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Overview

The most evident characteristic of travelling by car in the UK is that vehicles travel on the left-hand side of the road.

To drive a car in the UK you will need a valid driving licence. The UK operates a point system whereby certain road offences result in points of penalty. These normally have a direct effect on the cost of your motor insurance. All drivers must comply with British minimum age requirements. These are 17 years for cars and motorcycles, 18 years for medium sized vehicles and 21 years for large lorries and buses.

Motorways in the UK are free of charge.

The following information is of a general nature. Please visit the website of the agency responsible for the management of drivers and vehicle licensing in the UK for further and detailed information, which is the DVLA.
 

If your licence was issued in the EU or EEA

If you reside in the UK and hold a driving licence which was issued within the EU (European Union) or the EEA (European Economic Area) you can generally drive vehicles for a period of 12 months after becoming resident. After this period, you must get a British driving licence (you can normally exchange your licence for a British one). Please visit the DVLA website  for further information.

The procedure to follow to exchange your licence is fairly straightforward. You will need to fill-in a form called “D1”. This is available either from the Post Office or you can order it on-line  from the DVLA. You will need to enclose a passport style photograph and a document confirming your identity and forward these to the address provided on the form.

One point that might make you feel uncomfortable with this procedure, is that you will be required to mail, together with the D1 form, the original of a document confirming your ID (Passport, National ID, etc.). If you would like to avoid this, you can take advantage of the option of having your documents verified directly at a DVLA office (by paying a small fee). There are three local DVLA offices that provide the service: Glasgow, Nottingham and Wimbledon (London) .
 

If you have a licence that was not issued in the EU or EEA

Provided your licence remains valid, you can normally drive any category of small vehicle shown on your licence for up to 12 months from the time you became resident. You must obtain a provisional GB licence and pass a driving test before the 12-month period elapses. Please visit the DVLA website  for further information.
 

Your vehicle

In the UK you drive on the left-hand side of the road. This means that UK cars have the controls on the right-hand side. This normally is an incentive to buy a car locally rather than importing your own vehicle in the UK and having to adapt it to UK specifications.

If you have imported your vehicle in the UK, it must be registered and taxed with the DVLA. This must be done as soon as possible. You can order an ‘import pack ’ from the DVLA. This provides all the necessary information and forms needed to register an imported vehicle.

Before you can register and tax your vehicle in the UK, you will need to insure your car in the UK with a British insurer. In order to do this, you will need to use the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) from your vehicle.

Once you have completed all forms and obtained the relevant documentation, you will need to post this to the DVLA. This will normally take between one to three weeks to process.

In general terms, if your car was previously registered within the EU, the process will be fairly straightforward. You will need to obtain a “Certificate of Conformity” (CoC) from your car manufacturer (their office in the UK will be able to provide this for you). This is the proof that your car has been built according to EU standards. Moreover, you will need to get your car through an MOT (this is a verification - that any garage can carry out for you - to confirm that your car is fit to be driven on the road). During the MOT you will be required to change your speedometer if it does not show speed in miles per hour and your front lights (these need to point to the left side, rather than the standard right, to drive in the UK).

If your car was not previously registered within the EU, the procedure will be more time consuming, according to the country of previous registration. All relevant details can be found on the DVLA website under the “motoring” section.

 

 

 
 
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All the information on Expats Plaza is free to view. If after having reviewed the information on Expats Plaza you believe this has been useful to you, please visit the Support Us page.
 
 
This page was last updated on 30.12.2010
 
 
Expats Plaza is the website for the Expatriates living in the UK