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Legal rights at 18 in the UK

So your child is an adult. The world is their oyster. Now your role as party pooper vigilant parent is to sprinkle some lemon juice on said oyster, reminding them what an 18-year-old can and can't do legally.

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Jun 10, 2021

Driving teenagers

What can you do at 18?

At 18, teenagers can:

  • Stand for election as an MP, local councillor or mayor

  • Serve on a jury

  • Be tried in a magistrate's court, and go to prison if found guilty of a criminal offence

  • Make a will

  • Pawn stuff in a pawn shop

18 is also the age when you have the legal right to vote in local and general elections.

Relationships at 18 years old

At 18, it's legal to:

  • Get married without parental permission

  • If adopted, see the original birth certificate (and have their name added to the birth contact register)

Teenage Wedding

Medical treatment at 18

At 18, teens can:

  • Consent to their body being used in a medical study

  • Carry an organ donor card


18 is the legal age in the UK to:

  • Buy cigarettes, rolling tobacco and cigarette papers

  • Buy alcoholic drinks in a pub or a bar

  • Buy fireworks

  • View, rent or buy an 18-rated film

  • View, rent or buy pornographic material that does not contravene UK obscenity laws

  • Place a bet in a betting shop or casino

  • Get a tattoo

  • Get body piercings

Teen Bar


Petrolheads can now:

  • Ride a motorbike above 125cc with a licence

  • Drive lorries between 3,500kg and 7,500kg (with the appropriate licence)

  • Drive a bus, under some specific circumstances – such as if you're learning to take your Passenger Carrying Vehicle (PCV) test

Things an 18-year-old still can't do legally

  • Adopt a child

  • Supervise a learner driver

For both of these, you'd need to be 21.

And as parents of an 18-year-old, you need to remember to check…

  • Whether or not your teen is still covered by family medical or travel insurance policies

  • With the local council that the extra adult in your household is on the electoral roll and will receive a polling card if an election is called

  • That any child savings accounts now have to change to adult accounts (at which point they can be taxed)