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State ID vs. Driver’s License: Key Differences Explained

State ID vs. Driver’s License: Key Differences Explained

Driver’s licenses allow you to operate a vehicle and may include information such as your blood type and whether you are an organ donor.

State identification cards resemble driver’s licenses in appearance, but they are not the same thing. A person’s name, photograph, date of birth, and address are commonly included on a state ID.

State identification cards are usually valid for a set amount of time, such as four years, after which they must be renewed.

Both kinds of identification include your image, address, birth date, and a description of your appearance.

What Is A State ID?

American flag
What is a State ID?

A state ID is a kind of identification issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or a comparable agency in a certain state. Those who do not have a driver’s license or another kind of identification can use it as an official form of identity.

A driver’s license enables a person to operate a motor vehicle legally, whereas a state ID is used for identification. State IDs are frequently used as identification when flying, creating bank accounts, or accessing government services.

To receive a state ID, an individual must normally present confirmation of identity, residency, and a Social Security number. The procedure for obtaining a state ID varies by state, but it generally consists of filling out an application, producing the necessary papers, and paying a cost.

What Is A Driver’s License?

A driver’s license is an official document that allows you to drive a car on public roads. It demonstrates that the driver has passed a driving test and meets the minimal qualifications for operating a motor vehicle.

Driver’s licenses are granted by state Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) or other state-authorized bodies. The prerequisites for acquiring a driver’s license differ by state.

Still, they often involve passing a written test on traffic laws and safety standards, a vision test, and a driving test that evaluates the driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely.

A driver’s license normally contains the driver’s name, photograph, date of birth, address, and the types of vehicles the driver is permitted to operate.

Driver’s licenses in some states also carry endorsements or restrictions that limit the driver’s driving privileges, such as driving restrictions at night or on highways.

Why Do I Need A State Identification Card Or A Driver’s License?

Documents and pen
Why Do I Need A State Identification Card Or A Driver’s License?

You are not needed to carry an identification card unless you are an immigrant with legal permanent residence status.

A state ID card or driver’s license may be required as identification to:

  • Get a job.
  • Cash a check.
  • Rent an apartment.
  • Get free tax help.
  • Enroll in school.
  • Open a bank account.
  • Receive public benefits.
  • Requirements for travel.

Legal Requirements

A state ID or driver’s license is required by law in most states. These documents confirm identification and domicile, and they are frequently necessary when acquiring a passport, registering to vote, or applying for government benefits.

For Identification

A driver’s license or state ID is an important form of identification. These are frequently necessary when opening a bank account, applying for a job, or gaining access to specific services. A state ID or driver’s license can also aid in preventing identity theft by validating one’s identification.

Driving Privileges

You must have a driver’s license to legally operate a motor vehicle on public roads. If discovered driving without a license, one may face legal implications such as fines or possibly jail time. Furthermore, having a driver’s license can aid with work options that entail driving, such as delivery or transportation.

Access To Services

A state ID or driver’s license is often necessary to access healthcare or public assistance programs. These documents may also be necessary to pick up packages at a post office or enter certain government buildings.

  1. While flying within the United States, a state ID or driver’s license is frequently necessary to board a flight.
  2. Furthermore, a passport is required when traveling internationally, commonly obtained with a state ID or driver’s license.
  3. Possessing a state ID or driver’s license might also make renting a car or checking into a hotel easier while traveling.
Man sitting in car
Why do I need a state identification card or a driver’s license?

What’s The Difference Between A State ID And A Drivers’ License?

The fundamental distinction between a state identification card and a driver’s license is their intended use. A state ID is primarily used for identification, whereas a driver’s license documents one’s driving ability.


To acquire a state ID, a person normally needs to present documentation of their identification and place of residence; in contrast, getting a driver’s license involves completing written exams on safety and traffic laws and a driving test.

Name, picture, date of birth, and address are all required for identification on a state ID and a driver’s license. A driver’s license, however, also lists any endorsements or restrictions on a person’s ability to drive and the kinds of vehicles they are permitted to drive.

Driving Rights

A state ID does not offer driving rights, whereas a driver’s license gives the holder the legal right to drive on public roads.


A state ID and a driver’s license may have different fees. As no examination is necessary for a state ID, it is often less expensive than a driver’s license.

Those who meet specific eligibility requirements, such as being above a particular age or having a low income, may also be given free state IDs by various states.

Difference Between Driver’s License and Real I.D.

Driver’s License Compatible With Real ID

A Real ID license can be used for identification and driving.

Real ID is a broad name for a new federal law implementing new homeland security regulations to deter terrorism. The regulations outline the minimal requirements, processes, and standards that must be followed before the Federal government can accept a state-issued driver’s license or identification card for official use.

Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL)For Americans traveling back to the United States by land or sea from Bermuda, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, or the United States, an EDL serves as both a Real ID Compliant License and a practical border crossing document.
Driver Privilege Card (DPC)A DPC should only be used while driving. A DPC is NOT Real ID compatible and is tagged “Not for Federal Identification.”
Identification for Non-Driver (NDR)An identity card without the ability to drive is a non-driver ID. A Non-Driver ID may be obtained by any resident of Vermont, regardless of age. No one can hold a Vermont Non-Driver Identity Card with a valid driver’s license from any other state. Real ID compliant, enhanced (EDL), or non-real ID compliant non-driver identification cards (DPC).
Commercial driving License (CDL)In general, you need a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate a vehicle if its gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is 26,001 pounds or higher, it can accommodate 16 or more passengers (including the driver), or you transport hazardous material in quantities that require placarding.
Driver’s License Compatible with Real ID

Final Thoughts

  • State identification cards resemble driver’s licenses in appearance, but they are not the same thing.
  • A person’s name, photograph, date of birth, and address are commonly included on a state ID.
  • Driver’s licenses are a type of identification frequently necessary to access government services, open bank accounts, and complete other critical duties.
  • In addition to serving as proof of driving rights, a driver’s license can also be used as identification for boarding aircraft or undertaking other transactions that need identification.

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