What is the difference between a license and a permit?

In the United States, each of the fifty states create their own rules and laws regarding driving. In all states, a driver’s license is required to drive a vehicle on public roads. A permit, in contract to a license, also allows individuals to drive on public roads, but with a specific set of restrictions.

There are different kinds of driver’s license offered in the United States. Examples include a Class C driver’s license, which is a license to drive a standard automobile, a motorcycle license, and a CDL (Commercial Driver License). There are multiple versions of the CDL for driving different kinds of trucks and endorsements that allow drivers to drive school buses, commercial buses or trucks carrying specific kinds of freight. CDL license requirements are uniform across all fifty states, however, motorcycle and automobile license requirements are not uniform across all states.

Each state also provides very specific rules around permits, and many states offer different levels of permits which carry with them specific restrictions (i.e. presence of a licensed passenger in front passenger seat, hours the permit allows driving, etc).

The best way to learn the specific rules around a license and permit in your state is to visit your state’s official DMV web site and download the Driver’s Manual, which will include all relevant information regarding a drivers license and permit.

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