The provisional driving licence

You’ll need a provisional licence when taking your theory test, hazard perception and practical driving tests. You’ll also need it ready for your first driving lesson.

You’ll need a provisional licence when taking your theory test, hazard perception and practical driving tests. You’ll also need it ready for your first driving lesson.

Daniel Hutson
From the Motor team
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Posted 15 OCTOBER 2021

What is a provisional licence?

A provisional driving licence allows you to learn to drive on all UK roads except motorways, provided you are supervised. You can be supervised by your driving instructor or any other driver, as long as they’re over the age of 21 and have held a full driving licence for a minimum of three years.

When can I get my provisional driving licence?

You can apply for a provisional driving licence when you’re aged 15 years and 9 months old. To qualify to apply, you’ll also need to be able to read a number plate from 20 metres away.

You can use a provisional driving licence from the age of 16 if you want to ride a moped or light quad bike. But you won’t be able to use it to drive a car until you turn 17.

The provisional licence from the DVLA costs £34 online, or £43 by post.

What are the restrictions that come with driving under a provisional licence?

As well as the restrictions about being accompanied by an experienced driver and not driving on motorways, you must also ensure you display L plates. These must be fixed to both the front and rear of the car you’re driving.

You are allowed to carry passengers, but the person supervising your driving must be in the front passenger seat.

Did you know? 

The speed limits for learners in England, Scotland and Wales are the same as for full licence holders. But in Northern Ireland you must stick to a 45mph speed limit when learning to drive.

What happens to my provisional licence when I pass?

You need to convert your provisional licence into a full licence. This is simple, and you can do it as soon as you pass your test.

If you have a photocard driving licence that was issued after 1 March 2004, you can apply at the test centre electronically. Your provisional licence can be scanned by the examiner, and details are then automatically sent to the DVLA.

You’ll be issued with a pass certificate by the examiner and your full licence should follow in the post within three weeks.

You can also apply for the full licence by post. In this case, you’ll need to sign the declaration from the pass certificate and send that along with your provisional licence to the DVLA. 

Car insurance on a provisional licence

Don’t forget that when you’re learning, you’ll need learner-driver car insurance

Then, once you’ve passed your test, you’ll need to change your policy, so you’re covered to drive without supervision. As a new driver it might be worth considering a black box policy. If you can prove you’re a safe driver, it might help bring down the cost of your car insurance. 

Take a look at our guide for how many years to declare on your insurance and use our car insurance comparison service to help you find the right cover for your needs.

Frequently asked questions

Can I drive both a manual and automatic car on a provisional licence?

Yes, you can. It’s up to you to decide if you want to learn to drive in a manual or automatic car. 

Just be aware that if you pass your test in an automatic car, you can only drive automatic cars. If you pass the test in a manual car, you’ll be able to drive both. 

Can I drive while I’m waiting for my full licence to arrive?

It can take up to three weeks for your full licence to arrive, but in the meantime, you can continue to drive. You can also drive on motorways and there’s no need to display L plates any more. 

Just make sure you’ve got a car insurance policy that covers you for driving without supervision. 

What are P plates?

P plates, otherwise known as ‘probationary’ plates, let other drivers know you’ve only just passed your test. You don’t have to display them (they are not a legal requirement), but it might help you feel more confident in the early days. You can use them for as long as you feel necessary.

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