I've Lost My Driving Licence! Help!

UK driving licence

Nothing feels quite as good as when you finally get your hands on that pink driving licence. All the hard work has paid off and you can proudly get behind the wheel as a fully qualified driver. Plus, you have a nifty new source of ID that's definitely more impressive than a provisional!

Nothing feels quite as stressful, therefore, than when your driving licence is nowhere to be found. You've searched high, you've searched low, but it's just not there. Panic sets in. Will you still be able to drive? How do you explain it to the DVSA? What does it take to get a new one?

Take a deep breath, find a comfortable seat and pay attention. We're about to answer all of these questions and more…

First steps­­

Let's start with the most important thing: don't have a meltdown. You're not the first person to lose their licence and you certainly won't be the last. Sure, it's not ideal, and going through the rigmarole of contacting the DVSA to try and procure a new one doesn't sound like a great way to spend an afternoon, but here you are! The best course of action is to get over any negative emotions you feel about the whole thing and focus on fixing it.

Do a final sweep

Before you commit to filling out forms and parting with your hard-earned cash, really try to establish that your licence is definitely lost. Don't roll your eyes! It's always worth performing a final sweep of the 'last seen' zone. Whether this means double checking every nook and cranny of your house or rummaging through your best mate's bag (with their permission!), crack on.

Definitely disappeared? Time to call in the big guns.

What's the situation?

cartoon silhouette of police officer

Next up we need to get to the bottom of exactly what has happened to your licence. Did it vanish into thin air? Or have you damaged it, had it stolen or managed to completely destroy (bravo!) it? Whatever the specifics, they will affect what you need to do now. For instance, if it was stolen, we have a slightly bigger issue on our hands. Or rather, your hands.

You see, a valid driving licence can be useful for all kinds of reasons, which makes it a very attractive item for a criminal. People can use your licence to hire cars under your name and commit various other forms of identity theft.

Even if your licence wasn't stolen in a classic stick-up situation, you need to report it to the police. If it fell out of your pocket in the middle of the street, for example, it could be picked up by anyone. Inform the authorities so that they can keep an eye out for any suspicious behaviour linked to your ID.

Applying for a replacement

Once you've established (and, hardest of all, accepted) that your driving licence has gone, it's time to ask the DVSA for a new one. Thankfully, they make this process fairly easy and grovel-free.

The most convenient way to go about this is to fill in the online form they provide for such scenarios. You'll be prompted to answer various questions and provide some important information. Keep in mind that if you have one of the old licences that comes with a paper counterpart, your new licence will be card only. The paper part of the licence was scrapped in June 2015.

Before submitting your form, be sure to double check that you have filled out everything correctly. This should prevent any unnecessary delays to the replacement process. The DVSA will send you a confirmation email if your application has been sent successfully.

*The process of applying for a replacement licence is different for those living in Northern Ireland—NIdirect has specific information on what to do regarding this matter.

What you'll need

In order to apply for a replacement licence you must:

  • Be a resident of Great Britain
  • Not be disqualified from driving
  • Pay £20 by credit or debit card (DVSA accepts MasterCard, Visa, Electron, Delta debit or credit card)
  • Be able to provide all of the addresses at which you have lived for the last 3 years
  • Be able to provide your driving licence number, National Insurance number and passport number (if you know them) 

Get snappy

camera on red background

One of the upsides about having to get a replacement licence is that you can take a brand new photo for it. No need to keep your thumb over that awkward teenage mug when showing your ID at the bar! Unless, that is, you meet the following criteria:

  • Your licence was due to expire within 2 years
  • You have a valid UK passport and can provide the passport number
  • You give the DVLA permission to use your passport photo

In which case, as you've probably guessed by now, they'll just use your passport photo. If the idea of this fills you with shame and dread, you can always use the photo driving licence renewal service to update the picture on your licence. This service will set you back £14.

Remember, just because a picture is insta-worthy does not mean it meets the DVSA standards for a useable electronic photograph. Follow the guidelines on the form carefully!

Ring ring!

Not a fan of the internet or filling out online forms? Suit yourself. The DVSA does allow drivers to apply for a replacement licence over the phone, but only in certain circumstances. As long as none of your details have changed and your licence is not damaged or due to expire in less than 56 days, you can start dialling.

The number to call is 0300 790 6801.

Snail mail

cartoon open envelope on green background

If you live on a remote island with no phone or internet service but a well-stocked post office, you can also apply for a new licence via mail. This applies if you turn your nose up at the prospect of an online form or phone call as well.

Head to your nearest post office and keep your fingers crossed that they carry the D1 Application for a driving licence form. If they don't and you're still feeling determined to take the postal route, you can request that they order one in. Go home, make a cup of tea (or 20) and wait.

When you get your hands on the form, it's a case of filling out all of the relevant information and sending it off to the listed address. You also need to enclose both the fee for your new licence and documents that confirm your identity.

The DVSA advises that postal applications will take around 3 weeks to process. May as well get back to your cuppa.

Pro tip: No matter how you go about contacting the DVSA for a new licence, keep a note of the date your application was sent or accepted, so you can keep track of when it should arrive.

In future…

Open gold padlock leaning on grey surface

Look after your licence! The experience of losing it and having to apply for a replacement should encourage you to take better care of it in future. It may only be a small piece of plastic, but it's very important and should be kept safe!

We recommend storing it in one place (like your purse or wallet) and making sure it rarely strays from there. As it also doubles as a useful form of ID, there are likely to be times when you need to take your driving licence out—just remember to return it to its usual spot when you return. And, if you're partial to wild nights out, guard it with your life!

Lost driving licence: FAQs

1. How long will it take for my new licence to arrive?

This will vary depending on where you live and the specifics of your lost licence situation. The DVSA does, however, provide some rough guidelines.

If you applied for your replacement licence online, it should be with you within a week of receiving the confirmation email. Those who apply by post can expect to wait up to 3 weeks. Finally, if you applied by phone, you're looking at somewhere between these two timeframes.

Bear in mind that if you were unable to provide certain bits of information (like your licence number) the process can take slightly longer.

2. Can I still drive while I'm waiting to receive my replacement licence?

Yes, you can drive before you receive your new licence as long as:

  • You have applied for a new one
  • You have not been disqualified from driving
  • You have held a British licence issued since January 1976 (or another exchangeable licence)
  • You haven't been refused a licence on medical grounds (consult a doctor if you're unsure about this one)
  • You keep to any special conditions that apply to your licence.

3. I've found my old licence, but I've already applied for a new one. What do I do now?

Whether it's while you're waiting for your new one, or long after your replacement has arrived, you will need to return your old licence to the DVLA by post. Include a note explaining why you are doing so, to avoid any confusion. The package should be sent to DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1AB.

4. I ordered my new licence 4 weeks ago and it still hasn't arrived. What should I do?

Double check the date that your application was received and, if it has been over 4 weeks, contact the DVSA. You can do this by calling 0300 790 6801 or filling out an online enquiry form.

5. My new licence has arrived, but the information on it is wrong. How do I fix this?

Not by yourself with a biro, that's for sure! Sadly, your communication with the DVSA is not over. You'll have to send back your driving licence, with a letter explaining which details are incorrect, to DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1BN (note that this is slightly different to the address provided for old licences). This is also the procedure for changing the address on your licence.

6. What if I lose my licence again?

You may be beyond help. Not to be judgemental, but driving is a big responsibility and managing to keep your licence safe is just a small part of that. If you are unlucky (or careless) enough to lose it a second time, you'll have to go through the exact same process again. That means the money, the forms, and the waiting.

You might want to consider coming up with a new strategy for ensuring your licence stays in your possession. Maybe you could fashion an accessory that means it can be on your person at all times! Failing that, keeping it in a purse or wallet seems to do the job for most people.