Get a Provisional Driving Licence: the Ultimate Guide

James Rodriguez James Rodriguez updated on July 24, 2020

Learning to drive in the UK is an arduous and expensive affair.

Not only do you have to work hard to pass your theory and practical tests, there’s also the burden of high insurance costs, driving lessons and test fees. 

If you want to learn to drive on public roads in the UK, one of the first things you would need is a provisional driving licence. 

This guide will help you understand everything you need to know about the UK provisional driving licence and how to find the best car insurance for a provisional licence holder.

What is a provisional driving licence?

A provisional driving licence is a temporary licence that gives you permission to drive on public UK roads under the supervision of a driving instructor, to be able to practice for your practical driving test. 

It is issued by the DVLA either online or by post as long as you meet the following eligibility requirements:

Eligibility requirementsExplanation
Residence To be eligible to apply for a provisional driving licence you must be a resident of Great Britain. 
AgeWhile you can apply for a provisional licence if you are above 15 years and 9 months of age, you are not allowed to drive on UK roads until you reach the age of 17 years. You will only be allowed to start taking driving lessons once you have your provisional licence.
Medical ConditionThe basic medical requirement is sufficient eyesight to be able to read a number plate from a distance of 20 metres with spectacles or contact lenses if necessary. If you suffer from any serious medical conditions that could affect your driving, you must declare it to the DVLA. 
IdentificationYou need to have a government approved identification document such as your biometric UK passport, EU identity card or UK naturalisation certificate. You could also use your birth certificate but you would be required to provide further proof of identity along with it, such as your National Insurance Card or Pay Slip.
PhotographYou need to submit a recent, 45mm x 35mm full colour photograph showing the full head with no hats, helmets, or accessories covering the face. The background must be light grey or cream. You should be sitting straight and staring into the camera. Your photograph must be signed by someone who has known you for at least two years who is not a relative and doesn’t live at the same address as you.  
Provisional driving licence eligibility requirements explained

How to apply for a provisional driving licence?

There are two ways to apply for a provisional licence. Online or by post.

Ways of applying for a provisional driving licenceCommentWhat you need to do to applyHow much it isWhen it will take effect
OnlineDriving licence application procedures are now relatively easy and hassle free thanks to the internet. By far the easiest way to apply for a DVLA provisional licence is online, via the official government website. 

Once you have applied online you will receive a confirmation email from the DVLA and your UK provisional driving licence should arrive within one week unless there are additional documents or checks required.
All you need to do is make sure you have the following at the time of registration:
  • A valid credit or debit card
  • A valid UK passport or other accepted identification document
  • A list of all addresses where you have lived during the past 3 years
  • Your National Insurance Number if you have one.
The provisional licence cost for online applications is £34. Immediately
By postAlternatively, you can also opt to apply via post. This is a bit more cumbersome process and takes longer to process. In this case you will need:
  • To obtain and fill out Form D1 which is available at most post office branches
  • A valid UK passport or identity document
  • A full color passport-size photograph.

All the required documents along with the D1 Form must be sent in original by post to:
  • DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1AD - if all your documents are from the UK
  • DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1AF - if any of your documents are from outside the UK.
£43 payable to DVLA by cheque or postal order only The time required to process provisional licence applications by post is three weeks
Applying for a provisional driving licence explained

Once you have passed your driving test your provisional licence will be exchanged free of charge for a full driving licence.

How much does it cost to learn to drive in the UK?

Learning to drive in the UK can set you back by a little over £1000.

Driving with a provisional licence could turn out to be an expensive affair. There’s the cost of applying for a provisional driving licence, plus driving lessons, theory and practical test fees. 

The DVLA prescribes around 45 hours of driving lessons plus 22 hours of additional practice with a friend or family member. On an average, an hour of driving lessons could cost you anywhere between £20 and £25 in the UK. 

The following table lists the costs you could expect to incur during your training period.

Provisional driving licence feesAmount
Online provisional licence Fee£34
Driving lessons (45 hours at £20 per hour)£900
Theory test fee£23
Practical test fee£75
Provisional driving licence cost detailed

For more information and tips to lower car insurance costs, check out our guide to Learner Driver Insurance.

What are the best car insurance policies for provisional licence holders?

Get to know everything on learner driver car insurance here.

New or young drivers generally face the burden of high car insurance costs. These could be even higher for provisional licence holders as they have not yet passed their practical driving test and hence, are considered to be a greater risk on the roads.

Thankfully, there are ways to keep your insurance costs down

  • Take professional driving lessons - Taking driving lessons from a professional driving school could be a cost effective solution in the long run as the cost of your insurance, fuel and road taxes will be covered by the driving instructor’s policy. 
  • Become a named river - If you are being taught by a friend or relative in their own car, it could be a cheaper option for you to be added as a named driver to their already existing car insurance policy rather than taking out your own policy.
  • Look for learner driver policies - If you are planning to learn to drive in your own car, you should look for learner driver policies that allow you to opt for flexible, short-term coverage during your provisional period. 
  • Add an experienced named driver - If you are learning to drive in your own car, adding an experienced driver with a clean driving record as a named driver to your car insurance policy is a good way to reduce your premiums.

Once you have passed the driving test, you can also consider apply to Pass Plus Scheme, it is an advanced driving course that help new driver improve their confidence.

You can also try out our online comparison tool to find and compare the best car insurance policies for your situation.

How long does a provisional licence last?

A provisional driving licence is valid for 10 years.

However, you have just 2 years to pass your practical driving test after passing the written theory test. 

If 2 years go by without passing your practical test, you would have to retake the theory test.

How to replace a lost provisional licence?

If your provisional licence gets stolen, lost or damaged you can request for a duplicate online with the DVLA.

The DVLA website allows users to perform a driving licence check to be able to access information about their licence such as:

  • validity
  • current status
  • driving history
  • penalty points etc.

You can also create a licence ‘check code’ to share your driving record with someone such as the police or a car rental company for example.

If your driving licence has been stolen, perform a DVLA licence check on their website to verify the status of your licence and create your licence check code.

This code is valid for a period of 21 days during which time you should contact the police and register a case of stolen licence. This will help speed up the paperwork for applying for a duplicate licence.

It costs £20 to request for a duplicate licence online, payable by debit or credit card. To be eligible for replacement of your licence with the DVLA you must:

  • Be a resident of Great Britain
  • Not be disqualified from driving for any reason
  • Provide addresses of where you’ve lived for the last 3 years
  • Provide your driving licence number, National Insurance number and passport number.

If you find your old licence after having applied for a replacement, you must return your old licence to DVLA explaining your situation.

What are the provisional licence rules?

If you have a provisional driving licence there are a set of rules to follow. 

  1. You must be accompanied at all times by someone who is over the age of 21 who has held a full driving licence for at least three years
  2. The person accompanying you must be seated in the front passenger seat and be fit to drive – they should not be under the influence of alcohol or any medication that could affect their driving.
  3. ‘L’ plates  (or ‘D’ plate in Wales) must be clearly displayed on the front and rear of your vehicle
  4. Normally driving on motorways is not allowed for provisional licence holders unless they are accompanied by an approved driving instructor and driving a car with dual controls
  5. Provisional licence holders for motorbikes are not allowed to ride with passengers

Once you pass your driving test, these restrictions are lifted even if you have not yet received your full licence.