Counterpart driving licence: what are car hire firms saying?

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Confusion reigns over the demise of the paper ‘counterpart’ bit of the UK driving licence, and what that means for anyone hiring a car, either in the UK or when on holiday overseas. The good news if you are planning on hiring a car in Continental Europe is that, basically, nothing has changed.


Hire firm Europcar, for example, only requires UK drivers hiring cars in countries such as France and Spain to “present their UK photocard driving licence or ‘old style’ paper-only driving licence, plus a second form of ID such as their passport, when collecting their vehicle”. Sixt similarly states that it does not require a DVLA code to rent a car to a UK tourist in France. British drivers hiring a car in the UK, however, must produce a code that can only be found on the DVLA website, this now remains valid for 21 days from the time you request it.

So I don’t need to get a DVLA code to drive overseas?

We would hate you to be unable to hire a car when you arrive on holiday. So our advice is to visit the DVLA site and get a code – just in case you are asked for one when picking up your car (find out how below). For extra security, the AA is also recommending taking the paper counterpart along with you, as well as your photo card, even though this goes against DVLA advice. The AA said: “Anticipating that some car hire companies overseas may not immediately be aware of this change, the AA recommends that you retain your paper counterpart if you intend hiring a car abroad rather than following DVLA advice and destroying it.”

What about in the UK?

As of earlier this month, you must have a DVLA code to hire a car in the UK. That’s because, since June 8, the paper part of your driving licence is no longer valid and information about restrictions and penalties is held on your DVLA driver record instead. Car hire companies inputting your DVLA code will therefore be able to see what vehicles you can drive, as well as any penalty points or disqualifications. There’s a step-by-step explanation of how to get a code from the DVLA below. And if you forget, you should be able to generate one using your smartphone or a computer once at the car hire desk, as long as you have an internet connection and your driver and National Insurance numbers to hand.

Taking the tablets

Europcar is introducing tablet computers at all its hire desks in the UK for this very reason. “Europcar is helping its UK rentals customers by setting up a customer helpline and ensuring that tablets and internet access are available in all branches to enable travellers to log onto the DVLA website if they haven’t already got their code,” it said. As a last resort, you can also ask the car hire company to call the DVLA on 09061 393837 to check your driver details. However, these can only be shared if you have first spoken to DVLA Customer Enquiries Group on 0300 790 6801 and give them permission to discuss your record.

How to get a DVLA code to hire a car

To generate a DVLA code, you will need:

  • Your driving licence number
  • Your National Insurance number
  • The postcode on your driving licence

Once you have those to hand, you then need to:

  • Log in by entering your postcode, driving licence number and National Insurance number to log in
  • Click on “View your driving licence”
  • Print off the most up-to-date PDF version of your licence, showing any restrictions and endorsements against your name
  • Click on “Share your licence information” and print off or note down the “check code” that appears

WARNING: The code lasts for 21 days and each code can only be used once. If your licence was issued in Northern Ireland, the service will not work for you.

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