Over two million people carry an expired driving licence photocard. You risk a £1,000 fine if don't renew it – so urgently check yours.
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.
Driving in the UK
Has your photocard licence expired?
Photocard licences replaced paper driving licences in 1998, yet these must be replaced every 10 years. A whopping two million photocards are now out of date as of January 2013, according to the DVLA, and a further 2.6 million driving licence photos are due to expire in 2013.
Under the new system, photos must be replaced every 10 years
(no matter how young you look!)
It's all too easy to forget, but a quick check now could save you a fine of up to £1,000 if your photocard's expired. It costs an annoying £20 to renew, but that's a far more MoneySaving option.
Check yours NOW
There are a few dates printed on the photocard, but the one you need's the photo's 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.
The process is the same whether renewing or replacing a lost or stolen licence. There are three ways to apply:
- Online. You can apply online at Gov.uk, providing you've a had a new digital passport issued in the last five years.
- By post. Alternatively, anyone can get forms from most Post Offices, or order one from the DVLA website.
- In person at selected Post Offices. Though if you do this, it'll cost an extra £4.50 on top of the standard £20 fee.
How much does it cost?
You need to renew every 10 years, and there's a £20 fee for each renewal. You should be sent a reminder and form about two months before expiry. However, as many miss this or forget, it's well worth making a note of when yours expires.
Though the photocard needs to be renewed every ten years, in general, driving licences are valid until you're 70, and then need renewing every three years. If you only need to update the address, or you're over 70 and you're just renewing it, this is free. There's no limit to the number of times you can update your address for free.
When will I get my new photocard?
The new card should arrive within two weeks, though it's wise to apply earlier just in case.
My photocard's already expired, will I be fined if I renew it?
The DVLA's told us it strongly advises individuals to renew photocards promptly to avoid the risk of being fined, but don't panic if you've overlooked yours – it's told us that while an up to £1,000 fine is possible, the process of renewing late won't itself prompt a fine.
If you only have a paper licence ...
Though no new all-paper licences are now issued, if you have one these generally don't expire until you're 70, so you don't need to do anything until then unless your address or personal details change. But by 2033 all licences must be in the photocard format.
Once you reach 70 there's no fee to renew, and you'll then get a photocard. If you want to upgrade before then, you can apply to change your paper licence for a photocard, though it'll cost £20 and you'll need to show extra ID (see Gov.uk). The DVLA intends to abolish the paper counterpart to the photocard driving licence by 2015.
Why does it expire every 10 years?
A DVLA spokesperson told us: "Appearances can change, and it's important that photocard licences are updated every 10 years.
"This is to ensure the police and other enforcement agencies have the best possible photograph to help them correctly identify whether a driving licence is being used fraudulently, and so help prevent driving licence impersonation – stopping disqualified and perhaps dangerous drivers taking to our roads.
Beware unofficial driving licence websites
If you're looking to renew your licence, don't just Google it. Sadly, do this and you may find unofficial websites charging a fee of about £30 to process your application, on top of the standard driving licence cost. The DVLA told us:
"The DVLA is receiving complaints from customers who have not used the DVLA’s official website to apply for their driving licence. These unofficial sites are not affiliated with the DVLA, and may charge an additional fee."
So always use the official Gov.uk link to ensure you don't get caught out. If you're concerned about an unofficial driving licence website, contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06. See the OFT website for more info.
Driving in Europe: UK licence is sufficient
A UK driving licence is accepted throughout the EU, so see renewal info above to ensure 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 the older all-paper version. Whilst this isn't obligatory, it may make your journey easier where required. See above for how to upgrade a paper licence.
Outside 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 notify your insurer of 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 Euro 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: may need extra permit
A UK driving licence is accepted throughout the EU, but if 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. Whilst this isn't obligatory, it may make your journey easier where required. See above for how to upgrade a paper licence.
Will I need a permit?
Before you leave, check the full list of countries where it's required or recommended on the AA website; 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 the RAC or 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.
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 (IDP) 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.
"An IDP, on the other hand, is required or recommended in 139 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."