Motorists planning to hire a car in the UK or abroad will now have more time to get a 'check code', following criticism that the original 72 hours wasn't long enough.

MoneySavingExpert.com first warned motorists that the paper counterpart of driving licences would be scrapped in April and replaced with a new online system, affecting those with English, Welsh and Scottish licences, in particular when hiring a car.

But as of today, motorists now have 21 days to get a 'check code' from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and show it to car hire companies.

The move follows feedback that the three day validity period wasn't long enough, especially for those who need it when travelling.

Dudley Ashford, DVLA drivers' services manager, says: "Since 8 June the service has been in public beta; This allows us to monitor performance and listen to customer feedback so we can make any improvements for the end user.

"Feedback so far highlights that for some, the 72 validity period is not long enough, particularly those who may need it when travelling. That is why we have extended the validity period to 21 days.

"We will review this in three months once we've had sufficient further feedback from users and industry."

Since the Share Driving Licence online service launched last month, it's been logged onto 1.4 million times.

Those with driving licences issued by the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) in Northern Ireland are unaffected and still require both the plastic photocard and paper counterpart.

Here's our Q&A on what you need to know. See our Cheap Car Hire guide for more help cutting £100s off holiday hire and insurance costs.

Martin Lewis
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What's changed?

What's changed depends on when you passed your driving test, here's what you need to know:

  • I passed my driving test after 1998

Anyone who passed their driving test after 1998 has a photocard driving licence and a paper counterpart. The paper part of the licence shows any points you may have received for breaking the rules – for example, being caught driving faster than the speed limit.

Drivers can check their record on Gov.uk, but as of last month, points are stored online and not added to the paper licence, rendering it useless.

This means if you're hiring a car or need to provide your employer with evidence of your driving record, you may be asked for a code, which now gives car hire companies or employers up to 21 days to check your history (see below for how to get one).

  • I passed my driving test before 1998

If you passed your driving test before 1998, you'll only have a paper driving licence, unless you've renewed after this date and now have a photocard licence plus a paper counterpart.

However, if you're one of 8.7 million drivers who still have a traditional paper driving licence only, don't throw this away, as it's different from the photocard paper counterpart and is still valid as your driving licence.

In this scenario, points are also recorded online instead of on paper. This also means if you're hiring a car or need to provide your employer with evidence of your driving record, you may be asked for a code, which now gives car hire companies or employers up to 21 days to check your history (see below for how to get one).

I'm hiring a car, when do I need to request a code?

Codes are now valid for 21 days, up from the previous three days. This means there's less panic for those travelling abroad, although you should still plan ahead and request an access code for the company from the DVLA.

Again, you'll need to be mindful of journey times and time differences if you're travelling abroad.

How do I request a code?

You can request a code via the new Share Driving Licence online service at Gov.uk, or by calling the DVLA on 0300 083 0013.

You will need to provide your driving licence number found on your photocard (or on your paper driving licence for paper-only motorists), National Insurance number and the postcode on your driving licence.

You will also be able to download a PDF of your licence, which will be worth taking as a precaution, but you will still need a code as well.

DVLA extends time frame to get hire car code following criticism
Hire car 'check codes' are now valid for 21 days, up from the previous three days

Do hire companies actually check driving licences?

In the UK, car rental companies are legally required to check your full driving licence.

When travelling abroad, it varies country by country, but some hire companies have previously asked to see the paper counterpart of your photocard licence to check for any points and fines. So it's likely they will continue to check, but via the online system now.

Is there any alternative to requesting a code?

You can give permission for the car rental company to contact the DVLA and check the details over the phone when you get there, but beware of any international call charges or extra service costs this could rack up.

What should I do with my paper counterpart?

When the new online system launched the DVLA advised drivers to destroy the paper part of their photocard licence, although some driving organisations, such as the AA, said at the time that motorists should adopt a "belt and braces" approach and keep hold of their paper counterpart for now in case there are any problems with the online service.

Many people were hit with problems accessing the site when it first launched due to high demand.

In particular, the AA has also warned drivers who want to hire a car abroad to be extra cautious, as the companies, or even traffic police abroad, may not be aware of the changes.

However, DON'T destroy the traditional paper licences that were issued before 1998.

What happens if I get any new points or a fine?

You will still have to submit your licence and pay any fines, but the way the offence is recorded will change. Any new endorsements will be recorded only online and will not be physically put onto your photocard licence or traditional paper licence.

If you submit the paper counterpart of your photocard licence and your photocard to record a fine, only the photocard will be sent back to you.

If you send off a pre-1998 traditional paper licence, it will be sent back to you and the points will be recorded online instead.

I drive for a living. What do the changes mean for me?

Those who need to provide an employer with a record of their driving history will also be able to use the Share Driving Licence service in the exact same way as outlined above.

Again, the code will now be valid for 21 days for your employer to double check any points or fines, and you will be able to print a PDF copy too.

Additional reporting by Megan French.

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