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Changes to the UK driving licence

Carlton Boyce / 06 July 2015

The paper counterpart of the driving licence has been scrapped. What are the new rules and how will they affect you? Read Saga's three step guide to ensure you don't get caught out when hiring a car abroad.

UK driving licence
It may be worth holding onto your paper counterpart for the time being

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has now scrapped the paper counterpart element of our driving licence in England, Wales and Scotland (Northern Ireland still retains the two-part licence), relying on the plastic photocard as proof of your entitlement to drive. It instructs motorists to “destroy the paper counterpart” arguing that it is no longer needed as interested parties can access the information online. 

But it might not be that simple. Car hire agencies across the world have traditionally used the paper counterpart to check whether you have any penalty points on your licence (something the photocard doesn’t show) and there are concerns that the changes will not have filtered down to them yet.

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So what can you do to stop your holiday being ruined at the car hire desk? Here is our three-point guide to coping with the change:

Step one

We recommend holding onto the paper counterfoil for the time being. Keeping it is a risk-free strategy that the Automobile Association (AA) endorses. Edmund King, the AA’s president says, “Not all car rental companies will be aware of the changes, so a 'belt and braces' approach of also taking the counterpart might help."

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Step two

If you want to hire a car, the DVLA says you should visit this website to get a special code, which will allow anyone with the code to check your details online. To get it you will need your driving licence number along with your postcode and National Insurance (NI) number, so make sure you’ve got them to hand before you start.

However, there is a potential problem with this approach. The demand for access to the website in the first few days was so great that the website crashed repeatedly. While the problems are said to have been resolved, there is no guarantee they won’t strike again, leaving you stranded without a car.

If you are unable to access the code via the Internet, you can get the code by calling +44 (0)300 083 0013.

Remember that the code only lasts for 21 days, so make sure it will still be valid when you go to hire the car.

This ‘belt and braces’ tactic should provide all the security you need to be able to relax and enjoy your driving holiday but the prudent can take it one stage further.

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Step three

When you create the security code on the DVLA website you also have the option of viewing, printing, or saving your licence information.  If you click on this link a PDF copy of your driving licence will be automatically downloaded to your computer. You can then print off a copy and/or email it to yourself, ensuring that you’ll have something with you at all times that most car hire firms will accept if all else fails.

So, there you have it, the Saga three-stage contingency plan to help ensure that your motoring holiday isn’t ruined by problems at the car hire desk!

For more useful information and tips, browse our motoring articles.

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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.