Automatic Licence to Manual

In the UK, you can pass the driving test in an automatic or manual car. Depending on which car you passed the test in, will result in which licence type you gain.

If you have an automatic licence, you will need to retake the driving test in a manual transmission car to gain a full UK licence that entitles you to drive both automatic and manual transmission cars.

You will however not need to re-take the theory test, even if you passed your automatic driving test before the theory test was introduced. The UK theory test was introduced in July 1996.

I Have an automatic Licence,  Can I Drive a Semi-automatic Car?

Generally, providing the vehicle you wish to drive has no manual clutch, you are entitled to drive it on an automatic licence. There are many variations of automatic transmissions however and if the vehicle in question involves some form of clutch to change gear and you are unsure if your licence permits you to legally drive, you should consult the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) on 0300 200 11 22.

Can You Drive an Automatic Car with a Manual Licence?

If you passed the driving test in a manual car, you therefore hold a manual licence which entitles you to drive cars with either manual, semi-automatic or fully automatic transmission.

UK full driving licence
UK full driving licence


It is illegal to drive a manual car if you are licensed to drive only automatics. If you are involved in an accident or caught by the police, you will technically be driving without a licence. Your car insurance will also be void, which would lead to significant legal penalties and may be void if you are involved in an accident.

Exchanging foreign driving licence for UK

The DVSA permit certain countries that fall into designated areas to exchange a foreign licence without the need to re-take the UK driving test. Certain countries such as Canada for example can exchange a licence for a UK licence within 5 years of becoming UK resident although unless proof is obtained that you passed the driving test in manual transmission vehicle, then you will be issues an automatic driving licence only.

If you are issued an automatic driving licence, you will need to take the UK driving test in a manual car to qualify for a full UK manual driving licence.

Areas that fall outside of the DVSA’s designated areas such as Indian driving licence are permitted to drive for up to 12 months on their current licence. Within this 12 months, a provisional driving licence will need to be applied for, take and pass the theory test and when the theory test has been passed, a practical driving test can be booked.

For further information on obtaining a provisional driving licence and booking tests, visit the How to start learning to drive section. The Directgov website will provide information for which countries fall into the designated areas and those that don’t.

Failing the manual driving test

If you have taken and failed the driving test in a manual car but have a full automatic licence, you are still permitted to drive automatic transmission cars.

Automatic driving licence UK

If you have difficulties using manual gears or a stick shift, then taking and passing the automatic driving test is easier than manual. Remember however that you will only be entitled to drive automatics which could be restrictive when renting cars, using courtesy cars and even purchasing car.

There are many other factors that restrict automatic licence holders in the UK. The section Automatic or manual, which is better may provide advice on whether to take the automatic or manual driving test.

Exchanging automatic licence for manual

Listed are tips and advice that should help you when exchanging your automatic driving licence for a manual.

Take some driving driving lessons

If you already have a automatic driving licence, then you know how to drive. The UK driving test can however be a little strict in many areas and bad habits can evolve into an almost certain test failure if not remedied.

By taking driving lessons with a qualified driving instructor you will quickly gain confidence in using a gear stick (or stick shift) and will rectify any bad habits gained over the years. There is often many weeks waiting times for driving tests so passing first time is certainly beneficial. It is likely you will only need 3 to 5 hours of tuition and will save you time as you will likely pass first time. For a recap on the driving test or if you are new to the UK driving test, the section on How to pass the driving test will provide information on what is expected on the day.

The driving test

If you are in need of a driving licence exchange and need to book a test, bear in mind there are often large waiting times. It varies from test centre and can be from 2 weeks up to 12 weeks depending where you wish to take the test.

Often during the winter season driving tests can be cancelled due to bad weather. This occurs most on early morning test bookings due to fog or ice on the roads. Booking your test later on during the day is less likely to result in a cancellation. The examiner will inform you at the test centre if it is cancelled and the DVSA will automatically assign you another test that may be many weeks later and at an inappropriate time.

If you are desperate to take a driving test as soon as possible, you can check the DVSA website for cancellations and take that slot. If you are new to the UK, it may be worth checking out the test centre pass rates. Taking a driving test in a different area may gain slight benefit, especially if you are not familiar with the roads in the first place.

52 thoughts on “Automatic Licence to Manual”

  1. Paul

    I have just passed my manual test but i already had a auto licence (8 yrs) does the 2 yr 6 point rule apply to me again? Thanks

  2. Hello Paul,
    It’s essentially the same licence, it just has a new category on it that entitles you to now drive manual as well as automatic. So no, you will not have to start again with the 2 year, 6 penalty point rule.

  3. Peter Bragg

    Someone I know has an Automatic licence to drive cars but to drive his relatives Manual vehicles he would have to retake the test in a Manual car – would it be advisable for him to have a few lessons in the car first?

  4. Hi Peter,
    Yes definitely. It’s surprising how quickly bad habits creep in after the test. So a few lessons with an instructor should get rid of those.

  5. Tiago Martins

    Good morning, i already had auto licence for 7 years, after i pass my manual test the start date from my licence its going to change? I am going to lose the 7 years for the insurance? Thanks

  6. Hello Tiago,
    It often depends on the insurance company as it’s down to their policy and their rules. Usually due to having a new entitlement on your licence you will be considered a higher risk and will have to pay more. Your no-claims should remain unaffected, but they’ll still likely increase your premium.

  7. Luke

    I have just passed my test in a manual but had an automatic license for nearly 5 years my sister want to lean manual do I need to wait another 3 years before I can take her out in a manual car ?

  8. Hello Luke,
    As it is a new category on your licence, you will need three years of manual driving experience before you can supervise a learner.

  9. Laura

    Hey, I passed my driving test in automatic 2 years ago. But I want to start taking manual lessons – do I have to apply for a provisional licence again?

    Thanks 🙂

  10. Hello Laura,
    No you do not need to apply for a provisional again, but the same rules will apply as any other learner when you’re behind the wheel of a manual including the use of L-plates.

  11. Victoria

    Hi I want to ‘retake my test from auto to manual . I used my own car to learn auto and passed in own car .. I want to learn to drive in my own manual will k beable to get valid learner driver Insurance with having a insurance as full driving licence

  12. Hi Victoria,
    You will need to get learner driver insurance for when you’re driving the manual and all the rules (L plates etc) apply when you’re driving the manual. Be cautious however, once you have passed the manual test, you will be classed as a new licence holder by insurance companies and you may find your premium significantly increases. How much of an increase depends on how much no claims you have / age of auto licence. Might be worth calling them to get the specifics.

  13. Hi I have an automatic licence but just passed manual are the dates on my driving licence going to change.

  14. Jessica Howes


    I will soon be attempting to pass my test in manual after driving automatic for 4 years. I will take some lessons beforehand. Once I have passed when I notify my insurers are my rates likely to change?

  15. Hello Jessica,
    Once you pass the manual test, you will be classed as a new licence holder, so depending on whether you have no claims discount and the fact that you will be classed as a new licence holder it is likely to change.

  16. paris

    If I have a automatic licence and want to upgrade to a manual, can I drive my partners manual car with him in the car? He has had full driving licence for over 10 years. And what would be the restrictions/requirements?

  17. Hi paris,
    Yes you can. You will be driving it as a learner driver, so you will need

  18. a supervising passenger such as your partner
  19. L plates
  20. Appropriate insurance to cover you as a learner
  21. Katie

    Hi I have had an auto licence for 12 years, I want to now drive manuals (my partners car) so I’m aware i wont need to do theory, and that I can learn in my partner’s car, and also do my test in his car. But how do I go about being insured? Hes spoke to his insurance (hastings) I’ve spoke to mine (aa) they’ve both said i wont be insured to drive it as i only hold a auto licence.. aa said I’d need a specialist insurance?

  22. Hi Katie,
    You would effectively be a learner when driving the manual, so you’d need learner driver insurance. I’m not sure why your insurance providers can’t combine your existing insurance to allow you to continue to drive your automatic and to learn in the manual, but if they can’t then you’ll need to take out a separate policy for learning. Be a little cautious however, when you pass your test and upgrade your licence, your insurance provider may classify you as a new driver and your insurance may rise. It’s usually worth checking this.

  23. Kerri

    Hi I have had a automatic licence for 8 years I’m thinking about doing manual test would I have to do the theory test again?

  24. Hello Kerri,
    No, you do not need to retake your theory test when going from automatic to manual licence. It might affect your car insurance though as they may consider you a new driver once you obtain your manual licence. Might be worth checking with them.

  25. Kerri

    Ok thanks.

  26. RORY

    I’ve had an auto license for 15yrs
    If I take my manual test.
    Will I be able to hire a rental car/van how soon after

  27. Hi Rory,
    You can hire a manual car or van the moment you have your pass certificate (the examiner hands it to you).
    Take into account however, any no claims you’ve built up by driving an automatic is not likely to count, so you may have an increase on your insurance.

  28. Joho

    My partner passed test in Canada in manual but has been issued with automatic-only licence as Canada doesn’t distinguish between two classes of licence. I see that you need proof you learnt in manual but what kind of proof. His driver instructor has since died as test was over 30 years ago. Can you help?

  29. Hi Joho,
    I’m afraid that realistically it’s pretty much impossible to gain any proof, particularly as the test took place so long ago.

  30. Haider Ali

    Hi…how can I insure myself on my partners car as a additional driver with an automatic license…so I can use it to learn how to drive a manual, also to take my test? Or do I need an actual learners insurance?

  31. Hello Haider Ali
    It depends on your insurance provider. Some offer an addon to allow you to learn to drive, while others will require you to take out a separate policy. Best to contact them and get a price. Regardless of what they say, it’s best to shop around for quotes before committing to it as you may well be able to find it cheaper. All learner driver policies will cover you to take the driving test.

  32. Cameron Mcglynn

    I was told that, automatic insurance can cost up to £5000 for automatic only drivers… is that true and is there any cheaper options?

  33. Hi Cameron,
    Automatic car insurance is usually a little more expensive than the equivalent manual version because the automatic version is more expensive. The transmission and torque converter or clutch if it has one is more complex, which is why automatics cost a little more to buy and cost a little more to insure. I’m not sure the ‘£5000’ figure is particularly relevant. Automatic cars are becoming much more popular now and prices are falling. At the moment, if you were to insure an automatic car, it will cost around 15 to 20 percent more than the exact same manual equivalent.

  34. Adam

    So if I’ve had my auto license for 7 years and only recently passed my manual test. on the insurance form under the question ‘how long have you had your license for’, do i put 7 years or the date that i obtained my manual license.

  35. Hello Adam,

    That question is translated to: ‘how long have you had any form of licence for and what licence do you have now’. So put how long you have had a driving licence in total, plus that you’re licensed to drive a manual.

  36. Winzy

    hello, is it free to choose learning in an automatic car or manual car with my learning driving license? e.g. I learn with an instructor in his automatic car but with my partner in his manual car

  37. Hi Winzy,
    Yes, you can learn either in an automatic or manual, it’s entirely your choice. Where the rules do apply is with the supervising passenger. They must be over 21 years of age, be fully licensed to drive the type of vehicle that they are supervising you in and to have had that licence for 3 or more years.

  38. Haider Ali

    Hi, i am having a 5 year old UAE Dubai driving automatic license..
    And i want to drive here manual car is there any way i can drive manual Car.
    Although my automatic license convert in UK license..

  39. Hello Haider,
    No, it will be for automatic car driving only. If you want to drive manual cars, you will need to sit a UK driving test in a manual car.

  40. Steve


    I am looking to undertake my manual test as I am a automatic only license holder. I would like to practice in a relatives car – when I look at learners insurance it says must hold a provisional license and would be void if I didn’t have this – does this mean having a full automatic license wouldn’t be covered? If so what are the options?

  41. Hi Steve,
    You do not need to apply for a provisional licence. Your full automatic licence is all you need. You will of course need to ensure you have a supervising passenger that has a full manual licence for 3 or more years, that they be over 21 years of age and display L-plates on your car whilst learning. Not sure if you’re aware, but your insurance might increase after passing the manual test, best to check with your insurance provider.

  42. Simon

    Hi Steve

    Tricky one here for you: I obtained an automatic only UK license in the 90s and shortly after moved to the US and passed my test there in a manual. I then moved to the Netherlands twenty years later and exchanged my US license for a full Dutch license which I have been driving on for 5 years. Now I’ve moved back to the UK finally after 25 years away, what are my options for driving here? Can I trade my full Dutch license in for a full UK now? Or will the UK recover my old automatic only license and force me to retake the test in a manual with no credit for 25 years of manual driving with full licenses abroad? Thanks 🙂

  43. Hi Simon. As your Dutch licence was obtained via exchange of a US licence, the DVLA would be unable to exchange the Dutch licence. You’ll need to renew your GB licence and take a manual test to drive manual vehicles. Was your GB licence a paper licence or photocard licence? Are you still in possession of it?

  44. Wendy Christie

    My son just failed his upgrade-to-manual test. Does he have to wait a specific period of time before he can try again?


  45. Jodie

    If I exchange my Canadian driving license for a UK automatic license can I use that license to learn to drive a manual car?

  46. Hi Jodie,
    Yes, you can use your UK automatic licence for learning to drive a manual car. You will of need to ensure the following:

    • The car has L plates attached
    • You have the appropriate insurance for driving a manual car
    • Your supervising passenger is at least 21 years of age
      • They have held their full licence for at least 3 years
      • Are qualified to drive the type of vehicle you are driving (manual) 
  47. Han


    I have an automatic license and want to upgrade to a manual. What sort of insurance companies would appropriately insure me? I am finding it very difficult to find a suitable insurance company as they all offer policies mainly for provisional license holders.

    Hope you can help me out
    Many Thanks

  48. Hello Han,
    Do you mean car insurance for the learning to drive process?
    Essentially you will need to keep your existing insurance and automatic licence for driving your automatic car (if that’s applicable) and have a separate insurance for when you’re learning to drive in a manual. Your automatic driving licence doubles up as a provisional licence for when you’re learning in a manual car. You may be able to get an addon learner insurance through your existing insurance provider, or do a comparison search for learner driver insurance. Probably best to call your existing provider and see if they can help. Then, do a search on comparison sites to get the best deal.

  49. sohail

    I had converted my UAE Automatic license into UK automatic license. Now looking for UK full license (manual ) what id i failed it ? Do i loose my Automatic one ?

  50. Hi Sohail,
    No, you’ll not lose your automatic licence. If you fail a manual driving test whilst having a valid automatic licence, you’ll still be able to drive automatic cars.

  51. Old Tim

    I am planning to take test to convert my auto licence to both auto and manual. If I passed my manual test, even I keep driving my current auto car, my insurance policy’s price will also increase due to I add a new manual category in my licence?

  52. Hi Old Tim,
    It will depend on your insurance provider. Some may consider you as a new driver and increase your premium. Best to contact your insurance provider to find out.

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