Provisional driving licence

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What Car? Staff
20 Aug 2012 10:17 | Last updated: 14 Jun 2018 0:3

For many of us, a provisional driving licence can feature prominently at two points in our lives. First, when we're learning to drive, and then when our children want to do the same. So, whether you need a provisional licence for yourself or for your child, here's our guide to the key points about this vitally important document.

Who needs a provisional licence and when?
You're either a qualified driver or not and if you aren't, you need a provisional licence before you drive on the public highway.

Would-be drivers must also pass a two-part theory test (the first is multiple choice, the second assesses hazard perception) before they can book their practical test and they can't take the theory test unless they hold a provisional licence.

Teenage drivers
You can take the wheel of a car (under supervision) when you reach 17. An application for the required provisional licence can be made three months prior to this date.

Here are the main rules governing the use of a provisional licence:

•If you want to drive on a provisional licence, you have to be accompanied at all times by a qualified driver who is aged over 21 and has held a full driving licence for a minimum of three years.
•It might sound obvious, but the 'qualified' person must sit in the front passenger seat. That said, you can carry additional passengers in the back.
•Drivers with a provisional licence are not allowed to drive on motorways.
•Learner drivers must display 'L' plates on the front and back of the vehicle they're driving it's a 'D' plate for learners in Wales.

These restrictions are lifted as soon as the driver passes their test.

Getting your licence
A driving licence provisional or otherwise is an important document, so applying for one requires the production of various documents. For a start, applying for the provisional licence will cost you 50. You can apply using form D1 from a Post Office or going online at You'll also need:

•Proof of identification, such as a passport.
•Details of all addresses you've lived at in the past three years.
•Your National Insurance number.

There's also a minimum eyesight requirement, which takes account of the use of glasses or contact lenses: you must be able to read a post-2001 car numberplate from a distance of 20 metres.

Essential insurance
If the driver is learning with a professional driving school using its car, the car insurance cover will be provided under the instructor's policy. Likewise the tax, fuel and other running costs will also be funded explaining why lessons cost 25-30.

Anyone learning in a car that belongs to a friend or relative will need insurance, and this is can be provided by added the learner driver to the owner's policy as a 'named' driver.

If you are learning in your own car you'll need to arrange your own policy as the holder of a provisional licence. This will be expensive insurers deem learners to be particularly high-risk drivers and charge accordingly.

You might be able to reduce the cost by adding the person teaching you to the policy as a 'named' driver. They will be more experienced than the learner, which will dilute some of the risk in the eyes of the insurer.

Never be tempted to insure a car with someone listed as the main driver if that is not the case. That's called 'fronting' and is illegal and it could invalidate the policy completely.

This article has been researched and written by's car insurance partner, MoneySupermarket