Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health insuran...

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Chris Harrigan has an economic degree from Limestone College and an MBA from Clemson University. He previously managed auto insurance claims for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Currently, he is using his business and insurance expertise to provide insurance data analysis and visualizations to enhance the user experience.

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Reviewed by Chris Harrigan
Former Auto Insurance Claims Manager Chris Harrigan

UPDATED: Apr 13, 2022

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Key Takeaways

  • There is not a state that allows permit holders to drive by themselves without a licensed passenger
  • Several exceptions are available in some states, such as medical emergencies with a lack of transportation
  • Anyone over 18 can test for their license regardless of their permit status

Getting a permit is an exciting time in a teenager’s life. Along with this excitement for driving, beginners can have some anxiety about the rules. Driving handbooks for every state vary just a little as to when and with whom new drivers can commute, as well as what circumstances require a licensed passenger. Here, we will discuss the aspects of driving a car as a permit holder, what age you must be to get your permit, and how the rules for permit holders differ between states.

Whether you want to drive by yourself with your permit at age 16, 17, or 18, the answer is always no. However, there are some exceptions to permit rules in some states, and there are steps you can take to prepare yourself for driving alone. Some considerations for new drivers to think about include which auto insurance covers roadside assistance, the instance of a medical emergency with no other transportation, and when young drivers can commute to school on their own.

Among all the considerations and rules for new drivers is insurance coverage. New drivers are less experienced with cars and could benefit from comparing their options. When you are ready, use your ZIP code in our free insurance company comparison tool to see which companies have the best coverage for young drivers getting a learner’s permit.

Can a permit driver ever drive alone?

Permit owners should never drive by themselves. The laws on this topic are rigid and unyielding. However, some states offer several exceptions to the rule. Most states require young drivers with permits to drive with a licensed passenger who can take control of the vehicle. However, the age of the driver can vary depending on the state.

While every state has its specified requirements, all of them agree that a full license is not available for young drivers until they have had their permit for a certain amount of time or until their 18th birthday, whichever comes first.

The Exceptions to Permit Driving Rules

The most notable exception is that of emancipated minors. Emancipated minors can take on adult responsibilities and opportunities. These minors must still undergo the typical driving tests required for a license but can drive by themselves with only a permit.

Colorado and California both allow permit holders to drive by themselves in the case of a medical emergency if other modes of transportation are not available.

California, one of the most lenient and advantageous states for new drivers, has multiple exceptions for school and school-related activities if the permit-holding student has written permission from the principal. In California, employers can grant permit holders permission to drive to and from work if the permit holder complies with state laws.

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How do the permit rules vary between states?

There are three vast differences among state rules for young drivers to get their permits. These differences include permit holder age, licensed passenger age, and the stipulations of getting a permit.

Some states enable young drivers to get their learner’s permit at age fourteen, such as Alaska. Other states, like Rhode Island, require their drivers to be at least sixteen before they can apply to be permit holders. The age of ability to get a permit varies in each state across the United States. Age 14 is the youngest permit holder age available in the United States.

Another difference in permit laws involves the age of the licensed passenger. Some states require the passenger to be at least 19, while others require a passenger of at least 21 years of age. Some states require this passenger to be a legal parent or guardian of the driver.

Additionally, some states also require the driver to have logged 50 hours of driving time and 10 hours of nighttime driving before minors are eligible to test for their license.

Some state permit laws have restrictions on the hours of the day that a young person can drive. Some states have a range of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Others, such as Florida, restrict permit holders to driving only during daylight hours for three months before allowing nighttime driving.

What is a learner’s permit used for?

A permit is the first step in young drivers learning about the responsibilities of driving a car, managing young drivers car insurance, and establishing their independence. A permit is a transitionary step from not driving to driving alone. This step in the process enables young people to learn all the road rules, car functions, and how to get comfortable on the road.

Anyone uncomfortable driving even after practicing with their permit can renew it, no matter what age. This renewal maintains the same rules, meaning these permit holders cannot drive during certain times or commute alone.

Individuals over 18 can test for their license regardless of their previous learner’s permit status.

What do you need to obtain a learner’s permit?

Most states require young drivers to pass substance abuse courses, a written exam, and a driving test. Additionally, you’ll need to bring all of your identification information possible to show the DMV office. Many documents can prove your identity, including a passport, birth certificate, or social security card. Check with your local DMV office to inquire which documents can indicate your identity.

When you arrive to obtain your permit, you must also complete vision and hearing exams to prove that you can safely operate a motor vehicle. If you’re unable to pass these exams, you will be unable to possess a learner’s permit.

What happens if I drive without my permit or by myself with a permit?

The consequences of driving alone with or without a permit can be severe. Permit holders who commute alone can have their learner’s permits revoked, and those without a permit may have their ability to get a license in the future revoked. Fines may also be applied, depending on the state.

Driving with or without a permit is never worth the risk of revocation or fines.

Car Insurance for Permit Holders

Getting a learner’s permit is only one part of a multi-step process in driving. Insurance is the second consideration in this process. There are several ways to add a teenager to a car insurance policy and many car insurance companies to consider. Picking separate car insurance from your legal guardians may work, depending on the coverage needs, but usually, it’s best to stay on a parent or guardian’s policy.

Typically, insurance coverage for young drivers is more expensive as these drivers do not have experience and are more likely to be involved in a traffic incident. The cost of insurance goes down incrementally when a driver turns 20. At age 25, insurance coverage becomes much more inexpensive as this age indicates more experience on the road.

Discounts may apply with various car insurance companies, including student discounts, a military discount, or those who have completed a driving course. Check with your insurance company to see if any discounts apply to you as you begin driving.

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Can you drive by yourself with just a permit? The Bottom Line

You may be anxious for the opportunity to drive by yourself, but with patience and practice, you will be there in no time. You now know what you need to get your permit, what rules to follow, and the exceptions in your state you are on your way to structuring your driving experience.

When you feel ready to proceed with the next phase of your life, you must consider car insurance options. Use our free car insurance comparison tool below to see all your options for insurance companies and get started on your next driving adventure.