The documents section of the driving theory test will examine your knowledge of the purpose, content and legal requirements for various driving documents.

Driving Legally

To legally drive in the UK you must meet certain requirements, such as:

  • Having paid vehicle excise duty (road tax) where appropriate
  • Holding a valid driving licence for the type of vehicle you wish to drive
  • Having valid insurance cover
  • Ensuring that the vehicle you’re driving has a valid MOT certificate, where appropriate.

Without fulfilling the above requirements you cannot legally drive on UK roads and motorways.  Having certain documents is a key part of this. In this theory test documents section you will learn about:

  • Documents you need to own and keep a car
  • Your driving licence
  • MOTs
  • Insurance

Owning and keeping a car

In order to own a car legally, you must first have paid your vehicle excise duty or road tax. More details about road tax can be found here: In order to do this you must have a valid MOT certificate (if required for the vehicle) and an appropriate level of insurance cover. We will look at these in more detail below:

MOT certificate

mot certificateYou will be given an MOT certificate as evidence that your vehicle has passed an MOT test. MOT stands for Ministry of Transport and is a government-backed test that ensures your vehicle meets road safety and environmental standards.

There are rules around when vehicles require testing. Tests are valid for one year, and cars must first be tested when they are three years old (or four in Northern Ireland). Some vehicles such as trailers and caravans may be exempt from needing an MOT and details of all exempt vehicles can be found here: However, it is important that any vehicle being used on the road is kept in good repair and working order.

The only time when you can drive your car without an MOT certificate is when you’re driving to or from an appointment at an MOT centre or to have MOT repairs carried out. This is not the case when you are driving to a test centre speculatively. Unless you have an MOT appointment, you must have an MOT certificate to take your car onto the road to get to the test centre.

If your vehicle needs an MOT certificate and you don’t yet have one, you can face serious consequences such as:

  • Being unable able to renew your vehicle excise licence (road tax)
  • Being prosecuted, losing your licence or being fined
  • Your insurance being invalidated.


Insurance is a legal requirement and also extremely important for protecting you and other road users in the event of an accident. There are three types of insurance in the UK. The first is third-party insurance.  You MUST have at least this level of insurance cover before driving on public roads. This will pay out and cover you for:

  • Injury to another person
  • Damage to someone else’s property or vehicle.

You can also have third party, fire and theft, which covers you for all of the above and will pay out if your vehicle is stolen or catches fire. You can also have fully comprehensive insurance which will cover any damage to your vehicle or that of a third party. Driving without insurance is a criminal offence in the UK and can lead to an unlimited fine, and possibly disqualification.

In the event of making a claim on your insurance, you may need to pay an excess. For example, if your excess is £100, you’ll have to pay the first £100 of any claim for damage to your vehicle. The cost of insurance varies based on your age, the type of car you drive and the area you live in. Insurance is generally lower if you’re over 25 years old.

Producing documents

You will need to show your insurance certificate when you’re taxing your vehicle, or if a police officer asks you for it. If you have recently renewed or taken out insurance, your insurer may give you a temporary cover note until you receive your actual insurance certificate.

Remember, if your vehicle is unused or off the road it MUST have either a Statutory Off Road Notice (SORN) or valid insurance. If you have neither, and ignore any subsequent reminders sent to you as the registered keeper, you risk:

  • Receiving a fixed-penalty fine of £100
  • Facing court prosecution and a fine of up to £1000
  • Having the vehicle clamped, seized and destroyed.

If a police officer asks to see your documents and you don’t have them with you, you can produce them at a police station within seven days.

In the UK, insurance is on the driver rather than the vehicle, so before you drive anyone else’s vehicle, you must check that it is insured for you to drive.

Driving licence

uk driving license The most important document in your possession is a valid driving licence, even if you are yet to pass your test.  Before driving on public roads, a learner MUST have a valid provisional driving licence.

When applying for your licence, you must give the licensing authority your personal details. It is important that you keep them informed if your circumstances change. You MUST tell the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) if:

  • You change your name
  • There is a change to your permanent address
  • You change your vehicle
  • Your health is likely to affect your driving
  • Your eyesight doesn’t meet the required standard


To be able to drive you MUST be able to read in good daylight (with glasses or contact lenses if you wear them) a vehicle number plate from 20 metres (about 66 feet) – which is about five car lengths. This is the first thing you will be asked to demonstrate in a driving lesson or on your driving test.

If you want to practice driving before you pass your test, you MUST be accompanied by someone who’s at least 21 years old and has held (and still holds) a full licence for the category of vehicle you’re driving, for at least three years. This person does not have to be a qualified driving instructor. Regular driving lessons will make you a better driver and will allow you to pass your test sooner.

Once you have passed your test there are certain rules that govern your first few years as a driver. For two years after you have passed your first practical test (car or motorcycle), there is a probation period of two years. This means that if you get six or more penalty points within this timeframe, you’ll lose your licence. If this happens, you’ll have to:

  • Reapply for a provisional licence
  • Pass your theory and practical tests again.

If you’re given points on your provisional licence, they will be transferred to your new licence on passing your practical test.

Owning a car

Once you have passed your test you may wish to buy your own car. Whether you purchase a new or second-hand vehicle, you must have a vehicle registration certificate (V5C). This document contains details of:

  • The vehicle’s make, model, engine size and year of registration
  • The registered keeper (i.e, you).

If you buy a second-hand vehicle, you must immediately inform the DVLA of the change in the vehicle’s ownership. You may be liable for fines if you don’t.

If you’re not going to use your vehicle on public roads, you won’t have to pay vehicle excise duty (road tax) as long as you inform the DVLA in advance. This is called a Statutory Off-Road Notification (SORN) and lasts until you tax, sell or scrap your vehicle.