Where to Take Your Driving Test in Washington State

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by Joshua on May 24, 2013

The state of Washington operates a Department of Licensing rather than a Department of Motor Vehicles. This nomenclature is not just a formality. The distinction points to the fact that the DOL focuses on licensing rather than motor vehicle-related services exclusively. Any type of license may be obtained from the DOL, from driver licenses to liquor licenses, managers’ licenses, professional licenses and more. This is different from many other states, where DMVs are likely to be dedicated exclusively to providing a full array of vehicle-related services including registration.

What does that mean for first time drivers or drivers from out of state who need to obtain a new license? Probably the biggest difference you’ll notice is fewer lines and less wait time. That’s because of the limited services the DOL provides (they do not provide drive tests). This also means that you’re not likely to fulfill all the requirements for getting your license at the DOL. You will have to do some running around.

There are four basic steps to getting a license in the state of Washington, and some of them cannot be accomplished at the DOL. (Note that any driver in possession of a valid license from out of state who moves to Washington only needs to pay the licensing fee and get a photo I.D. to obtain a Washington driver license. There are no tests required.)

  1. Apply for a driver license (DOL)
  2. Pass the knowledge test (DOL or outside testing location)
  3. Pass the driving test (Outside testing location)
  4. Pass a vision test and get your photo I.D. (DOL)

For first-time drivers or drivers with expired licenses, a knowledge test and driving test will be required. But before you can take the tests you will need to complete your application for a driver license at the DOL. Then you have two options: you can choose to take the knowledge test at the DOL after you complete your driver license application, or you can take the knowledge test along with the driving test at a separate driver license testing location. If you choose to take the test at the DOL the price is included in your driver license application fee; however, many people prefer to take both tests together since a visit to a separate testing location is required for the driving test.

Driver Testing Locations

Testing locations are individually operated businesses affiliated with DOL. They provide test results to the DOL for purposes of qualifying individuals for driver licenses, but are run by independent operators and are not presided over by the DOL. The DOL provides a list of testing locations on their site for your convenience. If you take the knowledge test at a testing location you will be charged a separate testing fee that varies depending on the testing location you choose. Researching testing locations is easy and convenient through the DOL web site, which provides an exhaustive list of facilities by county.

It may seem like a no-brainer to take the knowledge test at the DOL: why suffer an extra charge at some separate company that is motivated by profit when you can take the test while you apply for your license and the price is included in the application fee? But there’s no getting around the extra fee since you’re going to have to take the driving test at the separate testing facility anyway. Therefore, the choice of whether or not to test at the DOL boils down to convenience rather than out-of-pocket expense.

Completing the Process

Passing the test means heading back again to the DOL. You’re now in the home stretch, and simply have to pass a vision test and have your photograph taken. The office will provide you with a temporary license that is valid for up to 30 days, but driver licenses are issued quickly in Washington State. That means you should receive your license within 7 to 10 days of the date of your application.

The DOL is designed for consumer convenience, but the fastest way to get through your driver license application is to be prepared. The DOL offers an online pre-application process that saves time, so that when you arrive at the office all you need to do is present your confirmation ID and the clerk will finalize your application. Visiting the office on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday will also assure that you avoid long lines and spend as little time as possible at the DOL. You can download the official driver testing guide at the DOL web site and study before visiting the office and/or going to a testing location. Taking these easy steps makes everything go more smoothly, but regardless, if you’re used to busy DMV offices in your state, your visit to the Washington DOL is likely to be a pleasant one with few crowds and high efficiency.

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