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How to renew a driving licence in the UK

March 08, 2023 by

Wondering how to renew your driving licence? Wonder no more

Nothing in life lasts forever, and driving licences are no exception. As such, they need periodic renewal, and this guide will explain how long a driving licence is valid for, how often a driving licence needs to be renewed, and how to go about this process.

We’ll also explain the ins and outs of photocard and paper licence renewal, as well as driving-licence-renewal considerations that are impacted by a motorist’s age.

When do I need to renew my driving licence?

There are different things to consider depending on whether you are over or under 70 years old, and if you have a paper or photocard driving licence.

Most of us have a photocard licence, and while a huge number of drivers are over 70, the majority are younger than this.

Because of this, we’ll deal with renewing a photocard licence for under 70s first, before detailing the processes and requirements for those over 70, and paper licence holders.

A couple of quick caveats: for under 70s, you are not actually renewing your driving licence every 10 years: it is only the photocard itself you are renewing. But the process is important nonetheless, as you can be fined up to £1,000 if your photocard is invalid.

When do you renew a photocard driving licence

Photocard driving licences and the photo of you they display only have a 10-year validity, so every decade you will need to renew them. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) will send you a letter letting you know your licence is about to expire, but it’s a good idea not to rely on this: have a check of your licence periodically so you don’t forget when it runs out; the expiration date will be shown on the front, under section ‘4b’.

When do you renew a paper driving licence

Prior to 1998, paper driving licences, rather than photocard licences, were the norm, and paper driving licences do not expire until you reach 70 years of age, so do not need renewing until this milestone. There are a couple of caveats to this:

First, if you change address, mislay the paper licence or change your name, you cannot renew the paper licence: it must be exchanged for a photocard licence.

Second, prior to 2015, photocard licences came with a paper ‘counterpart’, on which penalty points were recorded. This should not be mistaken for a licence and, either way, the system has been updated since then, with points going on an electronic central record, so the counterpart no longer has any legal validity – although the counterpart is still used in Northern Ireland.

How do I renew my driving licence?

There are three different methods for renewing a photocard driving licence if you are under 70, and two if you are over 70. We’ll cover younger drivers first:

Renewing a photocard licence for those under 70 years old

You can renew your driving licence online, at a Post Office, or through the post. You can renew your licence ahead of its expiry date, with the new licence being valid from the date of application.

If renewing online you must have a valid UK passport and be a resident of Great Britain: there’s a different process for Northern Irish drivers (although NI drivers can still renew online in most circumstances.)

Head to the DVLA’s online renewal service, filling in all the fields. The DVLA will electronically source and use your passport photograph for the new photocard. If you don’t want them to do this you can use a different photo, but you will need to use the postal service if this is the case. There is a fee of £14 for using the online service.

If renewing at a Post Office, you will need to take the expiration reminder you should have received from DVLA, as well as your old licence, and complete the form at the counter. The DVLA charges £17 for renewing in this manner and the Post Office charges £4.50 for taking the photo that is essential for renewal, for a total of £21.50. The Post Office will take your old licence from you, and send your application for a new photocard electronically. The new licence should arrive at your home address within three weeks.

To renew by post, you will need to collect the ‘D1’ form pack either from a Post Office, or you can download it from the DVLA’s website, print it out, and send it off. When sending the D1 you will need to include a cheque for £17, plus a recent passport-style photograph (which should not be signed), plus your old photocard licence. Send all this to: DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1DH.

Our guide to how much it costs to renew a driving licence has more information.

Renewing a photocard licence for those aged 70 or older

Regardless of when your photocard expires, you must renew your driving licence once you turn 70. This can only be done online or via post – you cannot use the Post Office. Drivers over 70 must also renew their licence every three years, rather than every 10.

If using the DVLA’s online renewal service, you can apply up to 90 days before your 70th birthday. You must affirm that you meet legal minimum eyesight standards, and that you are not prevented from driving for any reason, such as a medical condition.

The first time you use the online service you will need an email address, plus your National Insurance number, if you know it, a valid passport number (if you want to update the photograph), and all the addresses you have lived at for the past three years.

If you are over 70 and renewing your licence by post you will need form ‘D46P’. The DVLA should send this to you automatically ahead of your 70th birthday, although you can also use form D1, obtained either online or from a Post Office, if you have not received the D46P paperwork.

How to renew a short-term medical licence

Short-term medical licences are issued to people with certain medical conditions, and last for one, two, three or five years.

You can renew a short-term medical licence online, but only if you have diabetes, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, a visual impairment, a sleep condition, or a heart condition. All other conditions require renewal by post, using the form the DVLA should send to you, or form D1.

How to renew a 5-year bus or lorry licence

If you are under 45, DVLA should send you form D47PU automatically 56 days before your bus or lorry licence runs out. The D47PU form will tell you if you need to renew your photograph, and you should include a new passport-style photo if this is the case. If this form does not arrive in due time you can download form D2 from the Government’s website.

If your name has changed you will need to send the original versions of a specific identity documents (EG passport, birth certificate) with your application.

If you are over 45 and need to renew your bus or lorry licence you will need to fill out two forms: the D47P, and form D4; the latter is a medical examination report that requires a doctor to complete it.

Regardless of how old you are, bus or lorry licences can only be renewed via post, with applications being sent to DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1BR.

How long does a driving licence renewal take?

Your new licence should arrive within three weeks if you apply for it online, or via the Post Office. People renewing via post can expect potentially longer wait times due both to possible postal delays, and the processing the application will have to go through at DVLA’s office. If you have applied online or via the Post Office and your licence has not arrived within three weeks, DVLA advises you to not to contact them until four weeks have passed.

Driving licence renewal FAQs

Can I still drive while I wait for my new driving licence to arrive?

Generally, yes, but you must meet certain criteria, including:

  • You are medically fit to drive and meet minimum eyesight standards.
  • DVLA has received your application within the last 12 months.
  • You are not renewing your licence following a disqualification.

Consult the DVLA’s online pamphlet for further guidance on this topic.

Will I get a reminder to renew my driving licence?

You should do, yes, but it’s a good idea to not rely on this, instead looking at your licence periodically to see when it expires.

How early can I renew my driving licence?

Whenever you like for a standard photocard renewal, but the new licence will be valid for 10 years from the point the DVLA processes your application.

Can I renew my driving licence without a passport?

Yes, but not if you want to apply online, while in some circumstances you may need to supply additional identity documents.

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