Want to know the ins and outs of the UK driving licence? You’ve come to the right place
As well as being a key form of identification, the UK driving licence gives you the right to drive a car, plus certain types of other vehicles. But as the licence is full of information, codes and categories, you might be after an explainer on both what the front of the driving licence shows, and what the details on the back of a driving licence mean. This guide will explain all this.
Front of the driving licence explained
The front of the driving licence displays a photograph of the licence holder with the licence expiry date printed on top, as well key information about them, and the types of vehicle their licence permits them to drive.
Each section on the front of a driving licence is numbered, with each number showing the following information:
1. Your surname
2. Your first name(s)
3. Your date and country of birth
4a. The date your licence was issued
4b. The date your licence expires
4c. What agency issued your licence (usually DVLA)
5. Your driving licence number*
6. Although not numbered on the licence, your photograph is 6
7. Your signature
8. Your address
9. The categories of vehicle you’re permitted to drive – see next section.
*This is made up of the first five letters of your surname, your birth year, month and day, plus the letters two of your middle names begin with, with the number ‘9’ standing in if you only have one middle name. Note the two numbers that make up your birth year are split in two and bookend the long number, rather than being displayed sequentially. There are also three computer-assigned digits at the end, plus a separate pair of numbers on the same line that represent your licence issue number.
Back of the driving licence explained
A number of categories are displayed on the back of your driving licence, displayed in a table with four columns, labelled 9-12.
Column 9 shows the code and an image representing classes of vehicle
Column 10 is date from which your licence for that class of vehicle is valid
Column 11 is date from which your licence for that class of vehicle expires
Column 12 shows driving licence codes – EG ‘115’ means organ donor (see section after next).
What are driving licence categories?
While the icons help you work out what vehicles you’re allowed to drive, they might not all be intuitively understandable.
Driving licence categories explained
AM (‘q’ proper to 2013): mopeds capable of at least 15mph and no more than 28mph, and light quadricycles with the same speed requirements, weighing no more than 350kg.
A1: motorcycles under 125cc capacity and 11kW (15hp) of power
A2: motorcycles with no more power than 35kW (47.6hp)
A: motorcycles with more than 35kW
B1: four-wheeled light vehicles (under 550kg)
BE: cars with trailers
C1: medium-sized vehicles weighing 3,500kg to 7,500kg carrying no more than eight passengers
C1E: medium-sized vehicles with trailers
C: large goods vehicles weighing over 3,500kg
CE: large goods vehicles with trailers
D1: minibuses no longer than 8 metres and with no more than 16 seats
D: buses with more than eight seats
D1E: minibuses with trailers over 750kg
DE: buses with trailers over 750kg
f: agricultural tractors
h: tracked vehicles
k: ride-on mowers and pedestrian-controlled vehicles
**Category B includes light vans (weighing under 3,500kg) and means different things with regard to towing depending on when you passed your test – see our guide to towing for more information.
What are driving licence codes?
As detailed in the section before one, in addition to driving-licence categories there exist driving-licence codes.
These do not refer to vehicles, but rather certain conditions that can be placed on a person’s driving licence, for one or many of the class of vehicles they can drive. For example a code might indicate you have to wear corrective glasses or lenses to drive, or that you are an organ donor.
The licence codes are as follows (information taken from UK Gov website, multiple codes shown per line to reduce scrolling).
01 – eyesight correction, for example glasses or contact lenses 02 – hearing/communication aid 10 – modified transmission 15 – modified clutch 20 – modified braking systems 25 – modified accelerator systems 30 – combined braking and accelerator systems (for licences issued before 28 November 2016) 31 – pedal adaptations and pedal safeguards 32 – combined service brake and accelerator systems 33 – combined service brake, accelerator and steering systems 35 – modified control layouts 40 – modified steering 42 – modified rear-view mirror(s) 43 – modified driving seats 44 – modifications to motorbikes 44 (1) – single operated brake 44 (2) – adapted front wheel brake 44 (3) – adapted rear wheel brake 44 (4) – adapted accelerator 44 (5) – (adjusted) manual transmission and manual clutch 44 (6) – (adjusted) rear-view mirror(s) 44 (7) – (adjusted) commands (direction indicators, braking light, etc) 44 (8) – seat height allowing the driver, in sitting position, to have two feet on the surface at the same time and balance the motorcycle during stopping and standing 44 (11) – adapted foot rest 44 (12) – adapted hand grip 45 – motorbikes only with sidecar 46 – tricycles only (for licences issued before 29 June 2014) 70 – exchange of licence 71 – duplicate of licence 78 – restricted to vehicles with automatic transmission 79 – restricted to vehicles in conformity with the specifications stated in brackets on your licence 79 (2) – restricted to category AM vehicles of the 3-wheel or light quadricycle type 79 (3) – restricted to tricycles 96 – allowed to drive a vehicle and trailer where the trailer weighs at least 750kg, and the combined weight of the vehicle and trailer is between 3,500kg and 4,250kg 97 – not allowed to drive category C1 vehicles which are required to have a tachograph fitted 101 – not for hire or reward (that is, not to make a profit) 102 – drawbar trailers only 103 – subject to certificate of competence 105 – vehicle not more than 5.5 metres long 106 – restricted to vehicles with automatic transmissions 107 – not more than 8,250 kilograms 108 – subject to minimum age requirements 110 – limited to transporting persons with restricted mobility 111 – limited to 16 passenger seats 113 – limited to 16 passenger seats except for automatics 114 – with any special controls required for safe driving 115 – organ donor 118 – start date is for earliest entitlement 119 – weight limit for vehicle does not apply 121 – restricted to conditions specified in the Secretary of State’s notice 122 – valid on successful completion: Basic Moped Training Course. This does not apply to trial e-scooters 125 – tricycles only (for licences issued before 29 June 2014)
Driving licence FAQs
Where is the driving licence number?
Your driving licence number can be found on the front of your photocard licence, under section 5.
Where is the issue number of a driving licence?
Your driving-licence issue number is on the same line as your licence number, with a slight space between the two numbers.
What type of driving licence do I have?
There are two main types of driving licence in the UK, full and provisional. A full licence will be pink and a provisional licence will be green, and clearly marked.
Following on from that there are a number of different licence categories, which set out what type of vehicles you are allowed to drive. If you have passed your car driving test you will be allowed to drive cars, which are class B on your driving licence, defined as vehicles with no more than eight passenger seats, and weighing no more than 3,500kg, fully laden.
Are paper driving licences still valid?
If you have a paper driving licence that was issued before March 2000 and the information on it is still correct, it is still valid. If you need to change your name or address, a photocard licence will be issued to replace the paper one, though.