Learning to drive a car in Ireland
Before you get into the driver’s seat, there are a few things you need to sort out. Here’s all you need to know about learner permits and car insurance to get you started.
What is a learner permit?
It’s a licence that allows you to start learning to drive and later apply for a driving test.
There are different permits for different types of vehicle, so make sure you apply for the right one.
You can get your learner permit once you’ve passed your theory test or up to two years later.
A learner permit isn’t valid in Northern Ireland or any other country outside of Ireland.
How to apply for a learner permit
You can apply online through the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS) and you’ll need the following before you start:
You can also apply in person at an NDLS centre but you’ll need to book an appointment and bring all your documentation. They’ll take your photo and capture your signature electronically at your appointment.
How much does it cost?
It costs €35 for a new learner permit, or to renew your permit which you can do up to three months before it expires.
Your first and second learner permits last two years while any subsequent ones usually last a year. You’re exempt from paying the fee if you are aged 70 years or over.
Conditions of the learner permit
A learner permit is not the same as a full driving licence and doesn’t allow you to drive alone.
As a learner driver, you must follow the rules of the road and:
- Be accompanied at all times: by someone who has held a full driving licence in the same vehicle category as your learner permit, for at least two years.
- Complete essential driver training (EDT): with a Road Safety Authority (RSA) approved driving instructor (ADI). This involves 12 one hour lessons that cover all the basic skills, behaviours and knowledge needed to safely drive a car.
- Display L plates: on the car you’re driving separate to your ADI lessons. The plate must have a red ‘L’ on a white background, be at least 15cm tall, and displayed clearly on the front and back of the vehicle.
You could face four points plus an initial fine of up to €120 if caught driving unaccompanied with a learner permit.
How to choose an approved driving instructor (ADI)
It’s also important that you get on well with your instructor and their style of teaching.
Do you need car insurance?
When you have driving lessons with your driving instructor, you’re covered on their insurance.
Using your own car or someone else’s to practice in, means you’ll need insurance. You can either:
- Be added to someone else’s insurance policy as a named driver
- Get your own learner driver car insurance
Both of these options can be expensive, so it’s worth spending some time shopping around for car insurance quotes.
Types of car insurance
If you need your own insurance, you’ll need to find a learner driver policy. The main types are:
- Third party, fire and theft: Covers third parties involved in an accident, plus damage to your vehicle caused by fire and theft. You won’t be compensated for other damage to your vehicle.
- Comprehensive: Covers everyone involved in an accident including your car and property. It also covers your car against theft and vandalism.
Comprehensive cover is often more expensive as it offers the highest level of protection but it’s always worth checking.
Who offers learner car insurance?
Most car insurance companies offer cover for learners but the ones who specialise in it may offer better discounts.
If you need to be added to someone else’s policy, it’s hard to negotiate a better deal unless their policy is due for renewal - then, you can shop around.
If you’re a young driver, here’s how to afford young driver car insurance.
Ways to save on your car insurance
It’s difficult to find cheap learner and new driver car insurance, here are some ways you can save:
- Get temporary cover: when you need some extra practice outside of your main lessons, and get annual cover when you pass your test.
- Buy/use a car that’s cheaper to insure: More powerful cars with larger engines and older vehicles tend to cost more to insure than more modern cars with smaller engines.
- Shop around and compare quotes: for learner and named driver policies.
- Search for learner driver deals: Some insurers that also offer lessons give discounts on their insurance when you buy a bundle.
- Increase the excess: on your policy as this often brings the cost down. You’ll have to pay more if you have an accident though.
- Consider your mileage: If your estimated annual mileage is lower, this may bring the cost down. You need to give a realistic figure though or your insurance may not be valid.
- Consider Black box insurance: which involves a telematics device being fitted in your car to monitor your driving. The safer you drive, the more savings you could earn.
Don’t be tempted to get a cheap policy that doesn’t offer the cover you need.
What happens when you pass?
Congratulations! You’ll get a Certificate of Competency when you pass, which is valid for two years.
You’ll then need to:
- Apply for your full driving licence: which you’ll need to drive alone. If you don’t apply within two years of getting your Certificate of Competency, you’ll have to take your test again.
- Switch your L plates for N plates: These are for ‘novice’ or newly qualified drivers and must be displayed for two years.
- Switch your learner driver car insurance: for a qualified driver policy and be sure to shop around.
Consider adding an experienced named driver to your policy to help keep costs down.
Learner driver FAQs
Can I earn a no claims bonus as a named driver while I’m learning to drive?
Some specialist young driver and learner driver insurers can take named driver experience into consideration so check before you buy. This means you might not have to start at zero years no claims bonus when you’ve passed your test.
Why is it so expensive to get car insurance as a new driver?
New drivers are often young and unfortunately, the statistics for young drivers involved in car accidents within two years of passing their driving test are very high. This means that young drivers who also have less experience, are a much higher risk to insurers, and this brings the cost of insurance up.
How type of permit do I need to ride a motorbike?
There are four licensing categories for motorcycles AM, A1, A2 and A.
Riders can progress through these categories by either:
- Progressive access: If 20 years or under by doing prescribed training up to A class motorbikes.
- Direct access: If 24 or over, you can take your motorcyle test and drive A class motorbikes without progressive access.
Find out more about learning to ride a motorcycle in our guide How to get the cheapest motorbike insurance.
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