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What age can you learn to drive?

Whether you’re completely new to driving or picking up where you left off, we look at everything you need to know about the legal age to learn to drive here in the UK.

Whether you’re completely new to driving or picking up where you left off, we look at everything you need to know about the legal age to learn to drive here in the UK.

Written by
Julie Daniels
Motor insurance comparison expert
Reviewed by
Rory Reid
Car and technology expert
Last Updated
24 JULY 2023
4 min read
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What age can you learn to drive in the UK?

In the UK, you usually have to be at least 17 years old and hold a provisional driver’s licence to start learning to drive.

Even though the minimum age to learn to drive in the UK is 17, in England, Scotland and Wales you can apply for your provisional licence well in advance, from the age of 15 years and 9 months. In Northern Ireland, you can apply for your provisional two months before your 17th birthday.

Many people choose to take driving lessons as soon as they can. But if you didn’t get the chance when you were younger, the good news is that there is no upper age limit for taking driving lessons.

That means you can learn to drive later in life, so long as you follow the rules for learning to drive, including meeting the minimum eyesight standards for driving.

What age can a disabled person learn to drive?

In the UK, you can learn to drive from the age of 16 if you get, or have applied for, the higher rate of the mobility part of the Personal Independent Payment (PIP).

Please be aware that Compare the Market doesn’t compare car insurance for drivers under the age of 17.

What are the rules for learning to drive?

When learning to drive a car in the UK, you can drive at any time, day or night, but to stay legal you must:

  • Hold a valid provisional driver’s licence for Great Britain or Northern Ireland
  • Be supervised by a qualified driving instructor, or eligible friend or family member
  • Display 'L' plates on the front and back of the car you’re learning to drive in – in Wales you can use ‘D’ plates instead
  • Learn to drive in a vehicle that’s roadworthy and properly taxed
  • Be properly insured to drive the car you’re learning in.

As a learner driver, you’re only permitted to drive on motorways in England, Scotland and Wales if you’re driving with an approved driving instructor, in a car with dual controls.

Note that the rules are different if you’re learning to ride a motorbike or moped.

Am I too old to learn to drive?

You can learn to drive at any age.

Almost 6 million people aged 70 or older in Great Britain had a driving licence in 2022, so there’s nothing stopping you driving well into your old age. However, you’ll need to renew your driving licence when you turn 70, then every three years.

Will it take me longer to learn how to drive because I’m older?

Being an older learner driver shouldn’t mean it takes longer to learn than a younger driver. It really depends on you.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency previously said that it takes around 45 hours of lessons and 22 hours of additional practice to learn to drive, although official advice is now that no set number of lessons or amount of practice is needed.

Is it harder to pass your test when you’re older?

Unfortunately as a general trend, the older you get, the harder it is to pass your driving test.

For example, between April 2021 and March 2022:

  • 17-year-olds had the highest pass rate of 60.2%
  • 20-year-olds had a pass rate of 47.6%
  • 30-year-olds had a pass rate of 44.4%
  • 40-year-olds had a pass rate of 38.8%
  • 50-year-olds had a pass rate of 37.5%
  • Learner drivers aged over 60 had the lowest pass rate of 34%

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Frequently asked questions

Can I learn to drive at 16?

You can’t learn to drive on UK roads at the age of 16 unless you receive or have applied for the higher rate of the mobility part of the Personal Independent Payment (PIP).

However, there are learner driving courses available to 16 year-olds in the UK. On these specialist courses, under 17s can learn to operate a car on private property so they have more confidence when they turn 17 and progress to real roads.

Are older learner drivers more likely to have an accident?

Statistically, older drivers are involved in far fewer collisions than younger drivers.

Research published by the Department for Transport in 2020 showed that, between the ages of 17 and 75, the chances of being involved in a road collision falls as drivers get older, when mileage is considered.

However, from 76 and over, the number of collisions per mile driven increases drastically, and drivers over the age of 86 have the highest rate of collisions per miles travelled. It’s worth noting though, that drivers over 86 travel far fewer miles than any other age group.

Am I fit enough to drive?

Older drivers can remain fit to drive until well into their later life. But it’s true that some of the elements involved in safe driving – vision, hearing, and muscle power and control – can deteriorate as we get older.

It’s worth getting checked regularly for any sight or hearing issues, as well as any other health problems that may affect your driving.

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