Is your driving licence valid?
30-second check to save a fine of up to £1,000
Around two million people have an out-of-date driving licence. There's a fine of up to £1,000 if you don't renew it, so check now. This guide shows you how to check whether it's valid, how and where to renew, how to ensure you're covered when driving abroad, and what to do if you still have a paper licence.
Driving in Europe and Brexit
Following the agreement of a post-Brexit trade deal, the Department of Transport told us that in most cases you DON'T need an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in European Union countries, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein.
But if you're taking your own vehicle you'll need a 'green card' – an international certificate issued by insurance providers in the UK, guaranteeing the bearer has the necessary minimum level of third-party cover.
We will update the Driving in Europe section of this guide as soon as we can. In the meantime, for full details and help, see our 22 Brexit Need-to-Knows.
Driving licences & coronavirus
As part of its coronavirus help measures, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) announced that drivers whose licences expired between 1 Feb 2020 and 31 Dec 2020 have an automatic 11-month extension from the date of expiry to renew them (previously the amnesty was due to end on 31 Aug 2020, with only a seven-month extension).
If your licence has expired, you may not want to do anything for now, but if your licence expired in Feb or Mar 2020, it's best to start sorting it now to be on the safe side as there may be backlogs when the extension begins to end on 1 Feb 2021. See below for how to renew yours.
For full info on the extension and if you're eligible, see our Coronavirus Life-in-Lockdown Help.
Check your driving licence NOW or risk a fine of up to £1,000
There are three big checks to do on your driving licence. Dig yours out NOW and ensure you do 'em all, or you could be stung with a fine of up to £1,000.
1. Check the photocard driving licence expiry date
Photocard licences replaced paper licences in 1998, and must be renewed every 10 years. The DVLA says a whopping two million or so photocards are out of date.
Driving licence photos must be replaced every 10 years (no matter how young you look!)
It'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 £14 to renew (£17 if you renew by post), 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.
Online. You can apply online at Gov.uk, providing you've a valid UK passport.
By post. Alternatively, anyone can get forms (known as 'D1 pack') from most post offices, or order one from the DVLA website (in the 'Other ways to apply' section).
In person at selected post offices. The Post Office charges an extra £4.50 to take your photo on top of the £17 fee, but the total also includes posting your application to the DVLA.
There's a £14 fee for each renewal if you do it online, £17 if you renew by post. 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 10 years, in general driving licences are valid until you're 70, after which it needs renewing every three years. If you only need to update your address or name, 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 name and address for free.
The new card should arrive within three weeks (though it's wise to apply earlier just in case). If you apply online, you'll usually get your new card within one week, though the website warns that at the moment this could take longer because of coronavirus.
The DVLA's told us it strongly advises people to renew photocards promptly to avoid the risk of being fined up to £1,000, but don't panic if you've overlooked yours – it says renewing late won't prompt a fine.
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.
The DVLA scrapped the paper counterpart to the photocard driving licence in June 2015, for anyone with a licence issued after 1998 – it now has no legal status and can be safely binned.
You used to need the paper part to detail any penalty points. Now, they're stored in an online system.
If your record needs to be checked by a third party for any reason – for example, you're hiring a car or you drive for a living and your employer needs to check your record – you'll need to request a code. This can be done online and is valid for 21 days.
However, this only applies to licences issued after 1998. If yours was issued before then and you only have a paper licence, it is still valid so keep it safe and away from the bin – see below for more.
If you have a paper licence that was issued pre-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 for full info.
If you're looking to renew your licence, don't just Google it. Sadly, do this and you may find copycat websites charging fees ranging from £10-£80 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.
2. Check your correct address is on it
It sounds bonkers, but forget to update your address and you risk a fine of up to £1,000 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.
If your address is wrong, you can update it online via Gov.uk, or by post (see Gov.uk for info). There's no limit to the number of times you can do this for free, so it's handy if you move again later down the line. See the Driving licence warning MSE News story from June 2013 for more on this.
The DVLA recently made it possible to change the address on your vehicle log book online too.
If you're only changing your personal details, the photocard's renewal date won't be updated. While it's free to change your personal details, if you decide to include a new photo to renew your photocard at the same time, this will still cost £14 online, or £17 by post. But if you're only updating your address, you don't need to send a new photo unless your previous photocard has expired.
3. Check your name or gender is correct if you've changed it
The third check is to make sure your name and/or gender are correct on your driving licence, particularly the former if you've changed it since getting married.
Direct Line previously found 3% of married women had an out-of-date name on their licence, which bizarrely could also incur a fine of up to £1,000. So if you think you could be affected, check now.
To update your name or gender, order the form (D1 'Application for a driving licence') from Gov.uk and post it to the DVLA, along with the documents needed (forms are also available from most post offices).
As with address updates, handily there's no limit to the number of times you can update your name for free. See the Driving licence warning MSE News story from June 2013 for more details.
If you're only changing your personal details, the photocard's renewal date won't be updated. While it's free to change your personal details, if you decide to include a new photo to renew your photocard at the same time, this will still cost £14 online, or £17 by post. But if you're only updating your name or gender, you don't need to send a new photo unless your previous photo has expired.
Driving in Europe: In most cases you DON'T need a permit (despite Brexit)
Driving in Europe & coronavirus
The info below regarding driving licence requirements and car insurance cover for driving in Europe hasn't changed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but always check that your licence is valid and your insurance covers you in Europe before you travel.
For the latest on where it's safe to travel in Europe and what restrictions are in place – whether you're driving or not – see our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide.
Prior to the UK leaving the European Union on 31 Jan 2020, a UK driving licence was accepted in all EU countries, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, and this continued to be the case during the transition period that ended on 31 Dec 2020.
The Government had warned UK citizens might need an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in the EU when the transition period ended, but following the agreement of a post-Brexit trade deal, the Department of Transport told us that in most cases you DON'T need an IDP to drive in the EU or Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
There are only two scenarios where you may need an IDP to drive in those countries:
- If your licence was issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man, in which case you need to check with the embassy of the country you're planning to visit.
- If you have a paper UK driving licence, in which case you'll again need to check with the embassy of the country you're going to whether you need an IDP or upgrade to a photocard.
If you do need an IDP, they cost £5.50 and it's possible you may need more than one, depending on where you're planning to go – for full help, including how to apply, see Driving outside the EU.
If neither of the above scenarios apply to you, you can drive in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, using a UK driving licence without any extra documents, though see the expiry info above for how to check your licence is valid before you go.
Taking your own vehicle? You'll need an insurance 'green card'
Before the UK left the EU on 31 Jan 2020, and up until the end of the transition period on 31 Dec 2021, most comprehensive and third party, fire and theft car insurance policies automatically gave you third-party cover (ie, you're covered for damage to another car or someone else's property, but not damage to or theft of your car) if you drove your own car in the EU or in other European countries like Norway and Switzerland.
But now before you go you'll need to get an insurance 'green card' – an international certificate issued by insurance providers in the UK guaranteeing the bearer has the necessary minimum level of third-party cover (you may need to pay if you want a higher level of cover).
To get a green card you'll need to contact your insurer before you travel. It'll send you a green card, and you need to carry the physical document with you when driving on the Continent. You'll also need to display a GB sticker on your car. Green cards are free, but insurers may charge an admin fee when issuing them. For more info, see our Cheap Car Insurance guide.
Other things to check before driving in Europe
Besides your licence and insurance, there are a few other checks you should make before taking your own car to the Continent, and one you should make if you're planning to hire a car when you get there. See our Driving in Europe guide for full help – here are some quick pointers:
Go outside the UK and often your breakdown cover isn't valid. Check it, and if not, you can upgrade to a European policy or buy special one-off temporary cover. For more details, see Cheap Breakdown Cover.
Get familiar with the driving regulations for the country or countries you're going to, as you could run into problems and even face hefty fines if you get things wrong. For a run down of country-specific rules, see our Driving in Europe guide.
Driving outside the EU: Check if you need an extra permit
In spite of Brexit, in most cases you don't need an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in European Union countries. But if you're planning a road trip further afield, you should check if you'll need one.
IDPs are required or recommended in over 140 countries, including the Australia, India, Thailand and the US. Drive without one where it's needed and may be refused a hire car and risk trouble with the authorities.
They come in booklet format, and contain several translations of your driving licence. There are three types, known as the 1926, 1949 and 1968 Conventions, and they're all the same price. Which you'll need depends on where you're off to.
It's also worth noting that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (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.
Before you leave, check the Post Office 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).
It's £5.50 in person from selected post office branches. 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.
It doesn't replace a driving licence though, as you'll need to show both when required.
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.
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.
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