Everyone knows that the Brits drive on the wrong side of the road! But what about your driving licence? Here we explain how and when to change your driving licence, and we explain what tests may be needed. We also discuss UK insurance, how to import your own vehicle, and how to go about buying a car locally, and the registration process.
Driving In The UK
If you are staying in the UK for more than a year you may need to get a UK Driving Licence.
The section entitled 'Legal Requirements' below provides a summary of what you as a driver will need to do to obtain a UK Driving Licence for the period that you are here, as well as essential information on the documentation required for owning a vehicle.
The section entitled 'UK Driving Licence' has detailed information on what you need to do to get a driving licence. What is needed varies according to your country of residence. In many cases you will also need to take a driving test.
If you do need to take a driving test our sections entitled 'Driving Instructors' and 'The Highway Code' will be useful.
Car Insurance is mandatory. Please refer to the section entitled 'Car Insurance' below for further detailed information.
If you are considering importing your vehicle to the UK then the section entitled 'Vehicle Imports' will be essential reading before you finally decide to import.
If you are planning to buy a car, then the section entitled 'Buying A Car' provides detailed help and information. It has links to car dealers and manufactures. It also provides advice on getting the best deal, including buying through car auctions.
Alternatively, you may wish to consider joining a car club, and the section below has further information.
UK Driving Conditions
The UK is a small heavily populated country with a good motorway network to all major towns and cities. These motorways do, however, become congested during rush hours and holiday periods but are still the best and quickest way to travel long distances.
Roads in and around most towns during rush hours and Saturday shopping days are also very busy.
Moving away from towns and cities into the rural areas you will enjoy fairly traffic free roads leading to very attractive country villages, rolling hills and farmland. Not to be missed during your stay in the UK.
Using public transport is being increasingly encouraged but bus routes are not always convenient and fares can be expensive. You may find our page on UK Public Transport useful.
All towns have extensive car parking, much of it in multi-storey car parks.
'Congestion Charges' are now being introduced in some cities to help reduce traffic and encourage the use of public transport. The charge is currently £11.50 per day per vehicle. For more information on Central London congestion charging please visit the Transport For London web site.
Driving In London
Driving in London is challenging unless you know your way around and are used to driving in busy cities.
It’s worth considering leaving your car at an Underground or Railway station and going by train, again please refer to our section on Public Transport for further detailed information.
Parking in London can also be expensive - you can pay over £30 per day!
The £11.50 per day Central London congestion charge is another incentive to use public transport.
All motorways to London join the M25 London Orbital motorway, which is busy most of the time, particularly where 2 motorways join and also within 10 miles of Heathrow Airport.
Roads to the popular holiday destinations in the West Country (Devon, Cornwall and Somerset) are also subject to considerable traffic during public holidays and during July and August. Planning alternative routes before you set out is time well spent.
Many motorways linking the northwest of England and North Wales to southern England converge at Birmingham leading to congestion on the M42, M5 and M6. Again, planning alternative routes may be advisable.
TrafficMaster provide in-car systems to help with your route planning. It enables you to observe traffic conditions on motorways and major trunk roads in the UK. It also provides travel and weather information.
The gov.uk website contains an enourmous amount of information relating to driving in the UK.
This section provides a summary of what you as a driver will need to do to obtain a UK Driving Licence for the period that you will be living and working in the UK, as well as essential information on the documentation required for owning a vehicle.
Drivers must comply with British minimum age requirements. Generally, these are:
- 16 years old for mopeds
- 17 years old for cars
For further information and additional vehicle types please visit:
UK Driving Licence
Within your first year in the UK you may have to take a UK driving test before a full UK licence can be issued. You may, however, only need to exchange your current licence within 3 years. The rules vary according to your country of residence where your current licence was issued.
Please see our section entitled 'UK Driving Licence' for a detailed summary of the procedures.
All existing and new major medical conditions must be notified to the DVLA. Leaflet INF4D, below, explains the process and requirements, including completion by your Doctor (GP) of the D4 form.
For information on what conditions need to be reported, and how to report them to the DVLA, see this page on the gov.uk website.
Leaflet D100 ‘What you need to know about driving licences’ (obtainable from post offices and online) also provides information on medical conditions.
All cars must have a Vehicle Registration Document, be taxed (this process is now done online only) and be insured before you can drive it. If the car is more than 3 years old you will also need an MOT certificate (certificate of road worthiness).
The V5 Vehicle Registration Document is issued by the DVLA with your name and address when you register with them as the legal owner of a vehicle.
The registration document is also used to advise the DVLA when you sell your car and they will then re-issue it to the new owner.
Your vehicle must be taxed at all times. You no longer need to display a tax disc in your windscreen. You can obtain the forms needed from post offices or online and can be paid for a 6 month or 12 month period. Your car must have a valid insurance certificate and MOT certificate (if the car is over 3 years old) in order for the tax to be completed.
The DVLA will send you a renewal form when your road tax is due specifying the tax applicable for your car. To renew your road tax at a post office you will need to present this tax renewal form with the payment (cheque or cash), a current motor insurance certificate and an MOT certificate (if necessary). To renew your road tax online you will need either the 16 digit reference number shown on your renewal reminder, or the 11 digit reference number from your Registration Document/Certificate (also known as the Logbook) and your vehicle registration mark (number plate), and the insurance and MOT certificates are checked electronically via the national databases.
Cars over 3 years old must also be checked annually for roadworthiness, commonly known as the MOT test. Most garages carry out these extensive tests and if they can be timed to coincide with a service interval any potential problems can be fixed to ensure a pass certificate is issued.
Are You Driving Legally?
Driving a vehicle without a valid Driving Licence, that isn't taxed, that doesn't have a valid MOT Certificate (for vehicles more than 3 years old), or Car Insurance is illegal.
UK Driving Licence
Within your first year in the UK you may have to take a UK driving test before a full UK licence can be issued. You may, however, only need to exchange your current licence after 3 years, or you may be able to use your current driving licence in the UK until you turn 70 years old. The rules do vary according to your normal country of residence where your current licence was issued, so please check out the information provided here to ensure that you follow the appropriate procedures to comply with the UK driving laws.
This sections explains what you need to do, the forms that are needed, where to send the forms, and a summary of procedures applicable to your country of residence.
Further information can be found in Leaflet D100 ‘What you need to know about driving licences’ obtainable from post offices or online.
What Do You Need To Do?
Use this tool on the gov.uk website to see what rules apply to you. A summary of these rules is also provided below. Steps 2 and 3 will usually only be applicable if you need to take a driving test.
Apply for a provisional driving licence. Forms needed are D1 form obtainable from post offices and online. Leaflet D100 also provides advice. UK residents with a Provisional Licence are usually learner drivers who must display L plates, can only drive while supervised by a qualified driver, and cannot drive on motorways. You'll be pleased to know that these rules do not apply to new residents who are experienced drivers and have valid driving licences for their own country.
Book some lessons with a driving school to help you understand what is needed to pass the driving test. Your driving school will help you arrange the test. Once you have passed your driving test (theory and practical) you should exchange your test pass certificate for a full licence as soon as possible.
What Forms Are Needed To Obtain A UK Licence?
Form needed is D1 obtainable from post offices and online. Leaflet D100, available from post offices and online, also provides advice.
Where Do I Send The Forms?
DVLA, Swansea - please refer to the table for which postcode to use.
|If your documents are from outside the UK||SA99 1AF|
|Enforcements related||SA99 1AH|
|V890 and V11||SA99 1AR|
|V5C Changes||SA99 1BA|
|Disposals into Trade (V5/3)||SA99 1BD|
|First Registrations (V55/1,2,4,5)||SA99 1BE|
|Replacement driving licences||SA99 1BN|
|Vehicle and driver record enquiries||SA99 1BP|
|Driving Licence Renewal||SA99 1DH|
|Personalised Registrations (Motor Trade)||SA99 1DP|
|Personalised Registrations (Public)||SA99 1DS|
|Trade licensing and general licensing||SA99 1DZ|
How Long Will It Take?
Allow at least 3 weeks for your licence to arrive. If your licence has not arrived in this time, contact:
Customer Enquiries, Drivers, DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1AD
Phone: +44 (0)870 174 7001
Fax: +44 (0)1792 783071
Entitlement to Drive by Country of Residence
|Country||Entitlement to Drive|
|European Union/ European Economic Area||
A valid licence will authorise you to drive cars, motorcycles, and small vehicles until aged 70 or for 3 years after becoming resident whichever is the longer period. You can apply to exchange your licence for a UK one at any time.
If your driving licence has been previously exchanged from a non-EU/EEA country you can drive for up to 12 months from the time you first became resident (you’re normally a resident if you have a permanent address in the UK that you’ve lived in for at least 185 days). You will need to stop driving at the end of the 12 months. To ensure continuous driving entitlement, a provisional GB licence must have been obtained and a driving test passed before the 12 months elapses.
|Northern Ireland||You can exchange a full Northern Ireland driving licence for a full UK licence (provided it was issued on or after 1st January 1976) or you can use your licence here until it runs out.|
|Gibraltar, Jersey, Guernsey or Isle of Man||You may drive in the UK for up to 12 months from the time you became resident (you’re normally a resident if you have a permanent address in the UK that you’ve lived in for at least 185 days). To continue driving after this time, your licence must be exchanged for the British equivalent (provided it has been issued since 1st April 1991).|
|Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Falkland Islands, Faroe Island, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Zimbabwe||Provided your full licence remains valid, you can drive small vehicles for 12 months from the time you became resident (you’re normally a resident if you have a permanent address in the UK that you’ve lived in for at least 185 days). To continue driving after this time, your licence must be exchanged for the British equivalent. .|
|All other countries (inc. USA)||Provided your full licence remains valid, you can drive any category of small vehicle shown on your licence for up to 12 months from the time you became resident (you’re normally a resident if you have a permanent address in the UK that you’ve lived in for at least 185 days). To ensure continuous driving entitlement, a provisional GB licence must have been obtained and a driving test passed before the 12 months elapses (unless originally issued on the basis of a community licence, in which case this would be valid for exchange).|
The UK Driving Test
Even if you are already an experienced driver in your own country you may have to take a UK driving test before the end of your first year in the UK. It consists of a Theory and Practical test.
First, review our section entitled 'UK Driving Licence' to see if and when you need to take the UK driving test.
Driving Instruction - It is recommended that you go to a qualified driving instructor to learn how to pass the UK driving test. You must have passed your Driving Theory Test before taking your Driving Test.
The Relocation Bureau will be able to help.
You may also wish to review the section entitled 'Driving Instructors'.
The Vehicle Standards Agency (VSA) has overall responsibility for the theory and practical driving tests. Their website has information on:
- Learning to drive and choosing an instructor
- The Theory test
- The Driving test
- Test fees
Once you have passed your driving test
Once you have passed your driving test (theory and practical) you can apply for your full driving licence. If you have a photo card provisional driving licence, and you haven’t changed your name, your examiner will send your driving test pass certificate to the DVLA.
You’ll receive your full driving licence within 3 weeks.
Experienced drivers from overseas may need to take a driving test in the UK before they can obtain a UK driving licence.
It will be worthwhile investing in some driving lessons with a driving school that can tailor their lessons to teach you the requirements for passing the UK driving test.
The Relocation Bureau will be pleased to help you arrange your lessons.
You may also like to explore what these websites have to offer.
The British School of Motoring (BSM) is the largest driving school in the UK and provides a high standard of driving tuition. Their website provides a list of their locations nationwide.
Motor insurance is mandatory and it is against the law to drive without it. It is always worth shopping around for the best premium - it’s an annual pastime for most drivers in the UK!
Insurance companies tend to offer tempting deals for one year then to substantially increase their premiums for the 2nd and 3rd years making them less competitive. They often rely on the inertia of the motorist to renew their policies with them.
Please review the section entitled 'Insurance Companies' for a list of some UK car insurance companies and brokers.
Drivers from Overseas
Many UK direct insurance companies will refuse to consider drivers who do not have a UK driving licence. However, The Relocation Bureau can help you to obtain a free of charge quote from our motor insurance broker.
The cost of insuring your car is determined by many criteria:
- The size and performance – a 1000cc runabout will cost less than a BMW or Porsche. Cars are classified into groups from 1 to 50 for insurance purposes, the higher the group the higher the premium.
- A typical family saloon will be classified between groups 6 and 12 depending on, for instance, engine performance and desirability (by thieves as well). Different insurance companies will have the same model in a different group so shop around.
- Your driving history – taken into consideration are your age and experience, accidents, speeding fines, drink-driving convictions and any other driving convictions.
- Where you live and whether your car is garaged overnight.
- How many are miles are driven each year.
- Extras such as No Claims Discount protection, legal protection and the cost of renting a car in the event of damage or theft.
There are 3 level of cover:
- Third Party only – this is the minimum level that legally you must have and will only pay for damage to a third party’s vehicle, not your own.
- Third Party, Fire and Theft – in addition to third party this also covers you for fire damage, theft of your car and, if it is recovered after being stolen, any damage done.
- Full Comprehensive – this will cover the full cost of repairs to a third party’s vehicle and to your own up to the market value of your car. You may have to pay the first £100, or any other policy excess agreed with the insurance company, of any claim.
No Claims Discount
Insurance premiums are high for first time drivers but insurance companies offer ‘No Claims Discounts’ to encourage safe driving.
These discounts range from 30% after one year up to 65% or even 70% after 5 years.
Any claims during this first 5-year period will cause your discount to be reduced to the level of 2 years earlier.
No Claims Discount Protection. Once the full discount has been achieved you can pay a slightly higher premium to protect it in the event of a subsequent claim. Normally 2 claims in a 3 or 5-year period are allowed before your discount is affected.
Insurance Claims and Reporting Accidents
Accidents must be reported to your insurance company as soon as possible.
If another vehicle is involved your names, addresses and insurance details must be exchanged.
It is an offence not to stop. In the event of personal injury to any party the police will need to be involved.
Most insurance companies insist that you do not admit liability even if an accident was clearly your fault. They will handle the claim with the third party’s insurance company on your behalf.
Theft and Vandalism. You must report theft or vandalism to the police as soon as possible after you discover it. The police will give you a reference number that the insurance company will need.
Further information on breakdowns and accidents can be found in the Highway Code.
Drivers from overseas. Many UK direct insurance companies will refuse to consider drivers who do not have a UK driving licence. However, The Relocation Bureau can help you to obtain a free of charge quote from our motor insurance broker.Enquire
Major insurance brokers such as the AA, RAC , and SAGA (for the over 50s) have negotiated good rates with a number of car insurance companies and are always worth contacting for insurance quotations.
Listed below is a selection of companies, among many hundreds of other companies, that provide very competitive rates.
You could also visit a price comparison website, as below. Once you have entered your details, hundreds of insurance companies will be searched for the most competitive price.
|SAGA (for over 50s)||www.saga.co.uk||+44 (0)800 015 0756|
|AA||www.theaa.com||+44 (0)800 316 2456|
|RAC||www.rac.co.uk||+44 (0)330 159 1111|
|Endsleigh (recommended for students)||www.endsleigh.co.uk||+44 (0)800 028 3571|
|Diamond (for females only)||www.diamond.co.uk||+44 (0)800 362 436|
|Direct Line||www.directline.com||+44 (0)345 246 3761|
|Churchill||www.churchill.com||+44 (0)345 603 3599|
|Aviva||www.aviva.co.uk||+44 (0)800 092 9564|
|More Than||www.morethan.com||+44 (0)330 100 7823|
|Admiral||www.admiral.com||+44 (0)330 100 7823|
|AXA Direct||www.axa.co.uk||+44 (0)330 024 1161|
The Highway Code
The Highway Code is issued by the Department for Transport (DfT) and is available from The Relocation Bureau or can be accessed on the Highway Code website.
The information available covers:
- Rules for pedestrians
- Rules about animals
- Rules for cyclists
- Rules for motorcyclists
- Rules for drivers and motorcyclists
- General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders
- Using the road
- Road users requiring extra care
- Driving in adverse weather conditions
- Waiting and parking
- Breakdowns and accidents
- Road works
- Railway level crossings
All towns have extensive car parking facilities and in nearly all you will have to pay. Usually about £1 for the first hour. Many of these car parks are owned and operated by the local district councils.
National Car Parks (NCP) also provide car parking facilities in city centres, towns, airports, and railway stations. Click here to find their locations and their parking rates.
Street parking is allowed if there are no yellow lines alongside the kerb or other signs indicating that parking is not allowed. A single yellow line indicates that you can park only at certain times of day. There will be small signs on a post specifying when you can park. Double yellow lines and double red lines indicate that you cannot park at any time.
Parking meters are often found in city centres.
In some countries, USA, Canada and Switzerland for instance, you must park facing in the direction of the traffic flow. In the UK it is not a law that is enforced, except of course on one-way streets, but still advisable especially at night.
Most towns employ traffic wardens who are often quick to issue parking tickets for those who park illegally or carelessly.
Other deterrents to illegal parking, especially in congested cities, are the use of wheel clamps to immobilise your vehicle and, where serious congestion is being caused, your vehicle will be removed to a police compound.
It is very costly to have your vehicle towed to the police compound, in addition you will receive a fine, your travel costs and inconvenience of getting to the compound.
Breakdown & Rescue
There are 4 major motoring organisations in the UK who all offer comprehensive Breakdown and Rescue services. Some cover a specific car others cover the person irrespective of the car they are travelling in. They all offer various levels of breakdown assistance at increasing levels of cost.
Automobile Association (AA)
Royal Automobile Club (RAC)
Many car insurance companies offer breakdown cover with the above organisations as part of their insurance packages but at an additional premium. However, sometimes it is cheaper to deal directly with these motoring organisations.
Although most of us use one of the motoring organisations mainly for breakdown and recovery they all offer a comprehensive range of other motoring services. These additional services include:
- Travel Guides & Route Planning
- Vehicle Inspections - prior to buying a potentially rogue car
- Hotel Recommendations
- Car insurance
- Much, much more. Check their websites for more information
Drink driving is punished severely in the UK. The current legal limit for driving is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. In most European countries, the legal limit is lower, at 50mg.
Conviction brings a fine and an automatic 1-year disqualification. For serious offenders disqualification can be for 3 years or more and require a driving test once the disqualifying period ends. Where injury or death to a third party occurs prison sentences can be expected.
Drink driving convictions will also substantially increase car insurance premiums when the disqualification period ends; many companies refuse to insure those who have been convicted. Those that do are very, very expensive.
Speed limits in residential areas and towns are usually 30 mph but can be 20 mph if signposted.
On unrestricted single carriageway roads the limit is often 40 mph if signposted as such but can be 60 mph. If in doubt keep to the lower limit.
On motorways and dual carriageways the limit is 70mph and lower if signposted.
An ever-increasing number of roadside cameras have been installed to catch speeding motorists. They are all painted bright yellow or orange and must not be obstructed by trees or other road signs. In short they must be visible. The emphasis is changing from catching you for speeding to providing you with sufficient warning to ensure that you do not speed.
The minimum fine for speeding is £60 and your driving licence will be endorsed with a 3 penalty points and will remain endorsed for 3 years. Subsequent driving convictions incur heavier fines, more penalty points, and higher insurance premiums. Once 12 penalty points are reached you are usually automatically disqualified from driving for a period.
Please see our section in the Removals area for further information on importing your vehicle.More Info
Buying A Car
Buying cars from a UK Main Dealer is often the most convenient but can also be the most expensive. Deals can be negotiated and can range from price reductions, extras installed at no cost to you, 3 years free servicing, longer warranties, to free motor insurance, etc. Brush up your negotiating skills and remember that they need your sale. The after-sales service should also be better than the alternatives but find out what is available during your negotiations, and get it in writing.
This section provides links ranging from car manufacturers, car supermarkets, car auctions, and car importers.
The Car Magazine website has a listing of all car manufacturers
Online Car Listings
Autotrader is by far the most popular online vehicle listing site
Motors.co.uk is another popular listing site
eBay the popular auction site has a sub site dedicated to buying and selling of vehicles
"British Car Auctions has over 50 years experience in the vehicle auction market. The company holds an enormous range of sales including: Manufacturer Sales, General Sales Top Car, 4x4 and diesel, MPV, Ministry of Defence and Fleet, Finance & Lease."
Increasing numbers of people are turning away from car ownership as the costs of keeping your vehicle on the road continue to increase. With improving transport links in and between Britain's urban centres and an increasing focus on environmental concerns you may wish to consider if owning a car is right for you or whether you make full use of all the cars in your household.
So, you've decided to leave car ownership behind but you suddenly remember you need to pick your visitors up at the airport - what are your options? In the past you would be forced to rely on the services of a taxi company or alternatively hire a car for the day. Car Clubs now offer a viable alternative throughout much of England allowing you to book a car for the length of time that you need from a few hours to a few days.
How do they work?
You will need to become a member of a Car Club before you can use their vehicles and generally they will require a minimum membership length of 12 months. In order to become a member you will need to provide details of your driving history. Rules vary between Clubs however most will have a minimum age and will ask you about any endorsements on your licence. The majority of clubs will accept members with foreign driving licences as long as they are valid under UK law. You may also be asked to provide proof of your address, especially if you hold a foreign driving licence, and details of a bank account against which your membership and usage charges can be debited. In general you will be charged a standard membership fee regardless of use with hire and petrol charges billed as you use the vehicles.
Once you have joined a Club you are able to book any of their vehicles, subject to availability, for a length of time to suit you. You will find the car in its designated parking space and your membership card can be used to unlock the car and retrieve the keys from the glove compartment. Many clubs allow you to extend the booking at short notice if you realise that you will need extra time, subject to the car not being booked by another user. Each car must be returned to its own designated parking space in order to be ready for the next user.
What are the costs?
You will need to pay a joining fee in order to use the services of a Car Club which may be an annual charge or alternatively may be a monthly membership with a minimum term. You will then need to pay the appropriate hire fee each time you use a vehicle. Hire fees are generally levied by the hour with many clubs also offering a daily rate which will often be much cheaper than a traditional rental car. Each scheme varies so below is a list of items you may wish to check before signing up to a scheme:
The insurance provided should be fully comprehensive however does the scheme provide insurance for the club member only or does their policy cover a spouse? You also need to be aware of the excess you will be required to pay in the event of an insurance claim being made.
Damage to the Vehicle
In order that you are not charged for any pre-existing damage to the vehicle, your scheme should have a procedure for reporting damage which you should be aware of.
Most schemes include a mileage allowance within their hire fees, with additional mileage calculated by an onboard computer and charged to your account. You may wish to consider the mileage allowance when investigating which scheme to join.
If you live in a city which operates congestion charges, who is responsible for the charge and how is payment made?
Car clubs for business
Car Clubs are not only for private individuals with businesses being able to join the majority of schemes. Benefits include having a much wider pool of cars available to your staff without the hassles of routine maintenance and the costs of road tax and insurance. Vehicles are often available at a discount to the private client rates, depending on the volume of usage by your business.
Looking for further information?
There are a variety of websites with useful information regarding car clubs. The Transport for London website has a section with further information.