Ready to get behind the wheel? Not so fast, as you’ll need to get yourself a UK driving licence before you can hit the roads.
In this guide, we’ll show you exactly what you need to do to get your licence. This includes getting your provisional driving licence, passing your theory test and the big one - passing your driving test. We’ll also touch on how to renew your licence, and replace a lost photocard licence.
And remember, if you’re paying any licence or other driving costs from overseas, it could be a smart idea to get a Wise multi-currency account first. This gives you a low fee way to send money all over the world at the real, mid-market exchange rate.
But more on that later. Let’s get you that UK driving licence.
There are a few steps you’ll need to follow to get your UK driving licence. In a nutshell, these are:
- Apply for your provisional licence
- Book and pass your theory test
- Book and pass your practical driving test.
And of course, there’s driving lessons and studying for your theory test. Let’s look at each of the steps in turn.
If you’re at least 15 years and 9 months old¹, you can apply for your provisional driving licence from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).
This is the easiest part of the whole process, as it simply involves applying online and paying the fee of £34¹. You’ll need to have your passport or some valid ID to hand, along with your address and National Insurance number. Your new provisional licence should arrive in the post within a week.
Once you have your provisional licence, you can start learning to drive. But if you’re under a certain age, you can only have lessons on public roads with a full licence holder over the age of 21² in the car with you.
Once your provisional licence arrives, you can find a driving instructor and start taking driving lessons.
At the same time as doing this, you’ll need to study for your theory test. You can also take practice tests, where questions are based on three essential driver training handbooks just like the real test. These books are³:
- The Highway Code
- Know your traffic signs
- Driving - the essential skills.
The test involves a number of multiple choice questions, followed by a Hazard Perception test.
You can book your theory test as soon as you’re ready, but you must have a provisional licence to do so. It costs £23⁴ for a car and motorcycle theory test, and you can book it online with your driving licence number, email address and payment method.
However, you’ll need to have lived in England, Wales or Scotland for at least 185 days in the last year to be eligible⁴.
If both you and your driving instructor are confident that you’ve had enough lessons and have a good chance of passing your practical driving test, you can book it. You’ll also need to have passed your theory test before you can book a driving test.
When you’re ready, you can book a test online. You’ll need your provisional driving licence number and a credit or debit card to pay the fee. This is £62 for a driving test taking place on a weekday, or £75 for evenings, weekends or bank holidays⁵. You can also provide your driving instructor's personal reference number if you want to check that they’re available on the day.
You can book your driving test up to 18 weeks in advance⁶. And just like with the theory test, you’ll need to have lived in England, Wales or Scotland for 185 days in the last year to be eligible. If you live in Northern Ireland, there’s a different process to follow. All details are available here on the Government’s website.
If you pass your test, you can start driving right away. You’ll get a pass certificate on the spot, and your full driving licence will be sent through the post.
When you get your full driving licence, you’ll notice it has an expiry date on it. UK photocard driving licences last for 10 years, and you’ll need to renew it before it expires.
Here’s how to renew your driving licence:
- Apply online to renew your licence - this is only for drivers in England, Wales and Scotland. There’s a different process in Northern Ireland.
- You’ll need your UK passport, addresses for the last 3 years, your current driving licence and your National Insurance number.
- Complete the online application form and pay the fee of £14.
- Once you receive your new licence, you’ll need to post the old one back to the DVLA.
If you lose your UK driving licence, don’t panic. You no longer need the paper counterpart (as of June 2015) and the photocard can be replaced.
You can apply online to replace a lost or stolen driving licence, using your driving licence number, National Insurance number and passport details if you know them. The fee is £20, and the service is only open to residents of Great Britain.
Your passport photo will be used for the new licence, provided your passport is valid and your driving licence was due to expire within 2 years. You’ll also be asked for your permission to use the photo on your new licence.
If you need to pay for licence application fees, insurance or tax in other countries, hold fire before using your bank. It could be far cheaper to use Wise instead for these cross-border payments.
With your Wise multi-currency account, you can send money globally for low fees and the real, mid-market exchange rate.
You can also book driving tests and pay application fees online using your international Wise debit card, which works in 200+ countries. It’s easy, convenient and secure - and it could save you a bundle if you’re planning to drive (or learn to drive) overseas.
So, that’s it - a handy step-by-step guide on how to get a UK driving licence. We’ve covered all the main stages, but you’ll have a lot of driving practice and studying to manage in between. Good luck!
Sources used for this article:
- Gov.uk - first provisional driving licence
- Auto Express - how to get a UK driving licence
- Gov.uk - theory test
- Gov.uk - book your theory test
- Gov.uk - driving test costs
- Gov.uk - book your driving test
- Gov.uk - renew driving licence
- Gov.uk - replace a driving licence online
Sources checked on 20th May-2021.
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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