Your Photocard Driving Licence - Everything You Need To Know!

Your Photocard Driving Licence - Everything You Need To Know!

Unlike the previous paper licence your photocard licence needs to be updated every 10 years alongside the usual updates when you change your name or address. The Rivervale guide to your photocard licence tells you everything you need to update, how to do it, how much it costs and what each category entitles you to drive ...

What do you need to know?

What is the photocard driving licence?

The photocard driving licence was introduced in 1998 in response to an EU directive that ordered all member states to issue driving licences in a card format that includes the licence holder's image. The introduction of the photocard licence meant a reduction in the possibility of misrepresentations, ensuring the individual obtaining the provisional licence, taking their driving tests and applying for a full licence are all the same. It also provides a form of photo ID.

Which information is displayed on a photocard driving licence?

The front and back of the photocard driving licence displays personal information about the licence holder as well as information about which vehicles the holder is allowed to drive.

front of driving licence back of driving licence

To display which category of vehicle you are able to drive a letter code is used. The letter A will always relate to motorcycles or tricycles, B relates to cars, C to medium sized vehicles and D to large vehicles.

There have been 2 important changes to categories in 1997 and 2013. In 1997 category B was changed to reduce the weight of trailer and number of passengers the licence holder can drive with. Those who passed before January 1st 1997 can drive a trailer if combined trailer and vehicle weight does not exceed 8,250kg and a minibus with a trailer over 750kg. If you passed after 1st January the maximum combined weight of vehicle and trailer must not exceed 3,500kg and vehicle must not exceed 8 passenger seats.

In 2013 category BE was changed to reduce the overall weight of a trailer and vehicle combination the licence holder was entitled to drive. Those who passed thier test before 19th January 2013 can tow any size trailer, those who passed after this date are restricted to a combined vehicle and trailer weight of 3,500kg.

Driving Licence Categories

 Category Code You are entitled to drive 
AM  2 or 3 wheeled vehicles with a maximum speed over 15.5 mph but under 28 mph and light quad bikes not exceeding 350 kg or maximum design speed of 28 mph  
 P 2 wheeled vehicles whose maximum design speed is over 28 mph but not above 31 mph, engine size must not exceed 50cc 
 Q 2 wheeled vehicles with an engine up to 50cc and a maximum design speed of 15.5 mph 
 A1 light motorbikes with an engine size up to 125cc, power output up to 11kW and a power to weight ratio up to 0.1kW/kg Motor tricycles with a power output up to 15kW   
A2 Motorbikes with a power output up to 35kW, power to weight ratio up to 0.2kW/kg which is not derived from a vehicle of more than double its power.  Any Motorbikes included in A.
A Motorbikes with a power output up to 35kW or weight to power ratio up to 0.2kW/kg.    Motor tricycles with a power output which does not exceed 15kW Any motorbikes included in A1 or A2
B1 Motor vehicles with 4 wheels that do not exceed 400kg laden or 550kg if designed to carry goods.  If you passed your test before January 1st 1997 - you can drive a vehicle with trailer up to 8,250kg and a minibus with a trailer over 750kg. If you passed your test on or after January 1st 1997 - You can drive vehicles with a trailer up to 3,500kg with up to 8 passenger seats.  You can tow heavier trailers if the combined weight does not exceed 3,500kg. You can also drive tricycles with a power output which exceeds 15kW if you are over 21
B Auto  Category B vehicles provided they are automatic 
BE A vehicle with a maximum weight of 3,500 with a trailer. If you passed your test before 19th January 2013 - you can tow any size trailer. If you passed your test on or after 19th January 2013 - you can tow a trailer up to a combined vehicle and trailer weight of 3,500kg
C1 Vehicles with trailers up to 750kg where the combined total weight is between 3,500 - 7,500kg  
C1E  C1 category vehicles with trailers over 750kg where the combined total weight does not exceed 12,000kg  
D1 vehicles which carry up to 16 passengers with a maximum length of 8 metres and a trailer up to 750kg 
D1E  D1 category vehicles with a trailer over 750kg where the combined trailer and vehicle weight does not exceed 12,000kg 
DE  Category D vehicles with a trailer over 750kg 
Agricultural tractors 
Road Rollers 
Tracked Vehicles  
K Mowing machines or pedestrian controlled vehicles 
Electrically propelled vehicle 
Trolley Vehicles 
Exempt from duty 

Which information do I need to keep updated?

You need to tell DVLA if you change your name or address and a new photocard with the updated information will be sent to you.

How do I change the address on my photocard driving licence?

There are 2 ways to change the address displayed on your photocard licence:

1. Online -Changing your address can be completed online, free of charge and you will need the following informaion to hand:

  • Your driving licence
  • You must be a resident of Great Britain
  • Addresses you have lived at in the past 3 years
  • You must not be banned from driving
  • Your National Insurance number and passport number if known

2. By post, free of charge. To do this you will need the D741 letter that came with your licence, or if you have misplaced this a D1 form for cars and a D2 form for a lorry or minibus licence. These forms can be found at the post office or ordered online via

You risk a fine of up to £1000 if you fail to renew or update your photocard driving licence

How do I change my name or gender on my driving licence?

Changing your name or gender can only be completed by post due to the documentation the DVLA will need to see. You will need a D1 form for cars and a D2 form for a van or minibus licence, these forms can be obtained from the post office or ordered online.
Along with your completed form you will need to send the original document that confirms your name/gender change, for example these might be a marriage certificate or gender recognition certificate.

There is no charge for changing the name/gender on your photocard licence.

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When and why do I need to renew my photocard licence?

Your photocard licence will need to be renewed every 10 years. This is because the photograph on your licence needs to be a true representation of the licence holder and people's appearance can change considerably in a 10 year period. The exact date you need to renew your licence by is shown in section 4b on the front of the photocard. The DVLA will send a reminder out when this day is drawing near. There are 3 ways you can complete your renewal.

1. Online – this is the easiest way of renewing your licence and the cheapest at £14. To renew your licence online you will need:

  • A valid UK passport – the photo from your passport will be used on your new photocard licence
  • You must be a resident of the UK
  • You must be able to pay £14 by card online
  • You must have details of addresses you have lived at in the past 3 years
  • You must not be disqualified from driving

At the end of the online process an address will be given to you which is where you will need to send your old photocard licence. This is the fastest method of renewing, your new licence should arrive within 1 week.

2. At the Post Office – this is a hassle free way of renewing for people who are not confident online or do not have a valid UK passport. You simply take your reminder to the post office and a new picture will be taken and the form completed with you. This service will cost you £21.50.

3. By post. You will need a D1 form for cars and a D2 form for van or minibus licences. Your form will need to be completed and sent to the DVLA along with a new passport sized photo, your current photocard licence and a cheque or postal order to cover the fee which is £17.

Your new photocard licence should arrive within 3 weeks using the post office and post methods of renewal.

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What are the consequences for not renewing or updating my driving licence details?

If it is found you have not told DVLA of a change in name or address or you have failed to renew your driving licence you are breaking the law and could be fined up to £1000.
Currently there are thought to be 40,000 drivers who have failed to renew their licence on time. If your licence has expired you should go ahead and renew as soon as you realise. You will not be fined when you renew late.
Having an expired licence will cause problems for the licence holder if they would like to hire or lease a vehicle or when showing an employer.

How Is Your Driver Number Made?

Your driver number is unique and appears at number 5 on the front of your photocard licence

SMITH   853244   NS   4J5   **

The first 5 letters are those of your surname, if your surname is less than 5 letters long 9's will be added to make 5.

The next 6 numbers are your date of birth in the jumbled up format YMMDDY.  For females 50 will be added to the month making the second number a 0 or 1 for a male and a 5 or 6 for a female.  for example if you are a female born in december you month numbers will read 62, if you are male they will read 12.

Spaces 12 and 13 are the intials of your forenames, if you have no middle name a 9 will be used

Spaces 13 and 14 are computer check numbers or letters

The last numbers will indicate the Licence Issue Number

What should I do if I have lost or destroyed my photocard licence?

If you believe your driving licence has been stolen you must contact the police.
Whether your licence has been stolen, lost or destroyed you can get a replacement photocard licence in one of 3 ways at a cost of £20.

1. Online – if a suitable electronic licence is not available DVLA will let you know and send you a form to provide a photo.
2. By phone – if none of the details on your photocard have changed you can call DVLA. You will not be able to order a replacement online if your photocard licence was due to expire in 56 days time or less.
3. By post using a D1 form for cars or a D2 form for a van or minibus licence. These forms can be collected from the post office or ordered online.

Is my paper licence still valid?

Yes- for any drivers whose licence from before 1998 still carries all the correct information it is still valid. However, if you need to change the name or address at any point you will be automatically be issued a photocard licence in place of your paper licence.

You can also choose to exchange your paper licence for a photocard licence, even if there are no updates needed.

Do I still need my Counterpart Driving Licence?

As of 8th June 2015 there is no longer the need to keep your counterpart driving licence. This document was kept alongside your photocard driving licence to provide additional information such as how many points you had on your licence.

This information can now be viewed online and a check code created to allow others to view your licence information such as car hire companies.

If you do not wish to use the internet to view your driving licence information you can also get this information by phone or post.

Are you over 70 and looking to continue driving? Read our complete guide on driving after 70 here

Have you updated your photocard driving licence?

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