How many L plates do you need on a car UK?

Learning to drive is an exciting milestone for many people in the UK. When you’re a new driver just starting out, it’s important to follow all the rules of the road to keep yourself and others safe. One of those rules requires displaying L plates on your car to identify yourself as a learner driver. But how many L plates does your car need to have? What are the exact L plate requirements for driving in the UK? This article will provide a comprehensive overview of L plate laws, including how many you need, where they must be displayed, and other important details every new driver should know.

What are L Plates?

L plates, short for learner plates, are square signs bearing a bold red L that must be displayed on the front and rear of any car driven by a learner driver. The L plate clearly identifies the car as being driven by an inexperienced motorist who is still learning and gaining experience behind the wheel. This allows other drivers to be aware and provide more patience and space on the road.

L plates have been required for new drivers in the UK since 1934. Back then, new drivers would display an L sign on the car rather than the now ubiquitous red square plates. But the purpose remains the same – to let other motorists know the car is being driven by someone learning the rules of the road.

When are L Plates Required?

L plates must be displayed whenever a learner driver is behind the wheel, including:

  • During professional driving lessons with an approved driving instructor (ADI).
  • While driving with a friend or family member provided they meet supervision requirements.
  • When taking any practice drives before the driving test.
  • During the actual driving test.

L plates are not required if you have already passed your driving test and have gained a full driver’s license. They are only for the learning stage prior to gaining an unrestricted license.

Some key points about when L plates are required:

  • They must be displayed even when driving with an approved instructor or supervisor. The plates must stay on for all learning drives.
  • You should not remove L plates for “practice” drives before your test or at any time you are still a learner. You must display them whenever you are behind the wheel.
  • Specialized L plates showing you are learning to drive automatic cars are required if taking lessons in an automatic vehicle.

How Many L Plates are Needed on a Car?

The exact L plate requirements in the UK specify that learner drivers must display two L plates – one on the front of the car and one on the rear. You must have the following:

  • 1 L plate clearly visible on the front of the car
  • 1 L plate clearly visible on the back of the car

So the rule is simple – two L plates, one front and one back. These are the minimum L plate requirements for driving as a learner.

Some people choose to be extra cautious and display additional L plates on the sides of the car. But while this is allowed, it is not a requirement. As long as you have your two plates (front and back), you are meeting the legal requirements.

Where Should L Plates Be Displayed?

To meet the L plate requirements, the plates must be displayed in specific locations:

  • Front L Plate: Must be within reach of an arm outstretched horizontally from the front bumper or bodywork of the car. It should be centered or to the left-hand side if the bumper space is limited.
  • Rear L Plate: Must be within reach of an outstretched arm from the rear bumper or bodywork. It is usually placed centrally.

The plates should not be obscured by any parts of the car such as bumpers. And they must be fixed securely in place and not allowed to hang down or flap around.

L Plate Size Requirements

In addition to specifying the number and placement of L plates, UK law also sets precise size requirements:

  • The L plate must measure a minimum of 15.24 centimeters (cm) / 6 inches tall.
  • The width of the L plate must measure a minimum of 22. 86 cm / 9 inches wide.

As long as your plates meet the minimum dimensions, you satisfy the size requirements. Going larger than the minimum dimensions is also fine, as long as the plate can still be properly mounted given the size.

L Plate Color and Font

Beyond the number, placement, and size of L plates, a few other display rules include:

  • Color – The L plate must have a red letter L displayed on a white background.
  • Font – The letter L must be displayed in a sans serif font, meaning a style without extra strokes, flourishes, or ornamentation on the letters.

These color and font rules are in place to ensure the L plates are clearly visible and identifiable to other drivers.

Consequences of Not Displaying L Plates

It is a legal requirement for learner drivers to properly display L plates when driving. Failing to do so can incur serious penalties in the UK:

  • You may be given an on-the-spot fine of up to £1000 if caught without L plates.
  • You may be charged with driving without due care and attention or even driving without insurance. This can result in 3-9 penalty points and disqualification from driving.
  • Your car insurance coverage could be void if involved in an accident while driving illegally without plates.

In addition, driving without proper L plates also means:

  • Other drivers don’t know you are still learning.
  • You may not get extended patience and consideration from other drivers.
  • Your driving instructor is also liable for penalty points or fines if giving lessons without plates.

So failing to display L plates creates extensive risks that far outweigh the minor hassle of installing and using them properly during the learning phase.

Exceptions to L Plate Requirements

In most cases, L plates must be displayed when driving as a learner. However, there are a few exceptions:

  • Emergency vehicles – L plates are not required for driving an ambulance, police car, fire engine, or other emergency vehicle.
  • Tractors – You don’t need L plates when driving agricultural tractors on rural roads, fields, or farmland.
  • Parking lots – L plates are not required when driving in a private parking lot or area. But they must be displayed again when exiting onto public roads.

Beyond these specific exceptions, L plates should be displayed in accordance with normal rules when driving any motor vehicle on public roads as a learner driver.

Getting L Plates

L plates are inexpensive and easy to obtain. You can purchase them from:

  • Driving schools and instructors
  • Department of Motor Vehicles offices
  • Most auto parts stores and dealerships
  • Online retailers like Amazon
  • Brick and mortar retail stores

Prices typically range from £5-15 for a pair. Make sure to get two plates so you have one for both the front and rear.

Many choices are available beyond basic red-on-white L plates, including:

  • Fun designs, colors, and graphics
  • Customizable plates with your name
  • Plates indicating automatic car learner
  • Smaller slimline or mini plates
  • Magnetic plates for easy attachment and removal

While these customizable and specialty plates add a bit of flair, the basic red-on-white plates meeting legal size requirements are sufficient.

Installing L Plates

Once you’ve obtained plates in the proper size, follow these steps to install them:

  1. Clean the bumper areas where plates will be attached with soap and water to remove dirt.
  2. Let the areas fully dry.
  3. Use an adhesive sticker on the back of each plate for attachment. Or apply strong double-sided automotive tape dots to the back corners and center of each plate.
  4. Press the plates firmly onto the front and rear bumpers in the proper display locations.
  5. Ensure the plates are fully secured and will not become loose while driving.

Proper installation is important, so do not simply place the plates temporarily or lean them against the car. They must be fixed securely into place to meet legal requirements.

For easy removal later, use only mild adhesives that will not damage the car’s paint or bodywork. Avoid glue or tape that will be extremely difficult to remove when you pass your driving test.

The Purpose of L Plates

While new drivers may see L plates as an embarrassing annoyance, they serve some very important purposes:

  • Let other drivers know you are still learning – They can provide more patience and leeway on the road.
  • Remind you to drive carefully – The plates reinforce you are still a learner gaining experience.
  • Show who is responsible – Identifies who has the learning permit and insurance if any incidents occur.
  • Indicate to the examiner – Clearly shows the driving test car during the practical test.

So L plates are not meant as a hassle, but as an important road safety measure to identify learner drivers. Following the rules shows you respect the licensing process and are serious about proper training.

When Can L Plates Be Removed?

L plates should be removed immediately after:

  • You pass your practical driving test and gain your full privilege driver’s license.
  • You pass the driving test in an automatic car and begin driving a manual transmission car.

Once you officially pass, the L plates must come off before driving solo as a newly licensed driver. Continue displaying them during the learning phase, but remove them promptly when you achieve your new full driver status.

Reflective L Plates

Standard L plates have no reflective properties to shine or illuminate at night. If you’ll be driving frequently in dark conditions, consider upgrading to reflective plates that improve visibility:

  • Reflective plastic or acrylic plates – Covered with reflective sheeting that casts back light.
  • Illuminated LED L plates – Powered plates with shining LED lights around the edges.
  • Reflective decals – Stick-on reflective shapes and borders for standard plates.

While reflective plates aren’t mandatory for learner drivers, they can provide extra confidence during nighttime drives.

L Plate Regulations Across the UK

L plate rules are similar across the United Kingdom, but some specific differences include:


  • Standard red L on white background plates
  • Two plates required – front and rear
  • No motorway driving allowed


  • Standard red L plates
  • Also permitted to use optional yellow on blue background plates
  • Motorway driving allowed if approved by instructor


  • Identical rules as England
  • No motorway driving allowed

Northern Ireland

  • Standard red L plates
  • R plates also required after passing test for one year
  • Motorway driving allowed with instructor approval

So while some details vary, all countries mandate display of L plates for new drivers. Check your specific area’s licensing rules and requirements.

What About P Plates?

P plates refer to provisional license plates and serve a different purpose than L plates in the UK.

P plates are required after passing your driving test when you hold a provisional license before gaining full privileges. They are:

  • White with a large red P.
  • Displayed on front and rear of car like L plates.
  • Required for one year after passing your test in NI and Australia.
  • Indicate you are still a probationary driver.

So L plates are for learner drivers, while P plates are for drivers who passed their test but still have provisional licenses. Follow the rules for any plates required at your stage.

The Purpose and Proper Use of L Plates: A Recap

To recap the key points that all new drivers must know:

  • Display two L plates when driving – one front, one rear.
  • Plates must be used during all lessons, practice drives, and driving tests.
  • Standard plates feature a red L on a white background meeting minimum size rules.
  • Consequences for not displaying plates include fines, charges, and insurance issues.
  • Continue using L plates until passing your test and gaining a full license.
  • But remove them immediately once you officially pass your test.

Following L plate rules is crucial for safety, legality, and courtesy to other motorists when learning to drive. Take the requirements seriously and display your plates properly at all times until you achieve your fully licensed driver status.


Gaining an unrestricted driver’s license is a major milestone for young people and new immigrants to the UK. The L plate requirements play an important role in that process by identifying learner drivers who are still getting acquainted with British roads and rules. While new drivers may feel self-conscious at first about displaying their novice status, following L plate rules demonstrates safety, awareness and maturity behind the wheel during the learning phase.

To fully answer the original question, the L plate requirements mandate displaying two plates total on your car when driving on a learner permit – one L plate on the front and one L plate on the rear. These plates must meet legal minimum size regulations and be properly fixed in place. Hopefully this overview clarified the full rules, exceptions, purpose and enforcement around L plates in the UK. Learning to drive opens up new freedom and opportunities. By following all licensing steps, new drivers prove they take their responsibility seriously. Display your L plates with pride, and stay safe on the road.

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