Plates and car insurance

One of the most satisfying things about passing your driving test is finally ditching those bright red ‘L’ plates from your car. 

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

One of the most satisfying things about passing your driving test is finally ditching those bright red ‘L’ plates from your car. 

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

Daniel Hutson
From the Motor team
4
minute read
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Posted 2 AUGUST 2021

What’s the difference between L and P plates?

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

In the UK, L plates are compulsory for drivers with a provisional licence. That means all learner drivers must display L plates on the front and back of the vehicle they’re learning to drive in.

Are L plates a legal requirement?

Yes – and the rules are pretty strict: the ‘L’ must be red on a white background, while the plate itself must be exactly the right size and dimensions – 178mm x 178mm.

What happens if I don’t have L plates?

If you don’t display L plates as a learner driver, or yours 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. 

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

When should I display my L plates?

If you’re learning to drive, you should make sure your L plates are clearly displayed every time you get behind the wheel.

How many L plates should I display?

You’ll need two – one for the front, and one for the back of the car.

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 use green ‘probationary’ P plates to show that you’re a new driver. Whether you do so is entirely up to you. P plates aren’t a legal requirement – there’s no penalty for not displaying them – and you can keep using them for as long as you like.

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. 

Why should I use P plates?

Although P plates aren’t compulsory, they can be a good idea for newly qualified drivers. 

Benefits of using P plates include: 

  • letting other drivers know you’re inexperienced
  • encouraging other motorists to be more patient with new drivers
  • helping you build confidence as you get used to driving on your own 

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 lower the price of your 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.

However, P plates could help you build up confidence behind the wheel. 
 
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 you can 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 on 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?

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

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 £2.  

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 enough – you don’t want them disintegrating at the first sign of rain!  

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

If you’re only driving with an instructor, insurance isn’t an issue as you’ll be covered under their policy. But if you want to practice between lessons, you’ll need learner driver insurance
 
One option is to get a relative or friend to add you to their policy – but this can be expensive. It could also mean your relative or friend ends up being penalised if you have an accident. 
 
Some insurance providers offer cover for ‘drivers with no cars’. This can be useful as it means that, if you have an accident, the car owner’s insurance premium and no-claims bonus won’t be affected. 

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