Your provisional UK driving licence allows you to take lessons, both with an instructor and in a car with L plates with someone aged over 25 years. The provisional is the precursor to a standard UK driving licence, which is only awarded upon successful completion of both the theory and practical driving examinations.
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When is the earliest I can apply for a provisional licence?
Young people keen to learn to drive straight away can apply for their provisional as soon as they are 15 years and nine months old. You can start driving lessons aged 16 with specialist driving instructors who provide under 17s lessons. You cannot take your proper practical driving examination until after your 17th birthday, however.
When is the latest I can apply for a provisional licence?
Due to the time taken to process your application, you need to apply at least three months before you intend to start lessons or take your theory test. You must be in possession of your provisional before you take any lessons or sit your theory test. Do not book a theory test or driving lesson before you have safely received your provisional or you may lose the money you have paid.
How long will it last?
Your provisional driving licence has a shelf life, so you will need to ensure you have completed your driving test successfully before that time. The good news is a provisional driving licence lasts 10 years, so for most applicants, this shouldn’t be a problem.
So when should I apply?
As soon as you have saved up nearly all the money you need to start your lessons, you can apply for your provisional.
It’s also a matter of applying for it in time to start lessons, but not so early that it may run out before you have finished learning to drive. In almost all cases, the earlier the better as you have a generous amount of time to learn (10 years) before it expires. Note that you only have two years to complete the practical after you have completed the theory test, however.
You can apply for your provisional driving licence through the DVLA. This currently costs £34 online or £43 through the post. You will need to send them proof of ID and a passport sized photo and you should either fill out a D1 form if applying from the Post Office or complete an online form.
The good news is that once you have your provisional driving licence, it not only allows you to learn to drive and take your theory test, but you can use it as official identification too.