Why is car insurance sometimes cheaper with a provisional licence?

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Young driver car insurance
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Young driver car insurance and learner driver car insurance

Young driver car insurance can be eye-wateringly expensive, especially when you’re learning to drive - but, sometimes, car insurance is actually cheaper with a provisional licence.

How does that work, and how can you get cheaper learner driver car insurance?

We’ve done a deep-dive and come up with some helpful explanations, plus put together our top tips on how to reduce your car insurance premium.

But first, some rules and regulations (yep, we’re fun at parties!).

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Do you need car insurance when learning to drive?

A simple question with a simple answer: yes. There are a couple of routes you can take when you start learning to driving, but all require insurance.

The cheapest option is to ask a family member or friend to teach you in their car. They will need to check their insurance policy to make sure you’re covered as a learner driver but there are also policies that are specifically designed for learner drivers (yep, check out that sneaky plug!). This prevents the car’s owner from losing their no claims bonus.

These learner driver policies also cover you if you already have your own vehicle you want to use for lessons, although you’ll have to be accompanied by a qualified driver over the age of 20 who has held their full licence for three years or more.

If you plan to have regular lessons with your family member or friend, it’s well worth asking them to consider adding you to their insurance policy as a named driver. This provides you with the same level of cover as they have, although it often increases their premiums.

A more expensive - but possibly more successful - route is to book lessons with a professional driving instructor who’s registered with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). The price of these can vary dramatically depending on your location and whether you book a block of lessons, or take a driving course, but on average they are around £30 an hour. This not only covers your instruction but fuel and car insurance too.

Learning to drive can be fun but expensive
Learning to drive can be fun but expensive
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What sort of insurance can learner drivers get?

Insurance for learner drivers, also known as provisional driver insurance, is designed to cover you for the period of time that you are taking lessons until you pass your test. Cuvva’s learner driver cover provides cheaper car insurance by the hour, which can be extended if your lesson overruns.

In the same way that insurance for qualified drivers is available at several levels, so is provisional insurance, with each level offering a larger degree of cover:

  • Third-party cover. By law, this is the minimum level required, and it covers any injury that’s caused by you to another person
  • Third-party, fire and theft. This next level of cover not only includes the third-party benefits, but also protects you if your car is damaged by fire or is stolen
  • Fully comprehensive. These policies include third-party, fire and theft cover, but also covers you if you incur injuries or your car is damaged.

How much does car insurance cost on a provisional licence?

If you’re a young driver or a learner driver looking for insurance, the price of your premiums depends on several different factors. Younger drivers will often pay more due to their inexperience on the road, and this is frequently the case with provisional insurance too.

Insurance companies recognise, however, that as a learner, you’ll be accompanied by a fully qualified driver who has several years of road experience behind them, and they take this into account. They are also aware that many learners are included on another driver’s insurance policy, or will have an experienced driver on their own policy if they have a vehicle of their own.

The result is reasonably affordable premiums for learner drivers.

It could mean the newly-qualified drivers are faced with the strange situation where their insurance actually goes up once they pass their test.

It might sound funny, but going out on your own without an instructor or experienced driver supervising you is the main reason.

How to reduce the price of learner driver insurance

If you’re looking to take out provisional insurance, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the cost of your premium.

Adding a named driver

By adding an older, more experienced driver to your policy, you could see your premium reduced. It is important to note, however, that the named driver must use or intend to use the car, otherwise the policy could be invalidated.

Agreeing to a larger excess

The excess is the amount you agree to pay towards any repairs in the event of an accident. A smaller excess will result in a larger premium, but if you can afford to pay more for any repairs, your premium will be less.

Young drivers can face expensive car insurance bills
Young drivers can face expensive car insurance bills

Drive a cheap car

If you are lucky enough to have your own car to learn to drive in, the vehicle you chose can make a big difference to the cost of your premium. In general, the more powerful your car is, the more your insurance will be. This is because insurance providers recognise that high-performance cars are more likely to be involved in accidents, especially with a new driver behind the wheel, and the repairs will be more expensive.

It’s also a good idea to resist modifying your car - mods make cars more appealing to thieves and can affect the car’s road handling. Performance-enhancing engine mods will send your premiums through the roof, as will kits such as sports seats, spoilers and wide wheels.

Install an immobiliser

If you own a car, it’s well worth installing an approved immobiliser and alarm and looking at where your car is parked overnight. The less the risk of theft or vandalism, the happier your insurance provider will be.

If you’re looking for even more tips, we’ve written a full guide on how to reduce your car insurance.

Driving restrictions on a provisional licence

There are several restrictions in place for provisional licence holders, some required by law, and some by your insurance provider.

By law, you must be 17 to get behind the wheel. The only exception is if you have applied for, or already receive, the enhanced rate of the mobility component Personal Independence Payment (PIP). This means you can apply for a provisional licence at 15 years and 9 months old, and get behind the wheel at 16.

You are only permitted to drive when accompanied by a more experienced, qualified driver. This may be a registered instructor, family member or a friend. The law requires them to be over 21 years old, be qualified to drive the type of vehicle you’re learning in and have held their full licence for at least three years.

Whenever you are driving, the car must display ‘L’ plates on both the front and back. These magnetic signs show a big red ‘L’ on a white background and must be removed when someone else is behind the wheel.

Restrictions also apply to motorway driving. It’s only permitted in a dual-control car, accompanied by an approved driving instructor.

Insurance providers sometimes add to these restrictions on their provisional policies, so it’s a good idea to check the small print of any policy you’re considering.

Some policies require the driver who accompanies you to be aged over 25, instead of 21, and some place limits on the times of day you can drive, preventing nighttime driving, for example between the hours of 8 pm to 9 am.

Car insurance without the nasty bits

Cuvva hates deposits, interest, tie-ins and hidden fees - it's why we've scrapped them.

Instead, we offer flexible temporary insurance from 1 hour to 28 days.

It's perfect for borrowing and lending - and for experienced or learner drivers alike.

Whatever you're after, it only takes a few minutes to get a quote.

Updated on 3rd April 2023