What is the difference between a driver's license and a permit in NC? What kinds of permits does NC offer?

An unrestricted NC driver license allows a driver to drive without restrictions. NC offers several different kinds of driving permits to allow drivers to safely learn to drive before applying for a driver license.

North Carolina offers a limited learner’s permit level I and level II, a learner’s permit and a driver’s license.

Limited Learner’s Permit Level I

The limited learner’s permit is available for those age 15 to 18 that are learning to drive.

During the first six months, a level I permit allows drivers to drive between the hours of 5am and 9pm while accompanied by a licensed supervising driver. Six months after issuance, a level I driver can drive at any time with a licensed supervising driver.

Level 1 permit holders will be given a driving log and must complete a minimum of 60 hours driving time prior to applying for a Limited Provisional license.

Level II Permit

The Level II permit is for drivers age 16 to 18 years old. Level II permit holders can drive without supervision from 5am until 9pm and at any time when driving to or from work. The Level II permit must be held for a minimum of 6 months before applying for a full provisional license and a driving log must be completed with a minimum of 12 hours of operation. The number of passengers under the age of 21 is restricted to 1 for Level II permit holders unless the passengers are immediate family members.

Learner Permit

Learner permits are available to those over age 18 that are learning to drive. A learner permit holder must be accompanied by a person who is licensed to drive.

Required testing for all types of permits includes vision, traffic signs, and knowledge of motor vehicle laws.

Types of Licenses

A regular driver license in NC is the Class C license. The Class C license covers driving most general types of automobiles and pick-up trucks.

The type of vehicle you will operate determines the class of driver license you must have and the type vehicle in which you must take the driving skills test. The driving skills test must be performed in a vehicle representative of the class license desired.

License Classes

  • Class A: Required to operate any combination of non-commercial vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of less than 26,001 pounds or including a towed unit with a GVWR of at least 10,001 pounds.
  • Class B: Required to operate any single non-commercial vehicle with a GVWR of at least 26,001 pounds or any such vehicle while towing another vehicle with a GVWR of less than 10,001 pounds.
  • Class C: Required to operate any single non-commercial vehicle that is not carrying hazardous material in quantities required to be placarded or is designed to carry no more than 15 passengers including the driver with a GVWR of more than 10,000 pounds and less than 26,001 pounds; or any vehicle towing a vehicle which has a combined GVWR of less than 26,001 pounds operated
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