Senior Driver’s License Renewal California [2024]

More than 2.9 million Californian drivers are over the age of 70. That’s a lot of people on the road who are considered by the state to be “senior drivers” and, therefore, required to follow special rules set by the DMV for their age group.

If you’re one of them, you likely have questions about senior driver’s license renewal in California. How often does your license need to be renewed? What’s required for renewal after age 70? Will you have to take any tests or pay extra fees?

Senior drivers, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for all the information you need to renew a senior driver’s license in California, plus some resources to refresh your driving knowledge so you can continue enjoying all the freedom of the open road.

california senior driver license renewal test

If you’re under 70, read our post on How to Renew Driver’s License in California.

Senior Drivers Have a Higher Risk of Accidents than Most Other Age Groups

As we get older, our senses become less sharp. We may experience changes in our vision and hearing, which can affect our ability to react in traffic.

Moreover, our joints and muscles get weaker and stiffer, making it difficult to control a vehicle on the road. Even simple movements like shoulder checking before changing lanes can become painful and, sometimes, impossible. 

Aging can also affect your coordination, attention span, reaction time, and other skills required for staying safe behind the wheel. Your driving experience can compensate for some of these issues, but it may not be enough to prevent a crash.

Given these aspects, it’s unsurprising that fatal crash rates increase after age 70-74, per the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). In 2021, 5,209 U.S. drivers aged 70 or older lost their lives in car accidents.

That’s why most states require seniors to renew their driver’s licenses every few years. If you’re based in California, you must do it every five years. This process involves a written knowledge test, a practical test (in some cases), and vision screening to ensure you’re fit to drive.

How Do I Renew My Senior Driver’s License in California?

How Do I Renew My Senior Driver's License in California

The California DMV has special rules that apply to registered drivers aged 70 years or older. One of those is that they must renew their license every five years—and they must do so in person at a DMV location.

Senior Driver’s License Renewal in California During COVID

Senior Driver's License Renewal in California During COVID

During the COVID-19 pandemic, California temporarily changed the rules that require senior drivers to renew their licenses in person. 

During that time, anyone whose license expired between March 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2022, could complete their renewal online. This online renewal was good for one year. However, these rules no longer apply—and renewals must be completed in person.

According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), in-person license renewal allows authorities to identify older drivers with potential impairments more accurately. For example, they can see when someone shows signs of confusion or has mobility issues that could affect his ability to drive.

With that in mind, make sure you bring the following documents to the DMV: 

What to Bring to the DMV to Renew Your Senior Driver's License
  • Driver’s license application. This can be filled out in person or online. Filling it out online ahead of time can help reduce the time you spend at the DMV. You can find this form on the DMV’s online portal.
  • Identification documents. Bring at least two documents confirming your identity, such as a state ID card, a passport, a gas bill, or a social security card.
  • Social security number.
  • Proof of residency. You will need two forms of proof of residency, which can include a mortgage statement, lease, utility bill, or bank statement.
  • $36 renewal fee.

Expect to receive a renewal notice by mail about 60 days before your license expires. After that, you must complete a driver’s license renewal application and book an appointment at your local DMV to submit the required paperwork.

In addition to the above steps, you must take and pass several tests. One of these includes a written knowledge test that can be completed online or in person.

Senior Driver Tests in California

Is there a DMV renewal test for seniors? Some tests are required for all senior drivers seeking to renew their licenses, while others may only be required if you have a physical, mental, or medical condition that could affect your driving abilities.

If you want to practice before taking your test, you can take a DMV practice test for seniors. Some of these can also be found on the California DMV website in a variety of languages and formats.

Navigating the 2024 DMV Renewal Test for Seniors in California

If you’re 70 years old or older by the time your current driver’s license expires, here’s what you need to know:

  • In-Person Renewal: You must renew your driver’s license in person unless otherwise instructed by the DMV.
  • Required Tests: As part of the renewal process, you will be required to take and pass both knowledge and vision tests. If you have a disability or impairment, then you may need to take additional tests. 
  • Temporary License: If you do not pass the knowledge or vision tests, you may be issued a temporary driver’s license.

Understanding these regulations can help you navigate the DMV renewal test process in 2024 more effectively. Read on to learn more about preparing for the tests, what to expect during the in-person renewal process, and how to handle receiving a temporary license.

The Knowledge Test

Written Test

Noncommercial Class C drivers, including those over 70, can take the knowledge test online.

If you go this route, select “I want to take my test through the Online eLearning Course” when filling out your license renewal application. After that, pay the renewal fee.

Once you have submitted your application and paid the fee, you’ll receive an email with a link to the eLearning platform. The link will remain valid for up to one year.

The DMV’s eLearning platform provides access to an online course consisting of seven modules, or lessons. Each module ends with a quiz designed to test your knowledge. This option allows you to study independently from your laptop, computer, tablet, or smartphone. So, if you want to take a break, simply pause and resume later. Plus, you can take the quizzes as often as necessary until you pass.

You’ll receive a notification of course completion as soon as you complete the last eLearning module. Schedule an appointment at your local DMV office to take the next steps.

We’ve created a guidebook with 200 DMV Renewal Questions & Answers to help you pass your renewal test, so you might want to check it out. It goes into more detail than the eLearning modules, making it easier to refresh your knowledge and understand the latest regulatory changes concerning drivers.

All the questions are based on the California Driver’s Handbook, which you can review online before taking your test. You can also request to have a physical copy of the handbook mailed to you.

If you fail your written test, you will have two more chances without filling out a new application or paying another renewal fee. You should review the handbook before your second attempt.

Vision Test

Vision Test

All senior drivers are required to take a vision test to renew their driver’s license. The DMV’s vision standard is 20/40 vision. Your vision will be tested using either a wall chart or an electronic device. It’s important to note that as we age, our vision naturally changes.

By age 60, eyes need three times as much light to see as they did at age 20, making it much more difficult to see objects in the dark. If you have vision problems, driving at night can be particularly hazardous.

If you don’t pass your vision test, you still have options:

  • If your vision is at least 20/70 in both eyes, you’ll be given a 60-day temporary license, which allows you to keep driving while you schedule an appointment with a vision specialist (either an optometrist or an ophthalmologist). The vision specialist will give you a full exam and a DL 62 form to show the DMV what corrective action you’re taking to be able to drive safely (usually, wearing glasses or contacts). The DMV will give you another vision test with your new glasses or contacts, and if you pass, you can finish renewing your license.
  • If your vision is worse than 20/70 in one or both eyes, you won’t be able to drive until after you’ve seen a vision specialist, had a full eye exam, received your DL 62 form, and brought it back to the DMV. They’ll perform another vision test with your new glasses or contacts, and if you pass, you can continue with your license renewal.
  • If you don’t pass a vision test at the DMV after receiving a DL 62 form from a vision specialist, you’ll be asked to take a Supplemental Driving Performance Evaluation (SDPE). We’ll talk about SDPEs in more detail later in this article.

Behind-the-Wheel Test

Behind-the-Wheel Test

Behind-the-wheel skills tests evaluate basic driving knowledge and ability. The test is the same for all drivers, whether they are teens, seniors, or any age in between.

One of the special DMV rules for registered drivers over 70 is that their doctor must report to the DMV if they have any medical condition that could negatively impact their driving ability. California law requires the DMV to revoke a driver’s license if they have certain medical conditions, such as advanced dementia. But in many cases, even if your doctor is required to report your medical condition to the DMV, you’ll only need to take a behind-the-wheel skills test to show that you can still drive safely.

You may also be asked to take a behind-the-wheel test if a police officer, friend, or family member reports witnessing anything concerning your driving abilities. This test may also be required for drivers who don’t meet the minimum vision requirements.

Supplemental Tests

A Supplemental Driving Performance Evaluation, or SDPE, is different from a standard behind-the-wheel test. Instead of testing basic driving ability, an SDPE is designed to evaluate whether a driver can compensate for a physical, mental, or medical condition to drive safely. 

If you only drive within a certain area, it’s possible to take an Area Driving Performance Evaluation, which is a type of SDPE. In this test, the DMV examiner goes to your home and evaluates your driving abilities only in familiar areas. If you pass, your license will restrict you to driving only on certain routes in the area where the test was administered.

How Much Does it Cost to Renew a Senior Driver’s License in California?

How Much Does it Cost to Renew a Senior Driver's License in California

The cost to renew a Class C driver’s license in California is $36. This applies to senior drivers. You may also have to pay additional fees if the DMV requires you to complete any driving or skills tests.

Another cost that many drivers don’t take into account is insurance. Despite the 10+ auto insurance discounts for seniors, auto insurance rates can increase still increase. One option to lower the rate is by completing a California DMV Mature Driver Improvement Program for Californians 55+. Learn more about how a Mature Driver Improvement Program works.

Common Restricted Licenses for Senior Drivers in California

During your renewal, a DMV examiner may find that you can only drive safely under certain conditions. Therefore, you may receive a renewed driver’s license, but with restrictions you must follow to drive legally.

The most common type of restricted license is for vision requirements — anyone, at any age, who uses glasses or contacts to be able to meet the DMV’s vision standards will receive a restricted license that says they may only drive while wearing their corrective eyewear.

Common Restricted Licenses for Senior Drivers in California

According to the DMV, other common restrictions for senior drivers include:

  • No freeway driving.
  • Driving a vehicle with an additional right-side mirror.
  • Driving only from sunrise to sunset (no nighttime driving).
  • Time of day restrictions (for example, no driving during rush hour traffic).
  • Using adequate support to ensure proper driving position.
  • Area restriction.
  • Wearing bioptic telescopic lens when driving/restricted to driving from sunrise to sunset.

Alternatives to Senior Driver’s License Renewal in California

You can and should continue to renew your driver’s license every five years, as long as you feel safe, confident, and capable behind the wheel, and you have no physical, mental, or medical conditions that the DMV finds to be too severe for you to drive safely.

If your driver’s license renewal is not granted — or you choose to stop driving and turn in your license voluntarily — you still have options.

Alternative Forms of ID

A driver’s license is a standard form of personal identification. Without it, you’ll need another form of photo ID.

Alternative Forms of ID

You can use a passport for ID, if you have one. Alternatively, you can obtain a state ID card from the DMV. These are free for seniors. If your license is revoked or you turn it in automatically, the DMV will issue you a state ID upon request.

Getting Around Without a Driver’s License

One of the scariest things about giving up driving as a senior is figuring out how to get around. For most California residents, there are multiple options available.

Getting Around Without a Driver's License

First, consider asking friends and family for rides when needed.

You can also consider public transportation, like buses, trains, and commuter rails. These are available in many of California’s cities. 

For places where public transit isn’t available or convenient, taxis and rideshare services can be another helpful option.

Finally, many communities in California offer programs to serve specific segments of their population with free rides. These are often available for seniors, people with disabilities, and people with medical conditions that prevent them from driving. To see what’s available in your community, check the Yellow Pages under Community Services for Senior Citizens, Senior Organizations, or Transportation. You may also have these resources available in your area:

Stay Safe on the Road with a Mature Driver Improvement Program

If you’re approaching your senior driver’s license renewal in California, it’s crucial to be prepared. Not just for any tests that might be on the horizon, but to ensure you are well-versed with current road rules. Enrolling in a Mature Driver Improvement Program is an effective and affordable way to hone your driving skills and knowledge, ensuring you stay safe on the road.

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