Canada is made up of provinces and territories that each has their own driver's licensing system and minimum age limit to get started with the licensing program. Here we hope to give you information on the various areas of Canada, how old one must be to get a driver's license and some information on the different licensing systems in place across the vast region known as Canada.
There are 10 current provinces in Canada. These provinces include Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan. There are also three territories, which are Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon. The major difference between a Canadian province and a territory is that a province receives its power and authority directly from the Crown (Canadian Monarchy which is a constitutional system of government), whereas territories derive their mandates from the federal government. The provincial governments in Canada normally issue driver's licenses.
All provinces and territories of Canada have a graduated driver's license system in place. It has been shown through numerous studies that allowing young drivers to learn to drive by placing them with many restrictions and then gradually taking away the restrictions so they end up with a full driver's license without conditions helps keep them safer. Teens generally are in more accidents due to their lack of inexperience operating a vehicle and immature nature. Read below for driver's license information on the various areas of Canada. Let us start with the provinces.
The province of Alberta has seven classes of operator's licenses. They have a graduated licensing system in place that starts with the Class 7 license. This class license permits an operator to drive: a moped, a motor vehicle referred to in the Class 5 category, but only as a learner and with restrictions and a motorcycle, as a learner only, if the operator is at least 16 years of age.
The minimum learning or licensing age for this permit is fourteen (14). Other license types include the Class 5, which has a minimum learning age of 14 and a minimum licensing age of 16. The Class 6 license is a motorcycle license and has a minimum learning or licensing age is 16.
The minimum learning or licensing age is 18 for the Class 1, 2, 3 and 4 licenses because they are commercial driver's licenses (CDL) for driving bigger vehicles such as semi-trucks.
In British Columbia (BC) the minimum age start driving is 16. For new drivers in BC, getting your full-privilege Class 5 driver's license generally takes about three years. You first apply for a Class 7L license. You will have to study the booklet Road Sense for Drivers and take a knowledge test and meet other standards of driver fitness. You can apply at any driver licensing office.
After passing the knowledge test and meeting all application requirements, you will get a Class 7 learner's license. With the Class 7 L license you can drive supervised with certain license restrictions. For example, you must drive with an L sign on your vehicle. The learner's license is valid for two years after which you must re-qualify on the knowledge test. After twelve months in the learner stage, you are eligible to take your class 7 road test.
If you pass the Class 7 road test, you will advance to the novice stage of graduated licensing. You receive a Class 7 (novice) license. Some, but not all, license restrictions are removed. You can now drive unsupervised, but there must be no alcohol in your body and you must display an N sign. With a novice license, you may not carry more than one passenger; unless you also have a qualified supervisor with you. Immediate family members are excluded from this restriction.
After 24 months in the novice stage, you are eligible to take the second road test, the Class 5 road test. If you pass this test, you exit the graduated licensing program and receive your full-privilege, Class 5 driver's license.
If you take a GLP-approved driver education course during the Learner stage you will be eligible for a 6 month reduction in the waiting period before your Class 5 road test.
BC's Graduated Licensing Program (GLP) lets you get on-road experience, while putting special restrictions on your license that help reduce your risk of crashing. As you gain skills and experience, the restrictions are removed.
In Manitoba to obtain your first driver's license, you must be at least 16 years old or 15½ if enrolled in the high school education program. If you are not in the Driver Education Manitoba Public Insurance, MPI, states that you should first visit an Autopac broker with your identity documents and register as a Manitoba Public Insurance customer. You must meet certain identity requirements.
Once you have done that, the agent will take your photograph and capture your signature. Then the agent will provide you with a document called a Change Particulars that you will need to take the written knowledge test you must pass before you get a Learner's permit.
Later, you will also have to pass a road test. If you are successful in both, you will be on your way to earning full driving privileges.
Under Manitoba's Graduated Driver Licensing program, you will be given a Learner's Permit after you pass the written test, for a minimum of nine months. This is followed by an Intermediate license, issued for a minimum of 15 months, and after that comes a Full license.
Each stage puts specific restrictions on the new driver to encourage good, safe driving. The MPI suggests that all new drivers should consider taking lessons from an approved and accredited driving instructor.
In New Brunswick, you can start the licensing process at age 16. You start with a Class 7 License which has 2 levels, named Level I and Lever II. The Class 7 license is an instructional type of license for the driver to acquire experience, over a minimum of 24months, before becoming a fully licensed driver. You must be at least 16 years of age to apply for a Class 7 license. Those applicants under 18 years of age must have parental consent that must be witnessed by a non-relative. You must also pass a vision screening (20/40 best eye) and written, basic and signs tests.
At Level I, only one fully licensed driver who is seated in the front passenger seat must accompany you. You can pass into Level II after 12 months or four (4) months if graduated from a recognized driving school and having successfully passed a road test. When you move up to the Level II Class 7 there is no restrictions on the number of passengers you can have in the vehicle.
In New Brunswick to obtain a learner's license you must first pass an examination to determine if you meet the required vision standards. To obtain a learner's license, you must also have an acceptable knowledge of road signs, rules of the road, and safe driving practices. You will be given a written or oral examination on your ability to recognize and understand the meaning of highway road signs and on the traffic laws and rules of safe driving.
You must hold a graduated driver's license for a minimum of 24 months before being eligible to obtain a Class 5 license (license type used to drive passenger vehicles). The graduated license is an instructional type of license for a driver to acquire experience before becoming a fully licensed driver.
There are other Classes of licenses that have higher and lower minimum ages. For a Class 8 license, the applicant must be at least 14 years of age and have a parental consent form. With a Class 8 license, the holder can only operate a farm tractor on a street or highway as well as on farmland.
At 14 years of age, and with parental consent, one may also apply for a Class 9 license. The Class 9 license permits the holder to operate a motor driven cycle and farm tractor on a street or highway. The motor driven cycle must be 50 cc's or under.
For Class 1, 2, 3 and 4 licenses you must be at least 18 years of age. These types of license are commercial licenses (CDL) since they allow you to drive semi-truck (Class 1), Bus (Class 2), two or three axle motor vehicles up to a certain weight (Class 3) and ambulance or taxicab (Class 4).
A Class 5 driver's license is what most people work to by going through the graduated licensing program. This allows you to drive normal passenger vehicles. To apply for a Class 5 license you must be 18 years old.
The Class 6 license permits the holder to operate a motorcycle and all vehicles included in Classes 6D and nine on a street or highway. You must be 16 years old to apply for a Class 6 or Class 6D license. A Class 6D license authorizes you to operate a motorcycle up to and including 550 cc's and a Class 9 vehicle. Anything over this size requires a full Class 6 license.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, the minimum age to apply for a license is 16. In this province of Canada, licensing is a gradual, systematic licensing process that is designed to help novice (new) drivers acquire the knowledge and skill needed to safely operate a motor vehicle. This is accomplished by gradually increasing driving privileges during the new driver's first two years on the road. There are two levels during the novice driver period. They are the Level I Novice and Level II Novice/Licensed driver.
You must be at least 16 years of age to apply for a novice driver Class 5, Level I (passenger car or light truck), or Class 6 Level I (motorcycle). If you are under 19 years of age, you will be required to get parental or guardian consent before a learner's license will be issued to you.
The Class 5, Level I license is valid for a period of two (2) years. A novice driver must spend a minimum 12¹ months as a Level 1 driver before you may take a road test. This time may be reduced to 8 months at Level I, with successful completion of an approved Driver Education Program. The Driver Education Program may be completed at any time during the Class 5, Level 1 phase. The restrictions for a Level I drivers include:
- Be accompanied by licensed driver with 4 years driving experience as a Class 5 driver.
- Novice Driver must have 0% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC).
- Accompanying driver must not be in excess of .05% BAC.
- No passengers, except the accompanying driver who occupies a seat in the front of the motor vehicle, sitting adjacent to the novice driver. There is an exception for parents or guardians, who may be present in the vehicle, if the novice driver is enrolled in a driver education program accompanied by a licensed instructor.
- Not permitted to drive between midnight and 5 a.m.
- Novice Driver sign must be displayed in a conspicuous position upon the rear of the motor vehicle he or she is driving. The lettering must be a minimum of 5 centimeters in height, in black lettering on a white background.
- To exit this level you must pass a road test for Class 5. A novice driver may take the road test at the end of his or her minimum period for Class 5, Level I. You then advance to be a Level II novice driver.
The Novice Driver must spend 12 months at Level II and have the following conditions on them:
- Must be accompanied by licensed driver with 4 years driving experience if driving a motor vehicle between midnight and 5 a.m. There is an exemption for work purposes. The Novice Driver must produce proof of working hours upon request of a peace officer.
- Novice Driver must have 0% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC).
- Number of passengers in vehicle is restricted to number of seat belts in vehicle.
There are other types of licenses and the government has implemented a comprehensive commercial test for drivers wishing to obtain a Class 1, 2, or 3 driver's license. Before you can obtain a commercial class of driver's license, you must have one (1) year as a class 5 driver before you can apply for a commercial class of driver's license.
In Nova Scotia, you need to be 16 years old to start your licensing process for a Class 5 license. There are other types of license classifications in NS. Service NS notes that the different classes there are in place to match the different types of vehicles. Since most people drive only passenger vehicles then most will only need to obtain a Class 5 license.
Nova Scotia has a graduated driver licensing system (GDL) which has 3 levels which includes a Learner License (also called a beginner license), next the newly licensed driver's license and finally a full driver's license. To apply for a regular (Class 7) learner's license you must be 16 years of age. If you apply for this license when you are under 18 you need to have written permission of 1 parent (or legal guardian) to get a Learner's License.
Building upon existing provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act, the Nova Scotia graduated driver licensing system is a comprehensive approach, which addresses driver training, and education; skills and knowledge testing; driver improvement programs and the issue of driver inexperience.
For Class 7 or 8 licenses, the Learner's stage of the system lasts for 6 months, which may be reduced to 3 months if a recognized driver education or training program is taken. The conditions that one operates a vehicle under during the learner's stage include no passengers, except an experienced driver who holds at least a Class 5 license and zero blood alcohol level for the learning driver.
After your Learner's License, the next level in the graduated licensing system is the Newly Licensed Driver's License (Class 5N, the N stands for newly licensed). Therefore, once a road test has been successfully completed, the Learner driver becomes Newly Licensed for a minimum of two years. Operating conditions with for a Newly Licensed driver include:
- Zero blood alcohol level for the newly licensed driver;
- Only one front seat passenger and rear seat(s) passengers limited to the number of available seat belts;
- No upgrade beyond a Class 5 driver's license; and,
- No driving between midnight and 5:00 AM, unless accompanied by an experienced driver.
- You must remain at the newly licensed (5N) stage for 2 years. To graduate from the newly licensed driver stage, the driver must successfully complete a 6-hour Defensive Driving course or complete the full Driver Training Course (25 hours theory, 10 hours driving time).
There are other types of license classifications in NS. Service NS notes that the different classes there are in place to match the different types of vehicles. Since most people drive only passenger vehicles then most will only need to obtain a Class 5 license.
For Class 1 and 2 licenses, the minimum age is 19. For class 3 and 4 licenses, the minimum age is 18. For classes 5, 5N, 6, and 7 the minimum age is 16 with parental consent. One can apply for a class 8 license at the age of 14 but it is for farm tractors.
In Ontario to apply for a license, you must be at least 16 years old and pass a vision test and a test of your knowledge of the rules of the road and traffic signs. After you pass these tests, you will get a Class G1 or M1 license and a driver information package for new drivers. You must pass two road tests to become fully licensed.
New drivers earn full driving privileges in two stages and have five years to complete the program (Classes G1, G2, M2 or M2 with condition "L") and graduate to a full license (Classes G, M or M with condition L).
A new driver must hold a G1 license for a minimum of 12 months before attempting the G1 road test. This time can be reduced to eight months if you successfully complete a Ministry-approved Beginner Driver Education Course. Drivers earn more privileges after passing their G1 road test.
As a G1 driver, one is required to:
- Maintain a zero blood alcohol level while driving;
- Be accompanied by a fully licensed driver, who has at least four years driving experience, and a blood alcohol level of less than .05 per cent, in case he/she needs to take over the wheel;
- Ensure the accompanying driver is the only other person in the front seat;
- Ensure the number of passengers in the vehicle is limited to the number of working seat belts;
- Refrain from driving on Ontario's "400-series" highways or on high-speed expressways such as the Queen Elizabeth Way, Don Valley Parkway, Gardiner Expressway, E.C. Row Expressway and the Conestoga Parkway;
- Refrain from driving between midnight and 5:00 a.m.
- The MTO notes that if your accompanying driver is a driving instructor licensed in Ontario, you may drive on any road.
New drivers must hold a G2 license for a minimum of 12 months before they can attempt the G2 road test. At this level, you have more privileges because of your driving experience. You may drive without an accompanying driver on all Ontario roads anytime. However, you are still required to:
- Maintain a zero blood alcohol level while driving;
- Ensure the number of passengers in the vehicle is limited to the number of working seat belts.
- Also G2 drivers 19 or under can carry only one passenger aged 19 or under. After the first six months, and until the G2 driver earns a full G license or turns 20, they can carry only three passengers aged 19 or under.
The passenger restrictions do not apply if the G2 driver is operating a motor vehicle after 5 a.m. and before midnight. These restrictions will not apply if the G2 driver is accompanied by a full "G" licensed driver (with at least four years driving experience) in the front seat, or if the passengers are immediate family members.
In Ontario, there are 15 different license classes. Each one qualifies you to drive a different type of vehicle. The class of license you have must match the type of vehicle you are driving. The G is the one most have since it is for passenger vehicles. If you want to know more about the other types of license classes and their minimum age contact the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.
Prince Edward Island (PEI) has 9 types of licenses termed Class 1 to Class 9 licenses. Class 5 is the one most drivers have since it is for passenger drivers. In PEI, the initial license for new drivers is probationary (2 years). The minimum age to drive in PEI is 16 and the wait period is 275 days with Drivers Ed and 365 without. Drivers providing instructions to a beginner driver with an Instruction Permit must have held a valid driver's license for at least 4 years.
PEI has a graduated driver's license system in place that starts with the Stage 1 where you get the Class 7 beginners permit. Stage 2 is your first year with a Class 5 driver's license and Stage 3 is your second year with a Class 5. As you mature as a driver you move through the stages and have fewer conditions on your driving - such as passenger restrictions, curfews and cell phone restrictions.
In Quebec is like the other provinces in that there are several classes of driver's licenses for those that drive passenger vehicle to motorcycles to commercial vehicles. The most common license to have is the passenger vehicle license, which is the Class 5 license. For a class 5 license, the minimum age is 16, with parental consent.
Quebec also has a graduated licensing system in place. The first step is the learner's license. This license allows you to drive accompanied by an individual who has held a valid driver's license for at least 2 years, authorizing the operation of a passenger vehicle. An accompanying rider must be prepared to provide assistance and advice. A probationary license holder is not qualified to serve as accompanying rider.
A Quebec learner's license is valid for 18 months, and must be held for a period of at least 12 months (or 8 months if the holder has successfully completed a practical driving course in a recognized driving school).
After the learner's license, you move onto the probationary license. With a probationary license, you still have restrictions you must follow.
Therefore, to obtain a Class 5 license you must have 1 year's experience as the holder of a learner's license, or 8 months in the case of a person who has passed a practical course at an approved driving school and then hold a probationary license for 2 years or until the age of 25, whichever comes first.
In Saskatchewan driver the Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) handles licensing. The minimum age being the licensing process is 16 unless you are in the high school program then you can start at age 15. There are 3 stages in the graduated licensing program - Learner, Novice 1 and Novice 2. The Learner's license must be valid for 274 days (nine months). The Class 5 Novice 1 driver's license must be valid for 183 days (six months). Class 5 Novice 2 driver's license must be valid for 365 days (one year) with no incidents (at-fault collisions, license suspensions and traffic convictions).
After passing the Learner road test, Novice drivers spend a minimum of 18 months in the Novice stage, and it is mandatory that the last 12 months are at-fault collision and traffic conviction free to exit the program and graduate to an experienced Class 5 driver's license. If a driver in Novice 2 has an at-fault collision, traffic conviction, or license suspension, they restart their 12 months incident-free period.
Under Graduated Driver's Licensing, new drivers earn more driving privileges as they gain more experience and show they can handle the increased risk. The minimum age for the Class 7 learner license is 16 unless you are in the high school program. If so, you can start at age 15. You must keep this for 9 months before moving on to the Novice 1. For the Novice 1 license, you must be at least 16 years of age and hold it for 6 months before you move to the Novice 2, which you must hold for 12 months.
As with other provinces there are other classes of licenses which include commercial licenses Class 1, 2, 3 and 4 whose minimum age is 18. Class 5, 6 and 7 license types have the minimum age of 16 to start the licensing process.
The Northwest Territories Department of Transportation now employs a graduated license program as well. This GDL program requires new drivers to take a series of steps to attain a full Class 5 driver's license to drive passenger vehicles. There are now 3 stages and it takes a minimum of 2 years to get your full Class 5 driver's license.
The minimum age to get a Class 5 license is seventeen (17); however you can start the licensing process at age 15. To get a learner Class 7 license you must be 15 and pass a written test. This Learner license must be held for a minimum of 12 months.
At age 16 and after maintaining a Class 7 learner license for 12 months you can apply for a probationary Class 5P license. The probationary license stage lasts for another 12 months. With this license, you still have restrictions on you, but not nearly as many as when you had the learner's license. After completing your probationary licensing stage, you can apply for a full Class driver's license.
In Nunavut they too have a Class 7 learner's license and a Class 5 full driver's license for a passenger car as well as CDL licenses (Class 1, 2, 3 and 4) plus a Class 6 motorcycle license. The minimum age to start the licensing process is 16.
Nunavut became Canada's third territory in April 1999. This territory was formed from the eastern part of the Northwest Territories and encompasses a massive portion of Canadian's Arctic territory. This newer territory is home to only about 25,000 residents, about 80 percent of whom are Inuit.
Since Nunavut is such as small territory, they do not offer much information regarding the licensing of their residents so for one that needs to be licensed in this part of Canada you should contact the Nunavut Department of Community Government and Transportation.
In Yukon, they also have a graduated driver's license program in place. The first step is a learner's license which you can apply for at age 15, with parental consent. To get the learner license you must take a written exam. So the first step is passing this test. The second step is to practice driving for at least six months with a co-driver under specific conditions and restrictions.
The third step is to graduate to a Novice License. You must be at least 16 years of age and have passed a road test. The fourth step is to practice driving as a Novice for 18 months, which means you can drive without a co-driver except between the hours of midnight and 5:00 a.m. The fifth and final step is to apply for your full privilege Yukon Drivers License.
To obtain full driving privileges in the Yukon you must be 17 1/2 years of age and all conditions of the Learners and Novice stages must have been met.
As with other areas of Canada there are other Classes of licenses for commercial vehicles and motorcycles so if you want to know how to obtain a CDL of motorcycle license and the minimum age to obtain these other licenses contact the Yukon Government.
Canada is the second largest country by total area in the world and thus has many provinces and territories with their own individual laws regulating the driver's license systems. All have in common that they require young, first time drivers to go through a graduated driver license program. This helps a driver to get use to the road with restrictions that help them learn the rules of the road with hopefully a low amount of distractions. The age at which one can start driving in Canada depends upon which area you are residing.
Anyone that is ready to start driving should contact their licensing authority for their province or territory to find out the minimum age (between 14 and 16 normally as you have seen above, however at 14 you are learning to drive farm vehicles normally) and what tests you must take to get your learner's permit or license. If you are not yet of age you can still obtain the driver's manual or guidebook your Canadian government puts out and start learning the rules of the road so you will be ready for your written test when you reach the legal driving age in your area.
Remember even if you only have a learner's license you or your parents should contact the insurance provider to make sure you are covered when learning to drive in your family's vehicle or whosever vehicle you plan to operate as a novice driver. Insurance laws vary widely across Canada however, when you have moved up a step and have fewer restrictions or when you have your full license, depending upon your area's laws, you will normally need insurance to drive and be covered for any accidents you may cause.