Everything you need to know about the provisional driving licence

February 25, 2022

Getting from A to B independently and learning to drive is a number one priority for many older teens.

However, before you burn off on your 50cc moped or start learning to drive on public roads, you will first need to apply for and hold a provisional driving licence (PDL).

Compare learner driver insurance deals

Get a Quote

What is a provisional licence UK?

A UK provisional licence is a type of limited driving licence typically held by younger or learner drivers that only allows you to:

  • ride a moped, scooter or motorbike up to 50cc from the age of 16 subject to you completing a motorbike compulsory basic training (CBT) course, displaying L plates, having moped, scooter or bike insurance plus an MOT and road tax
  • ride a moped, scooter or motorbike up to 125cc from the age of 17 subject to you completing a CBT course, displaying L plates, having suitable insurance plus an MOT and road tax
  • drive a car with a driving instructor or a driver over 21 (who has had a FULL driving licence for 3 years+) from the age of 17 (or can be 16 if receiving a certain PIP benefit) subject to displaying L plates and having adequate learner driver insurance plus an MOT and road tax

Learner driver speed restrictions and motorway rules:

In Northern Ireland only, you cannot drive faster than 45 miles per hour when you’re learning to drive a car but in England, Scotland and Wales you can drive up to the normal speed limits.

Northern Ireland learner drivers cannot drive on motorways and learner drivers in the rest of the UK can only do so if they’re with an approved driving instructor in a car fitted with dual controls.

Can I apply for a child’s provisional driving licence?

Yes, you can apply for provisional license early for a child aged 15 years and 9 months but a child cannot ride a 50cc bike until they turn 16 years old or drive a car until they’re 17 years old (or at the lower age of 16 if they receive enhanced rate PIP).

You might like to read: Monthly Car Insurance

What age can you start driving UK?

As long as you hold a provisional licence and drive with a qualified instructor or a family member or friend who’s at least 21 and has held a full licence for at least three years:

  • the legal driving age UK is 17
  • or, if you receive or have applied for the enhanced rate of the mobility component of PIP (Personal Independence Payment), you can start to drive from the age of 16.

Compare learner driver insurance deals

Get a Quote

Do I need to pass my theory test before I learn to drive?

No, so ignore any ‘fake news’ on the internet that says otherwise as passing your theory test before you can physically learn to drive is not a legal requirement in the UK.

You might like: The Highway Code: 8 changes you need to know

Do you have to take a theory test before a practical driving test?

Yes, you do need to pass your theory test before taking your practical driving test and you’re not able to book a practical driving test without first successfully passing your theory test.

You might like: Best Driving Test Apps 2022

How much is a provisional licence?

Provisional license cost in the UK (2022) is:

  • £34 if you apply online
  • £43 if you apply by post

You might like: The cheapest way to insure a learner driver

Can I apply for my first provisional licence?

Yes, just as long as you meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • you’re at least 15 years and 9 months old
  • you’re legally entitled to live in the UK and have done so for at least 185 days in the past 12 months
  • you meet the minimum eyesight requirements
  • you’re not prevented from driving for any reason
  • you have a valid UK passport that hasn’t expired, can use a ‘share code’ or provide another acceptable form of identity
  • provide evidence of a change of name or gender

How to apply for a provisional licence online

Applying for your first PDL online is super quick and easy, you just need to:

If you haven’t got a valid Passport or suitable form of ID, you may also need to provide your National Insurance Number.

How to apply for a provisional licence by post

  • Download a DVLA D1 form application pack or pick one up from a participating Post Office
  • In addition to the DVLA D1 form, your application pack will contain a guidance leaflet (INF1D)
  • Pay a £43 fee by cheque or postal order and write your name and date of birth on the reverse
  • Send your application to DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1AD (preferably by Special Delivery)

Note: Postal applications take much longer to process than online applications (typically 3 weeks) and the fee is £10 more than you would pay for an online application.

You might like: DVLA Driving licence renewal system saving drivers millions

How long does it take to get a provisional?

If you apply online your provisional licence will usually only take around one week but postal applications can take as long as 3 weeks.

The Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) now provides a provisional licence tracking service for all online PDL applications. You simply need to enter your 12-letter provisional application reference number (which starts with FP and is emailed to you when you apply) to check, change or update your application.

Can I drive on a provisional licence without a qualified driver?

No, if you drive a car on a PDL without a qualified driver you will be breaking the law and if you get caught, you can be fined up to £1,000 and receive 6 penalty points and will struggle to afford or get car insurance if and when you pass your test.

You must be accompanied by:

  • a suitably qualified driving instructor or
  • an experienced driver such as a relative or friend who is:
    • aged 21 or over
    • qualified to drive the type of vehicle you’re learning to drive in
    • has held a full UK driver’s license for at least 3 years

Read: Learner drivers wasting £100,000s a year on driving tests they fail instantly

Can I arrange my own insurance with a provisional licence?

Before you can legally take to the road with a PDL, you must ensure that you are adequately insured.

If a driving instructor is teaching you to drive, you will be covered by their insurance.

If someone who isn’t a driving instructor (say a relative or friend) is teaching you to drive in their car, then you must be on their car insurance policy, usually as a named driver.

If you’re learning to drive in your own car, you will need to arrange your own learner driver or temporary car insurance.

Get a Quote

What should I do if I lose my provisional licence?

You can apply for a stolen, damaged, destroyed or lost provisional license:

  • online (click link for full details)
  • by telephone (if you want to replace a photocard driving licence and your details are the same)
  • by post (using a D1 application which you can download or get from most Post Offices)

How long does a provisional licence last?

A PDL can last until your 70th birthday but you must renew your provisional driving licence every 10 years.

Compare learner driver insurance deals

Get a Quote