Paperless driving licences from Monday: what it means for you

Paperless driving licence introduced on Monday could cause a car hire nightmare

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From Monday, all new driving licences will be paperless. Everyone who currently has both a plastic card and a paper document (not just a paper licence) is being told to destroy the paper part. It's meant to bring an end to pointless red tape - and save the government about £8 million - but it could spell chaos for those who were planning to hire a car on holiday.

The DVLA is scrapping the paper part of the licence, which holds details of your driving record - such as the penalty points on your licence. From Monday, these details will appear on a web-based database, called Share Driving Licence instead.

On a daily basis it's not likely to make any difference at all to your life, and looks like a useful cost-cutting measure. However, next time you want to hire a car on holiday, you'll feel very differently.

Hiring a car

When you hired a car in the past, the car hire firm could check the plastic card and then look at the paper part of the licence for any endorsements. In future, they will either need a printout from the DVLA website of your driving record - or they will insist that you give them a special code so they can access these details themselves.

In order to get this code, before you travel, you have to go online at the DVLA website and request one. You'll need your driving licence number and National Insurance number.

To make matters more complicated, the code is only valid for 72 hours, so if you plan to hire a car after you have been in the country for a few days, you will either need to incur roaming charges, or find an internet cafe in order to apply for your code.

Widespread confusion

The experts are warning that most people are completely unaware of this change, so the first they know about it is when they show up to collect their car, and are turned away.

To muddy the waters still further, some car hire firms haven't updated their literature, so still ask you to take along your paper and plastic licences. If you just follow these instructions without being aware of the new rules, you're going to end up with a serious headache at the car hire desk.

In theory you can generate a code while you're standing at the desk. However, you'll need to have your National Insurance number on you to do it, and who takes that on holiday with them?

And as a final twist, some companies are totally unaware of the change, and insist on seeing the paper part of your licence before they'll let you have a car.

What can you do?

To be on the safe side, while the new rules bed in, it's worth hanging onto the paper counterpart, and taking it with you in case the hire car company insists on seeing it.

You should also visit the DVLA website and get a pdf of your driving history to print off and take with you. Finally, make sure you generate a code - no more than 72 hours before you plan to pick up the car.

That way, you're covered for any eventuality. There's no guarantee, however, that you'll be able to avoid the hell of spending the first four hours of your holiday standing in a queue while other people call home and talk someone through the process of tracking down their National Insurance number.

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