If you are British and you are going to rent a car in Europe this year then you need to read this. The rules for car rentals are changing after 8th June 2015 and you need to be prepared.
In fact these rules will apply wherever you are hiring a car abroad, even if you rent a car in USA, Australia, Canada or wherever you can imagine.
As a holder of a British driving licence you will be familiar with the fact that we have a paper counterpart. This is even though in 1998 the photocard driving licence was introduced.
Well after 8th June 2015 the paper counterpart licence that accompanies the photocard will no longer be valid. All information is moving towards electronic record keeping. This is part of the steps taken in the government’s “Red Tape Challenge”.
What you will need to do to rent a car in Europe
As a result of this change you will need to do things a little differently for your next Euro car rental. As well as bringing your photocard licence to the car rental company you will have to be able to show them a special code which you can obtain from the DVLA (DVLA means Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and is a government department).
This code will help the car rental companies check your driving history for any penalty points or convictions.
How do I get my special code after 8th June 2015?
There are a number of options available to get your special code prior to your Europe car hire (or in fact anywhere abroad) commencing.
The best way is to view the gov.uk website and go to the dedicated page which you can find here:-
(You will also have an option to download a summary of your driving licence information and access code. You could then send this to the car hire company.)
Alternatively you can call a special phone number:-
0300 083 0013
And whilst not a suggested way to get the time limited code you you can write in for your driving record details.
Yes this is good old snail mail however you will also have to send a cheque for £5 made payable to “DVLA, Swansea” to this address:-
Driver Licence Validation Service
(Please note that I wouldn’t advise writing in for a code to use on hiring a car abroad because your code is time limited. I would only use this method to see what driving information the DVLA holds about you and what vehicles you are allowed to drive.)
Information needed to get your driving code after 8th June 2015
Whichever method you use you will also be required to provide the DVLA with 3 things before they give you a code for your Europe car hire. They will need:-
– your driving licence number
– your National Insurance number
– the postcode on your driving licence
How long is my code for car hire valid for?
Rather unfortunately the special code you will need to rent a car in Europe, USA or anywhere else is only valid for 72 hours. (You only have to provide the code at the start of your rental, not every 3 days of a rental.) So if like myself you have a number of car rentals on one trip then you will need to apply for a code whilst on the move.
Not only can I see people forgetting to do this but with a 72 hour window before beginning your car hire, it also might be a struggle to get through on the phone or the internet. Especially if there is a large time difference.
What should I do with my paper counterpart licence?
Official guidance from the DVLA is that if you have a photocard licence, from the 9th June 2015 you can destroy your paper counterpart.
However, driving organisations such as the AA recommend against this. They are worried that car rental companies around the world will not be familiar with this change. Having a paper counterpart with you is a good back up just in case they are unaware of the changes.
Why did we have the paper counterpart licence?
Historically the paper licence was used as a way to record driving penalty points and convictions. This is why the paper licence was crucial in the past. Now with electronic data records it is less vital to store things on paper.
Exceptions to the new rules
Rather bizarrely there are exceptions to the rules:-
- Firstly, this new procedure does not apply if your driving licence was issued in Northern Ireland. (I’ve no idea why.)
- Secondly, if you have a paper licence issued before the 1998 introduction of photocard licences then you should keep it. Do not destroy this paper copy!
Confused yet? I am a bit. My licence was issued before 1998 yet when I moved address in 1999 I was issued with a photocard licence.
Will this new process work?
I’m really unsure how well this new process will work. I think very few people know about the change and the publicity hasn’t been great.
Also, I’ve been hiring cars on a frequent basis (maybe 10+ times a year) for the last 15 years. I’m struggling to recall a time when I was asked to show my paper counterpart licence. I’m not convinced that they will ask me for a special code in the future. Yet do I really want to take the risk?
What else do you need to hire a car abroad?
Are you still thinking about car rentals in the USA or Europe now? If so then you need to find the correct car rental for you.
I personally use for the overwhelming majority of my rentals. As a frequent renter I am a member of their free Hertz No. 1 Club Gold scheme so they have my details on file. I can often just read my name on the display board in the car park and go straight to where my car is parked. Minimal queuing or paperwork.
also offer a global network of rental locations so I rarely struggle to find a car to hire wherever I am going.
Of course, other rental car companies are available and you should shop around for the best deal for you. Be careful of hidden add ons not in the first quoted price such as insurance, damage waiver, refueling charges, airport pick-up surcharges and so on.
Here are some other companies where you can get a quote to rent a car in Europe or indeed anywhere around the world:-
So not only do we have to contend with driving on a different side of the road, we now need to be prepared with our special codes. Make sure you remember this after the 8th June 2015 when you plan to rent a car in Europe, or even if you want to rent a car abroad in any country.