the address on the application.

    The renewal fee is $26.00 for a regular license or $79.58 for an SB251 license, which you must pay with a check payable to the Colorado Department of Revenue (DOR).

    You should receive your new license in the mail within 30 days. You will not receive a temporary license in the interim, so you should consider renewing at least 30 days before your license expires.

    If you are out of Colorado when it's time to renew your license, you may apply for a one year extension (three years for active duty military) or a reissue while out of state but only if you have a regular license. Complete form DR2989 and follow instructions contained on the form.

  • You can renew your license online if you don't have to renew in person.

    To renew online, visit the DMV Renew a Driver License or ID webpage and follow the instructions. The renewal fee is $26.00 for a regular license or $79.58 for an SB251 license, which you pay with a credit card: American Express, Discover Card, MasterCard, or Visa.

    You should receive your new license in the mail within 30 days. You will not receive a temporary license in the interim, so you should consider renewing at least 30 days before your license expires. (It is illegal to drive with an expired license.)

New Residents: How to Get the Colorado Driver's License

Once you become a resident of Colorado, you must apply for a Colorado driver license within 30 days.
Out-of-state license Foreign license
Not sure if you are a resident of Colorado?
Are you a Colorado resident?

Colorado defines a resident of the state as a person who meets any of the following requirements, whichever occurs first:

  • The person owns or operates a business in the state.
  • The person has resided in the state continuously for at least ninety days.
  • The person has obtained gainful employment within the state.

I’ve Got a Valid Out-of-State License

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

If you hold a valid driver license that was issued by another US state or territory, you will normally not be required to take the written exam or drive skills test.

Plan of Action
  1. Apply in person

    You must transfer your out-of-state license in person at a DMV office. Walk-ins are usually accepted, but you can make an appointment to help shorten your wait. If you are applying for an SB251 license and are not lawfully present in the US, you must make an appointment to transfer your license.

  2. Surrender your out-of-state license

    If it does not display your full legal name, provide your certified original state or county issued birth certificate, US passport (if applicable), or military ID (if applicable) to confirm your full name.

  3. Bring documentation

    You are required to verify:

    • your identity
    • your address in Colorado
    • your Social Security Number (unless applying for an SB251 permit)
    • your lawful presence in the U.S. (lawful presence is not required if you apply for a SB251 license)

    Select documentation with the help of these checklists.

  4. Take a vision test

  5. Pay the fee

    $ 26.00 for a regular license; $ 79.58 for an SB251 license paid by cash, check or card.

driver's license in Colorado

Once you have met these requirements, the DMV will issue you a temporary driver license that will be valid for the next 30 days. You should receive your permanent driver license in the mail before the temporary license expires. If you have not received it after 30 days, contact the DMV office where you applied for it or call 303-205-5948.

I've Got a Valid Foreign License

Moving from another country? Welcome to Colorado!

If you hold a valid foreign driver license from Canada, France, Germany, the Republic of South Korea, or Taiwan, you don't have to take the written and drive skills tests. In your case the procedure of transferring the driver license is very much similar to transferring an out-of-state license.

If you hold a driver license from another country, the procedure of transferring your driver license is similar to that of applying for a new Colorado license. You may take your written exam and eye exam, purchase an instruction permit, take drive skills test and purchase a driver's license on the same day if over 18 years old. Chech here your full guide to applying for your Colorado driver license.

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