Do You Have To Have P Plates?

Driving alone for the first time after passing your test is where you’ll continue to learn and also gain more independent driving experience. However, to let other road users know that you are a new driver, you have the option to display P plates.

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Do You Have To Have P Plates
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Although P-plates aren’t compulsory, it’s a common practice among new drivers in the United Kingdom to display them. They are designed to indicate that you as the driver are newly qualified and may still be gaining experience on the road. Therefore, many road users will be more understanding if you are struggling (i.e. stalled at the lights).

If you have just passed your test and wondering if you have to have P plates on your car, below we walk you through everything you need to know.

What Are P Plates?

P plates are a distinctive set of green letter P’s on a white background that’s typically displayed on a vehicle’s front and rear. They signify that the driver is a newly qualified driver who has recently passed their driving test.

While P plates are not a legal requirement in the United Kingdom, they are widely used by new drivers as a way to indicate their inexperience and encourage other road users to be patient and considerate.

Below are two examples of P plates that are commonly found in the UK. As you can see in the photos, many also include “New Driver” underneath the “P” to further indicate that the car is driven by a newly qualified driver.

what does p plates stand for
what do p plates stand for

If you are yet to purchase P plates for your car, our top recommendation is the AA’s magnetic set. For the price you really can’t go wrong and they are easy to install with strong magnets.

Why Most People Tend To Use Them

The decision to use P plates is a personal choice and the reasons behind using them can vary. Many new drivers choose to display P plates as a way to increase their visibility and alert other road users to their newly qualified status. This helps to create a safer driving environment by signalling to others that the driver may require more time and space on the road.

P plates can also serve as a reminder to the new driver to be cautious and responsible behind the wheel and reinforce the importance of ongoing learning and skill development.

Where Should You Put A P Plate?

As with the placement of L plates, P plates should be affixed to both the front and rear of the vehicle. They should also be placed in a visible location, ideally on the bumper or the vehicle’s bodywork. We would avoid placing them on your car’s windows because they have the potential to obstruct visibility and they are also harder to affix on the window too.

Before putting P plates on your car, we would advise that you wash your car beforehand. This is because if you put the plates on a dirty surface, it won’t securely affix and it can also scratch the paintwork too.

How Long Should You Use P Plates

The duration for which P plates should be used is not specified by law in the United Kingdom. However, it’s generally recommended that new drivers display P plates for a reasonable period after passing their driving test. As a general guideline, it’s advised to display P plates for a few months or until the driver gains more confidence and experience on the road.

Pros of Using P Plates

  1. Enhanced Road Safety: P plates indicate to other road users that the driver is inexperienced, leading to increased patience and understanding from fellow drivers and reducing the likelihood of aggressive or dangerous behaviour.
  2. Reminder for Responsible Driving: P plates serve as a visible reminder for new drivers to adopt a cautious and responsible driving style.
  3. Increased Visibility: Displaying P plates on the car enhances its visibility, allowing other road users to easily identify and accommodate the presence of a newly qualified driver.
  4. Encourages Confidence Building: P plates can help boost the confidence of new drivers by providing a sense of reassurance that their newly qualified status is acknowledged, allowing them to focus on gaining experience and improving their skills.
  5. Promotes Respectful Interaction: P plates create an atmosphere of mutual respect on the road, fostering a positive driving culture where experienced drivers are more likely to give space and be considerate towards new drivers.

Cons of Using P Plates

  1. Potential Criticism: Some experienced drivers may perceive the presence of P plates as a sign of incompetence, which could attract unwanted attention or criticism from other road users.
  2. Increased Vulnerability: Displaying P plates may make the vehicle more susceptible to theft or vandalism, as they indicate that the driver is inexperienced and potentially an easier target.
  3. Limited Effectiveness: While P plates can alert other road users to the driver’s newly qualified status, there is no guarantee that all drivers will respond positively.
  4. Stigmatization: There is a possibility that using P plates could result in the driver being stigmatized because some individuals may make assumptions about their driving abilities based solely on the presence of the plates.
  5. Perception of Dependency: In some cases, the use of P plates may create a perception that the driver is overly reliant on the plates to navigate the roads safely, potentially affecting their confidence and ability to transition into independent driving.


Although not compulsory, P plates serve a purpose and are highly recommended if you are slightly nervous about driving on your own after passing your test. Whether you use them for a week or a few months, it really doesn’t matter.

If you require further information regarding P plates, feel free to get in touch and we will try to provide our assistance where possible.

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