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Provisional driving licence UK guide 2024

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Learning to drive can be an important milestone, regardless of your age. It opens up new horizons, from job opportunities to different places to live. Before you start your learning journey, however, you will need to apply for a provisional driving licence.

Below we will explain everything you need to know about applying for your provisional driving licence, including how much it costs and what type of car insurance you need to get when you’re learning to drive.

What is a provisional driving licence?

Getting a provisional driving licence should be your first step when learning how to drive, as it is a legal requirement for UK learner drivers. Even if you’re supervised by a driving instructor or qualified driver – another requirement when learning how to drive – you must have a valid provisional licence. If you get caught driving without a provisional licence, you may be fined up to £1,000.

While, obviously, you’ll need your provisional licence when taking your practical driving test, you’ll also need to have one when booking your theory test.

When can I get a provisional driving licence?

You can first apply for a UK provisional licence when you’re 15 years and 9 months old. However, you won’t actually be able to take your first lesson until you’re 17 years old, and then only with the correct supervision. The exception to this is if you receive, or have applied for, the enhanced rate of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – if so, you can drive from the age of 16. 

Alongside meeting the age requirements, you will need to:

  • be able to read a number plate from 20 metres away
  • have been given permission to live in in Great Britain for at least 185 days

Who can supervise me while I’m learning to drive?

When learning to drive, you must be supervised by a driving instructor or qualified driver at all times. While a qualified driver can include family and friends, they must:

  • be over 21 years old (however, some car insurers may require a minimum age of 25 when teaching someone to drive)
  • have had a full driving licence for at least three years
  • have a driving licence from one of the following eligible regions: the UK, the European Union (EU), Switzerland, Norway or Lichtenstein
  • be qualified to drive the vehicle you want to learn in, e.g. a manual car licence for a manual car

If you’re supervised by a friend or relative, it is illegal for them to use their mobile phone for the duration of the session. Similarly, you can only practise driving on a motorway if you’re supervised by a qualified driving instructor. Your friend or family member also cannot take money for the lessons unless they’re a driving instructor approved by the Driving Standards Agency (DSA).

If you’re caught driving without the correct supervision, you can be fined up to £1,000 and get up to six points on your provisional licence. If they have not expired, these points will be carried over to your full driving licence when you pass your practical test.

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How do I apply for a provisional licence?

You can apply for a provisional driving licence either online at gov.uk, or via the post. If you’re applying online, you will need to:

  1. Provide the right forms of identification: this includes one identity document, such as a passport, and the addresses of where you have lived for the last three years. If you have one, you may also be asked to supply your National Insurance number.
  2. Supply a valid photo and signature: this will be used by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) on your provisional licence. You may be able to use your passport photo, as well as its signature, if your passport has one. 
  3. Provide details of any medical conditions or specifications: this includes, but is not limited to, epilepsy, diabetes controlled by insulin, strokes with symptoms lasting longer than a month, and any condition affecting both your eyes (or your remaining eye if you only have one). If you do have one of the listed medical conditions, you will be directed to apply using the only online service; this may entail you sending your identity documents via the post.

If you’re applying by post, meanwhile, you can either:

  • download and print, or order online, the correct forms from the DVLA 
  • visit a Post Office that offers DVLA services and collect the forms in person
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£34 if you apply online (MasterCard, Visa, Electron or Delta debit card, or credit card)

 

£43 if you apply via post (cheque or postal order)

What is provisional driving insurance and do I need it when I’m learning to drive?

Provisional driving insurance is a form of car insurance designed to cover you while you’re learning to drive. You must have some form of insurance in place before learning to drive. If you’re caught driving without insurance, you can receive an unlimited fine, get up to eight penalty points, or even be banned from driving outright.

If you’re learning to drive in a car you own, then you will need a learner driver insurance policy in your name. If you are practising in someone else’s vehicle, however, then you will either need to check that you are covered by the car owner’s insurance policy, or take out your own cover. While the legal minimum age for a qualified driver is 21 years old, some insurance policies require your supervisor to be 25 or over. So always make sure to check the age requirements of a policy if you intend for a friend or relative under 25 to help you learn to drive.

Once you’ve passed your driving test, you will need to upgrade from learner driver insurance to a full policy. Unfortunately, as a brand new driver, you’ll be faced with some of the most expensive car insurance premiums around. However, there are ways you can bring the cost of your car insurance down, aside from shopping around for the best quote available.

For example, you could consider telematics insurance. Otherwise known as black box insurance, a telematics policy will see a smart device installed in your car that tracks your driving habits. This includes your speed, how fast you break, what kind of roads you regularly drive on, and the times of day you take your car for a spin.

Telematics insurance can be much cheaper than standard car insurance, as you’re proving yourself as a safe driver. This is especially useful for new drivers, who have no driving, and therefore no insurance, history to go on. And, over time, this evidence may entitle you to cheaper car insurance down the line without the need for a telematics device. You aren’t guaranteed a cheaper quote with telematics insurance, however, so always compare a wide range of premiums before putting pen to paper.

Another option is to build up your no-claims bonus. This is where you receive a discount to your premium for every year you go without making a car insurance claim. While this will not make your car insurance cheaper from the outset, over time you may be able to claim discounts worth anywhere between 30 and 60 per cent.

You could also consider adding an older, more experienced driver to your policy as a named driver. This may be particularly advantageous for young drivers who still live at home with their parents. In the eyes of the insurance provider, this lessens the chance of an accident, and therefore potentially your premium, because it may not always be the newly-qualified driver behind the wheel of the car.

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Facts and stats about provisional driving licences

  • Your provisional licence will cost £34 if you apply online, or £43 if you apply by post
  • You must be able to read a number plate from 20 metres away to qualify for a provisional driving licence
  • Your provisional licence will last for 10 years
  • You must be supervised by a driving instructor or qualified driver when you drive with a provisional licence
  • You must show L plates on your car when driving with a provisional licence
  • You can only drive on motorways with a provisional licence if you are supervised by a driving instructor, and the car is fitted with dual controls
  • If driving in Northern Ireland under a provisional licence there is a speed limit of 45 miles per hour (mph), or 72 kilometres per hour (km/h), unless you are on the motorway
  • If you are caught driving on a provisional licence without the correct supervision, you can be fined up to £1,000 and receive up to six points on your licence 
  • If you are caught driving on a provisional licence without the correct insurance, you can get an unlimited fine, be banned from driving, and receive up to eight penalty points

Frequently asked questions about applying for a provisional driving licence

With a provisional licence, you can drive both automatic and manual cars, alongside mopeds and light quad bikes. If you then pass your test in a manual car, you will be able to drive both automatic and manual cars on your full licence. However, if you pass driving an automatic, you will only be able to drive an automatic on your full licence.

Once you pass your driving test, the examiner will typically take your provisional driving licence, and arrange for the DVLA to send you your full licence. You can still drive while you wait for your full licence to arrive, however. You just need to make sure you are carrying the driving test pass certificate you are given once you complete your exam.

If you didn’t hand over your provisional licence, for example if you need to use it as ID, then you have to fill in a D1 ‘application for a driving licence’ form. This can be downloaded from the DVLA online, or picked up at the Post Office. You will then need to send the following to DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1BN:

  • your completed D1 form
  • your signed driving test pass certificate
  • original identification documents
  • a passport photo (if you have a paper provisional licence)
  • your provisional driving licence 

You may also need to apply for a full licence by post if you have changed your name or address, and it is different to your provisional licence.

If you have lost your provisional licence, you can apply online at gov.uk for a replacement. This will cost £20.  

When applying for a replacement licence, you will need to provide your addresses for the last three years, and, if you know them, your driving licence number, your National Insurance number, and your passport number.

You can apply to change the address of your provisional driving licence for free by using the gov.uk service online. If you want to change your name at the same time, you will need to apply by post.

If you do not inform the DVLA that your address has changed, you could be fined up to £1,000.

Your provisional driving licence will last for 10 years. If it expires, you will need to renew it online at gov.uk, or at a participating Post Office. 

It will cost you £14 to renew your provisional licence online, and £21.50 if you apply in person.

Connor Campbell

Finance Writer

Connor Campbell is an experienced personal and business finance writer who has been producing online content for almost a decade. 

Connor is the personal finance expert for Independent Advisor, guiding readers through everything they need to know about car insurance and home insurance. From how much it costs to the best insurance providers in the UK, he’s here to help you find the right policy for your needs. 

In his capacity as writer and spokesperson at NerdWallet, Connor explored a number of topics close to his heart, such as the impact of our increasingly cashless society, and the hardships and heroics of British entrepreneurs. His commentary was featured in sites such as The Mirror, the Daily Express and Business Insider

At financial trading firm Spreadex, meanwhile, his market commentary was featured in outlets such as The Guardian, BBC, Reuters and the Evening Standard

Connor is a voracious reader with an MA in English, and is dedicated to making life’s financial decisions a little bit easier by doing away with jargon and needless complexity.

Molly Dyson

Editor

After growing up with a passion for writing, Molly studied journalism and creative writing at university in her home country of the United States.

She has written for a variety of print and online publications, from small town newspapers to international magazines. Most of her 10-year career since relocating to the UK has been spent in business journalism, writing and editing for admin professionals at PA Life magazine and business travel managers at Business Travel News Europe and representing those titles at conferences around the world.

Now an Editor at the Independent Advisor, Molly is an expert in a broad range of consumer topics, that include solar panels and renewables, home improvements and home insurance, and consumer technology such as home security and VPNs.

In her free time, Molly can usually be found exploring the outdoors with her husband and their young son or gardening.