Driving licences were first introduced in Britain on 1 January 1904 following the Motor Car Act the year before. Without either a full or provisional version you cannot legally drive on the road.
By April 2022, the total number of driving licences registered with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency* (DVLA) was 50,501,813. Of these, 41,202,187 were full and 9,299,626 were provisional.
Licence holding among both men and women has snowballed over the years, but the rate of increase has been much greater for women.
In 1975/76, 69% of men and just 29% of women were estimated to have a driving licence. Now the percentages are around 83% (men) and 77% (women).
* The following advice applies to Great Britain. The Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA) is responsible for licensing and testing vehicles and drivers in Northern Ireland.
10 frequently asked driving licence questions
How much are driving licences and how long do they last for?
The driving licence fee depends on various factors. For instance, whether you're applying for your first full or provisional licence or getting a replacement if yours has been lost, stolen, damaged or destroyed.
Other reasons include a change of name, address or photo, renewing a driving licence or getting your licence back after a ban.
For example, a first provisional licence costs £34 online, a replacement costs £20, renewing an expired driving licence will set you back £14, while a change of address or name is free.
The full list of fees can be found on the DVLA website.
How do I renew my driving licence?
You can renew your full or provisional driving licence online or at a Post Office and it will cost £14 or £17 respectively.
Your new driving licence should arrive within a week of applying and to renew online you will need a valid UK passport, a MasterCard, Visa, Electron or Delta debit or credit card. There’s no fee if you’re over 70 or have a medical short period licence.
You will also need proof of the addresses in which you have you’ve lived over the last three years, your current driving licence, your National Insurance number and you must not be disqualified from driving.
Finally, you must send your old photocard licence to DVLA when you get your new licence.
All you need to know about renewing your driving licence.
Do I have to carry my driving licence?
Contrary to popular belief, the law does not require you to carry your driving licence with you when you are driving. However, it is strongly recommended.
While driving, you might be stopped by a police officer who could ask for your licence. If you don't have it, you will need to present it at a police station within seven days. Failing to produce it within that period is an offence, even if you do actually hold a licence.
Read more: How to pass your driving test: Essential advice for success
Are paper driving licences still valid?
On 8 June 2015, the DVLA scrapped the paper counterpart driving licence. However, paper driving licences issued before 31 March 2000 are still valid.
If all the information on your paper licence is still correct, then it should remain valid until you turn 70 when your driving licence must be renewed and a photocard version is issued free of charge. In the meantime, if you update your name or address, or renew your licence, you’ll only get a photocard licence.
Can I drive a van on a car licence?
You can drive a van up to 3,500kg (or up to up to 4,250kg if it’s an electric van) if you have a standard car driving licence (category B). You can be fined up to £1,000 and get 3 to 6 penalty points for driving without the right licence, so check what types of vehicles you can drive.
Can I still drive in the EU with a UK licence?
Yes, but you need to take your Great Britain or Northern Ireland driving licence with you to drive abroad. Well before you're due to travel, check your driving licence is still valid and renew it online if it’s expired or about to expire.
What is the minimum age to apply for a provisional licence?
In order to get your first provisional driving licence for a car, motorbike, moped or other vehicle from the DVLA online, you must be at least 15 years and 9 months old. You can ride a 50cc moped restricted to 28mph at 16, but you can't start driving a car until you are 17.
How can I report a lost driving licence?
If you lose your driving licence or it gets stolen, damaged or destroyed you will need to apply for a replacement. You can apply for a replacement driving licence with the DVLA website and completing the online application process. The DVLA advises you to contact the police if your driving licence is stolen.
Can I still drive if my licence has expired?
There are some circumstances when you are allowed to carry on driving even though you don’t have a valid licence.
According to Section 88 of The Road Traffic Act 1988, if you have applied to the DVLA to renew your licence and it expires while your application is being processed, you can carry on driving.
Other circumstances when you are allowed to carry on driving even though you don’t have a valid licence include being told by your doctor that you are fit to drive, or you have not been disqualified from driving by a court.
The date your licence expires is shown on the front of your licence photocard, under section 4b.
How can I change my address on my driving licence?
Your driving licence is a legal document, which means it needs to be kept up to date whenever your details change.
You can be fined up to £1,000 if you do not tell DVLA when your address changes.
You can change the address on your full or provisional driving licence either online at the DVLA or by post.
It does not cost anything to change your address with the DVLA and you can still drive while you’re waiting for your new licence.
If you want to change your name at the same time, you’ll have to apply by post.