You’ve got dreams of hitting the open road but before you set off, you’ll need a provisional licence for your driving lessons. Here we look at everything you need to know before you can get behind the wheel. This includes what you can do with a provisional licence, how much it costs, and how to insure a car on a provisional licence.
Almost anyone can learn to drive, but there are rules around the type of car insurance you need if you just have a provisional - and not a full - driving licence.
Average learners take around 60 hours to pass their driving test, according to the DVLA. This is 40 hours of lessons with a qualified instructor, and 20 hours of practice with family or friends.
And while you’re learning there are rules to follow to make sure you’re doing it safely and legally.
Once you’ve got your ‘L’ plates, and your provisional licence, the next thing to think about is provisional insurance.
If you learn with a private instructor their car should usually already be covered. However, if you learn in your own car you’ll usually need to buy provisional licence insurance.
You’ll also need to make sure the car has valid car tax before you drive it.
It might be expensive, because of the increased risk of having an accident, but there are ways to help cut the costs.
In this guide we look at all the information you need to make sure you’re properly covered when you learn to drive.
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Can you insure a car on a provisional licence?
Yes you can insure a car with a provisional licence. In fact, you need to make sure you have valid car insurance cover if you’re driving your own car or you’re using a friend or parent’s car.
Even if you have private lessons booked with an instructor, always check that the right cover is in place.
Provisional insurance rules
Provisional insurance is the same as learner insurance.
You need to be at least 15 years and nine months old to apply for a provisional driving licence. But most people can’t start driving until they turn 17.
Only those who get the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) can start driving at 16.
You need to be able to read a number plate from 20 metres away. You also have to have lived legally in the UK for at least 185 days in the past 12 months to get your licence.
To make sure you’re covered when you drive and you’re following all the rules of a provisional driving licence insurance policy, you’ll also need a supervising driver with you at all times.
Who can be a supervising driver?
You can’t just pick anyone to be your supervisor when driving as there are rules they - and you - need to follow.
The supervisor must:
- Be over 21 years old
- Have held a full driving licence for at least three years
- Be qualified to drive the vehicle the learner is using.
- It’s also illegal for them to use a mobile phone while they’re supervising you.
Some insurers state that a supervising driver needs to be at least 25 years old. So, always check the terms and conditions of a policy before heading out.
If you drive without the correct supervisor you could get a fine of up to £1,000 and up to six penalty points on your provisional licence.
Does a supervising driver need insurance?
It’s not a legal requirement for a supervisor to have insurance. But, as they need to be able to take over driving at any time, it’s worth considering.
There are a few options here. If you’re learning in your own car, you’ll need valid insurance, but the supervising friend or family member could be added as a named driver.
This means they’re insured to drive the car if they need to.
If you’re learning in the supervising driver’s car, you must be insured to drive it.
Either the existing policy needs to include you as a named driver, or the supervisor can take out a separate learner driver policy.
The benefit of this is their no-claims discount is protected should you make a claim.
What can you do with a provisional licence?
You can drive anywhere with a provisional licence, even on motorways.
You’ll need a supervisor with you at all times though, and to display your ‘L’ plates on the car you’re driving.
For driving on motorways, you’ll need to
- Have an approved driving instructor with you
- Be in a car with dual controls.
It’s not just cars you can drive either. Your provisional licence covers you to also drive a small motorbike or moped.
It costs £34 for a provisional licence, and you can apply for it online.
How to get cheaper provisional licence insurance
Car insurance for a learner driver is never going to be as cheap as you’d like it.
And, given that learner drivers tend to be younger, insurance costs could be higher again.
According to our car insurance price index, 18-year-olds in Q2 2021 paid £1,409 for their policy, on average. This is nearly three times higher than the national average of £522.
But never fear - there are ways you could help cut your costs. Here we look at some of the main ways to find a cheaper provisional licence insurance policy.
Choose your car wisely
The type of car you have could make a big difference on the cost of your insurance.
Avoid sporty expensive little numbers with huge engines as these could be extremely expensive, if not virtually impossible to insure.
Opt for a car with a relatively small engine and no car modifications - should will get you access to insurance prices that aren’t so expensive.
Choosing the right level of cover
It’s important to be aware of what they include and how likely they might benefit you before you jump in and make a decision:
Third-party only is the lowest level and it covers damage to other cars and injury to other people following an accident.
Compare the different types and see what impact they have on your price. But make sure that you have the right level of cover for your needs.
Add a named driver to your policy
Insurance companies often give a discount when a more experienced driver is also on the policy such as the person supervising you to drive.
Alternatively, you could learn to drive in someone else’s car. For this you’ll need to be added as a named driver on that person’s policy.
It could be a more affordable option. And doing things this way should enable you to start learning your car craft without having to buy your own set of wheels.
A word of caution, though. If you do the bulk of the driving, you can’t be a named driver – you have to be the main driver on the policy.
This might bump up the price, but being dishonest could mean you're committing a type of insurance fraud called fronting.
Keep your driving to a minimum
Having a provisional licence means you’re unlikely to spend every day travelling across the country, so it might be worth limiting your mileage.
This might reduce the cost, as the less time you’re on the road, the less likely you are to have an accident.
Accuracy is the key thing here. Don’t underestimate your mileage to save some cash, as it could invalidate future claims.
Tweak your excess payments
The higher your excess, the higher amount you need to pay if you make an insurance claim, the lower your premiums could be.
This is a one way to reduce your costs but just make sure you can afford to pay the excess if you need to.
It’s usually less expensive to pay for insurance on an annual basis if you can. If you choose a monthly payment, interest is usually added so you’ll end up paying more.
How long you need insurance for might also depend on your driving ability, and how many lessons you’re having.
If you’ve opted for a short intensive course, for example, it might worth considering a temporary car insurance policy.
Use safety tech to reduce the risk of theft
There are lots of safety devices available including immobilisers, wheel locks, and tracking systems.
Storing your car somewhere safe, ideally a locked garage, could also reduce the amount you’ll have to pay for cover.