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If you are planning on moving to the UK from Canada for more than a year, and are planning on driving a car, then you will need to exchange your Canadian license (issued by your home province) for a UK one. I’m going through the process of accomplishing that now, and have found that information I find on the process is either confusing or incomplete. With this blog entry, I hope to detail what I have found out about the process, so others may benefit in the future.

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That being said, I am sure others can add to the information in the blog. If you have some information to provide, or a correction, please leave it in the comments. I’ll update the blog accordingly.

Where am I in the process? I now have my full UK drivers license including the ability to drive a manual. This involved exchanging my license for an automatic only license, and then taking a practical driving test on a manual car. I now have a license that allows me to drive manual transmission cars.

What Do You Mean “Canadian License?”

I know, I know... There is no such thing. Licenses in Canada are issued by the provincial transportation authority. In my case, I had an Ontario license. However, the DLVA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) in the UK views all licenses issued from the Canadian provinces the same. Therefore, when I talk in this blog about a Canadian license, I just mean a license issued by a provincial transportation authority in Canada.

Driving On Your Canadian License

So you have arrived in the UK, and still have your BC, Ontario or Quebec license in your wallet. Can you drive? How long to do you have to exchange your license?

Can I Drive A Car with a Canadian License?

Yes. You have up to one year where you can drive a car in the UK on a foreign license. The DVLA website says that “you may drive vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes and with up to eight passenger seats, for up to 12 months from the date of coming to GB,” assuming your license is valid for that period. This applies to both Canadians on working visas now resident in the UK and students studying in the UK.

I Have a Large Truck / Bus License from Canada. Can I drive a Truck or Bus?

No. The DVLA website indicates that you must pass a driving test in Great Britain to be able to drive larger vehicle. In fact, you probably need to take a regular car license driving test as well. The DVLA site says, “Driving test candidates are required to pass a motor car (category B) test first before applying for provisional entitlement for larger vehicles.”

What Happens After One Year?

You can’t drive in the UK legally anymore without getting a UK license.

If I’m Not Planning on Driving, Can I Keep My Canadian License?

For the UK’s point of view, yes. You can swap your license any time up to five (5) years after moving to the UK. You are only allowed to drive on your foreign license for the first year, but if you aren’t planning on driving, you can swap them later.

Living in London, I don’t drive much, so didn’t need my license. I was in the UK for a year and a half before I got around to making the swap, and didn’t have any trouble.

From your home provinces point of view, you’ll have to check with them. Based on this website from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, looks like you can keep it until you need to renew it, then perhaps you are out of luck. You could do what I did when my license expired and I was in the UK. I flew home and got my photo done.

Do I Need to Make the Switch to a UK license?

Check out the DVLA’s interactive tool on if you need to swap your Canadian license for a UK one, at Can you exchange your driving licence for one issued in Great Britain (GB)?

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Making the Switch

You’ve now determined you want to swap your Canadian license for a UK one.

What Do I Do?

First, you need to get yourself an application form D1. These are available at DVLA offices (find them here) or the Post Office (find them here). If you aren’t handy to a DVLA location or Post Office, I’d ask you what you are doing living in the middle of nowhere. However, in that event, you can order the form online from the DVLA at this website.

You then need to get a passport photo done in colour. These can be done at automated photo booths or in a photography shop. The criteria for the photo can be found on the DVLA website, but any photo that meets the passport guidelines is fine.

You need to provide identification of your identity. Valid forms of ID are listed on this page at the DVLA website, but for most Canadians that means your Canadian passport.

Send the completed form D1, along with your ID, colour photo, Canadian driver’s license and a postal order or cheque for £50 (made out to “DVLA, Swansea”) to DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1BT.

What if I Don’t Want to Mail in My Forms?

NOTE - Since a switch in websites from DirectGov to GOV.UK, I can no longer find details on the Premium Checking Service. I am not aware if this service is still available, or if it has been discontinued. All information on Premium Checking Service may no longer be accurate.

I’m with you here! Given the rotating Royal Mail strikes that seem to constantly be happening, who wants to trust sending your passport via the post. I used the Premium Checking Service, details of which can be found on this ARCHIVED DVLA page.

If you are using a Canadian passport as your ID, you’ll need to go to one of the four DVLA offices that can check these documents. They are in Glasgow, Nottingham, Wimbledon and Swansea (main reception on Longview Road). Click on the name of the location for their address.

You will need to bring all the same items as listed above, save the cheque or postal order. You can pay via debit or credit card at DVLA locations. There is a small fee (£4) in addition to the license fee, for a total of £54. Small price in my mind to pay for the security of getting your passport back at the end of the encounter.

I went to the office in Wimbledon. I was prepared for a long wait at the DVLA, but actually it was quite quick. I showed up at about 8:45 AM, 15 minutes before opening. There was a queue outside the building, and I joined in about tenth place. Upon entering, though, folks taking care of vehicle licenses and folks getting driver’s licenses were sent to separate locations (drivers licenses are on the 1st floor, with vehicle licensing on the ground floor), so I ended up being fourth in queue. You take a number and wait for your number to be called.

After my number was called, a clerk checked over all my forms to ensure completeness. He then took the forms and told me to go and wait in a second room. After another ten minutes or so, a second clerk called me, verified my forms again, handed me back my passport and took my payment (via debit card).

He gave me a receipt and told me it should take three weeks to get my new UK license.

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Do I Need to Get My Photo Signed?

NOTE - Since a switch in websites from DirectGov to GOV.UK, I can no longer find details on the Premium Checking Service. I am not aware if this service is still available, or if it has been discontinued. All information on Premium Checking Service may no longer be accurate.
If you go to the premium checking service, no. The clerk who serves you will verify your identity.

If you are mailing in with your Canadian passport, then no. The DVLA site says that you only need to have your photo signed if you aren’t using the following forms of ID: an up-to-date passport, UK travel document or an EC/EEA identity card (apart from Sweden).

Will I Get My Canadian License Back?

No. The UK will send it back to the relevant authority in Canada.

What if I Need to Drive After Handing in My Canadian License?

NOTE - Since a switch in websites from DirectGov to GOV.UK, I can no longer find details on the Premium Checking Service. I am not aware if this service is still available, or if it has been discontinued. All information on Premium Checking Service may no longer be accurate.
If you get the premium checking service, the receipt that the clerk gives you can be used as proof of being allowed to drive.

If you mail in, I am not sure of the answer. Anyone know the answer?

What if I have a Provisional or Graduated License?

Some provinces now have “graduated licensing” (as an example Ontario).

Can a Canadian exchange a license with less than full driving privileges for a UK one? I don’t know the answer to this, but if you do - please share in the comments and I will update this section.

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Your New License

After you exchange it, you should receive your license in the post. Mine took a little under 3 weeks to arrive, even with Royal Mail’s usual slowness, so I was pleased.

What Does My New UK Driver’s License Allow Me to Do?

My license allows me the following classifications:

  • A - Motorcycles with a power output of up to 33 horsepower (25 kilowatts). This webpage discusses in detail what that means, and this is a list of motorcycles with less than that power.
  • B and BE - Automatic transmission cars, including cars pulling trailers. A “car” is classified as having less than 8 seats and weighing 3500 kg or less.
  • B1 - Three and four wheeled light vehicles, like quadbikes, as long as they are less than 550 kg.
  • GH - Road Rollers and Tracked Vehicles - A “road roller” is what we would call a steam roller. Tracked vehicles are vehicles with tracks instead of wheels. Before you go out and buy a Sherman tank, though, note that the tracked vehicle can’t weigh more than 3500 kg, and the steam roller must be less than 11.69 tonnes. Nor steam powered.

Did You Say Only Automatic Cars? That Doesn’t Appear on My License

Check the back. On the back you will see a codes beside the categories, probably reading “78,70CDN”

70CDN means that the license was exchanged from a Canadian license.

78 means Automatic transmissions only.

For more information on the codes, check out this page Information on driving license codes. The detail is in information pamphlet INS57P, in case the link goes dead.

The UK has Different Licenses for Automatic and Manual Cars?

Yup. Its a point of debate. Some people think that it makes sense, as it keeps drivers who can’t drive a stick from stalling in front of you at roundabouts or rolling back into you at hills. Others think it is another sign of the nanny state that the UK is becoming.

Either way, if you are exchanging a Canadian License, you are going to be able to only drive automatic transmission cars.

I Can Drive A Manual Transmission. Can’t I Just Exchange My Canadian License for a Manual License?

Nope, at least not as far as I’ve been able to determine. The DVLA says that to exchange a Canadian license for a UK Manual license, you need to “prove” that you took your test in a manual car. However, they don’t say what they would accept as proof.

I have been driving manual cars since I was 16, and back when I had my Canadian license, drove manual cars here in the UK. Once I made the switch, though, I would no longer be allowed. I tried to find some way to do a direct exchange. Nothing I read indicated anyone has ever been able to do it, especially seeing as I can drive a manual, but didn't take my license on a manual transmission car.

Those who did take their test on manual transmission cars haven't had much luck either. I have read about people trying to prove it, but none that have. Some have provided letters from the driving examiners that the car was a manual, and the DVLA has rejected that as not being sufficient enough evidence.

Basically, you should be prepared to accept the automatic license, and if you want a manual license, take the test.

To paraphrase The Beatles, “ Baby, you can drive my car, as long as it is an automatic!”

Really, There Is No Way to Get A Manual License?

Apparently some people do it, as this freedom of information act request indicates that in 2008, 7,628 automatic licenses were issues and 2,765 manual license were issued. If anyone out there who has done it can shed light on what documentation you provided, please do!

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What To Do To Get a Manual License

Okay, so you have your new license, but if you are like me, you want more. You want that manual license. Here’s how to go about doing it.

I passed my test in February of 2014. I had to take the test twice due to a fault I made in my first test.

Do I Need a Manual License?

No, as long as you are fine with not being able to drive a manual transmission car. That’s fine if you own your own automatic car. However, if you are looking to rent cars or join a car sharing scheme like Zip Car, you’ll find automatic transmission cars are hard to find and very expensive to rent. Also, if you ever want to buy a car, you’ll have a much greater selection if you can buy a manual. Automatic cars just aren’t that common around here.

Do I Need to Write the Theory Test?

No. The DVLA website itself says “If you want to upgrade within a vehicle category you won’t normally need to take a theory test. For example, if you have a full automatic car licence and you want a manual car licence you won’t have to take a theory test.” The experience of those who have taken the manual test also confirms this.

However, the people working at the DVLA offices don’t always know or understand this, and may tell you that you need to take a theory test. Once they start the process, though, they will find that they are unable to book a theory test for you, as you already have a license, and should then book your manual test.

I personally had not issues booking either my first or second driving test via the phone. In London, it was about six weeks between the day I booked and the first available test.

How Do I Book a Test?

As you don't have a theory test number, you cannot book on line. Instead, you can book by phone or post.

Do I Need To Study or Take Lessons First?

No. You can just go and take your test.

However, those I have talked to who have done this suggested taking a couple driving lessons first. There is a very low pass rate for the test (35%), and many people without the lessons failed their first test.

Taking a few lessons will help you know what to expect from the test, and provide you with some idea of the more esoteric things that could come up on the test.

I personally ended up taking 10 hours of lessons before my first test, and I consider these invaluable. Even as an experienced driver, it was great to have someone take you through what will be on the test and perform some mock tests with you. A professional driving instructor will be able to run a test exactly like an examiner would. Secondly, as I didn't have a car or anyone to go out with, it was good to practice and get used to driving in the UK - specifically dealing with rounadabouts and intersections, which aren't common in Canada.

If you have someone to practice with, you could probably do a couple hours of lessons, and then maybe one or two mock tests and not do as many hours.

What If I Want To Practice In A Manual Before My Test?

Your automatic license is similar to a UK provisional license for manuals. Therefore, you can drive a manual transmission car if you have the L Learner Plates on, and are riding with a fully licensed UK driver over the age of 21. Note that the driver needs to have a full UK license, not an international license.

What is the Test Like?

It is a full driving test. The test is not just to test your ability to drive a manual transmission. It is a full driving test, and you will have to do all the things that someone who is getting their license for the first time. Even though you have a full license for automatics already, you'll still need to prove you can drive a car.

The test is about 45 minutes long, including 10 minutes of independent drivings (where they will ask you to follow signs to a destination, or give you multiple directions to follow (e.g. turn left at the end of the road, then take the second right, then follow that road until the end, and turn right again)). You will be asked to do one manoeuvre - either a reverse around a corner, three-point-turn or parallel park; and potentially an emergency stop. Before you start away, you'll be asked to read a license plate (registration plate) from a distance to test your eyesight. You'll also be asked some questions about the car (the "show-me / tell-me") like "how do you turn on your fog lights, and when would you use them?" or "show me where the brake fluid is, and how do you check it?"

You will be marked on your actions as a minor, serious or dangerous fault. You can have less than 15 minor faults (things like checking mirrors enough or signalling a turn too late). If you have any serious or dangerous fault, you will fail.

The results will be given to you immediately after the exam ends. If you pass, you will be given a pass certificate that you can use as proof to drive a manual car. The instructor will take your license and a new license will be posted to you.

If you fail, you can continue to drive an automatic transmission car without issue, and continue to drive a manual car with L-plates and a licensed driver. You can book another test immediately, though need to have at least 10 days between your first test and your second.

See more here from the gov.uk website.

Personally, I failed my first test with one serious fault - entering a roundabout in the wrong lane (entered in the left lane when I was making a right turn). Even though I negotiated with roundabout without issue and did not impede any other cars progress, it was still a potentially dangerous situation, which is why I failed. I passed the second test with only 4 minor faults. As stated above, I felt that the driving lessons and mock tests I took with a professional instructor were very valuable in having a successful test.

Where’d This Information Come From?

The Direct.gov and DVLA websites, as well as DVLA document INF38 for the most part, plus my own experiences, and information from the internet from forums like Canuckabroad and Thorntree.

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Can I Use My Own Car for the Test?

Yes. Alejandro Erickson details the steps to do this in his blog entry. The key thing is being insured for the test. You can get provisional insurance for the test, and there are companies which provide this provisional insurance. Note that


Getting Insurance

When you get a new license - whether the first exchanged automatic license, or passing the test for a full manual license, you are considered a new driver for insurance purposes. As one commenter says, "When you pass a test in the UK, the new license issued is only valid from the day you passed the test, so your past experience, on an automatic full UK license or from a Canadian license, vanishes."

Going Back to Canada

What If I Move Back to Canada?

Heading back to Canada for good and want to get back your license?


If you are moving to live in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, you will be able to exchange a UK licence issued by the DVLA for one issued by these Provinces. For other provinces, If you take up residence in any of these Provinces/Territories, you will be required to take a written test and a practical road test.

Any Other Questions?

Please feel free to post any other questions in the comments. I will attempt to answer them, and potentially add them to the test of the blog if they would assist others.

Update History
22 Nov 2009 - Initial Version
25 Nov 2009 - Added information on driving manual as a provisional driver with automatic license
11 Nov 2012 - Added information on insurance, booking test (clarified cannot be online), information on exchanging if you return to Canada, and note of Premium Checking Service to indicate I am not sure if the service is still available.
12 Feb 2014 - Updated with a few points on the manual test
26 Oct 2014 - Updated with points from Alejandro Erickson's experience - http://alejandroerickson.com/home/blog/blog.php?entry=22


Lowest car insurance rates by modelFirstly, if you don’t already know, used cars here in Australia are not cheap. For more details on that, check out my post Buying a Car in Australia. What’ll it Cost? Having said that, somebody made a very interesting comment somewhere on this website saying how great it was used cars here in Australia retain their value so much longer.

See, there’s always two ways of looking at things.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I wrote a post called Driving in Australia: Know the Law; if you read that post you will know that one of those strange laws is to do with selling a car here in Queensland.

Those of you who did read the post will also have known I was selling my Jeep; you’ll be pleased to hear it is now sold. As a result of that I can tell you about another strange law, this time about buying a used car in Australia.

Before I do that though, I do understand that some of you having read the title of this post may have been hoping for some helpful tips when buying a used car in Australia. I was tempted to write such a post, but it’s been done so many times before by people much smarter than me.

If it’s these sorts of car buying tips you need, I suggest going to Google Australia and search for “tips buying used car“.

I did and I got results from two of Australia’s largest online car sales websites, more tips from Choice, Australia’s consumer magazine, tips from the RAA (Royal Automobile Association) and the RAC (Royal Automobile Club) all on the first page of big G, so I don’t think you need any more tips from little old me.

That said, I am going to give you one tip towards the end of this article, but first that strange law.

Goods and Services Tax

Or GST as we call it here. This is Australia’s equivalent of VAT in the UK and Europe and probably sales tax in the USA.

Here’s the rule in a nutshell. When you buy a car from a private seller, there is no GST to pay. When you buy a car from a car dealer who is registered for GST, and he will be if he sells enough cars to actually make a living, then GST has to be added to the price.

  • So if a private seller wants to sell a car for $10,000, that’s what he sells it for.
  • If a dealer wants to sell a car for $10,000, he sells it for $10,000 plus $1,000 GST equals $11,000.

I’m sure you can see that this makes for a very uneven playing field between car dealers private sellers.

It gets worse for the car dealer.

When a car dealer sells a car he has to provide a warranty, he has to guarantee the car is free from finance, hasn’t been a write off or been stolen. If he is advertising it as “Drive away, no more to pay” then he also has to pay the 3% car tax to the government and make sure it has valid registration (rego).

A private seller doesn’t need to do any of this, so at the VERY minimum you will have to pay that 3% car sales tax to the government. So now you’re $10,000 car purchased privately has already gone up to $10,300.

That narrows the field slightly, but not enough. That leads me to…

Bobinoz’s one and only used car buying tip

In all the time I lived in the UK I never, ever bought a car from a car dealer. When I arrived in Australia in 2007, one of the first things I needed to do was buy a car. I pretty much ignored dealers and bought my Jeep privately, I’m pleased to say that did work out for me.

This time though, when searching for another car to buy online, I decided to look at both dealers and private sellers. Given the advantages private sellers have over dealers you’d think that wouldn’t change for me this time round and I’d still be buying private.

Well, I can tell you that for the first time in my life the car I just bought, a Nissan X Trail for those who would like to know, came from a dealer.


  • I got the peace of mind a dealer warranty
  • I got 6 months car registration fully paid
  • I got the 3% car tax paid, nothing more for me to pay
  • I was guaranteed the car was free from finance/not a write off/hadn’t been stolen

And here’s the biggie for me…

  • Car dealer prices for the cars I was looking at were, for the most part, the same or cheaper than private sellers.

The car I bought was not available privately from anyone else any cheaper.


I could have given plenty of examples here, but it seems a little pointless as these things change daily. What was for sale when I looked, won’t be for sale when you look.

But I will tell you I looked at Nissan X Trails, Honda CRVs, Hyundai Tucsons, Ford something or others and all sorts of 4×4’s in the price range of $15,000-$20,000 and time and time again, dealers were the same as or cheaper than the equivalent cars being sold privately.

I’m not suggesting this is an unbreakable rule, I’m not saying this is a theory I will stand up and defend until the cows come home, but what I am saying is this…

If you’re looking to buy a used car, don’t discount getting it from a car dealer, even if you’ve never bought one from a car dealer before.

I don’t know why this appears to happen, how it can happen or if  it was just a fluke for me. But I did look at lots of different cars over several weeks and it was happening all the time.

Anybody else experienced this? I’d love to hear your views, please feel free to comment below.

New to this website?

  • Get a free copy of my ebook "20 Reasons Why You Should Move to Australia" from my page What's so good about Australia?
  • Overwhelmed by the process of moving to Australia? Don't be, read my Migration Advice.
  • Still stuck? Go to the Google search box, it's near the top on the right hand side, and search the site for whatever you are looking for. Something will show up, I've written about everything!
  • If you still can't find the answers you are looking for, leave a comment on a relevant page; either I or someone else will try to answer you.
  • Thanks for visiting and I do hope you come back regularly.


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    How much do you need?

    I do get asked some quite strange questions at times, but they are usually one-offs. But this one pops up quite regularly and every time it does, there is never enough information given to me to answer it.

    Classic motorhome insurance uk carEven with lots of information, it would still be an impossible question to answer, but when the question is something like

    “I’m moving to Australia next month with my wife and two teenage children, what would be a good salary to ensure a comfortable lifestyle for me and my family?”

    What chance do I have?

    Calculating YOUR comfortable family income

    Here’s what I think you need to take into consideration when calculating a comfortable family income for you and your family. You might be able to think of many more.

    • Cost of mortgage or rent.
    • Cost of running a car or cars.
    • Cost of food for your family.
    • Cost of utilities; electricity, gas, water and rates.
    • Cost of additional shopping items; clothes, gadgets, health and beauty, jewellery, computers and toys.
    • Cost of insurances, for the home and for private medical insurance.
    • Cost of telephones, both home and mobile.
    • Cost of entertainment items, like holidays, alcohol, digital TV, going out.
    • Cost of unexpected maintenance bills, for your home, for your car and other things that break.

    So to answer these sort of questions, you’d have to offer me a lot of information or I’d have to ask you a lot of further questions.

    As you can see, it really is an impossible question for me to answer, but you can answer it for yourself.

    Check out my page about The Costs of Stuff.

    A simple solution.

    If you are coming here from the UK though, this works quite well. However much you spend per month over there in pounds, you’ll probably need twice the amount here in Australian dollars. So if you need £4,000 a month in the UK, budget $8,000 a month here.

    Sounds stupid doesn’t it? But I bet it wont be far out.

    How can I make sure I earn twice as much in AUD as I currently earn in GBP?

    Salaries in Australia are higher than those in the UK, by my estimates over 30% higher; click on the third link below under the title “More useful links:” to my post comparing UK and Australian salaries to see how I got to that.

    Once your salary is adjusted to Australian dollars and taking into account the high salaries, you will see from the salary comparison charts on that page that it is quite easy to earn double what you earn in pounds in the UK here in Australian dollars.

    Check it out for yourself, and I’ve even updated that post with a 2012 version, you’ll see a link to it from the original post.

    More useful links:

    My report about The Cost of Living “Comfortably” in Australia

    My entire category on the Cost of Living in Australia.

    My posts about jobs and salaries:

    • Cost of Living in Australia: Salaries Compared
    • Australian and UK Salaries Compared: Part Two 2012
    • Getting a Job Sponsorships in Australia and Finding Work

    New to this website?

    • Get a free copy of my ebook "20 Reasons Why You Should Move to Australia" from my page What's so good about Australia?
    • Overwhelmed by the process of moving to Australia? Don't be, read my Migration Advice.
    • Still stuck? Go to the Google search box, it's near the top on the right hand side, and search the site for whatever you are looking for. Something will show up, I've written about everything!
    • If you still can't find the answers you are looking for, leave a comment on a relevant page; either I or someone else will try to answer you.
    • Thanks for visiting and I do hope you come back regularly.


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