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When can you start learning to drive?

Last updated: 24/03/2022 | Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Getting your L plates is a huge step. Freedom, opportunities, no more asking mum and dad to collect you from your mate’s house. But before you can don the red and white stickers, there are a few pre-requisites.

In This Guide:

When can I get a provisional licence?

In most cases, if you want to drive a car you can apply for a provisional licence a few months before your 17th birthday – that way you’re ready to go! However, if you want to drive a moped, then the legal age in the UK for doing so is 16, so you can apply for your provisional a few months before your birthday.

Can I drive before 17?

In some exceptional cases, teenagers can drive cars before they’re 17:

  • If you are in receipt of Personal Independent Payment (PIP) – and the enhanced rate at that – you can start driving when you’re 16 if you’ve got your provisional licence. This has been put in place to allow greater freedom and mobility to those in receipt of the benefit.
  • You can also drive on private land under 17, provided you have the landowner’s permission and the land has no public access. You also won’t be covered under any form of learner driver insurance, so it’s risky if something happens to you or your vehicle. If your parents own an estate and give their whole-hearted support then lucky you, but it’s a rather unlikely situation…
  • In Europe, there are what’re called light quadricycles – low-powered vehicles which only require you to pass your scooter test. But not only are they costly, they’re unfortunately not available in the UK at the moment. Still, one to watch.

For a more accessible option it’s worth researching Under 17 driving schools, and we’ll talk about these later. Alternatively, if you just want a little taste, you can book a driving experience day at a private track.

At what age can I start taking driving lessons?

Besides Under 17 driving lessons (we’re coming to those next - promise!), you’ll need to be 17 and in possession of a provisional licence to drive on public roads, which is undoubtedly the most effective way to get real driving experience.

The best way to do this is to enrol with a qualified instructor, who will go through the ins and outs of safe driving and ensure you’re fully clued up on every little detail required to pass your test.

However, we know driving lessons aren’t cheap. So, one alternative is to learn to drive and practice with a trusted adult, but there are a few stipulations to be aware of if you go own this route. Anyone supervising a learner driver must:

  • Be over 21
  • Have held their full driving licence for at least 3 years
  • Be qualified to drive the type of vehicle you want to drive – if you’re wanting to drive a manual but they only know automatic, they won’t be qualified

In addition to these requirements, you must also have learner driver insurance yourself.

While learning to drive with a trusted friend or relative can be a good ease-in, it’s imperative to be mindful that people pick up bad habits over time. And if you adopt those too, you’re set up to fail.

If you are looking for more information on starting driving, see our page on what to expect on your first driving lesson.

Are under 17 driving lessons worth it?

Under 17 driving lessons can be a fantastic gateway to learning to drive, particularly if you’re keen to hit the road as soon as the big birthday arrives.

In these sessions, you’ll be paired up with a qualified instructor who has dual control of the car, and teaching will take place in a controlled and safe off-road environment. These are usually set up as replicas of real UK roads and include roundabouts and junctions.

They’re short lessons that go over basic driving skills like stopping, starting, signalling and vehicle safety checks, as well as introducing you to some manoeuvres.

It’s great practice for getting to grips with vehicle control in advance of your first on-road lesson, especially if you feel a little less confident. That being said, they’re by no means essential. Teenagers especially pick up driving skills quickly and you’re in no way disadvantaged if your first exposure to handling a vehicle is in your first on-road lesson.

How old do I have to be to own a car?

In the UK, there is no official minimum legal age that you can own a car, so if you’ve saved up and know what vehicle you’d like, you can purchase it. However, you’ll need to be at least 17 to actually drive it, and you must own a provisional licence.

As mentioned earlier, you can learn to drive in your own vehicle with a trusted adult, but you must have insurance. Learner driver insurance is temporary cover specifically designed for this.

What’s the best age to learn to drive?

Learning to drive is expensive, and it’s unfortunately not accessible to everyone. However, the hard truth is that the earlier you learn to drive, the easier it is. As a teenager, your brain is like a sponge and learning both the mechanics and theory of safe driving is just much easier to absorb, and data from Adrian Flux has shown the pass rate for older learners is significantly lower.

What about car insurance?

Young drivers face the heftiest insurance premiums going, and on top of the cost of lessons and purchasing a vehicle, this can be overwhelming. However, there can be significant benefits of getting an insurance deal when you’re young, because if you’re a responsible driver you’ll build up a good reputation and no claims. As a result, this’ll make your insurance much cheaper when you’re older.

And there are always avenues to getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to premiums, even if you’re young. Whether you’re learning to drive or are preparing for once you’ve passed, using a car insurance comparison tool like ours will help save you money.

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