Is your driving licence valid?
30-second check to save a fine of up to £1,000
Over two million people have an out-of-date driving licence.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.
The UK's exit from the European Union will affect some of the info below (see our Brexit guide for more details), but nothing's likely to happen until we actually leave. We'll update this guide when we know more.
In this guide
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 The DVLA says a whopping 2.3 million photocards are out of date.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.
The process is similar, whether you're renewing a licence or replacing a lost or stolen one. There are three ways to apply:
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.
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 should 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).
If you're looking to renew your licence, don't just Google it. Sadly, do this and you may find unofficial 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 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 photo has expired.
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.
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, order the form 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 for more.
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, you don't need to send a new photo unless your previous photo has expired.
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Driving in Europe: A UK licence is sufficient (for now at least)
For the time being at least, a UK driving licence is accepted throughout the EU, so see the renewal info above to check yours is valid before you go. (This may change after Brexit, when you may need an international driving permit, but that's still up in the air - see our Brexit need-to-knows for the latest).
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. See our Driving in Europe guide for full help - here are some quick pointers:
Most comprehensive or third party, fire and theft policies become third party (ie, they'll pay if you damage another car - or someone else's property - but not your own, and you're not covered if your car's stolen) if you drive outside the UK but within the EU or other European countries such as Andorra, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. (After Brexit you may also need to get a 'green card' from your insurer).
You may also need to tell your insurer about your trip, so check your policy or call to confirm (see our Cheap Car Insurance guide for more info).
Do all maintenance before you go, and ensure you've got manuals and the numbers to call if your vehicle breaks down.
Driving outside the EU: Check if you need an extra permit
A UK driving licence is accepted throughout the EU (for now at least), 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 over 140 countries, for example 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.
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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