Provisional Driving Licence: Everything You Need to Know
Before you can get behind the wheel and learn to drive, you’ll need to apply for your provisional driving licence. You’ll also need to take out the right level of car insurance. Our guide explains all you need to know.
Please note that the DVLA is currently experiencing processing delays for applications for provisional licences because of factors associated with Covid-19. See below for details.
What is a provisional driving licence?
The provisional driving licence allows you to drive on all UK roads except motorways before you pass your driving test. But you must be supervised by your driving instructor or any other driver over the age of 21 who has held a full driving licence for at least three years.
You will need your provisional driving licence when you take your theory test and practical driving test, as well as for your first driving lesson.
When can I apply for a provisional driving licence?
You can apply for your provisional driving licence at any point once you’re over 15 years and nine months old. But your licence will only be valid when you turn 16 (and only valid for a driving car when you turn 17).
You must also be a resident of Great Britain or Northern Ireland and be able to read a number plate from 20 metres away (with glasses or contact lenses if required).
How can I apply for a provisional driving licence?
- a valid UK biometric passport or other form of ID
- your address history for the past three years
- your National Insurance number if known.
Your provisional driving licence should arrive within one week, unless the DVLA needs to make additional checks.
Alternatively, you can fill in a D1 form from your local post office and send it by post. You’ll need to include a cheque or postal order payable to the DVLA, along with a form of ID plus a passport-sized photo.
Postal applications take longer, but you can expect to get your licence within three weeks.
Declaring medical conditions on your application
As part of your application, you will need to declare any medical conditions that could impact your ability to drive. These include:
- Heart conditions
- Sleep apnoea
If you have one of these medical conditions, the DVLA will contact your GP before making a decision about whether to grant you a provisional licence.
You may also be invited for a medical exam to determine whether you are able to drive safely.
Depending on your condition, the DVLA might grant you your licence as usual, decide that you need to renew your driving licence more often than the standard every 10 years, or they might grant you a licence if you agree to certain vehicle adaptations.
Bear in mind that declaring a medical condition can slow down your application. As of March 2022, over 300,000 people were waiting for a new or renewed medical driving licence decision, according to data from used car sales platform, Heycar.
Heycar also found that some drivers have had to wait as long as six months to receive a decision.
Delays began in December 2021, when the DVLA temporarily stopped processing the applications to free up NHS resources for the Covid-19 booster vaccine programme. According to the DVLA’s website, decisions were also delayed by strikes over Covid safety measures at the agency’s Swansea headquarters.
The DVLA expects processing times to return to normal by September 2022, with the majority of cases being processed in less than 90 days.
How much does a provisional driving licence cost?
It costs £34 to apply for your provisional driving licence online at the address above or £43 if you apply by post. If you’re applying online, watch out for unofficial sites that charge a fee to process your application.
What does a provisional driving licence allow me to do?
Once you have obtained your provisional driving licence you will be able to learn to ride a moped or light quad bike from the age of 16. You will need to wait until you’re 17 to learn to drive a car.
When learning to drive you must always display L plates on both the front and rear of your car and the person supervising you must sit in the front passenger seat. You can also carry other passengers.
How long is my provisional driving licence valid for?
Your provisional driving licence will last for 10 years. But keep in mind you only have two years from the date you pass your driving theory test to take your practical driving test. If you don’t take your practical test within that time you must retake the theory test first.
Do I need car insurance with a provisional driving licence?
Even when you’re learning to drive, you are legally required to have at least third-party car insurance before you can jump in the driver’s seat.
But whether you need to take out your own car insurance policy will depend on how you’re learning to drive.
If you’re planning to learn with a friend or family member, you’ll need to take out learner driver or provisional driving licence car insurance. This applies whether you’re learning in someone else’s car or your own.
The downside to learner driver car insurance is that it’s often expensive. After all, the chances of a learner driver being involved in an accident are higher due to their lack of experience, so insurers push up prices to cover themselves.
If you are learning in someone else’s car, your friend or family member might agree to add you to their insurance policy as a named driver instead. But they will need to be prepared for a premium increase.
On the other hand, if you’re learning to drive through an approved driving school or instructor, car insurance will be arranged for you. So there’s no need to worry about getting your own cover until you’ve passed your test.
What level of cover do I need?
You’ll have three options to choose from with provisional driving licence car insurance – third-party, third-party, fire and theft, and fully comprehensive.
Third-party cover is the minimum legal requirement. It will only cover you if you damage or injure another person, their vehicle or their property. It won’t protect you or your car.
Third-party, fire and theft provides the above cover but also insures your vehicle if it’s damaged due to fire or theft.
Fully comprehensive covers all of the above, but also covers damage to you and your car following an accident.
How can I reduce the cost of provisional driving licence car insurance?
Some insurers offer short-term learner driver policies. Depending on the insurer, you take out cover for as little as two hours to up to six months.
The big advantage to this type of policy is that you’re only paying for cover for the time you’re learning to drive. This means it can work out cheaper than a traditional 12-month policy, although it’s best to run quotes for both options to be sure.
Other steps to cut costs include:
Paying a higher voluntary excess –this is the amount you must pay towards the cost of any claim you make. In other words, the amount of the excess will be deducted from any claims payment you receive. A higher excess usually equals lower premiums, but make sure it is still realistic and that you will be able to afford repairs or other costs.
Adding a named driver to your policy –insurers can feel more reassured if there’s a more experienced driver on your insurance policy and they may offer you a lower price as a result.Always make sure the person who does most of the driving is the main driver, not the named driver.
Telematics or black insurance– with this type of cover, a device will be installed in your car to monitor your driving habits, such as braking, steering and speed. The safer you drive, the less you’ll pay for insurance.
Reducing add-ons –when you take out cover, you’ll be asked if you want to pay extra to bolt on additional cover options.To keep costs down, it’s best to keep these to a minimum until you’ve passed your test.
What happens when I pass my test?
If you’ve passed your test and you’re ready to throw your L plates away*, the next step is to convert your provisional driving licence into a full licence.
Your examiner will usually arrange for your provisional driving licence to be sent off to the DVLA for you and it will then be upgraded to a full driving licence.
You should receive your updated photocard within three weeks, but you can still drive in the meantime – providing your car is correctly taxed and insured.