Driving licence categories define the vehicle types you’re entitled to drive; they’re shown on the back of your licence, but without much explanation. The following guide explains what the categories mean.
Driving licence categories
If you passed your driving test in a standard car, you might be surprised to learn that you’re entitled to drive some other types of vehicle without taking any other test, including a tractor!
The categories listed on the back of your licence tell you what vehicles you may drive. Once you’ve passed the appropriate test to drive other types of vehicle, for example motorbikes, lorries or buses, your driving licence can be updated to show any new categories that you’re entitled to drive.
Vehicle categories you can drive on a standard UK driving licence
After passing your test, you can drive the following categories of vehicle on a standard UK driving licence without any additional driving test:
|B||Cars||Maximum 8 passenger seats|
|B auto||Automatic cars|
|B + E||Category B + trailer||Up to 3,500kg|
|B1||Light vehicles||Up to 550kg with goods|
|Q||2-wheeled motors||Maximum speed 15.5mph and engine size not more than 50cc|
This is the standard category to drive a car, or vehicles up to 3,500kg maximum authorised mass (MAM) with up to 8 passenger seats. You can also pull a trailer up to 750kg if the combined MAM of the vehicle and trailer is no more than 3,500kg.
If you’re over 21, Category B also entitles you to drive a motor tricycle with a power output higher than 15kW.
Category B auto
If you passed your test in an automatic car you can drive a category B vehicle, but only one with automatic transmission.
Category B + E
If you passed your test before 19 January 2013, you can tow any size trailer, but a restriction of 3,500kg MAM applies to towing a trailer if you passed your test after this date.
This category refers to light motor vehicles with 4 wheels and up to 400kg unladen or 550kg if they’re designed for carrying goods.
Category F descibes agricultural tractors. You can hold a category F licence from the age of 16, although certain restrictions apply with regard to tractor width and trailer size until the age of 17.
A pedestrian-controlled vehicle or mowing machine.
Two- and three-wheeled vehicles without pedals, with an engine size no more than 50cc and a maximum designed speed no greater than 25km/h (15.5mph).
Changes to driving licence categories
Driving licence categories have changed several times over the years, most recently in January 2013. This means that some older licences may automatically entitle the holder to drive other categories of vehicle, for example C1, C1E, D1, D1E, I, N and P, without any further test. As these entitlements by no means apply to everyone, we’ll explain them more fully in the next section, but you can compare old and new driving licence categories more fully here.
Non-standard vehicle categories
You may need to take an additional test to drive a vehicle in the following categories, although drivers with older licences may automatically be entitled to drive some in this list:
|AM||2 or 3 wheeled motors||Max speed between 15.5mph and 28mph|
|C||Large lorries over 3,500kg||Maximum trailer up to 750kg|
|C + E||Category C + trailer|
|C1||Lorries between 3,500kg and 7,500kg MAM||Maximum trailer up to 750kg|
|C1 + E||Category C1 + trailer||Combined MAM up to 12,000kg|
|D||Bus with more than 8 passengers||Trailer up to 750kg MAM|
|D + E||Category D + trailer|
|D1||Minibus||Up to 16 passenger seats, max length 8 m, trailer up to 750kg|
|D1 + E||Category D1 + trailer||Maximum combined MAM of vehicle and trailer up to 12,000kg|
|G||Road roller||Age restrictions apply|
|H||Tracked vehicles||Age restrictions apply|
|L||Electrically propelled vehicles|
|N||Vehicles exempt from duty|
|P||Moped||Up to 50cc, max speed 50km/h|
If you’ve passed the relevant test, you can ride motorbikes with a power output more than 35kW, or a power-to-weight ratio more than 0.2kW/kg, as well as motorbikes in categories A1 and A2. You can also ride tricycles with a power output more than 15kW.
You’ll need to pass a Compulsory Basic Training test (CBT) before you can drive a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with a maximum speed between 15.5mph and 28mph. This category also includes quad bikes up to 350kg with a maximum speed between 15.5mph and 28mph.
This relates to larger lorries, where you can drive a vehicle over 3,500kg with a trailer up to 750kg MAM.
Category C + E
As for Category C, but with trailers over 750kg MAM.
You can drive vehicles between 3,500kg and 7,500 kg MAM, with a trailer up to 750kg.
Category C1 + E
As for Category C1, but you can pull a trailer over 750kg, as long as the combined MAM of vehicle and trailer does not exceed 12,000kg.
You can drive any bus with more than 8 passenger seats, with a trailer up to 750kg MAM.
Category D + E
As for Category D, with a trailer over 750kg.
You can drive minibuses with no more than 16 passenger seats, up to 8 metres in length and a trailer up to 750kg.
Category D1 + E
As for Category D1, with a trailer over 750kg MAM, but the combined MAM of vehicle and trailer must not exceed 12,000kg.
This category refers to road rollers. Between the ages of 17 and 21, the entitlement is just for small road rollers with metal or hard rollers. They mustn’t be steam-powered, weigh more than 11,960 kg or be designed to carry loads.
Tracked vehicles. Generally, you must be at least 21 years old to drive Category H vehicles, although you may be able to drive them at 17 if you are a member of the Armed Forces or the maximum authorised mass of the vehicle is no greater than 3,500kg.
This is a category which might appear on older licences and it covers electrically propelled vehicles such as milk floats. However, since January 1997, drivers now need to hold Category B or B1 entitlement to drive this type of vehicle.
Information about the explicit meaning of Category N – vehicles exempt from duty – is patchy, and the Government hasn’t updated its information in recent years. It’s possible the category could refer to vehicles such as forklifts, which may venture onto the road for very short distances, i.e. to load a lorry.
Mopeds with a maximum design speed between 45 km/h and 50km/h and a cylinder capacity not exceeding 50cc.
Adding other categories to your driving licence
If you wish to add more vehicle categories to your driving licence, you might need to get a provisional entitlement first, and then take a recognised test to prove your ability to drive the new vehicle type. After this, the higher vehicle category can be added to your licence.
For example, you must have a full car licence (Category B) before you apply for a provisional licence to drive a lorry (Category C) or bus (Category D). Once you’ve got the provisional entitlement, you can then apply to take the test for the higher category.
Find out about adding higher category entitlements to your licence.
*Note: Some variations in vehicle category restrictions may apply, depending on when you passed your test. See the government’s guide for full details.
Driving without the correct licence
The consequences of not having the correct licence can be serious, so it’s worth taking a few minutes to understand the vehicles you can and can’t drive.
The Road Traffic Act makes it an offence to drive a vehicle without an appropriate licence, resulting in an LC20 conviction code and up to 6 penalty points.
You could also find that your car insurance is invalidated. One of the reasons an insurer asks you to share your driving licence information with them is to check that your licence entitles you to drive the class of vehicle that you’re trying to insure.