A Beginner's Guide to Getting a Driver's License in Canada

Posted on April 20, 2021
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Getting a license can seem like a rite-of-passage to a teen or young adult, something that gives them a sense of freedom and responsibility. However, it’s not as simple as seen on television. Getting a driver’s license in Canada, depending on where in the country, has many requirements.

Read on to learn how to get a driver’s license in Canada, what requirements you’ll have to meet, and what the driving exam will be like.

What Age Can You Get A Driver’s License in Canada?

You may think that Canada has one set age when a person can apply for their license across the country, but it differs from province to province. Below are the minimum ages that you can apply for your learners (or G1) license in each province.

Drivers License Age Infographic
  • Alberta: 14 years old, with parental consent if under 18
  • British Columbia: 16 years old, with parental consent if under 19
  • Ontario: 16 years old
  • Manitoba: 15 and a half years old if you are registered in Manitoba’s high school driver program, 16 years old if you are not
  • New Brunswick: 14 years old with parental consent for vehicles such as farm equipment, and age 16 with parental consent for other vehicles
  • Newfoundland Labrador: 16 years old
  • Nova Scotia: 16 years old, with parental consent if under 18
  • Prince Edward Island: 16 years old
  • Quebec: 16 years old, with parental consent if under 18
  • Saskatchewan: 16 years old, with parental consent if under 18

As you can see, teens must generally be 16 years old to apply for their G1 license in Canada, however, there are some exceptions such as Alberta, New Brunswick, and Manitoba.

Coming from Another Country

If you are coming from another country and already have your license, the laws on using it in Canada are different for each province; but there are some similarities.

You have 90 days, or 3 months, to change over your foreign license when you move to Saskatchewan, Manitoba, British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland Labrador. If you are moving to New Brunswick, you will have to exchange your license immediately after taking up residence. For Ontario, you have 60 days or 2 months, in PEI you have 4 months, and in Quebec, you have 6 months to exchange your license.

Most Canadian provinces have an agreement with the following countries, so drivers with documents issued by these countries can just swap their license given they have at least two years of driving experience:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Netherlands
  • France
  • Germany
  • Isle of Man
  • United Kingdom (Including Northern Ireland)
  • Japan
  • Republic of Korea
  • Taiwan
  • Switzerland
  • Ireland
  • United States of America

Each province has some extra countries included, but these are the most common. Unfortunately, drivers from other countries will have to do a written and driving test.

If you have less than two years of driving experience, you may be issued a G2 license and will then have to do another driving test after you have accumulated two years worth of experience to get your full G license.

When you move to Canada, it is recommended that you get a copy of your driving history from the appropriate authority body in your home country in case you need it to prove your driving experience. When you apply for your Canadian license, bring along your original license and either your permanent residency card or your passport with the appropriate visa stamp.

In many provinces, learner or novice licenses can not be exchanged, and so these drivers will have to go through the entire process of getting a driver’s license in Canada.

Getting A Driver's License in Canada - Requirements

Although there are differences in the names of the licenses (learner’s, novice, Class 7, etc.), every province essentially has the same testing process for new drivers called "graduated licensing". This means that there are two stages to complete before you receive your full license. These two stages are called G1, and G2; a full license is simply called G.

How Much Does a Driver's License Cost?

G1 License Image

G1 License

Here are the G1 license requirements:

  • Before booking your G1 test, you should obtain the driver’s handbook to study for the knowledge test, which usually costs about $16.
  • Usually you would purchase a package for $160 which includes the knowledge test, G2 road test, and the G1 license (if you pass).
  • Knowledge test re-test fee is $16.
  • If you opt to take driving lessons from a driving school, you can expect to spend between $200 and $800.
g2 info image

G2 License

Here are the G2 license requirements:

  • G2 road test is already included in your $160 G1 package, but if you fail it, you will have to pay around $55 for a re-test.
  • After passing your G2 test, you will pay $90 for the G2 license valid for 5 years.
g license info image

G License

Here's the G license requirement:

  • To take your final road test and receive your G license will cost you around $90. If you fail the test, you will have to pay the fee again.

License Restrictions (G1, G2, G)

In all provinces, to receive your G1, you have to complete both a written test and a vision test. In most provinces, you need at least an 85% on the written test to receive your learners permit. When you arrive at your local driving test center, you will need to have a source of identification that shows your legal name, the date of your birth, and your signature - these documents must be originals and not photocopies.

Once you have passed those tests, you’re ready to get on the road. However, there are restrictions when driving with your G1. These restrictions can include, but are not limited to:

  • Maintain a blood alcohol level of zero
  • Make sure that you have a fully licensed driver who has at least 5 years of driving experience in your front passenger seat
  • Every passenger must be fastened with a working seatbelt
  • Do not drive between midnight and 5 A.M.
  • Do not drive on high-speed highways with speed limits over 80 km.

A driver is required to have their G1 for at least one year before attempting to obtain their G2 license. In some provinces, the year of driving can be reduced by a couple of months if the driver participates in an approved driver education program.

Once you have completed the G1 stage, you will complete a basic road test to get your G2. This road test covers knowledge of parallel parking, parking on a hill, reverse parking, knowledge of speed limits in different areas, and more basics.

When you have your G2, you will have more freedom when driving than you did with your learner’s license. The restrictions that remain are:

  • Having a blood alcohol level of zero.
  • Each passenger must be securely fastened with a functional seatbelt.

Lifted restrictions include:

  • You can now drive without an accompanying experienced driver in the car
  • You can drive on all roads that were once restricted
  • You can drive at any time of the day or night

Restrictions can vary by province, so make sure to check rules and regulations applicable to you. When you achieve G2 level, you still have one more road test before getting your full G license. Depending on the province you live in, you have between 3 and 5 years to do your final road test before your license gets knocked down to G1 again.

The road test that will take you from your G2 to your full license could be a little harder than the first road test . You will drive on the highway, but also you will be tested on the basics that were covered in your G2 road test as well. Some may find that this road test is a little trickier, especially if you have fallen into bad habits while driving with your G2, such as accelerating through amber lights or not using turn signals when other cars are not in sight. If you fail this road test, you will have to take the G1 driving exam once again to get back to G2 before you can try again for your full license.

If you do not fail any tests, it usually takes around 2 years to get the full license; one year driving with G1, and one year driving with G2. Depending on your province, you can shorten this timeframe a little bit by taking driving lessons.

Where to Take Driving Lessons

Although in Canada you do not legally have to take driving lessons, many people decide to because it is a way to reduce the time spent with a G1; plus, most teens are itching to be driving on their own. Besides, although driving lessons can add $200 - $800 to the cost of obtaining your license, you could significantly reduce your insurance premiums as a new driver if you have attended an accredited driving school.

If you live in Ontario, you can compare what your rates would be like with or without having attended driver education classes through our partners Onlia. You can earn up $40 cashback by driving safely while insured through Onlia. You can also check out Onlia's guides for Buying Your First Car and Car Insurance for New and Young Drivers to expand your knowledge as a new driver.

In Canada, all driving schools must be registered and licensed by their provincial Ministry of Transport. If you attend a driving school that is not registered, then it will not count as driving lessons and you will have wasted a lot of money and time.

Driving schools usually include several hours in the classroom and several hours on the road with an instructor. For example, in Ontario, it is common for a driving school to have 4 days in the classroom (usually two weekends in a row), followed by 12 hours on the road which are supervised by approved driving instructors in one-hour slots. The driving practice has lenient timeslots and you can schedule it directly with your assigned driving instructor.

In the classroom, you will learn everything based on the theory of driving, the meanings of different signs, what way to turn your wheels when parking on a hill, and so on. In most programs, you will have multiple tests in the classroom before you can go forward with your driving practice.

On the road, you will learn how to operate a car. Your driving instructor will most likely direct you to low speed highways and will try to bring you to busy areas so that you can learn to drive safely in every environment. You will also learn different ways to park, and other driving essentials.

Approved and Revoked Driving Schools

Many people will hear of a driving school through word of mouth from an older sibling or a friend who has already gotten their license; however, it is imperative to do your own research.

Every day in Canada, driving schools are opening and some are closing; and you want to make sure you are going to an approved school. Therefore, it’s a good idea to look through a list of approved and revoked driving schools in your area.

If a driving school that has been revoked from the Ministry of Transportation, it means that they were teaching improper techniques, or not following the law of driving education.

Tips on Getting Ready for Your Driving Exam

Taking a driving test can be stressful, but the following tips should help you feel more confident when you get on the road.

Practice

Practice makes perfect.  To be a skillful driver takes a lot of practice, so log as many hours behind the wheel as you can before taking road tests.

Parallel Parking

Parallel parking can be extremely hard for many people and unfortunately it pops up on all driving tests. Practice this parking technique every time an opportunity presents itself so that you feel absolutely confident doing this maneuver during your driving tests.

Stay Calm and Alert

Any good driver knows the key to safe driving is to keep calm and to stay alert at the wheel. Always be aware of all your surroundings and be sure to check the mirrors regularly.

Driving in Canada

Getting a driver’s license in Canada can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. We hope that the information we have supplied in this blog post can help you make the right decisions along your journey to a full license.

After you ace all your tests and get your G2 and G license, you’ll need to look into insurance, which is where we come in! Whether you just want to check your potential insurance rates or you're ready to purchase a policy, our partner Onlia is here to help you out.

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