Provisional licence: what does it allow you to do?

Before you even think about getting behind the wheel, you’re going to need a provisional driving licence. Whether you want to learn to drive a car, a motorbike or a moped, you’re going to need one of these to kick start all the learning.

What is a provisional licence?

In a nutshell, your provisional licence allows you to drive on UK roads, except for motorways, before you pass your driving test. You’re going to need a provisional for your driving lessons and for your theory test too.

While you have your provisional, you’ll be able to drive under the supervision of a driving instructor or another driver over the age of 21, as long as they have held their full driving licence for a minimum of three years.

When the time comes for taking your theory and practical test, don’t forget to have your provisional licence at the ready.

How you can get your hands on a provisional

Did you know that you can apply for a provisional at the age of just 15? Well, 15 years and 9 months technically speaking. Your licence will only be valid from when you turn 16 and valid for driving a car at the age of 17.

So long as you’re a resident in Great Britain or Northern Ireland, and can read a number plate from 20 metres away, you’re sorted.

It generally tends to cost around £34 online through the DVLA or if you choose to do it by post, you’re probably looking at around £43.

What does a provisional allow you to do?

Let’s say you’ve got your provisional and you’re able to get the ball rolling with learning how to drive. First thing first, don’t forget to have your supervisor sitting there next to you in the passenger seat. Without them, you’ll be lost

There’s no point getting ahead of yourself because your provisional licence doesn’t give you free rein to drive anywhere. You can’t forget about the following restrictions:

  • You need to make sure that you are supervised: you can only drive the vehicle if you are with someone who is over the age of 21 and has had their full licence for more than five years.
  • The person sitting next to you must be following the same rules as the driver. That means no drunk driving, or having a drunk friend in your car that you need to give a life home and no letting the person next to you text while you’re trying to drive.
  • You can’t go in all guns blazing, you’ll have to give it some time before you can go on the motorway. The only exception to this is if you’re with an approved driving instructor, who has dual controls in the car with you.
  • Don’t forget those lovely big eye-catch L plate signs. Both on the front and the back of your vehicle.

If you're wondering about passengers, then the answer is yes. You can have passengers, but only if you're with a responsible qualified driver who is supervising you.

Do you need car insurance with your provisional licence?

The short answer is yes, you are legally required to have minimum third-party insurance before you set off.

If you’re learning to drive with a friend or family member then the answer is yes, you will need to take out learner driver or provisional licence insurance. This is the same for whether you’re learning in your own car or someone else’s.

The only downside to learner car insurance is the cost. You can probably imagine what the cost is because you know what the chances are of a learner driver being involved in an accident. Insurers very well know this too and they push their prices up to cover themselves, they’re not daft.

One of the things to bear in mind is that if you are learning in someone else’s car, remember that they will need to add you to their insurance policy as a named driver. When they do this, they should probably prepare themselves for a bit of a price increase too.

If you’re learning to drive through an approved driving instructor instead, then there’s no need for you to worry about any of this. Your insurance will all be arranged for you, so you don’t need to even think about getting any insurance until you’ve passed your test.

What happens to your provisional when you pass your test?

Great news if you’ve passed your test! This is when you’ll be able to kiss goodbye to that provisional and say hello to your full licence. You can convert this yourself once you’ve passed your test and it’s so simple to do.

Normally, what happens is, you’ll be issued your pass certificate when you pass your driving test and about three weeks later you should see your full licence arrive in the post. You could apply in the post as well if you wanted to. To do it this way, you would just need to sign the declaration from your pass certificate, and pop this off with your provisional to the DVLA.

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