How long does it take to learn to drive in the UK?

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Learning to drive
Provisional licence
Learner driver insurance
Driving lessons
Theory test
Practical test
Whole process
Full car insurance

How long does it take to learn to drive in the UK?

Everyone’s learning-to-drive experience is different (it took me two tries to pass the test!) but we can estimate how long it takes to complete each milestone.

It’s not always straightforward, quick or easy, but you can speed things up a little by getting your head around the different steps involved.

Here’s how it all works, from how long it takes to get your provisional driving licence to the quickest way to sort your full car insurance once you (fingers crossed!🤞) pass your test.

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How long does it take to apply for your provisional driving licence?

When you turn 15 years and 9 months old you can apply for a provisional licence – this is your passport to the world of learning to drive! 🚗

You need a provisional licence to get insurance, take lessons, book a theory test, and (when you’re ready) book and take your driving test.

To get your provisional licence, you need to have lived in the UK for at least 185 days in the last year and be able to read a number plate from 20 metres away.

You can apply for a provisional licence on the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVLA) website. It costs £34 and your provisional licence should arrive within a week.

It can take months or even years to learn how to drive
It can take months or even years to learn how to drive

How long does it take to get learner driver insurance?

Before you start driving, you need to arrange learner driver insurance.

If you plan on practising using a family member or friend’s car, they can usually add you as a learner driver on their own insurance policy. Check out our guide on this here.

If you want added flexibility, you can buy temporary learner drive insurance. This gives you hourly insurance, so you only pay for when you’re actually using their car.

Lesson running over? If you (clang! That’s the sound of a not-so-subtle plug being dropped…) use Cuvva’s learner driver insurance, you can extend your cover right from your phone. Easy.

With this sort of temporary insurance, the cover begins as soon as you complete the quick in-app process, so there’s no waiting around.

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How long does it take to book and take your driving lessons?

Once you turn 17 and have your provisional licence and insurance sorted, you can legally start learning to drive.

Most people choose to take professional lessons, but you can also ask a friend or family member to teach you – as long as they are over 21 and have had their full driving licence for at least three years.

There are a few rules you need to keep in mind. The car you learn in must display ‘L’ plates to tell other drivers you are a learner driver. And you are not allowed to drive on motorways unless you are with a proper driving instructor and the car has dual controls.

You should take at least a few lessons with a qualified instructor so you can get comfortable doing all the things you’ll be expected to do in your test.

Don’t underestimate how much learning and practising you’ll need to do! The DVSA says it takes most people 45 hours of lessons and 22 hours of practising to learn how to drive.

How long does it take to study for and take your driving theory test?

Driving safely means knowing all the rules of the road – called the Highway Code, check out a little explainer on that here – and you need to pass a theory test before you can book your driving test. You can book and take your theory test after you turn 17, as long as you have a provisional licence.

The test is made up of two parts: multiple choice questions and a ‘hazard perception test’, where you watch video clips to spot dangers on the road.

This is one test you definitely need to study for, so give yourself time to prepare. There are three books you need to know:

  • The Highway Code
  • Know your traffic signs
  • Driving – the essential skills

The theory test costs £23 and you can book it on the DVLA website. If you pass, you’ll get a pass certificate number. You need this to book your driving test. If you fail, you’ll have to book another date to take the test again.

The DVLA website has practice theory tests you can take online for both the theory and hazard perception tests. And because we’re nice, we’ve put together our top six tips for passing your theory test. Good luck!

There’s a fair amount to learn and remember. We’d recommend spending at least a week going through the rules and doing practice tests.

Many people don’t pass their driving test first time
Many people don’t pass their driving test first timee

How long does it take to book and take your practical driving test?

Your theory pass certificate expires after two years so it’s a good idea to book your driving test soon after you’ve passed the theory exam.

You can book your driving test on the DVLA website up to 24 weeks ahead. That should be enough time to hone your driving skills and build up confidence on the road… if you put in lots of hours of practice and take lessons, and read our learner driver cheat sheet for some helpful tips on the practical test, of course.

The independent driving part of the practical test – the part where your driving skills are tested on the road – takes about 20 minutes. The driving test should take 40 minutes (roughly) overall. If you pass, you can start driving on your own straight away - just don’t forget to get an insurance policy that lets you drive without supervision.

Don’t feel too bad if you don’t pass first time; less than half of people do. Just book in your next test date and start practising again. You’ll pass when you’re ready!

How long does the whole process take?

The time it takes to get your driving licence depends on a whole lot of things – like whether you need to retake a test. Only 46% of people pass the practical test at their first attempt. You might be surprised to learn that the younger you are, the higher your chance of success. 17-year-olds have the best pass rate, at 55%.

Ideally, it should take less than two years from the time you pass your theory test to getting your full driving licence, because your theory pass certificate expires after that time. It could take much quicker than two years if you book your driving test as soon as you pass your theory test – and if you pass first time.

There are also factors that are outside your control – like waiting times. The national average waiting time to book a practical test is 15 weeks, but many test centres are struggling with a backlog and high demand. Some have waiting times up to 24 weeks, which is the maximum amount of time you will wait to get a test.

If you want to do your test sooner than the date you’ve been given, you can try to book a cancellation appointment on the DVLA website.

And finally, you might take a bit longer to get your driving licence if you need to save up money for lessons. The cost of learning to drive and all the tests can start to add up, which is why some people don’t try to cram it all into the shortest time possible.

How long does it take to get full car insurance once you pass your driving test?

Cuvva's temporary car insurance begins almost instantly! It takes just a few minutes on the app to get a policy, from as little as an hour to a month’s cover. It’s perfect for borrowing a friend or family member’s car - just don’t forget, if you’re insuring your own car, you’ll need longer-term cover. That’s because a car must always be insured, unless it’s been SORNed. (There are some age restrictions.)

Whatever you’re after, you can get a quote in minutes.

Updated on 3rd April 2023