Have you ever noticed that driving licences have different codes on the back? Seeing these numbers and letters can be confusing. But don’t worry, we’ve compiled a handy guide so you can see what type of vehicle you can drive with each different licence.
You can also get in touch with DriverCheck for online driving licence checks and compliance information.
Why are there different types of driving licences?
Essentially, different licences allow you to drive different vehicles. Some licences overlap, allowing you to drive more than one type of vehicle. You’ll also notice that some types of driving licences have higher minimum ages than others. Some, for instance, are as young as 16, while others require you to be older before you can obtain them.
Knowing which type of licence is right for you can be confusing so we spoke to the DVLA who explained that the different categories are primarily dependent on the overall weight of the vehicle.
David Jenkins, media relations officer for the DVLA, said:
“The Road Traffic Act 1988 requires all drivers, whether private or professional, to hold a driving licence. In order to drive legally on GB roads, the driving licence must be valid and appropriate for the class or category of vehicle the individual wishes to drive.
Those holding valid licences issued outside Great Britain may be permitted to drive here depending on the circumstances. You can find out more about the circumstances on the GOV.UK website.”
Codes and categories
Have you ever looked closely at the back of your driving licence? Chances are, you haven’t really paid much attention to the small print but it can tell you exactly what kind of vehicle you’re authorised to drive and the conditions you must meet.
Driving licence categories are written as a combination of letters and numbers (e.g. A1), and show which kind of vehicles you can drive.
Driving licence codes are written as numbers only (such as 01 or 44(01), for example). They indicate conditions a driver must meet in order to drive safely — 01, for instance, usually refers to somebody needing glasses or contact lenses to drive.
Read on to learn more about vehicle categories and codes. (All weights given below include maximum authorised mass which is the weight of the vehicle or trailer including the maximum load it can safely carry when travelling on the road.)
Moped and motorcycle categories
Driving licences don’t just relate to cars, vans, and lorries. Here are the different driving licence categories for mopeds and motorbikes.
Category A Licence
Category A is a full motorcycle licence that allows you to ride bikes with a power exceeding 35 kW and motor tricycles over 15 kW.
- Age: 21
Category A1 Licence
The A1 licence lets you ride a light motorcycle with an engine size of up to 125 cc and a power output of up to 11kw (14.6bhp) It cannot have a power-weight ratio greater than 0.1kW. Since 2012, A1 also covers tricycles with a power ratio of 15 kW. These were previously provided under the now defunct category B1.
- Age: 17
Category A2 Licence
This licence lets you ride a motorcycle with a power output not exceeding 35 kW and with a power/weight ratio not exceeding 0.2 kW/kg and not derived from a vehicle of more than double its power.
- Age: 19
Category AM Licence
The AM licence originally covered mopeds and other two or three-wheel vehicles. However, it now covers light quadricycles — four-wheeled vehicles with an un-laden weight of up to 350kg.
- Age: 16
Car and light vehicle categories
The following categories cover cars and light vehicles, including additional trailers.
Category B Licence
The category B licence lets you drive a motor vehicle with a maximum weight of up to 3,500kg and eight or fewer passenger seats.
You can also add a trailer weighing a maximum of 750kg. Alternatively, if you want to drive with a trailer that weighs more than 750kg, then the total weight of the vehicle and the trailer together can’t be greater than 3,500kg. Also, the weight of the trailer, when fully loaded, can’t be more than the unladen weight of the vehicle.
Category B Auto Licence
This licence has the same conditions as a category B licence but only lets you use a vehicle with an automatic transmission.
Category B96 Licence
The B96 licence lets you use a slightly heavier car and trailer than in Category B. Your towing vehicle will be in Category B and the trailer can exceed 750kg. You can drive a car and trailer with a combined weight of between 3.5 and 4.25 tonnes.
Category B+E Licence
The Category B+E licence lets you use a combination of a category B motor vehicle and a trailer or semi-trailer which wouldn’t fit the conditions of category B. The maximum authorised mass of the trailer or semi-trailer is 3500kg. Giving you a total maximum authorised mass of 7 tonnes.
Van and commercial vehicle categories
Do you drive a van or a commercial vehicle? C categories will let you know what size vehicle you can drive. It’s essential to make sure your driving licence credentials match the vehicle you drive for work.
Category C1 Licence
The Category C1 licence lets you drive vehicles weighing between 3,500 and 7,500kg with the option of a trailer weighing up to 750 kg. This licence lets you drive commercial vans without needing to take the full category C licence.
- Age: 18
Category C1+E Licence
The C1 category licence lets you drive vehicles with a trailer over 750kg. However, when fully loaded, the trailer can’t weigh more than the vehicle and the combined weight of both can’t exceed 12,000kg.
- Age: 18
Category C Licence
A Category C licence lets you drive Heavy Goods Vehicles over 3,500kg (with a trailer up to 750kg).
- Age: 21
Category C+E Licence
This licence lets you drive HGVs with a trailer that weighs more than 750kg.
- Age: 21
Minibus and Coach Categories
When it comes to driving a minibus or coach, you’ll need a form of ‘D’ licence. If you run a fleet of vehicles, you must carry out thorough employee vehicle document checks to ensure all drivers carry the necessary licence.
Category D1 Licence
A D1 licence lets you drive minibuses with up to 16 passenger seats and a maximum length of 8 metres. It also allows you to tow a trailer weighing up to 750kg.
- Age: 21
Category D1+E Licence
The Category D1 + E licence lets you drive a category D1 minibus with a trailer that weighs a maximum of 750kg, but the fully laden trailer must not weigh more than the vehicle. The combined weight of both is a maximum of 12,000kg.
- Age: 21
Category D Licence
If you hold a Category D licence, you can drive any bus or coach with more than 8 passenger seats, with the option of a trailer weighing less than 750kg.
- Age: 21
Category D+E Licence
This licence lets you drive any bus or coach with a trailer over 750kg.
- Age: 21
Other vehicle categories
There are several other driving licence categories you may need to be aware of:
- Category F Licence: This lets you drive agricultural tractors. However, you may also be able to drive one on a Category B licence.
- Category G Licence: You’ll need a G licence to drive steam or diesel-driven road rollers.
- Category H Licence: This covers civilian tracked vehicles, including former military vehicles.
- Category K Licence: A Category K licence lets you drive a ride-on mowing machine or pedestrian controlled vehicle. Again like category F these can also be driven on Category B licence.
Driving licence codes explained
In addition to the categories on your licence, you may also notice numbered codes.
Health-related, modification, and adapted/adjusted codes
|Eyesight correction (e.g. glasses or contact lenses)
|Hearing/ communication aid
|Modified braking systems
|Modified accelerator systems
|Modified control layouts
|Modified rear-view mirror(s)
|Modified driving seats
|Pedal adaptations and pedal safeguards
|Single operated brake
|Adapted front wheel brake
|Adapted rear wheel brake
|Adjusted manual transmission and manual clutch
|Adjusted rear-view mirror(s)
|Adjusted commands (direction indicators, braking light, etc.)
|Seat height allowing the driver, in a sitting position, to have two feet on the surface at the same time or balance the motorcycle during stopping and standing.
|Adapted hand grip
‘Combined’, restriction, and other codes
|Combined braking and accelerator systems (for licences issued before 28 November 2016).
|Combined service brake and accelerator systems
|Combined service brake, accelerator and steering systems
|Motorbikes only with sidecar
|Tricycles only (for licences issued before 29 June 2014)
|Restricted to vehicles with automatic transmission
|Restricted to vehicles in conformity with the specifications stated in brackets on your licence
|Restricted to category AM vehicles of the 3-wheel or light quadricycle type
|Restricted to tricycles
|Can drive a vehicle and trailer where the trailer weighs at least 750kg, and the combined weight of the vehicle and trailer is between 3,500kg and 4,250kg.
|Not allowed to drive category C1 vehicles which are required to have a tachograph fitted.
|Drawbar trailers only
|Vehicle cannot exceed 5.5 metres in length
|Restricted to vehicles with automatic transmissions
|Not more than 8,250 kilograms
|Subject to minimum age requirements
|Limited to transporting persons with restricted mobility
|Limited to 16 passenger seats
|Limited to 16 passenger seats, except for automatics
|With any special controls required for safe driving
|Restricted to conditions specified in the Secretary of State’s notice
|Exchange of licence
|Duplicate of licence
|Not for hire or reward (not to make a profit)
|Subject to certificate of competence
|Start date is for earliest entitlement
|Weight limit for vehicle does not apply
|Valid on successful completion: Basic Moped Training Course 125 – tricycles only (for licences issued before 29 June 2014).
DVLA check code
In 2015, the paper counterpart of UK driving licences was replaced by a new online system.
You can now access and check your full driving licence record online and generate a DVLA “check code” to grant third parties access to your records. This unique, temporary access code allows third parties to view your digital driving record and is valid for 21 days.
Some third parties, such as car hire companies, need access to your driving record in order for you to use their services.
You can get a DVLA check code by visiting the Gov.UK website. You can use this service to check your driving licence online, and view any penalty points or disqualifications. You can also generate a licence check code.
What information does the DVLA’s system hold?
The DVLA database includes:
- Type of licence you hold
- Length of time you’ve held the licence for
- Type of cars you can drive
- Penalty points
- Conviction dates
Do hire companies actually check driving licences?
UK car rental companies are legally required to check your full driving licence, which is why you need a check code to give them access.
When travelling abroad, it varies from country to country, but some hire companies do ask to see your full history as well as your photocard licence to check for any points and fines.
Insurers may also request access to your driving history. By sharing your record with insurers, you’ll avoid making mistakes when manually entering past motoring convictions, which can invalidate your insurance. This transparency also helps tackle insurance fraud and improve overall road safety by providing a more accurate risk assessment of drivers.
Online driving licence checks
To check your driving licence online and more information about vehicle compliance, get in touch with DriverCheck.