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Is your driving licence valid? 30-second check to save a £1,000 fine

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picture of flagMore than two million people have an out-of-date driving licence photocard. There's a £1,000 fine if you don't renew it – so check yours now.

This quick guide shows you how to check whether your licence is valid, how and where to renew, and how to ensure you're covered when driving abroad.

Check your driving licence NOW or risk a £1,000 fine

There are three big checks to do on your driving licence. Dig yours out NOW and ensure you check 'em all, or you could be stung with a £1,000 fine.

1. Check the photocard driving licence expiry date

Photocard licences replaced paper licences in 1998, and must be renewed every 10 years. A whopping two million photocards were out of date in January 2014, according to the DVLA, with a further 2.6 million driving licence photocards due to expire by the end of the year.

Driving licence photos must be replaced every 10 years
(no matter how young you look!)

photocard pictureIt's easy to forget, but a quick check now could save you a fine of up to £1,000 if your photocard's expired. It's an annoying £20 to renew, but that's a far better option.

There are a few dates printed on the photocard, but the one you need's the photo expiry date printed on section 4b on the front of the card. If you really can't find your photocard, see how to renew below.

How to renew your photocard

How much does it cost?

My photocard's already expired, will I be fined if I renew it?

Why does the photocard expire every 10 years?

If you only have a paper licence...

Beware unofficial driving licence websites

2. Check your correct address is on it

Over 2.6 million motorists hadn't updated their driving licence with their current address in June 2013, according to insurer Direct Line. It sounds bonkers, but forget to update your address and you risk a £1,000 fine if stopped by the police - so check now to make sure it's correct.

If your address isn't accurate, or if you've moved since you registered, it's free to update and you can do this as many times as needed - click below for how.

How to update your address

Will my photocard's expiry be renewed if I update my address?

3. Check your name is correct if you've changed it

The third check is to make sure your name is correct on your driving licence, particularly if you've changed it since getting married.

Last year Direct Line found 3% of married women had an out-of-date name on their licence, which bizarrely could also incur a £1,000 fine. So if you think you could be affected, check now.

How to update your name

Will my photocard's expiry be renewed if I update my name?

Driving in Europe: A UK licence is sufficient

Picture of globe

A UK driving licence is accepted throughout the EU, so see the renewal info above to check yours is valid before you go.

It's also worth noting the DVLA advises any driver travelling abroad to carry a photocard licence, rather than an all-paper version. This isn't obligatory, but it may make your journey easier. See above for how to upgrade a paper licence.

Outside of this, don't assume you're automatically covered if you're taking your car to the continent. Follow these tips to ensure you're fully prepared:

  • Car insurance. Most comprehensive or third party, fire and theft policies become third party outside the UK (ie, they'll pay if you damage another car but not your own, and no cover if your car's stolen abroad). You may need to tell your insurer about your trip, so check your policy or call to confirm (see Cheap Car Insurance).
  • Breakdown cover. Go outside the UK and often your breakdown cover isn't valid. Do a check and if not, you can either upgrade to a European policy or buy special one-off temporary cover (see Cheap Breakdown Cover).
  • Do a maintenance check. Do all maintenance before you go, and ensure you've got manuals and the numbers to call if your vehicle breaks down.
  • Driving rules. Check the country-by-country overseas driving regulations on the AA website to make sure you're familiar with the local rules before you go.

Driving outside EU: You may need an extra permit

Picture of IDPA UK driving licence is accepted throughout the EU, but if you're planning a road trip further afield, check if you'll need an International Driving Permit (IDP).

These are required or recommended in about 140 countries, including the USA, Thailand and India. Drive without one where it's needed and you risk trouble with the authorities, and may be refused a hire car.

They're in booklet format, and contain several translations of your driving licence. There are two types, known as the 1926 and 1949 Conventions, and both are the same price. Which you'll need depends on where you're off to.

It's also worth noting that the DVLA advises any driver travelling abroad to carry a photocard licence, rather than the older all-paper version. This isn't obligatory, but it may make your journey easier. See above for how to upgrade a paper licence.

Will I need a permit?

Before you leave, check the AA website for the full list of countries where a permit's required or recommended; it'll also tell you which type to get. You'll need to be 18 or over to get an International Driving Permit, and hold a full driving licence (see above for how to renew).

How to apply

There are two ways to get an IDP:

  • It's £5.50 in person from selected Post Office branches.
  • Alternatively, you can get one by post at £8 from RAC or £8.50 from the AA.

The IDP lasts a year, and you can apply up to three months in advance of going away so there's no need to leave it to the last minute. The fastest way to get one is at the Post Office, where you'll get it over the counter, or the AA's told us you need to allow five working days by post.

It doesn't replace a driving licence though, as you'll need to show both when required. Only buy an IDP via the methods above:

Beware websites selling 'international driving licences' – these aren't legally recognised documents, so don't get caught out.

An AA spokesperson told us: "Some people mistakenly refer to International Driving Permits as 'international driving licences'. However, there is no such thing as an international driving licence – they are not legally recognised – so don’t be fooled into buying one, as they are not worth the paper they are printed on.

Picture of car wheel"An IDP, on the other hand, is required or recommended in 140 countries and is recognised internationally – they are issued in accordance with Road Traffic Conventions, which stipulate that they can only be issued by motoring organisations or motoring authorities."

If you're thinking of hiring abroad, check out the Cheap Car Hire guide for tips. If you're jetting off, don't forget the free passport-sized Little Lifesaver travel guide in case of emergencies.

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