Car insurance

Car insurance and learning to drive

Before you get into the driver’s seat, there are a few things you need to sort out, like a learner permit and insurance. Here’s what you need to know.

What is car insurance?

It’s compulsory insurance for motorists which you are legally required to hold.

Car insurance covers the cost of damage and protects you and other people financially if you’re involved in an accident.

It can save you money on repairs and the hassle of managing liability when accidents happen. Some types of car insurance also cover you for fire, theft and personal injury.

Do you need car insurance while learning to drive?

It depends on whether you’re learning with an instructor or family member, and whose car is being used.

The good news is that when you have lessons with a driving instructor, you’re covered by their car policy. This means you don’t have to buy car insurance to learn to drive in your instructor’s car.

Driving lessons with a qualified instructor are the best way to learn, but most learners also benefit from extra practice with a family member or friend between lessons.

Practising in someone else’s car

If you plan to practice in someone else’s vehicle, such as your parents’ car, you must also ensure you are covered.

You can do this in two ways:

  1. Get your own learner driver car insurance
  2. Get added to someone else’s insurance policy as a ‘named driver’

What is a ‘named driver’?

If you don’t own a car but plan to practice driving with a family member or friend, you can be added to their insurance as a ‘named driver’. This is cheaper than buying your own insurance, but the car owner may have to pay extra and is responsible for any added costs.

The disadvantage of opting to be a ‘named driver’ is that you don’t get the chance to earn your NCB and may miss the chance to reduce your premium once you pass your driving test.

Practicing in your own car

If you’re practising in your own car, you’ll need your own car insurance.

Getting your own learner driver insurance can be expensive, so shop around for learner insurance quotes and compare what’s on offer. Some insurance companies will offer specific discounts for learner drivers.

car insurance learner

How does learner driver insurance work?

Learner driver insurance works in the same way as normal car insurance. You’ll pay a premium annually or monthly to protect against financial loss for things like:

  • traffic accidents
  • theft or vandalism
  • damage by fire
  • damaging or injury to others

In the event of a claim, the insurance company will cover any costs that you’re responsible for (minus any excess).

Which car insurance do you need?

Learning to drive is expensive, so you’ll want to make savings where possible. Here’s how to keep car insurance costs down and check you’ve got the right cover.

Firstly, weigh up whether you need your own learner driver insurance.

  No insurance required Added as ‘named driver’ Learner driver insurance
Only driving in instructor’s car    
Practicing in someone else’s car    
Learning in own car    
Practicing in own car    

What are the types of car insurance?

There are three main types of car insurance offering different levels of protection. The more fully you’re covered, the more you’ll usually pay for your premium.

Learn more about the different levels of cover in our guide Levels of car insurance explained.

Third Party only

Compensates third parties if you cause an accident. Damage to your car won’t be covered. It’s the minimum legal requirement.

3rd Party, Fire & Theft

Covers third parties plus protection for damage to your vehicle caused by fire or theft. Damage by vandalism isn’t covered.


Covers all parties involved in accidents, your car and belongings. Plus theft & damage caused by vandalism.

Is learner driver insurance worth it?

If you’re learning to drive and have your own car, you’ll need to take out car insurance as a learner driver.

If you buy your own car insurance rather than get covered as a ‘named driver’ you’ll be able to build your no claims bonus (NCB) which could reduce the cost of your insurance once you’ve passed your test.

A no claims bonus is a discount on your car insurance that you earn every year you don’t make a claim.

The biggest advantage of buying learner driver insurance is the opportunity to build your no claims bonus (NCB) and demonstrate you are a safe driver to your insurer.

Tips for buying learner driver cover

Read our tips to help you get the right learner driver insurance.

  • Buy or use a small car to learn: Powerful cars with larger engines and older vehicles cost more to insure than more modern cars with smaller engines.
  • Check you can build a no claims bonus: This will work out cheaper in the long run because your premium will be discounted sooner once you pass your test.
  • Add a named driver: This could shave a little off your learner driver premium because the insurer will view the experienced driver as less risky.
  • Shop around and compare quotes: Use a car insurance broker who may be able to find a learner driver insurance policy tailored especially for you.
  • Search for discounts: Some insurers also offer discounted lessons as part of a car insurance bundle and may provide reduced insurance when you pass your test.
  • Increase the policy excess: This will decrease the premium cost. You’ll have to pay more upfront if you have an accident - but this is less likely while you’re learning to drive.
  • Consider black box insurance: This involves fitting a telematics device in your car to monitor your driving. The safer you drive, the cheaper your insurance gets.

Check out our complete guide to car insurance for everything you need to know about covering your car.

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What else do you need to learn to drive?

You’ll need to apply for a learner permit to learn to drive on Ireland’s roads.

The learner permit is a licence that allows you to start driving lessons and later apply for a driving test. You can apply for your 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.

What does a learner permit allow you to do?

A learner permit differs from 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:

How much does a learner permit cost?

It costs €35, and it will need renewal after two years. You can renew your permit 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.

How to apply for a learner permit

You can apply online through the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS) or apply in person at an NDLS centre but you’ll need to book an appointment beforehand.

Check which documents you need before you start the application online or attend your in-person appointment. You’ll need to provide a photo and electronic signature with your application.

What happens once you pass your test?

  1. You’ll get a Certificate of Competency when you pass your test, valid for two years. You must then apply for your full driving licence. If you don’t apply for your full licence within this two year period, you’ll have to take your driving test again.
  2. Once you get your full valid licence, you’ll need to swap your L plates for N plates, which you’ll have to use for two years. 3.Only once you have your full valid driving licence are you legally allowed to drive while unaccompanied.
  3. If you own a car you’ll need to sort out car insurance before you take to the road.
  4. If you have existing cover, you must contact your insurer as soon as possible to tell them your new driver status.

What do you need to tell your insurer?

Your next steps differ depending on how you’ve been insured whilst learning to drive.

Car owner with learner driver insurance

If you have your own insurance, contact your insurer to let them know you’ve passed your test. They will provide a new quote for you as a new driver but it may not necessarily be the cheapest, so shop around and compare prices from different insurers.

Seek out insurers that will take your no claims as a learner driver into account because this could reduce your premium.

Before changing your insurer, check for any cancellation fees or admin charges.

Named driver on somebody else’s insurance

If you’re a named driver on someone else’s policy, you’ll need to ask the main driver to make the change. You can remain as a named driver, but the insurance company needs to know there has been a change in circumstances.

Making this change shouldn’t cost you or the policyholder any money.

New car owner with no previous car insurance

If you buy a car once you have passed your test, compare car quotes from a selection of insurance companies to find the cheapest insurance.

Seek out brokers that specialise in young and new driver insurance and, if you have several years as a named driver, ask about ‘named driver experience’ discounts which some insurers offer.

Read our tips on how to drive insurance costs down when you’re a new or young driver.

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