The DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) and Directgov both provide information on driving in the UK and should be used for up-to-date information and regulations. The Highway Code contains full details of all UK driving regulations. Before you drive a motor vehicle in the UK, you must:
- be licenced to drive
- have valid insurance cover
- display a valid UK road tax disc on your car
- register the car if in the UK for 6 months or more
The Highway Code (widely available in bookshops) is essential reading and contains details of all UK driving regulations
If you are a national of the European Economic Area (EEA) and you hold a current driving licence issued in an EEA country, you can continue to drive in the UK using your national licence, as long as it remains valid.
For nationals of other countries - if you hold a valid international driving permit from your home country, you can usually drive for up to 12 months in Britain, counted from your original arrival date. (If you leave the country you do not get another 12 months permission). If you are planning to remain in the UK for longer than 12 months then you must obtain a UK licence. This usually involves taking a UK driving test, depending on which national licence you hold. Further information is on the Government's web site.
To hire a car in the UK you must hold a full Driver's Licence or an International Driving Licence and have been driving for twelve months or more. You must have, or arrange, valid insurance cover, which can be more expensive for people under the age of thirty. Your current driving licence will have to be shown to the car hire company. There are many car hire firms to choose from - see the Yellow Pages for a directory
Registering a car in the UK
If a car which has been registered abroad (including other EU countries) is used for more than six months in the UK, it should be registered at the DVLA. You will probably be asked to send:
- the car logbook
- UK insurance certificate
- MOT certificate (if car more than 3 years old)
- completed VAT form 414 (DVLA can supply this) if you come from within the EU
- Customs form (DVLA can supply this) if you come from outside the EU
Insurance Cover for your Car
There are two types of insurance cover available in the UK:
- Comprehensive - more expensive but covers loss or damage to your car by unknown or uninsured persons
- Third Party, Fire & Theft - does not cover loss or damage caused by unknown/uninsured persons
It is best to compare insurance policies from separate companies to ensure that you get the cover you need at the lowest price. There are many providers of car insurance - you may want to check with your bank, as many provide car insurance, or a company who provides you with other insurance, such as home, medical, etc.
Taxing a car in the UK
All cars need a road tax (or Vehicle Excise Duty) licence before you can drive in the UK. Road tax discs must be displayed at all times on the car windscreen and can be purchased at main post offices (including the one on campus).
The DVLA carries out a computer check each month to identify those vehicles without a tax disc. If you fail to renew your car tax every year, you will incur an automatic penalty of £80 and those who choose to ignore the penalty could receive a County Court Judgement against them, could be stopped by the police and/or have their vehicle clamped.
All cars over three years old must be tested annually for roadworthiness (the test is known as the M.O.T. and can be carried out by most garages). You may be required to provide evidence of your M.O.T. for insurance purposes
Buying a second-hand car
Second-hand cars can be purchased from a dealer or from a private individual. DirectGov (the government website) advice for purchasing a second-hand car.