L plates and P plates: everything you need to know

Curious about what L, P and R plates signify? Find out everything you need to know in this guide, including what they are, how to display them, and what the rules are around the different plates.

Jump to information on L plates
Jump to information on P plates
Jump to information on R plates

What are L plates?

L plates are square plates that you stick on your car when you’re learning to drive. This tells other road users that a learner driver is in control of the vehicle so they give you more space on the road. They are displayed on the front and back of the vehicle.

What about D plates?

D plates are sometimes used in Wales and serve the exact same purpose as L plates used in other parts of the UK. Learner drivers in Wales can choose between using an L plate or a D plate. This is a result of the bilingual legislation in place in the country – you’ll notice that road signs in Wales are in both English and Welsh.

Are L plates a legal requirement?

By law, every learner driver must display L plates on their vehicle. Not doing so – or not displaying them correctly – could result in up to six penalty points on your licence.

How many L plates do you need on a car?

You must display two L plates on your vehicle.

Where do you put L plates on the car?

One L plate needs to be attached to the front of your vehicle and the other to the back. You should place them where they can be seen easily by other road users.

Are there laws around what counts as L plates?

Yes, there is a standard style for L plates that must be used. They must:

  • Have a red L or D on a white background
  • Be the right size (as in the image below)

Can you put L plates on the windows?

Although there are no rules specifically forbidding you from attaching the plates to your windows, this could obstruct your view, which is illegal and dangerous.

Can you drive with L plates when you’re not a learner?

By law, drivers who have already passed their test are not allowed to display L plates. Instead, they must remove or hide the L plates when driving.

Do I have to buy L plates?

Not necessarily; you can download an L plate template and stick this to the car. As long as the L plates are the correct size and the right colour, these can be displayed without issue. Alternatively, you can buy magnetic or adhesive versions.

Download and print out our L plate template here if you don’t want to buy them.

Where can I buy L plates?

You can buy legal L plates from a range of different shops and supermarkets, including Halfords, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco. You can also find them online on Amazon and other retailers, but make sure you get UK L plates so they’re the correct size.

How do you stick L plates on the car?

Two young women outside car with L plate

How you stick L plates to your car will depend on the type of L plates you’ve got.

For magnetic L plates, these will adhere automatically to any metal part of your vehicle.

For adhesive L plates, these work like stickers – you’ll have to remove the protective backing and then stick them onto your car. These are less likely to fall off while you drive but can be a little trickier to remove, so they’re better suited for learners who have already purchased a car and aren’t sharing it with anyone else.

For printed L plates, you might want to consider using strong clear tape or glue. Just make sure the plates are secure and won’t damage the car, and you can remove them when necessary. It could be a good idea to laminate the plates completely in order to prevent them from getting wet in the rain.

Are there any L plate rules?

Your L plates must not be defaced, torn or faded. If they are, they should be replaced.

You must also ensure that the plates don’t fall off your car while you’re driving. This is why most drivers choose either magnetic or adhesive L plates.

What are P plates?

Probationary plates (more commonly known as P plates) can be used to show that you’re a new driver and have recently passed your test.

This makes other road users aware that you’re a new driver so they can give you a little more space.

Are P plates a legal requirement?

No, unlike L plates, P plates aren’t a legal requirement so you can choose whether you want to display them.

How long can I use P plates?

There aren’t any rules around how long you can use P plates for, so they can be used for as long as you need until you feel comfortable and confident to drive without them.

Where should P plates be placed on the car?

P plates should be placed on the front and back of the car, just like L plates. Note that the plates shouldn’t obstruct visibility, so it’s best not to put these on the windows.

What are P plate rules in the UK?

There aren’t many rules around P plates, but they must use a green P on a white background.

Where can I buy P plates?

P plates can be purchased in many of the same places you can buy L plates. This includes Halfords, Asda and Amazon.

You can also download and print out our P plate template here if you don’t want to buy them.

What are R plates?

R plates are used in Northern Ireland and stand for “restricted driver plates”. These are compulsory for new drivers in Northern Ireland and must be displayed for a year after drivers pass their test.

What are the R plate rules and restrictions in NI?

R plates must have an amber R on a white background.

There are also restrictions on speed for R plate holders if you’re using an R plate for a motor car or category A1 motorcycle: new drivers can go a maximum of 45mph (72km/h). This applies to anyone driving with R plates, so make sure they are removed when a fully qualified driver is in the driving seat.

Those with an A2 motorcycle licence are not restricted on speed in their first year of riding but must still display R plates.

Can R plate holders drive on the motorway in NI?

Yes, but restricted drivers must still stick to a maximum speed of 45mph (72km/h) on the motorway.

What happens if I’m caught speeding on R plates?

Getting caught speeding could result in a fine and points on your licence. It’s important to note that drivers in Northern Ireland who accumulate six penalty points on their licence within the first two years of passing their test will lose their licence and will have to apply and pay for a new provisional licence. Any points that are still valid from when you were a provisional driver will also count towards this total.

Effectively, you will have to pass your driving test again and will be classed as a learner driver.

Where can I buy R plates in Northern Ireland?

R plates are widely available in Northern Ireland. They can sometimes be found in local Spars and in Halfords. You can also buy them though websites like Amazon or eBay.

Note that, because they must be displayed for a year after passing, it’s a good idea to choose an option that is less likely to fall off while you’re driving. If you have your own car that no one else drives, it might be worth getting adhesive R plates.

You can also download and print out our R plate template here if you don’t want to buy them.

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