How to hire a car this summer: What you need to know about hiring cars abroad

There are changes to a process already fraught with such pitfalls as fuel and mileage policies, excess waiver insurance and damage charges

From 8 June, the DVLA is scrapping the paper counterpart to photocard driving licences. Penalty points and driving convictions will be held on an online database, meaning you can effectively tear up your counterpart. Drivers who only hold an older-style paper licence will be able to continue to use it, or choose to apply for a plastic photocard (which must be renewed for a fee of £20 every 10 years).

This has raised issues about hiring cars abroad – a process already fraught with such pitfalls as fuel and mileage policies, excess waiver insurance and damage charges. Currently, drivers are often required to show their paper counterpart at the hire desk so dealers can check for any bans or endorsements. From 8 June, they must look up the details online, but the onus is on drivers to provide them with a special DVLA code.

As with the current system, it's possible some companies may not ask for the personal code but drivers are advised to log on to the DVLA website (gov.uk/view-driving-licence) up to 72 hours prior to collection, log their licence details and national insurance number and collect the one-time code to pass on to dealers.

Concerns have been raised that some smaller operations won't be aware of the changes, so the AA is advising drivers to take the paper counterpart too. Drivers might also want to print a PDF of their history from the DVLA website.

There are likely to be headaches, not least the inflexibility of having to apply for a code within a short time frame, but the comparison site Carrentals.co.uk cites fuel policy as the biggest gripe among customers. Collecting a car with a full tank and returning it empty, where re-fill prices, set by the company, can be highly inflated, is seen as particularly unfair. The full-empty policy is most widespread in Spain. Always check the policy before handing over credit card details.

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