Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Exchanging my driver's licence

Goodbye French licence!

If you have a car and had to renew your insurance recently, you were probably shocked when you discovered by how much your premium had increased. According to the industry, higher claims payout in the past few years are to blame for the increase. Well, I'm not in the insurance business, but having to pay twice the price as last year without any claim for the past 5 years is kind of taking the piss, don't you think?

Anyway, after my initial state of shock, I decided to get a quote with different insurers and brokers. The cheapest price I got was 850 euros (last year was 400). Then I realised maybe my French driver's licence was a problem. I never thought about it before because insurance was always affordable, and let's be honest, possessing a foreign licence allowed me to avoid penalty points (not that I was reckless or anything, but it did help me a couple of times for speeding fines).

When I did simulations online with an Irish licence, the price dropped every time, and by a few hundred euros! In the end, the best quote I managed to get was for 540 euros. Being an honest person, I told the insurance I was in the process of changing my licence and asked if that was a problem. I was told it was OK, that I just would have to provide a copy of the receipt from the NDLS centre and a copy of my new licence when I would receive it. I also pointed out the process could take between 6 weeks and 3 months, and it wasn't a problem either.

If you own an EU licence, you can just exchange it but for some other countries, you might have to re-take your driving test. To exchange your licence you need to book an appointment with your nearest NDLS centre and bring in some documents: the online application form, your current licence, a proof of address (correspondance from your current insurance is accepted), your PPS number and your passport. Oh, and of course it will cost you 55 euros (it's Ireland after all!). All the details can be found here. If you are a married woman like me and your maiden name is still on your old licence, I advise you to bring in your marriage certificate to prove that your name has changed. In my case, I didn't know so I showed my ID with the two names on it and they accepted. However, my maiden and married name now appear on my Irish licence.

They take your photograph and signature at the centre, and they also keep your original licence. Some people might find this distressing. You see, a French licence is valid for life, so many people can get attached to their old pink licence and how they looked when they were 18. That's not the case for me. I was more than happy to get rid of that ugly picture of me as a teenager!

The date on your new licence is the same as your old, so you're not starting back from scratch, which is a relief because I've been driving for the past 16 years and as a matter of fact, longer in Ireland than in France. The difference with a French licence is that the Irish one is valid for ten years only, so it will have to be renewed when it expires.

After my visit to the NDLS centre, the waiting game started. I got worried when I didn't receive my new insurance disc. I rang the broker and they said the receipt from NDLS wasn't enough in the end, and that if they didn't get my new licence straight away they would cancel my insurance! After getting a bit angry and explaining they were at fault for telling me it would be OK, they gave me 3 weeks extra to provide my new licence.

I rang the NDLS centre and I swear, I have never spoken to kinder customer service agents. They were helpful, understanding and informed me my licence had been dispatched so I should get it in the post within a few days. They also advised they could send an official email that would serve as a proof for the insurance. I received my licence the following day so it took 4 weeks in total.

So that's it, I am now a proud owner of an Irish licence and won't be able to avoid penalty points anymore.

It took me 14 years to change my licence and I am now thinking about how much money I could have saved if I did it earlier. So I only have one piece of advice: change your foreign licence, it's worth it!