Driving a hard bargain: renewing your driving licence

Annie Shaw / 03 June 2013

Saga Magazine's personal finance expert Annie Shaw deals with one reader's query about reapplying for a driving licence.

A reader's question: I understand that a photo driving licence needs to be renewed every 10 years. I passed my driving test at the age of 58 six years ago and have just had to renew my licence at a cost of £20. I have just received my new photo licence and have noticed that again it is only valid for six years – by which time I will be 70 and will have to renew again.

Is this in order, or have I been cheated out of four years on each occasion?

Annie Shaw replies: When you reach the age of 70 you always have to re-apply for a driving licence – that’s what the law requires, I’m afraid. As long as you have no health issues, there should be no problem in getting a replacement and the good news is that once you reach the age of 70 renewals are free. 

As for having to renew your current licence after six years, I suspect that your provisional licence dates from 10 years ago, although you only passed your test six years ago.

Read our guide to driving when over 70.

Check your licence is still valid

It’s always worth people checking that their driving licence is still valid. Apparently more than two million motorists are taking to the road with out-of-date licences, an offence that can attract a fine of up to £1,000. Since 2010 some 734,000 drivers have paid out £41 million in fines, averaging around £56 a time. You want to make sure you don’t join their ranks.

If your details are up-to-date you should get a reminder from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) to renew, but if you haven’t notified the DVLA of a change of address – itself an offence – you may find yourself in breach of the law by getting behind the wheel without a current permit to drive. Your criminality will be compounded further because, if you drive without the requisite permit, you are almost certainly driving uninsured – another offence.

Many drivers believe that their licence is for life, but that is not the case. Younger drivers need to renew their licence every 10 years to get the photo updated. 

Holders of the old-style paper licences can keep them until they turn 70, unless their details change in the meantime, in which case the old licence will be replaced with a new photo-licence carrying the new details. Everyone has to renew their licence – and will receive a photo licence if they haven’t had one before – when they turn 70, even if their details haven’t changed

Finding out when your licence expires isn’t necessarily an easy task. There’s no obvious clue such as the words “expiry date”. You need to look for a number sequence that follows the characters “4a” and “4b” on the card. The numbers following “4a” denote the date when the card is “valid from” and “4b” is the date when it is “valid to”.

Find out what you can do if the DVLA revokes your licence.

Paper licences will be abolished

Driving licences will change again starting next year, when the paper counterpart that accompanies the plastic licence will be phased out and all data will be encoded on the card itself.

The new rules also allow for the abolition of the old-style paper licence, which the DVLA will start to recall as soon as the new photocard-only system is fully up and running. Even though plastic licences have been around for more than 15 years, and more than 30 million drivers have one, there are still around 12 million paper licences in circulation, according to the DVLA, so the switch is going to be a big operation.

* Read Annie Shaw's money articles every month in Saga Magazine.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.