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Driving licence codes and categories

Have you ever wondered what the driving licence codes and categories mean? We see them on our photocard licence but probably don’t pay them much attention.

They actually provide a wealth of information about what types of vehicles you can drive and the conditions you must meet to get behind the wheel. Let’s take a closer look.

Have you ever wondered what the driving licence codes and categories mean? We see them on our photocard licence but probably don’t pay them much attention.

They actually provide a wealth of information about what types of vehicles you can drive and the conditions you must meet to get behind the wheel. Let’s take a closer look.

Written by
Julie Daniels
Motor insurance comparison expert
Reviewed by
Rory Reid
Car and technology expert
Last Updated
16 AUGUST 2023
7 min read
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The back of a driving licence explained

If you look at the back of your photocard licence, whether provisional or full, you’ll see a printed table displaying images, numbers, letters and dates. These are codes and categories that tell you what you can drive.

  • Column 9 features driving licence categories of vehicle displayed in letters or a combination of letters and numbers.
  • Column 10 tells you the date you can drive these vehicles from.
  • Column 11 states the date you’re no longer entitled to drive these vehicles.
  • Column 12 has driving licence codes displayed in numerical format.

You can’t drive any category of vehicle that has lines shown instead of dates.

What are the UK driving licence codes?

The numbered codes in column 12 on your licence tell you what conditions you must meet before you’re legally allowed to drive.

You can find a complete list of DVLA licence codes on the GOV.UK 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
  • 10 – modified transmission
  • 31 – pedal adaptations and pedal safeguards
  • 40 – modified steering
  • 45 – motorbikes only with sidecar
  • 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 are the UK driving licence categories?

Driving licence categories can be found in column 9. You’ll see tiny transport images alongside letters and numbers (B, C1, etc.) that represent different classes of vehicle. If there are dates next to them, you can drive that vehicle so long as your licence is still valid.

In total there are 26 driving licence categories, covering everything from mopeds to buses.

If you live in Northern Ireland, driving licence categories are different. You can check the latest rules on nidirect.

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 driving licence 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 on or 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.

Category B auto or B with restriction code 78 – you can drive a category B vehicle – but only an automatic one. You can’t drive a manual category B vehicle.

For holders of very old green paper licences – your old licence might still show category A – but the categories changed in 2013 and this is similar to what’s now called category B. The back of your licence gives a fuller description of the vehicles you’re entitled to drive.

You can compare old and new driving licence categories to see any relevant changes on the GOV.UK website.

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. This category also includes trial e-scooters.

Did you know?  

You don’t need a driving licence for electric bikes, mobility scooters or powered wheelchairs. 

What other driving licence categories are there?

You’ll need different driving licence types to drive some vehicles. You may also 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. But even if training isn’t compulsory, it’s probably a good idea to do it for safety.

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 A2 licence – you can drive motorbikes with a power output up to 35kW and a power to weight ratio of no more than 0.2kW/kg plus vehicles in A1.
  • Category A licence – this is a full motorcycle licence. It allows you to ride motorbikes with a power output of more than 35kW. You can also drive bikes in categories A1 and A2.

Cars and light vehicles

  • Category B1 licence – the code B1 on a 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 – this lets you drive vehicles weighing between 3,500kg and 7,500kg, such as 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 – this lets you drive minibuses with no more than 16 passenger seats or a 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.

How can I check what categories of vehicle I can drive?

The categories you can drive are set out on the on the back of your driving licence. But if you need a fuller explanation, you can check what vehicles your current licence allows you to drive on GOV.UK.

You’ll need to know your driving licence number, your National Insurance (NI) number and your postcode to get the information. This tool will also allow you to share your licence information – for example, with a potential employer or a car hire company.

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 might also be invalid.

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Frequently asked questions

What is a driver number?

Your driver number is a 16-character code that’s unique to you. It’s a combination of letters and numbers and is made up of:

  • The first five letters of your surname (9s are added if your name is shorter)
  • Date of birth (but not in the usual order)
  • Forename initials
  • Random security numbers.

Your driver number is displayed on the front of your photocard driving licence.

What is on a driving licence?

Your driving licence holds key information about you, and is a valid form of ID. The front of your photocard includes your full name, image, date of birth, address and signature, as well as your driver number and licence issue date.

The back of the photocard licence has the codes and categories that tell you what you’re entitled to drive.

How can I upgrade an automatic car driving licence to a manual one?

If your licence is only for automatic cars, you can upgrade it by passing a driving test in a manual car. You can start learning to drive a manual car at any time. You don’t need to apply for another provisional licence.

You won’t have to take a new theory test either, but you’ll need to book a practical driving test by phone with the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency). You can’t book online.

What do I need to do if I want to drive another category of vehicle?

If you want to drive something in a different category, you’ll usually need to get a provisional entitlement, take lessons and undergo a driving test for the new category of vehicle. For example, if you have a car driving licence you should be able to get a provisional licence to drive a lorry or a bus.

If you pass a higher category driving test, you may also be automatically entitled to drive lower category vehicles. So, if you pass the A licence motorbike test, you’ll also be able to ride a moped or scooter.

To add entitlements to your licence, you’ll need to email the DVLA your full name, date of birth and licence number.

See more on adding categories to your driving licence on GOV.UK.

Julie Daniels - motor insurance comparison expert

Julie is passionate about delivering a great customer experience and rewarding people for saving on their insurance through our loyalty and rewards programme. She’s spoken to the media, including outlets like Sky News and Capital FM, about car and home insurance, as well as our rewards scheme.

Learn more about Julie

Rory Reid - car and technology expert

Rory Reid is a car and technology expert. He serves as the main presenter on Auto Trader’s YouTube channel and was previously a host on BBC Top Gear and its sister show Extra Gear. He is also a presenter on Fifth Gear. Previously, he hosted Sky TV’s Gadget Geeks, CNET’s Car Tech channel, BBC Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition and on the YouTube channel Fast, Furious & Funny.

Learn more about Rory

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