Driving licence categories and codes

Most of us never look that closely at our driving licences, but have you ever wondered what all the codes on the back mean? They provide a wealth of information about what type of vehicles you can drive and the conditions you must meet to get behind the wheel.

Most of us never look that closely at our driving licences, but have you ever wondered what all the codes on the back mean? They provide a wealth of information about what type of vehicles you can drive and the conditions you must meet to get behind the wheel.

Daniel Hutson
Head of Motor Insurance
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Posted 17 DECEMBER 2020

What are driving licence categories?

If you look at the back of your photocard licence, you’ll see a printed table of categories and codes.

  • Column 9 features tiny transport images, letters and numbers showing you the types of vehicle you may be allowed to drive. In total there are 26 driving licence categories, covering everything from mopeds to buses.
  • Column 10 tells you the date you can drive these vehicles from.
  • Column 11 tells you the date you’re no longer entitled to drive these vehicles.
  • Column 12 has numbers that denote any restrictions or conditions, like whether you need glasses or contact lenses to drive.

What can I drive with a standard UK licence?

If you’ve passed your car driving test, you’re qualified to drive vehicles in the following categories:

Category AM
You can drive two or three-wheeled vehicles with a speed of between 25km/h (15.5mph) and 45km/h (28mph). Mopeds and scooters fall into this bracket. This category also includes light quad bikes.

Category B
If you passed your test before 1 January 1997, a category B driving licence allows you to drive a vehicle and trailer with a combined weight of up to 8,250kg. This could be a car towing a caravan, for example. You’re also allowed to drive a minibus.

If you passed your test after 1 January 1997, the law is slightly different. You can drive vehicles of up to 3,500kg with up to eight passenger seats, and with a trailer of up to 750kg. You can also tow heavier trailers as long as the combined weight of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg.

Other vehicles you can drive with a full UK driving licence

You’ll see some lower-case letters in italics at the bottom of your photo licence showing you the type of other vehicles you can drive. These could include:

f – a tractor (yes, really – a standard category-B licence entitles you to drive a tractor primarily used for agriculture or forestry)

k – a mowing machine or pedestrian-controlled vehicle that you walk behind

l – an electrically-propelled vehicle, for example a milk float (mostly only seen on older licences)

q – two and three-wheeled vehicles without pedals, with an engine size of no more than 50cc

What other driving licence categories are there?

To drive some vehicles, you may need to take an additional test before you can get on the road.

In some cases, those with older licences won’t have to undergo any extra training as their standard driving licence will cover them. Here’s a sample of some of the different licence categories.

Mopeds and motorcycles

  • Category A1 licence
    You can drive light motorbikes with an engine size of up to 125cc and a power output of 11kW.
  • Category A licence
    This is a full motorcycle licence. It allows you to ride motorbikes with a power output of more than 35kW.

Cars and light vehicles

  • Category B1 licence
    The category B1 driving licence includes motor vehicles with four wheels weighing up to 400kg without goods, or 550kg with goods. This category is more common on older driving licences.
  • Category BE licence
    This lets you drive a vehicle with a trailer. The size of the trailer depends on when you received your driving licence. If it’s before 19 January 2013 you can tow any size trailer. If it’s on or after this date, you can tow a trailer up to 3,500kg.

Vans and commercial vehicles

  • Category C1 licence
    The C1 driving licence lets you drive vehicles weighing between 3,500kg and 7,500kg, like large vans and ambulances. You’re also allowed a trailer of up to 750kg.
  • Category C licence
    A category C licence lets you drive heavy goods vehicles over 3,500kg, with a trailer up to 750kg.

Minibuses and coaches

  • Category D1 licence
    The D1 driving licence lets you drive minibuses with no more than 16 passenger seats or maximum length of eight metres. You can also tow a trailer of up to 750kg.
  • Category D licence
    You can drive any bus or coach with more than eight passenger seats. You’re also allowed to tow a trailer less than 750kg.

You’ll find a full breakdown of all the various driving licence categories on the government’s website.

What are driving licence codes?

As well as categories, you’ll also see numbered codes on your licence. These tell you what conditions you must meet before you’re legally allowed to drive.

You can find a complete list of UK driving licence codes on the government website, but here are some of the most common:

  • 01 – eyesight correction. This means you can’t legally drive unless you’re wearing glasses or contact lenses
  • 02 – hearing/communication aid
  • 31 – pedal adaptations and pedal safeguards
  • 40 – modified steering
  • 78 – restricted to vehicles with automatic transmission
  • 101 – not for hire or reward (that is, not to make a profit)
  • 111 – limited to 16 passenger seats
  • 115 – organ donor
  • 119 – weight limit for vehicle does not apply

What happens if I drive a vehicle I’m not entitled to?

If you drive a vehicle that’s not covered by the categories and codes on your licence, you could be fined and receive points. Your car insurance may also be invalid.

If you’re not sure what you’re legally allowed to drive, you can view your driving licence information on the government website. It will list the driver categories and codes that apply to you.

To use this service, you’ll need your driving licence number, national insurance number and the postcode on your driving licence.

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