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.
A driving instructor provides insurance cover for their pupils so you don't need to worry on official lessons.
But to legally practice on the road in your own or someone else's car on a provisional licence, you need some kind of provisional insurance.
Once you’ve got your ‘L’ plates, and your provisional licence, the next thing to think about is provisional insurance.
An average learner takes 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.
Whether you need provisional insurance depends on how you’re learning to drive:
- If you’re only learning with a private driving instructor, their car should be insured, so you don’t need to buy provisional insurance
- If you’re learning - or doing any practice - in your own car, you need provisional driver insurance
- If you’re practicing in somebody else’s car you can either buy provisional insurance for yourself or ask them to add you as a named driver to their car insurance policy.
You also need to make sure the car has valid car tax before you drive it.
Provisional insurance might be expensive, because there's a bigger chance of an inexperienced driver having an accident, but there are ways to help cut the costs.
Compare learner driver insurance
Can you insure a car with a provisional licence?
Yes, you can buy insurance for provisional drivers.
In fact, it's your responsibility 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 they have car insurance cover in place.
What do you need to insure a car with a provisional licence?
To get a provisional insurance quote you need:
- Name, address, date of birth
- Employment status
- Your job or how you spend your day
- Driving history, including claims and convictions over the last 5 years
- Your driving licence number
- Make and model of your car
- Registration number
- Any modifications
- Where you keep the car
- How you plan to use it
Can you drive on a provisional licence?
Yes, you can drive a car on a provisional driving licence as long as you comply with some simple rules:
You can only drive a car with a valid MOT, car tax and insurance.
Provisional insurance is the same as learner insurance.
Provisional insurance rules
To get a provisional licence and get insured to drive on the road, you need:
To be at least 15 years and 9 months old to apply for a provisional driving licence. But most people can’t start driving until they turn 17* .
To be able to read a number plate from 20 metres away.
To have lived legally in the UK for at least 185 days in the past 12 months.
A supervising driver with you at all times.
*Only those who get the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) can start driving at 16.
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 driving supervisor must:
- Be over 21 years old
- Have held a full driving licence for at least 3 years
- Be qualified to drive the vehicle the learner is using
- Not use a mobile phone while they’re supervising you as it’s illegal
Some insurers state that a supervising driver needs to be at least 25 years old. So, always check the terms and conditions of the policy before heading out.
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 still a sensible idea.
There are a few options here. If you’re learning in your own car, you 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 get a separate learner driver policy.
The benefit of this is their no-claims discount is protected should you make a claim.
What happens if a learner driver is caught driving alone?
The first thing that usually happens is that the car is seized meaning you'll be walking home.
If you only have a provisional licence and you're caught driving alone, you could face a £1,000 fine and up to 6 points on your licence.
The offence stays on your driving record and even one more point in your first 2 years of driving is likely to result in your licence being revoked.
And once you finally pass your test, it's likely that your new driver car insurance is more expensive than you might have expected.
What can you drive with a provisional licence?
It’s not just cars you can drive. Your provisional licence covers you to also drive a small motorbike or moped, as long as you've also taken compulsory basic training (CBT).
It costs £34 for a provisional driving licence, and you can apply for it online.
Can I drive on the motorway with a provisional licence?
You can drive anywhere with a provisional licence, even on motorways.
You 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 must:
- Have an approved driving instructor with you
- Be in a car with dual controls
What happens if you crash with a provisional licence?
If you have an accident with a provisional licence, you're covered by your provisional insurance policy.
So if you have fully comprehensive cover, any damage to your car is covered, as well as any damage caused to anyone else involved.
Going from provisional licence insurance to full licence insurance
Once you’ve passed your driving test, you need to let your provisional insurance provider know. They should be able to convert your policy to reflect your newly-licenced skill.
Even though you’re now a fully qualified driver, your insurance may be more expensive than provisional driving insurance.
This is because you still have limited experience but no longer need to have a supervising driver in the passenger seat.
You also need to get a full licence issued by the DVLA. This could take a couple of weeks, but your driving licence number won't change.
How can I get cheaper provisional 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 Q4 2022 paid £1,715 for their policy, on average. This is over 3 times higher than the national average of £629.
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 drive could make a big difference to the cost of your insurance.
Avoid sporty, expensive models with huge engines as these could be expensive, if not virtually impossible to insure.
Choosing a car with a relatively small engine and no car modifications should get you access to cheaper provisional insurance.
Choosing the right level of provisional insurance
There are 3 levels of cover to choose from:
- Third-party only is the lowest level and it covers damage to other cars and injury to other people following an accident.
- Third-party, fire and theft also covers your car if it suffers fire damage or is stolen.
- Comprehensive cover also covers damage to your own car following an accident.
Only pay for policy extras such as breakdown cover and motor legal protection if you need them.
Compare the different types and see what impact they have on your price. But make sure that you get the right level of cover for your needs.
Add a named driver to your provisional insurance 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 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 to drive without having to buy your own car.
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 mileage 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 voluntary excess - the amount you need to pay if you make an insurance claim - the lower your insurance costs could be.
This is a one way to reduce your costs - just make sure you can afford to pay the excess if you need to.
Pay annually for your provisional insurance
It’s usually less expensive to pay for insurance on an annual basis if you can. If you choose monthly payments, interest is usually added so you 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 chosen a short intensive course, for example, it might be 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 have to pay for cover.