Before taking the steps to obtain your first driver’s license in New York, you must first know which license class to apply for.
A license class determines which types of motor vehicles an operator can drive.
The classes are usually dictated by gross vehicle weight, and typically, the larger and more complicated the vehicle, the higher the license class.
Similarly, the higher the license class, the stricter the requirements.
If you’re confused, then our complete 2023 guide to the New York driver’s license classifications is sure to help.
With this, you’ll know the different types of licenses, what each license can operate, and the requirements for the most basic license.
Ready? Here we go!
What are the Driver’s License Classifications in New York?
The state of New York has pretty specific driver’s license classes. These are:
- Class A (Commercial)
A driver who holds a Class A commercial license is eligible to drive any single or combination of motor vehicles with a combined gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,000 pounds or more. The towed vehicle must have a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or more.
- Class B (Commercial)
A driver who holds a Class B commercial license can operate any motor vehicle with a GVWR of 26,000 pounds or more and may tow a vehicle with a GVWR of under 10,000 pounds.
- Class C (Commercial)
A driver who holds a Class C commercial license can operate any single or combination of motor vehicles with a combined GVWR of fewer than 26,000 pounds, transporting hazardous materials, or carrying 15 or more passengers.
- Class D
A Class D license is the most common type of driver’s license. It allows the holder to operate passenger cars or trucks with GVWR equal to or less than 26,000 pounds, or any motor vehicle towing another with a GVWR no more than 10,000 pounds. If the towed vehicle is more than 10,000 pounds, the combined GVWR of both should be less than 26,000.
- Class DJ
A Class DJ (Junior Operator) license permits the holder to operate passenger cars and trucks with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or less, or a vehicle that tows another with a GVWR of 3,000 pounds or less. The driver must be at least 16 years of age.
- Class E
A Class E license permits the holder to operate vehicles that fall under Class D and for-hire vehicles that transport up to 14 passengers.
- Class M
A Class M license permits the holder to drive motorcycles.
- Class MJ
A Class MJ (Junior Motorcycle) license allows the holder, who is at least 16 years old, to operate motorcycles. It automatically becomes a Class M license when the driver turns 18.
How to Get a Class D License in New York?
As the Class D license is the most common, we’re going to talk about the requirements to get hold of one.
The first thing you should know is that there are three types of Class D driver’s licenses:
- Standard – you can use this type of license to board a domestic flight. It is not Federal ID-compliant.
- REAL ID – you can use a REAL ID to board a domestic flight. It has a white star inside a black circle on the face of the card.
- Enhanced – you can use an enhanced license to board a domestic flight and enter the US at land crossings from Canada, Mexico, and several Caribbean countries.
Okay, let’s focus on the requirements.
Getting a Learner’s Permit
In New York, you can start working towards obtaining your Class D license when you turn 16 years old.
Note: all drivers, regardless of age, who have not been issued a license, need to secure a learner’s permit first.
To be eligible for a learner’s permit, you must pass a written and vision test.
After getting your learner’s permit, you then need to take a driver’s ed pre-licensing course from an approved provider. It is a 5-hour long course that focuses on topics such as driving habits, skills, and best practices.
You must also complete 50 hours of supervised driving practice, with 15 hours of night driving and 10 hours in moderate to heavy traffic.
Getting a Junior License
Once you complete these steps, and once you have held your learner’s permit for at least six months, you can then schedule a DMV road test. To book your appointment online, click here.
On the day of your road test, you need to be accompanied by a licensed NY driver who is at least 21 years old, and you must bring the following:
- Valid learner’s permit
- Pre-licensing course completion certificate
- A registered, insured, and properly working vehicle to use for your road test
Upon passing the road test, you will receive your Junior License, which allows you to drive unsupervised, subject to the following restrictions:
- You cannot drive between 9 PM and 5 AM without a parent or guardian.
- You cannot have more than one unrelated passenger who is under 21 years old.
Getting a Full Class D License
Once you turn 18 years old, the above restrictions will be lifted, and you will become fully licensed.
New York Driver’s License Classifications FAQs
Got any questions?
Check out our answers to the most frequently asked questions.
Can I take an online driver’s ed course in New York?
Pre-pandemic, the state did not authorize online driver’s education. However, due to COVID19-related restrictions, New York began to relax driver’s ed requirements in response to many teens being unable to get their licenses during the pandemic.
The state now temporarily allows teens to complete driver’s ed programs online, provided the five-hour course is offered via a video-conferencing application such as Zoom. However, make sure you check first if your chosen school is DMV-accredited.
What is the best online driver’s ed school in New York?
MyImprov, the brainchild of driving experts and professional comedians from the world-famous Improv Comedy Club, is hands down one of the best online driver’s ed schools in New York.
It offers simple yet effective coursework. Plus, it incorporates fun and interactive elements such as jokes, videos, and memes that help keep you entertained. The course is easy to navigate, and you won’t have to spend any more time than you need to.
Do note, though, that only drivers aged 18 and over can take MyImprov’s online driver’s ed. If you are under 18, you may not get credit when you complete the course, but you can complete it for other purposes.
How do I get a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) in New York?
Here are the steps to getting a commercial driver’s license in New York:
- Obtain a NY state driver’s license (e.g. Class D or E). You may also have a valid CDL from another state.
- Apply for a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) at the DMV. You must pass the written test and pay for all relevant fees.
- Prepare for your road test.
- Schedule your road test online.
- Pass the road test.
Just like driver education requirements, license classifications are a way of ensuring road safety.
Larger vehicles, especially those used for commercial purposes, are bound to have stricter driver qualifications due to their complexity.
Having a system of license classifications in place makes sure only qualified drivers get more driving privileges.
So we hope that this article has cleared your confusion about the New York driver’s license classifications.