UK licence lowdown

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Passing your driving test is a milestone. Now you’re free to hit the road, find out everything you need to know about understanding your licence.

  • The driving licence codes inform both your insurer and the police
  • A UK driving licence currently lets you drive anywhere in the EU 
  • The codes you see on your licence can impact the price of your insurance premiums

Once you finally get your official driving licence, you’ll notice a variety of numbers and driving codes on the back. While these may look random, they represent important information about you and the types of vehicle you’re entitled to drive. 

Types of driving licence

Knowing the type of driving licence you have means you have a better understanding of the vehicles you can legally drive. There are three main types of driving licence in the UK:

Provisional licence – a provisional driving licence gives your permission to drive on UK roads with the supervision of a driving instructor or another driver who is over the age of 21 and has held a driving licence for three years or more. It’s needed to do your driving lessons, theory test and hazard perception. You can apply for a provisional licence three months before you turn 16.

Full licence – a full driving licence normally allows you to drive both manual and automatic cars, small vans or cars towing a trailer without supervision. To get a full licence, you’ll need to pass a theory and a practical driving test. It’s important to renew your licence every ten years to make sure your photo is up to date.

UK automatic licence – an automatic driving licence allows you to drive only automatic vehicles unsupervised.

Driving outside of the UK

 UK driving licence holders are permitted to drive in Europe, but depending on where you got your licence you may require an International Driving Permit.

Understanding your driving licence

Drivers only need the plastic card but people who passed before June 2015 may also have a paper licence. . You are free to destroy or keep this document. 

On the front side of the licence you’ll find the following details:

1. Last name 

2. First and middle names

3. Date of birth and place of birth

4.The date the licence was issued, the date the licence expires and the authority who issued the licence 

5. Unique driver number (made up of your surname, numbers and letters)

6. A black and white photograph of you

7. Your signature

8. Address

9. Entitlement categories 

Back of the licence

On the back of your licence, you’ll find the following information and driving licence codes:

9. Pictorial representations of the type of vehicles you’re allowed to drive

10. The date you’re allowed to drive the vehicles from

11. The date you’re able to drive the vehicles until

12. Information codes and restrictions


Knowing the type of driving licence you have means you have a better understanding of the vehicles you can legally drive.

Driving licence categories 

There are several different types of driving licence category and these affect the type of vehicles you’re allowed to drive. The most common ones are:

1. Category B

  • You can drive any four-wheeled vehicle weighing up to 400kg. This is increased to 550kg if it’s designed to carry goods. 
  • If you passed your test before 1 January 1997, you’re able to drive a vehicle and trailer weighing up to 8,250kg combined. 
  • If you passed your test after 1 January 1997, you can drive vehicles up to 3,500kg with up to eight passenger seats. 

2. Category B Auto

  • You can only drive automatic category B vehicles.

3. Category BE

You can tow a trailer with a vehicle weighing 3,500kg but the size of trailer you’re eligible to drive will depend on the ‘BE’ date on your licence. As long as you passed your test after 1 January 1997, you will now automatically be granted BE status. This change came into force in December 2021. It means you no longer need to complete a specific test to tow a trailer up to 3,500 kg, although the DVSA still recommends you have some training if it's your first time.

You can find a full list of all the different driving licence categories on the website.

Different insurers have different eligibility criteria, so some of these vehicles may not be covered by your insurance company. 

Your licence and car insurance

Your driver’s licence and how much you pay for car insurance are linked. It is a legal requirement to have at least third-party car insurance to drive on the roads in the UK. 

Going from a provisional licence to a full licence

Once you pass your driving test, you’ll need to have your own car insurance policy or be added as a named driver to someone else’s policy. Multi-car cover can be a good way for new drivers to build up their experience.

What it means for driving abroad

Holding a full UK licence means you’re able to drive abroad, too. Currently you’re allowed to drive abroad without any other additional licence in the EU and several other international countries.

Head to the website to find full details and info on how things may change as the UK leaves the European Union. 

When you need to notify your insurer

Any driving convictions you have will show on your licence and will affect the amount you pay for car insurance. This includes things like any driving convictions and speeding tickets but not parking tickets. 

Some offences can affect your premium more than others. For example, a speeding ticket is less likely to have a huge impact on your insurance cost when compared with a drink or drug driving offence. 

Certain medical conditions can affect your ability to drive, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy 
  • Sleep apnoea

Find out how we calculate the price of your policy at LV=.

If there have been any changes to your licence or entitlement, please speak to LV= or your insurer directly. 

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