Getting your permit or license in California is an exciting step. To help you succeed, we review everything you need to know about getting your instruction permit and upgrading to a license, including the best driver’s ed courses available online.
A provisional instruction permit cannot be used to drive alone at any time, including to the DMV office for a driving test. Minors with instruction permits must be accompanied at all times by one of the following:
Parent or guardian
Licensed California driver 25 years or older
Certified driving instructor
18 and Over: Instruction Permit
Instruction permits are required for any driver over 18 who has not previously held a license. Note that driver’s ed is not required for drivers over 18.
To obtain an instruction permit, new drivers 18 and older must:
Complete the California Driver’s License or ID Card Application.
Schedule an appointment at a California DMV.
Submit license application and required proof of identity and residency.
Pay the application fee.
Take a vision and knowledge test.
Have a photo taken.
How To Get A License
New drivers who have completed the requirements of their instruction permit become eligible to take the driving test. Steps differ for minors and adults.
Under 18: Provisional License
To be eligible for a driver’s license, teens between the ages of 16 and 18 must:
Hold a provisional instruction permit for at least six months.
Complete a driver education course.
Complete six hours of professional driver training.
Complete 50 hours of practice with an adult 25 years of age or older who holds a valid California driver’s license, with ten hours driving at night.
Once these requirements are met, teens can obtain a license by:
Scheduling a driving test
Providing proof of liability insurance
Paying all test and licensing fees
After passing the driving test, the DMV issues a temporary driver’s license. The new driver’s license should arrive in three to four weeks.
Drivers under the age of 18 will be awarded a provisional license. Restrictions on provisional licenses include:
No driving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. for 12 months
No driving with passengers under 20 years old unless a parent or guardian accompanies
No driving for pay
No operating vehicles that require commercial licenses
18 and Over: Driver’s License
New drivers 18 and older become eligible to take the driving test by:
Holding an instruction permit for at least six months
Driving with a California-licensed driver 18 years of age or older
After meeting these requirements, new drivers can take the following steps to obtain their driver’s license:
Schedule an appointment for a driving test
Provide proof of liability insurance
Pay all test and licensing fees
Once a new driver passes the driving test, the DMV issues a temporary driver’s license, valid for up to 60 days. The new driver’s license should arrive by mail within three to four weeks.
2-and-a-half semester periods of professional classroom instruction OR
A home study or internet training program that meets the classroom instruction requirements.
Required professional driver training for minors is a minimum of six hours.
How Much is Driver’s Ed in California?
Costs for California driver’s ed courses offered by top online providers fall between $24.95 and $34.95.
Course costs for behind-the-wheel lessons or driver training are typically much higher. Expect prices ranging from $100 to $900 depending on the provider, package details, and other factors.
What are the Best Online Driver’s Ed Courses in California?
What we like about Aceable:
Easy-to-use mobile app
Average course cost of $46.77
Excellent customer service and 100% money-back guarantee
Aceable was founded in 2013 with the goal of expanding online access to driver’s ed materials. Based in Austin, TX, the company started offering approved online driver education in its home state. Since then, the company has expanded to offer courses in multiple states and an easy-to-use mobile app.
For those unsatisfied with their Aceable online driver education experience, the company offers a 100% money-back guarantee for uncompleted courses, refunded within 30 days of purchase. Learn more by reading our Aceable review.
Aceable courses in California:
Teen Driver’s Ed: Fulfills driver’s ed requirements for permit-seeking drivers ages 15-and-a-half to 17-and-a-half. Required for all minors seeking full driver’s licenses. Package pricing includes an optional one-month trial of Allstate Roadside Services.
What we like about DriversEd.com:
25 years of experience
Average course cost of $58.15
Behind-the-wheel lessons available in California through Coastline Academy
DriversEd.com was founded in 1997. Based out of Houston, TX, the company boasts excellent online reviews and easy-to-understand course content.
DriversEd.com courses in California are fully refundable within 30 days of purchase as long as no certificate of completion has been issued. Find out more about DriversEd.com courses and pricing by reading our detailed DriversEd.com review.
DriversEd.com courses in California:
Teen Driver’s Ed: Fulfills driver’s ed requirements for teens. Package pricing reflects an optional one-month trial of Allstate Roadside Services.
Behind-the-Wheel Driving Lessons: Offered in partnership with Coastline Academy. Lessons are available in two, six, and 10-hour packages.
What we like about IMPROV:
24/7 customer support
Average course cost of $43.68
Interactive and comedic lessons
Founded in 2009, IMPROV is based in Los Angeles, CA. Customer feedback for IMPROV highlights engaging lessons, affordable course prices, and outstanding customer service.
Improv offers a full refund of course fees as long as no certificate of completion has been issued. Find out more about IMPROV classes and availability by reading our IMPROV review.
IMPROV courses in California:
Teen Driver’s Ed: Meets driver’s ed requirements for new drivers ages 15 to 18.
#4 Drivers Ed Direct
What we like about Drivers Ed Direct:
Average course cost of $67.68
Excellent customer reviews on multiple platforms
Outstanding behind-the-wheel driving lessons in top-of-the-line hybrid vehicles
Drivers Ed Direct was founded in 2006 and now operates out of Chatsworth, CA. The company partners with iDriveSafely and other well-known providers to offer courses in more locations. Customers highlight excellent service and behind-the-wheel driving lessons in California.
Drivers Ed Direct’s teen driver’s ed courses are fully online, while behind-the-wheel driving lessons are available at multiple locations in the Greater Los Angeles area. Learn more by reading our in-depth Drivers Ed Direct review.
Drivers Ed Direct courses in California:
Teen Driver’s Ed: Fulfills state driver’s ed requirements for minors seeking instruction permits.
Teen Driver’s Ed with Behind-the-Wheel Lessons: Combo packages fulfill state driver’s ed and driver training requirements. Available with six or 10-hour driving blocks.
Behind-the-Wheel Lessons Only: Fulfills driver training requirement for minors seeking provisional licenses. Packages include six and 10-hour lesson options or a specialized DMV test prep lesson.
What we like about Safe2Drive:
Strong refund policy
Average course cost of $49.60
Clear guides for teens, parents, and new adult drivers
Safe2Drive was founded in 2003 and operates out of Rancho Santo Margarita, CA. The company has positive reviews on Yelp and Google, with an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
Safe2Drive offers a full refund on all online courses within 30 days of purchase and before a certificate of completion is issued.
Safe2Drive courses in California:
Teen Driver’s Ed: Fulfills driver’s ed requirements for teens ages 15-18 seeking an instruction permit or license.
Driver’s Ed Course vs. Behind-the-Wheel Training
California requires minors seeking either a provisional instruction permit or license to complete a driver’s education course and behind-the-wheel driver training. These programs meet different requirements.
A Driver education course instructs new drivers on traffic laws, safety, responsible driving, and accident avoidance.
Behind-the-wheel driver training allows new drivers to practice driving in real-world situations. Driver training must be at least six hours, with no more than two hours completed per day. In-car observation does not count toward this requirement.
California DMV Contact Information & Resources
Questions about getting started onachieving your California instruction permit or license? You can call the DMV office at 1-800-777-0133 or visit the California DMV website to get started.
Frequently Asked Questions About Online Driver’s Ed in California
Is driver’s ed required in California?
California requires new drivers under 18 to complete a driver’s education course. New drivers under 18 must complete driver training and a state-approved driver education course.
Is driver’s ed free in California?
Driver’s ed programs offered outside of public school are not free. Course costs change depending on the provider and course content. Note that courses featuring behind-the-wheel driving (driver training) carry higher costs.
Can you take driver’s ed online in California?
Yes! New drivers older than 15 and younger than 18 must take driver’s ed and driver training in California.
Is online driver’s ed legit in California?
Online driver’s ed courses you’ll find on this page all carry approval from the California DMV. Learn more about selecting a driving school by visiting the California DMV website.
When can you start driver’s ed in California?
California teens can begin driver’s ed at 15 and become eligible for their provisional instruction permit at 15-and-a-half.
With so many online driver’s ed courses available, we work hard to identify the highest quality providers. Our goal is to provide reviews that are accurate, trustworthy, and helpful to our readers.
Using data from consumer reviews, we first identified a set of minimum requirements for each driver’s ed course provider. To be included in our ranking each provider must have:
Self-paced, online courses
Courses available in at least two states
An active Better Business Bureau (BBB) profile
Active reviews on Google, Yelp, and/or Trustpilot
A majority of DMV-approved courses in the states in which they operate
After selecting providers that meet our minimum requirements, we conducted extensive research and identified the following key metrics to rank the best online driver’s ed courses for 2023.
Accessibility (20%): Our methodology rewards programs that are low-cost, self-paced, and approved in the majority of states where they operate. These metrics identify programs that are accessible for more people.
Quality (30%): We take a close look at each provider’s availability and caliber of customer support as well as the number of years they’ve been in business. We reward providers who offer money-back guarantees and optional behind-the-wheel courses.
Reputation (50%): We evaluate hundreds of online reviews—on BBB, Google, Trustpilot, and Yelp—to determine a program’s standing with its current and former customers.