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California Driver’s Licenses FAQs

Am I a California resident?

You are a California resident if your permanent home is in California. DMV will look at things such as voter registration, homeowners tax exemptions, resident vs. nonresident college tuition and other things that suggest a permanent presence in California.

Residency is important because of certain conditions of vehicle registration and when one needs to obtain a license.

There are two provisions in the vehicle code that concern residency. Section 516 defines residency in terms of intent to live in California on more than a temporary basis. It provides that a stay of six months or more in any 12-month period creates a rebuttable presumption of California residency (This means if you can’t show otherwise, it is presumed true.) Section 516 lists nine conditions that may be considered as proof of residency for vehicle registration purposes.

Section 12505 supersedes Section 516 concerning driver’s licenses and defines residency as state of domicile. Section 12505 lists four conditions that may be considered proof of residency for driver’s licensing purposes. These conditions also appear in Section 516. The Section 12505 list is not an exclusive list for driver’s license matters, so presumably conditions of residency appearing on the 516 may be used in a driver’s license scenario as well.

The Code

516, VC 12505

See Also

How long do I have to get my California license?

If you move to California, the law may consider you to have become a California resident. If so, you have only 10 days to get a California license after you move. Paid drivers must obtain a California license before driving at all (Section 12505(c)).

If you are not deemed a permanent California resident, then you may not need a California license. However, if your home state or country does not issue driver’s licenses, then you must get a California license within 30 days (Section 12503). And if you are under 18, you need a nonresident minor’s certificate from DMV to drive after 10 days even if you are not a California resident (VC 12504).

What is a canceled license?

A canceled license is one that has been terminated. It is entirely defunct. If a license is canceled the holder must apply for a new one, though they may do so immediately. A canceled license is a form of retraction that only happens when the vehicle code specifically calls for it. It happens when one applies for a license of a higher vehicle class, when a license has been issued in error or when the license holder changes their name.

A cancellation is technically very different from a revocation or a suspension. Even though they all involve the rescission of privileges, a revocation or suspension is in response to some prohibited action by a driver. In a revocation a license is terminated and there is period before which one may not apply again for a license. A suspension is a temporary withdrawal of driving privileges. It can be restored on a variety of conditions.

Sections 13200 to 13559 provide for the circumstances under which a driver’s license may be revoked, canceled or suspended as well as guidelines for the duration of suspensions and surrender procedures. Few circumstances require cancellations — revocations and suspensions are far more common. Cancellation is also found in other sections of the CVC and may refer to license plates, ID cards, vehicle titles, dealer agreements or driver’s school and instructor licenses. In general, licenses are usually canceled due to spelling errors or name changes.


VC 13100

What is a Class A license?

A Class A license is the most permissive license available and includes all the privileges permitted by Class B and Class C. The holder of a Class A license may operate any vehicle and combination of vehicles licensed in California, as long as they have the required subject endorsement or special certificate. A Class A license holder may also tow the heaviest vehicles (in excess of 10,000 lbs.), multiple vehicles and any trailer bus (with the trailer bus endorsement) (12804.9(b)(1)).

All license classes are authorized for M1 and M2 motorcycle endorsements upon completion of an exam.

A noncommercial Class A, that is a Class A that won’t be used in an employment capacity, can be acquired by the private individual to tow trailers over 10,000 pounds, fifth-wheel trailers over 15,000 pounds and personal livestock trailers.


VC 12804.9

See Also

What is a Class B license?

A Class B license is the second most permissive license and includes all the privileges permitted by Class C. The holder of a Class B license may operate any vehicle that weighs more than 26,000 pounds, a vehicle with three or more axels, a bus or other single vehicles with a weight of over 26,000 pounds, a farm labor vehicle, a housecar and all vehicles permitted by a Class C license. It also permits the towing of vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds by a vehicle that has three axels or more and is over 26,000 pounds.

A Class B license does not permit the driving of trailer buses, while a Class A license does. The housecars driven may be over 40 feet in length.

All license classes are authorized for M1 and M2 motorcycle endorsements upon completion of an exam.


VC 12804.9

What is a Class C license?

A Class C license is a basic license and the class most private citizens have. Despite this, it affords many driving privileges. A Class C license allows the holder to drive two-axel vehicle under 26,000, a vehicle towing a trailer or semitrailer, a housecar and three-axel vehicles less than 6,000 pounds.

Upon passing the corresponding exam, a Class C license holder can also drive a motor scooter and a bus.

For a C Class, a two-axel vehicle must remain under 26,000 pounds when towing a trailer or semitrailer of 10,000. A two-axel vehicle of 4,000 can tow a trailer coach or fifth-wheel trailer of 10,000 as long as it is not for compensation, otherwise vehicle of 4,000 pounds can only tow 9,000 pounds. Certifications can be obtained to haul more weight, but never for compensation. A housecar driven on a Class C license must be less than 40 feet in length. (12804.9)

All license classes are authorized for M1 and M2 motorcycle endorsements upon completion of an exam.


VC 12804.9

What is a combination of vehicles?

The California Vehicle Code and DMV use the term combination of vehicles to refer to any vehicle towing another one. The towed vehicle may be another car, truck, bus, trailer or semitrailer. A different class of license may be required, depending on the weights of the towing and towed vehicles.

What is a commercial driver’s license?

A commercial driver’s license is a Class A or Class B license granted after the passing of a written exam and a driving test in the class of vehicle to be licensed. In addition to the commercial license motorist may also need a special certificate or an endorsement to drive a particular type of vehicle or to drive for a particular purpose.

A commercial license holder can also receive endorsements to haul particular substances, such as fissile or other hazardous materials.


VC 15250, VC 15275

What is a commercial vehicle?

A commercial vehicle is one that is driven primarily to transport people for compensation or property (whether for compensation or not).

In some cases, vehicles are labeled commercial due to their size and purpose even if they are not involved in commercial endeavors (VC 2813).

The definition of commercial vehicle is provided by definition 260, which states that “A ‘commercial vehicle’ is a motor vehicle of a type required to be registered under this code used or maintained for the transportation of persons for hire, compensation, or profit or designed, used, or maintained primarily for the transportation of property.”

There are also many other rules and regulations that apply to commercial vehicles, such as mandatory vehicle checks, where indicated by signage.

Is a taxicab a commercial vehicle?

For vehicle registration purposes, a taxicab is a commercial vehicle, but its operation does not require a commercial driver’s license. Cities and counties are required by California law to regulate taxi drivers to obtain a permit to operate a taxi within the city or county limits.

A commercial vehicle is defined in Section 260(a) as any vehicle used for the transportation of persons for hire, but according to Section 260(d), this definition does not apply to the commercial driver’s license laws. Thus, a taxicab is a commercial vehicle for vehicle registration purposes, but not for the licensing of taxicab drivers

Government Code Section 53075.5 requires every city and county to regulate taxicabs by establishing a permit process, a drug and alcohol testing program, and a program to establish rates for fares.


VC 260, GC 53075.5

Is a limousine a commercial vehicle?

The definition of commercial vehicle in Section 260(a) includes any vehicle used for the transportation of persons for hire, but the drivers of limousines do not need a commercial driver’s license to transport fewer than 10 passengers, including the driver.

Is a Lyft car or Uber car a commercial vehicle?

The definition of commercial vehicle in Section 260(a) includes any vehicle used for the transportation of persons for hire, but the drivers of vehicles in these so-called transportation network companies do not need a commercial driver’s license to transport passengers.

On September 19, 2013, the Public Utilities Commission approved a decision to allow transportation network companies (TCN) to operate in California provided they complied with background checks, driver training and car inspection programs, and mandatory insurance coverage.

How do I hire a limousine?

  1. Understand that you must schedule a limousine in advance (unlike a taxi).
  2. Do your homework. Read online reviews and check with your local chamber of commerce to make sure the company has a good reputation.
  3. Make sure the company is licensed with the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and that it maintains liability insurance.
  4. Insist on a written contract with all the details of your job, i.e ., amount of deposit, tip policies, times and locations for pickup and drop-off, and services to be provided.
  5. Insist on seeing the exact car to be provided.
  6. Write down the TCP number displayed on the car and verify it with the PUC.
  7. Keep all receipts.

What is a nonresident minor’s certificate?

A nonresident minor’s certificate is a piece of paper issued by DMV to an out-of-state driver under 18 who wants to drive in California on their home state license.

Unlike nonresident adult motorists (who are exempt from the California driver’s license requirement), a nonresident minor may drive in California for only 10 days before either getting a California license or obtaining a nonresident minor’s certificate (Section 12504(a)). The minor must show his or her home state license and proof of financial responsibility (Section 12504(b)).


VC 12504

What is a driving permit?

A driving permit is a limited license given to a motorist who has passed the written test but not yet passed the driving test. It allows the motorist to practice driving and drive for their driving test.


VC 12504(b)

What is the Mandatory Actions Unit?

The Mandatory Actions Unit at DMV’s headquarters in Sacramento is the unit responsible for entering driver’s license suspensions into the California motorist database. The MAU is DMV’s authority on lengths of suspensions.

Department of Motor Vehicles
Mandatory Actions Unit, Mail Station J233
P. O. Box 942890
Sacramento, CA 94290-0001


Your Questions About California Driver’s Licenses

Devise a plan to overcome hurdles when you face special problems. For answers to questions and to schedule a consultation, call Beat DMV at 818-570-6989 or send an email message and learn how the Law Office of Rodney Gould can help.