Britons heading abroad are being warned that the DVLA’s plans to scrap the paper counterpart of the driving licence could lead to problems when hiring a vehicle, and in some cases could even prevent some from hiring cars this summer, even if they've already been booked and paid for. The good news though is that there are alternatives that rental companies can use to check for endorsements and penalties once the paper licence has been scrapped, but it may require travellers to do a bit of preparation before they travel.

The DVLA (The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) are going to get rid of their paper counterpart that accompanies all UK photo card licences from the 8th June 2015. Although this is quite a big change and has been widely reported in the media we don’t think that this is going to cause a massive problem for UK travellers this summer as long as you follow a few simple steps before you travel. In the long run this move will probably be beneficial to car hire users as not having to worry about taking your paper counterpart on holiday with you to hire a car will ultimately be more straight forward and is the way that a lot of other EU licences operate anyway, however there could be some delays and confusion in the meantime as rental companies have to adapt their processes to cope with this change.

What is the paper counterpart used for?

To date, the counterpart is used to record information such as driving penalties and endorsements.

What’s the reason behind the change?

The DVLA have said the change is motivated by a move to cut down on unnecessary paper wastage. They have also intimated that the move forms part of their strategic plan to simplify current processes and become more technologically focussed.

What does the change mean for UK licence holders?

From June 8th 2015, anyone looking to access information on their driving convictions and endorsements will only be able to access them online, over the phone or by postal request.

  • For those who have photocard licences, the DVLA advise you destroy the paper counterpart, as they will no longer be legally valid. However we recommend you do keep the paper counterpart for a few months after this change, particularly if you’ve already booked a hire car. The paper counterpart will still show any endorsements you were given prior to the 8th June, so if you’re hiring in June or July it could still be useful, even if it's not a legal document. If you’ve already booked your car rental then you may find your rental terms make it a condition that you present this to the desk when you collect your vehicle despite this change in UK law.
  • For those who do not have a photocard licence, the DVLA advise you hold onto your paper counterpart, as it will remain valid until such time you are provided with a plastic card.
  • Whatever type of licence you hold it’s worth checking the details that the DVLA hold for you online to make sure it’s accurate. This will be the data source that the rental companies refer to from now on so it pays to make sure you’ve checked this. Remember, as a rule of thumb if you have more than 6 points or previous convictions for things like drunk or dangerous driving it's always best to check with the rental company BEFORE you make your booking to make sure that they will allow you to take a car.

Any new penalty points earned from the 8th June onwards will only be recorded electronically regardless of which of the above statements applies to you.

What potential issues could I encounter?

One potential problem our customers could face is that the majority of European rental companies at present ask you to produce your paper counterpart at the rental desk as a pre-collection requirement.

Therefore, to satisfy themselves that you are legally eligible to hire & drive a car, the Rental Company will need to access your endorsement history either online or over the phone. We also advise that customers take their NI card with them as details can be accessed real time on the website using their licence number, post code and NI number. Some rental companies may actually decide to do this process at the rental desk.

You can also access this service and print it, so for example you did this in the last few days prior to travel you could print the 3 pages from the website that outline your licence, the vehicles you’re allowed to drive and your penalties, endorsements and convictions and bring it with you.

You should also make a note of this number as the DVLA allow rental companies to check via phone (UK rental companies already do this if the customer doesn’t have their licence with them, so an overseas rental company can also access this.) 0300 790 6801. It will cost if you’re calling from a mobile overseas so it would be beneficial to get the rental company to make the call rather than using your own mobile phone.

The DVLA is also rolling out a service that will allow 3rd parties to check remotely, provided they have your permission. To use this those hiring a car will need to generate a personalised online passcode via the DVLA’s website before they collect the vehicle that will give rental companies temporary access to their endorsement history.

This code can be accessed via this link:

PLEASE NOTE: This passcode is only valid for 72 hours once generated, so please ensure you defer generating this code until the last possible moment to ensure it doesn’t expire before you reach the rental desk for pick up.

Further information…

If you’re still concerned then call the rental company that you have booked with and see how they are dealing with these new changes. There may be differences even at branch level to begin with, so make sure you’re contacting the actual branch that you are collecting the vehicle from.

There’s no need to panic so long as you still keep your paper counterpart for the time being, print off your details from the DVLA web service as well as generate their online passkey. Be prepared for longer queues and slightly confused staff at rental desk across Europe in the period immediately after this change even though we don’t think there will be major disruptions as a result of this it may take the industry a bit of time to adjust their processes completely to cope with this.

For further advice and information from the DVLA, please visit the DVLA website:

Disclaimer: All prices contained in this article were correct on the original date of publication. Prices may change over time, so for current prices, please get a quote.