Plates and car insurance

One of the most satisfying moments about passing your driving test is finally ditching those bright red L plates. 

But when you’re newly qualified, driving can still be a bit scary. Displaying P plates could help build your confidence, while letting other road users know that you’re just starting out.

One of the most satisfying moments about passing your driving test is finally ditching those bright red L plates. 

But when you’re newly qualified, driving can still be a bit scary. Displaying P plates could help build your confidence, while letting other road users know that you’re just starting out.

Julie Daniels
Insurance expert
4
minute read
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Last Updated 23 AUGUST 2022

What’s the difference between L and P plates?

The main difference between L plates and P plates is that L plates are compulsory for all learner drivers in the UK. P plates (‘probationary’ plates), meanwhile, are for when you’ve just passed your test. It’s up to you whether you use them.

Are L plates a legal requirement?

Yes, and the rules are pretty strict. The ‘L’ must be red on a white background and the plate itself must be exactly the right size and dimensions – 178mm x 178mm. You need to display L plates on the front and back of the car you’re learning to drive in.

Learner drivers in Wales can use red D plates instead. The D stands for ‘Dysgwr’, which means ‘learner’ in Welsh.

What happens if I don’t have L plates?

If you don’t display L plates as a learner driver or your plates are the wrong size, you could get up to six penalty points on your provisional licence. You must also remove L plates whenever the car isn’t being driven by a learner driver.

Do I still need L plates once I’ve passed my driving test?

Once you’ve passed your test, you’re no longer allowed to display L plates. But you can now put P plates on your car and use them for as long as you like.

Why should I use P plates?

P plates can be a good idea for newly qualified drivers. The benefits of using P plates include: 

  • Letting other drivers know that you’re inexperienced
  • Encouraging other motorists to be more patient with you
  • Helping you build confidence as you get used to driving on your own.

What are ‘R’ plates?

‘Restricted’ driver R plates are a legal requirement for new drivers in Northern Ireland.

You must clearly display amber R plates on your car for one year after you pass your driving test.

Where to put P plates on a car

Like L plates, P plates should be placed on the front and back of your car, where they can be clearly seen. They mustn’t block the driver’s view.

Will P plates affect the cost of my car insurance?

Unfortunately, P plates won’t mean you get cheaper car insurance. As a new driver, you’re still considered high risk - even with P plates. 

This means you should expect to pay more for your car insurance than more experienced drivers.
 
As you become more experienced and start to develop good driving habits, you should be more likely to avoid incidents. Over time you can build up a no-claims discount. This could help reduce the cost of your car insurance later on.

How can I get cheaper car insurance as a P-plate driver?

Even as a P-plate driver, there are still ways to help lower the cost of your car insurance:

  • Black box telematics insurance. This is where a small device or app records how you drive and sends the information to your insurance provider. If you drive well, you could get a discount on your car insurance.
  • Some insurance providers may offer cheaper car insurance to newly qualified drivers who take a Pass Plus advanced driving course
  • Choose your first car wisely – a standard car with a smaller engine will be cheaper to insure than a big, sporty model. 
  • Where you park overnight could affect your car insurance. Parking off the street on a driveway can reduce the risk of your car being damaged or stolen. This could mean paying less for your premium. 

Compare cheap car insurance

Another way to find cheaper car insurance is to shop around and compare quotes. 

At Compare the Market, we independently compare a wide range of trusted car insurance providers to help new drivers find a competitive deal. 

Compare car insurance with us today and see if you can find a cheaper deal. 

Frequently asked questions

Where’s the best place to put my L plates?

On the bonnet or above the exhaust pipe – anywhere that they’re clearly visible to other road users. Never put your L plates on the window as this will block your view of the road.

Where can I buy L plates?

L plates are easy to come by – you can get them everywhere from Halfords to Amazon, for as little as £5.

Can I print my own L plates?

There’s no law against printing your own L plates – and you can find plenty of downloadable templates online. But they need to be exactly the right size. You’ll also need to make sure they’re durable and don’t disintegrate at the first sign of rain.

I’m a learner driver –  do I need insurance?

If you’re only learning with a driving instructor, you won’t need insurance as you’ll be covered under their policy. But if you want to practice between lessons, you’ll need learner driver insurance.

Another option is to get a relative or friend to add you to their policy – however this can be expensive. It could also mean that your relative or friend ends up being penalised if you have an accident.

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