How do I renew my driving licence?

Is your licence valid - do a quick check to save a fine of up to £1,000

More than two million people have an out-of-date driving licence, risking a fine of up to £1,000. 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.

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.

Photocard driving licence with expiry date in section 4b highlighted.

1. Check the photocard expiry date

Photocard licences replaced paper licences in 1998, and must be renewed every 10 years. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) told us in 2022 that more than two million were out of date, though this figure will include licences held by those who have stopped driving.

Driving licence photos must be replaced every 10 years (no matter how young you think 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 than the fine.

There are a few dates printed on the photocard, but the one you need is 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 licence

The process is similar, whether you're renewing a driving 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') from most post offices, or order them from the DVLA website.

  • 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 £21.50 total also includes posting off your application.

How much does it cost?

As we mention above, there's a £14 fee for each online renewal, £17 if you renew by post. You should be sent a reminder and form a few weeks before your licence expires. 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. It is also free if you have a Medical Short Period License. There's no limit to the number of times you can update your name and address for free.

How long before expiry do I need to renew?

You'll get a reminder to renew a month or so before your licence expires, and that's when it's best to do it. The DVLA says you should get your new licence within a week if you renew online.

Renewals by post can take up to three weeks, so the DVLA encourages people to renew online. As the safest thing is to have your new licence in hand, the best way to ensure that is to renew about four weeks before it expires.

For medical driving licences, you'll be sent a renewal reminder 90 days before expiry. The DVLA says renewals can take longer if your application needs to be referred to a doctor (unless you're applying for a bus or lorry licence). So renew as soon as you get your reminder to give yourself the best chance of getting your new licence before the previous one expires, although you may still be able to drive without it.

Your new licence will be valid from the date your renewal is approved, not from the expiry date of your current licence.

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

Renewing late won't prompt a fine, but if your licence has expired the DVLA says you shouldn't drive until it has received your completed renewal application – see directly below.

Can I drive while waiting for my new licence?

The DVLA says if your licence expires while it is processing your renewal application, you should be able to continue driving as long as you meet certain conditions, including only driving vehicles you were entitled to drive on your previous licence, not being told by a doctor or optician that you shouldn't drive, and you aren't disqualified from driving.

If you're waiting for a medical driving licence – in other words, you have declared a medical condition to the DVLA – you must make sure you meet the medical standards for fitness to drive before doing so.

For full info, see Can I drive while my application is with the DVLA? on the Gov.uk website. 

Quick questions & info

  • Why does the photocard 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.

    The DVLA writes to every driver when their photocard driving licence is due for renewal, providing instructions on how to renew and the penalty for not doing so.

  • Paper driving licences have been scrapped for licences issued post-1998

    The DVLA scrapped the paper counterpart to the photocard 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 online.

    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 check code. This can be done online and is valid for 21 days.

    However, this only applies to licences issued in England, Wales and Scotland after 1998. If yours was issued in Northern Ireland, request a code via NIdirect. If yours was issued before 1998 and you only have a paper licence, it is still valid so keep it safe and away from the bin – see below for more.

  • Can I keep my paper licence?

    The DVLA told us that, as of March 2023, there were 4.7 million valid paper licences in the UK. If you have one of those, 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 the Gov.uk website for full info.

  • Beware unofficial driving licence websites

    If you're looking to renew your licence, don't just google it. Do this and you may find copycat websites charging as much as £89 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.

    Always use the official Gov.uk link to make sure you don't get caught out. If you're concerned about an unofficial driving licence website, contact Citizens Advice.

2. Check your correct address is on it

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 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.

It's also possible to change the address on your vehicle log book online too.

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.

Research by insurer Direct Line published back in 2013 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 'D1 application for a driving licence' form from the Gov.uk website 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.

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

If you're only changing your personal details, the photocard's renewal date won't be updated. While it's free to change personal details, if you decide to include a new photo to renew your photocard at the same time, this will still cost you £14 online, or £17 by post. But if you're only updating your address or name, you don't need to send a new photo unless your current photocard has expired.

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Driving in Europe: In most cases you DON'T need a permit (despite Brexit)

Prior to the UK leaving the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020, a UK driving licence was accepted in all EU countries, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

The Government had warned that 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 for 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 or 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, you'll also need to check with the embassy of the country you're going to as to whether you'll 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 scenarios above applies 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 car? You no longer need an insurance 'green card'

After the Brexit transition period ended, UK drivers using their own car in the EU or European Economic Area (EEA) needed to get an insurance 'green card' – an international certificate issued by UK insurance firms showing that the person had the necessary minimum level of third-party cover.

But as of August 2021, this requirement was scrapped, so you do not need an insurance green card to drive your own car in the EU or EEA, or in Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia or Switzerland. This means things are back to how they were before Brexit – if you have a UK car insurance policy then you automatically get third-party cover in the EU and EEA, so your provider will pay out if you damage another car, but not if you damage yours or it gets stolen.

You'll still need to ask your insurer for a green card if taking your car to a number of non-EU and non-EEA countries in Europe, including Albania, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Turkey. For more info, see our Driving in Europe guide, where we also list other things to check before motoring on the Continent, such as whether you have breakdown cover and also your destination's road rules. And for vehicle maintenance pointers, see our Motoring MoneySaving guide.

Driving outside the EU: Check if you need an extra permit

Example of an international driving permit, with 'specimen' stamped across it.

Despite 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, check whether you'll need one.

IDPs are required or recommended in over 140 countries, including India, Thailand,the United Arab Emirates and the US. Drive without one where it's needed and you 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 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 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).

How to apply

It's £5.50 in-person from selected post office branches. The 1926 and 1949 IDPs last for a year, the 1968 IDP for three years (or until your UK driving licence expires, whichever comes first). You can apply up to three months before you travel, 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 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 our Cheap car hire guide for tips.

UK citizen living in the EU? Exchange your licence NOW

If you're a UK citizen living in an EU country, the Government says you should exchange your UK driving licence for the driving licence used in that country. The deadline for doing this depends on the country you live in, which will also dictate whether you need to retake your driving test. For full country-by-country info, see the Gov.uk website.

If you return to live in the UK, you'll be able to exchange your EU licence for a UK licence without having to take another test, provided you initially got your licence by passing a test in the UK.

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