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What is a provisional driving licence?

March 13, 2023 by

Wondering what a provisional driving licence is and what provisional driving licence rules are? Wonder no more

The path from novice driver to fully licensed motorist can be a long and challenging one (so challenging, in fact, that you might like to read our top tips for the theory and practical tests), but before you even think about taking lessons, you’ll need to get a provisional driving licence.

Something provisional is not permanent, or is dependent upon something else, and so it is with a driving licence that has this status: a driving licence that is provisional will only become a full driving licence provided you pass both your theory and practical tests.

But while provisional licences may be fleeting, one thing they most certainly are is mandated by law for learner drivers: before you get behind the wheel you must obtain your provisional licence.

This guide will explain the ins and outs of these vital documents.

What can you drive with a provisional driving licence?

Provisional driving licences are pretty restrictive, allowing you to only drive a car, moped or light quad bike.

Provisional licences allow you to drive a car with an automatic or manual gearbox, but only in the following circumstances:

  • You must display ‘L’ plates at the front and rear of the vehicle.
  • You must be accompanied by someone who is over 21, is qualified to drive the type of vehicle you are in (EG a manual car) and has held a full car licence
  • for at least three years.
  • You are not allowed to drive on motorways on a provisional licence unless you are with a qualified driving instructor.
  • Whoever is accompanying you in the car cannot use a handheld mobile phone, and clearly must not be over the prescribed limit for drink or drugs.

When can you get a provisional driving licence?

You can apply for a provisional driving licence as soon as you are 15 years and 9 months old.

You cannot begin to learn to drive a car until you turn 17 (unless you are in receipt of or have applied for the enhanced rate of the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment.

You can ride a moped with a top speed of no more than 28mph on a provisional licence, but must have taken compulsory basic training (CBT), cannot carry passengers and must show L plates. Light quad bikes that are type approved for use on the road can also be ridden on a provisional licence, but the quad must weigh less than 350 kg, and must also be limited to 28mph

How do you apply for a provisional driving licence?

Head over to the Government’s website to apply for a provisional licence. You will need to have an approved identity document such as a passport to have, and must also be able to provide all the addresses you have lived at for the last three years. You may also be asked for your National Insurance number, and must be able to pay the fee of £34 via credit or debit card (though not American Express).

Your provisional licence should arrive within one week.

If you don’t want to apply online you can head to the Post Office and pick up form D1. Fill this out, include a check or money cheque for the stipulated amount, as well as the requisite documents, and post this to DVLA at the address listed on the form. Given you will likely be sending original copies of identity documents, it is recommended that you send D1 and associated documentation using Special Delivery.

You can download form D1 from the Government’s website then print it out and post it off; this can be handy if you’re helping someone who doesn’t have easy access to the internet and finds it difficult to get to the shops.

How much is a provisional driving licence?

A provisional licence costs £34 if applying online, or £43 by post.

You can pay online using all major credit and debit cards apart from American Express.

What happens to a provisional driving licence when you pass your driving test?

Once you have passed your driving test, the examiner will normally take your provisional licence, and send this off to DVLA with the requisite information. They will give you a driving test pass certificate, and you can start driving straight away – there is no need to wait for your actual photocard licence to arrive in the post.

There may be circumstances where you need to apply directly for your licence – for example if you have changed your name since you got your provisional, or if you can’t give your provisional licence to the examiner because you need to use if for identification.

If such a scenario applies to you, you will need to sign the declaration on your driving test pass certificate, fill out form D1, and send this, together with your identity documents and a passport photograph, to: DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1BN.

Provisional driving licence FAQs

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

Your teenager should apply themselves, although you can be there to assist them.

How long does a provisional driving licence take to come?

If applying online, the provisional licence should arrive within a week. If using post it will take longer, dependent upon both any potential postal delays, and the time DVLA takes to process paper applications.

How do I change the address on my provisional driving licence?

The easiest way is to do this online using the Government’s official website. You can also change your address via post, using form D1.

How long does a provisional driving licence last?

Provisional driving licences are valid for 10 years.

Can I use a provisional driving licence as ID?

Yes, you can, although some businesses such as banks may not accept it, so do check before relying on it.

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