As of today, driving licences have gone digital. Don't go throwing away your photocard, though, as that's still vital proof you're allowed to get behind the wheel, but your paper counterpart is now all but useless. The easily misplaced document was introduced alongside the photocard licence for recording additional info like the type of vehicles you're allowed to drive and how many naughty points you've racked up. But for anyone in the UK outside of Northern Ireland, these details are now held and easily accessible online. And it's actually pretty convenient, since you no longer need to dig through kitchen drawers to find it or pay for a replacement if you can't. If you need to share your driving history with anyone -- a new employer, for example -- you can jump online and request a one-use "licence check code" a third party can securely retrieve your info with.
There are certain stumbling blocks that come with transitioning from a paper-based to an online system, however. The check code is only valid for 72 hours, and the DVLA has come under fire for not properly considering how this could affect your impulsive holiday travel plans. Traditionally, car hire agencies would need to see the paper counterpart before agreeing to lend you a vehicle, but as the new check code has a limited lifespan, you could be left in the lurch if you wanted to hire a car on a whim -- if you had no internet access and were outside the operating hours of the back-up telephone request service, for instance. We've reached out to some of the biggest names in vehicle hire to see how their policies have changed, and surprisingly, there's no real concensus.
Avis, Hertz and Budget are happy to hook you up without a check code, whereas Europcar and Sixt require them.
National and Enterprise are still figuring out how to approach the new scheme. They both recommend you make a code available if possible, but National says it's not a requirement and Enterprise will endeavor to source any necessary information from the DVLA directly to spare you the trouble. Also, for now, both will still accept the paper counterpart as an official document, so if you think you might embark on an impromptu road trip this summer, perhaps it's best to not destroy the parchment just yet, as the DVLA is currently recommending.
Update: Apparently, National and Enterprise's customer service folks were a tad waffly in their responses, and all you actually need to hire a car from either (and Alamo, too) is your photocard licence.