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1m+ drivers could have paid less for their licence in past three years

1m+ drivers could have paid less for their licence in past three years

More than a million drivers have paid more than they needed to when applying for or renewing a licence in the past three years because they did it by post rather than online, MoneySavingExpert.com can reveal. 

The cost of applying for or renewing a driving licence varies according to how you do it:

  • A first provisional licence for a car, motorbike or moped costs £34 online, but £43 by post.
  • Renewing a driving licence costs £14 online, but £17 by post. 

Stats we've obtained from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) under the Freedom of Information Act show that between 1 January 2016 and 17 November 2018 some 1.6 million drivers applied for or renewed a licence by post. In total they've paid at least £10 million more to do so.

Some of these will have chosen to pay more and renew by post to use the Post Office's Photocard Driving Licence Renewal service, which costs £21.50 and includes several checks to make sure your application will be accepted. Others may have renewed by post because they're not online, or because they don't have a passport, which you need in order to renew online. 

But at least 940,000 drivers who applied for their provisional licence – plus many who renewed by post without paying more for the extra checks – could have got the same service for less applying on the web.

You have to renew your licence every 10 years. Once you turn 70 you have to renew every three years but it is free to do this. It's also free to renew a short-term medical driving licence.

See our Is your driving licence valid? guide for more info. 

How many people are paying extra for their licences?

Our FOI request found 1,625,533 drivers under 70 paid more to apply or renew by post since the start of 2016. Here's how the figures are broken down:

How drivers apply for provisional licences

Application method 2016 2017 2018 (to 17 Nov)
Post (£43) 376,052 341,289 223,103
Online (£34) 744,852 779,332 670,964

How drivers renew licences

Application method 2016 2017 2018 (to 17 Nov)
Post (£17) 285,095 193,163 206,831
Online (£14) 334,979 331,620 215,399

How to avoid paying more than you need to

Applying for a provisional licence or renewing your licence online is straightforward – and is always the cheapest way to do it.

  • To apply for a provisional licence you can use the Gov.uk website. You'll need an identity document such as an ID card (unless you have a valid UK biometric passport), plus provide a list of addresses you've lived at over the last three years and your national insurance number if you know it.

  • To renew your licence you can also use the Gov.uk website, so long as you have a UK passport. You'll need your passport and your current driving licence (if you do not have your licence you must say why in your application), and provide your national insurance number if you know it.

Always make sure you're using the official Gov.uk website to avoid being caught out by unofficial copycat websites which charge extra – see our Copycat Sites guide for full info and what to watch out for.

If you're renewing your licence because you're over 70, there's a separate process and it's free, regardless of the method you use.

You can also change your title, name or gender for free (although this is by post), as well as your address - this can be changed online.

What about the Post Office's Photocard Driving Licence Renewal option?

The postal application numbers we've quoted for renewal (but not provisional applications) include those made via the Post Office's Photocard Driving Licence Renewal service.

This costs £21.50, so £7.50 more than doing it yourself online.

The Post Office takes your photo, makes sure your signature meets DVLA standards and sends your application, so it can offer peace of mind if you're worried about your application being sent back and delayed. 

The FOI data we obtained didn't specify how many of those renewing by post were using the Photocard Driving Licence Renewal service – some who chose to do so will therefore have had a valid reason for choosing to pay more to renew.

However, it's worth noting if you DON'T use this service and make a mistake, you won't  lose the fee you paid. If you don't include all the info you need you'll simply be asked to provide it and there's no extra charge – the only case in which you could have to pay another fee  is if you mistakenly supply wrong info, and you then have to apply again for a new driving licence.

What if I have a paper driving licence?

If you have a paper licence issued before 1998, 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. All licences must be in the photocard format by 2033.

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).

What does the DVLA say?

A DVLA spokesperson told us: "It will always be cheaper and quicker to renew your driving licence online.

"Motorists who use this service can also replace a lost licence quicker than through the post. Each year more and more people are choosing to use these online services."

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