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Driving licences

Learn about the different types of driving licence, including provisional, UK full, European licences and the International Driving Permit.

Amy Smith
Amy Smith
Updated 31 October 2019  | 4 mins read

Provisional licence

A provisional driving licence gives you access to learn to drive a car and learn to ride a moped or motorbike. You can’t start driving lessons without one, whether you’re being taught by a professional instructor or by family or friends.

You’ll need to be at least 15 years and 9 months old to apply.

You can apply by post, by filling out a D1 form, or online at Gov.uk. It costs £43 to apply by post and £34 to apply online. You’ll need to provide your National Insurance number, an identity document like your passport, and addresses you’ve lived at over the last three years.

Your provisional licence will usually arrive within two weeks and you can track your application process online.

You can’t drive a car on your own with a provisional driving licence.

UK full licence

Once you’ve passed the theory and practical parts of the driving test, you’ll receive your full driving licence. The full licence card is pink, instead of green. You must apply for your full licence within two years of passing your test or your pass certificate won’t be valid and you’ll have to re-sit your test.

The DVLA needs to be notified when you’ve passed, something which is usually done by the driving examiner following your test.

If your details haven’t changed since you got your provisional, the driving examiner will send your details to the DVLA and your full licence will usually arrive in about four weeks.

What’s on the card?

The front of your card shows your personal details - name, date of birth, address and driving licence number.

The issue and expiry date of your licence is also shown on the front of the photocard.

The categories of vehicles you’re allowed to drive are shown on the back, with dates the categories are valid from and to.

Any driving offences are stored electronically and viewed on the DVLA website.

What can I drive?

If you passed your driving test before 1997, you’ll be able to drive a category B vehicle and trailer combination with a maximum authorised mass (MAM) of 8,250kg.

If you passed your driving test after 1997, you can drive a category B vehicle up to 3,500kg with up to eight passenger seats. Most cars fall into category B.

You’ll be able to ride category AM 2 or 3 wheeled vehicles too, like mopeds.

As well as cars and mopeds, you’ll be able to drive f, k and q category vehicles. That includes tractors, pedestrian controlled vehicles or mowing machines and two or three-wheeled vehicles without pedals and engine size less than 50cc.

Driving licence categories and codes

There are several categories of vehicles you could be qualified to ride or drive.

You may have to take extra lessons and tests to drive some classes of vehicles.

The full list of driving licence categories with more details is available on the Gov.uk website.

Vehicle category Code
Moped and motorbike AM, P, Q, A1, A2 and A
Light vehicles and quad bikes B1
Cars B, B auto and BE
Medium sized vehicles C1 and C1E
Large vehicles C and CE
Minibuses D1 and D1E
Buses D and DE
Agricultural tractor f
Road roller G
Tracked vehicles H
Mowing machine or pedestrian-controlled vehicle k
Electrically-propelled vehicle l
Trolley vehicles M
Exempt from duty n

European licence

If you move to another country within the EU, you can currently drive there with your existing UK licence, so long as it’s valid.

This will change when the UK leaves the EU.

You’ll need to exchange your licence in the EU country you’ve moved to. This can only be done by the authorities in the country you’re now living in.

Your original licence will be replaced with a local version of the new format and you’ll have to abide by the same rules and medical checks as nationals of that country.

Some EU and European Economic Area (EAA) countries will use the above licence exchange arrangement. But others won’t - you might have to retake your driving test.

You can find the new process for each country on the gov.uk website.

International driving permits

If you’re driving abroad, you’ll need your UK driving licence.

Currently, in EU countries you won’t need an additional licence, but in some countries outside the EU you’ll also need an international driving permit (IDP). When the UK leaves the EU, you’ll need an IDP for some EU countries too.

An IDP is an internationally recognised document which means you can drive a private vehicle abroad, as long as you have your valid UK driving licence. It’s valid for 12 months from the date it was issued.

You can buy an IDP from the Post Office, or from other organisations including the AA. You must be 18 or over to be eligible.

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