Which type of driving licence do you need?


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Applying for a driving licence in the UK may seem like a straightforward process - but is it?


UK Driving Licence

There are a number of different licence types which dictate the vehicles you’re legally allowed to drive. You can find out more about the different UK licences here.

With some help from the DVLA we found out how to get a driving licence fast, check out our top tips to get you on the road.

How can I get a provisional driving licence?

Applications for a provisional licence for a car, moped or motorbike can be completed on the DVLA Online, and is a quick and easy process. To qualify for a provisional licence you must:

  • Be at least 15 years and nine months old
  • Be able to read a number plate from 20 metres away
  • Provide an identity document unless you have a valid UK biometric passport
  • Provide addresses that you’ve lived at over the last three years
  • Have your National Insurance number if known.

The licence will cost you £34, payable by MasterCard, Visa, Electron, Maestro, Delta debit or credit card. Without this you will be unable to take your driving test.

Applying for your full driving licence can be done once you have passed both elements of driving. Our guides to passing both your theory and practical tests have plenty of handy tips to help you out. After you pass your practical driving test, your examiner will send your pass certificate to the DVLA, and you’ll receive your full driving licence within three weeks.

How do I upgrade my automatic car driving licence to a manual?

If you passed your driving test in a manual vehicle, you’re qualified to drive in both manual and automatics.

However, if your test was taken in an automatic, you probably hold a Category B Auto licence, meaning you must retake your test in a manual vehicle. You don’t need to apply for another provisional licence, as your automatic licence will simply be updated should you pass.

Additionally, you will not need to re-take your theory test when updating your licence – just simply book a practical test here.

Undecided about whether to learn to drive in a manual or automatic? Admiral has weighed up the pros and cons for you

Can I update my driving licence to cover a higher category of vehicle?

If you hold a standard car UK driving licence, you should be eligible as a Category B, Category B Auto and Category BE driver. Meaning you should be able to drive cars, including automatics, with a certain tow limit. Click here for more details on licence categories, or visit the DVLA Licence Check to find which vehicles you’re eligible to drive.

You may wish to update your licence to cover higher categories of vehicle. If this is the case, you must hold the entitlement on your existing licence so you’re then able to apply for provisional entitlement for a higher category of vehicle. This is called ‘staging’. 

For instance - you must have a full car licence before you can apply for provisional entitlement to drive a lorry, minibus or bus.

The provisional entitlement will then mean you can take the test for the new category. The government website has more information on staging.

Can I use my foreign driving licence in the UK?

The rules surrounding international driving licences are complicated, and the outcome is dependent on a number of factors. For a detailed explanation, read Admiral’s guide to driving in Britain with a non-UK licence.

If your driving licence wasn’t obtained in the EU or a designated country, you must apply for a provisional GB licence. You can then take a driving test and apply for a full licence once you’ve been in Great Britain for at least six months.

The ‘designated countries’ are: Andorra, Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Zimbabwe.

To find out if your licence is eligible, use the DVLA’s Driving Tool. Be aware that this process is different if you’re from Northern Ireland.

When can I renew my licence after disqualification?

You’ll need to reapply for your new licence if you’ve been disqualified from driving once your disqualification period ends. If your licence has been cancelled or ‘revoked’, you can apply for a new one at any time. Our guide explains how motoring convictions can affect your insurance.

  • Disqualification for drink or drug driving The DVLA will send you a D27 renewal form either 56 or 90 days before your disqualification ends, depending if you’re a high risk offender
  • New drivers If your licence is cancelled within two years of passing your practical and theory tests, you must retake them
  • In-court failings If you fail to hand over your licence in court for an endorsement, you must apply for a new licence. For more details, visit gov.uk
  • If you’re from Northern Ireland Visit the DVA for the rules if you reside in Northern Ireland.

How does a medical condition affect my driving licence?

If you develop a notifiable medical condition, you must notify the DVLA. It will then assess your health and driving capabilities, and suggest that you either:

  • Get a new driving licence
  • Have a shorter licence - for one, two, three or five years
  • Adapt your car by fitting special controls
  • Stop driving and give up your licence.

Reapplying for your licence The DVLA will tell you the date you must wait until you can get a new licence. You’ll be able to reapply eight weeks before the end of this period.  However, you must check with your doctor that you’re fit to drive.

Renewing your short term licence The DVLA will send you a renewal letter 90 days before your one, two, three or five-year licence is due to expire. At the moment, you can only renew online if you have diabetes, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, a visual impairment, a sleep condition, or a heart condition. You can renew your licence here.

Admiral’s guide to health and driving has all the information you need about driving after injury and your insurance.

How do I replace my licence if it’s been lost, stolen or damaged?

You must inform the police if it has been stolen. Don’t forget that you no longer need the paper counterpart of your licence, as of 8 June 2015. In order to replace your licence, you must:

  • Be a resident of Great Britain (there’s a different service in Northern Ireland)
  • Not be disqualified from driving for any reason
  • Provide addresses where you’ve lived for the last three years

To get a replacement provisional or full driving licence you must pay £20 by MasterCard, Visa, Electron, Maestro or Delta debit or credit card. You can replace it using the DVLA Online.

A spokesperson for the DVLA told us: "The Road Traffic Act 1988 requires all drivers whether private or professional to hold a driving licence.  In order to drive legally on GB roads, the driving licence must be valid and appropriate for the class or category of vehicle the individual wishes to drive.  Those holding valid driving licences issued outside Great Britain may be permitted to drive here depending on the circumstances."

The ‘View or Share your driving licence information’ is an online digital service that you can use to view your driving record . You can use this service - for example - to check which vehicles you can legally drive, check your penalty points or disqualifications and create a licence ‘check code’ to share your driving record with someone else.

More information about driving licences can be found on GOV.UK at https://www.gov.uk/browse/driving/driving-licences

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