Driving in the UK

Living in Europe | Access to the culture of the host country/language courses | United Kingdom

Driving is a useful way to get around the UK, particularly in remote areas which may not have a good public transport network. However, if you do want to drive in the UK you need to know about driving regulations and whether your driving licence is valid here.

What to do with your car

If you are considering bringing your car over to the UK you should consider the transport costs of moving your car, the road worthiness of the vehicle and also whether you have a valid license to operate it.

Can I bring my car?

You can bring your car to the UK but if you plan to use it for more than 6 months it must be registered and licensed in the UK. To find out how to do this visit the Direct Gov website on vehicle import.

If your car is new (under 6 months old) or you are bringing it from outside the EEA, you should contact HM Revenue and Customs as you may need to pay import tax.

Making your car safe

You will also need an MOT (Ministry of Transport) certificate that states that your car is, at the time of the test, legally roadworthy and up to environmental standards. You can get your car tested at most garages in the UK.

An MOT test is required every year, unless your car is less than three years old. You can find out more about MOTs and when they are needed on the Directgov MOT pages.

Is my driving license valid in the UK?

In general, if you have a driving licence from the EEA (European Economic Area), you can drive in the UK for as long as your licence is valid (or until you are 70 years old).

If you are from outside the EEA and will be staying for more than 12 months should apply for a provisional UK driving licence. You will have to take a driving test if you want to continue driving after the 12-month period is finished.

There are exceptions to the rules; a valid driving license from specific countries allows you to apply for a driving license in the UK without having to take a test. Check the DVLA website for the list of countries.

Costs of driving

There are various costs associated with driving, these range from insurance and taxes on vehicles to costs of hiring a car for temporary use.

It is essential that you have motor insurance if you are driving in the UK.

There are different types of motor insurance depending on the level of cover you require: some policies cover theft and damage to your car, the legal minimum requirement only covers third parties, i.e. if you harm someone or damage their property.

You can pay vehicle tax online or at any main post office if you bring your registration, insurance and MOT certificates with you. There is also a Directgov section on vehicle tax, where you can find out how much your road tax is likely to cost, along with other information. From 1 October 2014 tax discs will no longer be issued for vehicles.

Some motorways, tunnels and bridges charge a toll, they will always be signposted clearly so you are aware of any costs using the road.

There is a congestion charge in central London, which means that if you drive within a designated congestion zone area you will be charged a fee. If you are a resident within the congestion charge zone, have a car running on alternative fuel, or are a registered disabled driver, you may be entitled to a reduction. You also receive a discount if you register for Congestion Charge Auto Pay.

Visit the Transport for London website for congestion charge information.

If you do not have your own car, you can hire one from one of the many car rental companies in the UK.

To be able to book a rental car you need to be older than 21 (sometimes even older) and have held a full driving licence for at least a year (sometimes two years).

Insurance is normally included with the rental package, but if you do have an accident, or damage the car, you will probably need to pay the excess (an amount which the insurance does not cover) and this varies with different insurance policies.

Special considerations for disabled drivers

You can apply for a 'blue badge' if you travel either as a driver or a passenger, and have difficulty in walking. This allows you parking concessions in some areas and enables you to park close to your destination. For more information visit the Blue Badge Scheme, visit the website.