In California, drivers must renew their driver’s license every five years. This is usually on your birthday, which makes it an easy date to remember. In case you forget, the DMV will send a renewal notice to remind you two months before your license expires.
If you're renewing your license for the first time since getting your driver’s license, here’s how to go about it.
3 Ways to Renew Your California Driver License
If you have a valid California driver’s license, you can renew it in person at a DMV office, online, or by mail.
1. Online Renewal
Renewing your license online is fast and convenient — no waiting in line at the DMV. Not everyone is eligible for online renewal. You will not be able to renew your license online if the following applies:
Your license was suspended or you're on driving probation.
You failed to appear for a court case in the last two years.
You are over the age of 70.
You made the last two renewals by mail.
Your license has expired.
If none of this applies, you should be able to proceed with an online renewal.
Log in to the DMV’s online services portal.
Follow the instructions.
Use your debit or credit card details to pay.
2. In-Person Renewal
If you are 70 years old or older, applying for the REAL ID for the first time, or have changed your address, you need to renew your license in person at the DMV. The advantage of in-person renewal is that you’ll receive your interim license immediately instead of waiting three to four weeks.
When renewing in person, you are allowed to apply six months before your license expires. The process is as follows:
Visit your nearest DMV and bring your license renewal notice along. If you don’t have it, then you’ll have to complete the California Driver License or Identification Card (DL/ID) application form (DL44).
Have your thumbprint scanned.
Have your picture taken.
Pass the vision test.
Pass the written exam, if required.
Pay the $37 renewal fee.
If you are applying for a REAL ID, you must provide proof of identity, Social Security number, and residency from a list of acceptable documents. The REAL ID becomes mandatory in California from October 2020. Note that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the DMV has granted extensions to those who need to renew in person. If you’re over the age of 70 with a license that expired between March and December 2020, you have a one-year grace period from the date of expiration.
3. Renewal by Mail
The same criteria for online renewal apply to renewal by mail. In addition, if your license expires in less than 60 days, you cannot renew it by mail.
If, however, you do meet the criteria, then complete the California Driver License Renewal By Mail Eligibility Form (DL 410 FO). Mail the form along with a check for the license fee to:
Department of Motor Vehicles
Attn: Renewal By Mail Unit
PO Box 942890
Sacramento, CA 94290-0001
Renew Your California Driver's License Before It Expires
If you fail to renew your California driver’s license by the expiration date, you have up to three months (90 days) to renew it. However, bear in mind that driving without a valid license is illegal, so make sure to renew it before it expires.