Do You Need a One Year Old License to Drive in Europe?

Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on June 6, 2023.

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I have rented cars worldwide to drive around and experience the top attractions in numerous countries. From Italy, Belgium, and Iceland in Europe, South Korea in Asia, Mauritius and the Seychelles in Africa, I've had the pleasure of taking a car out in a new country on many occasions.

On a trip to Italy (for my third rental there), a unique line item in my car rental contract caught my eye and gave me a moment of concern: “The driver license must have been issued by authorized authorities at least 1 year(s) before the date of the commencement of the rental.”

While I have been driving for 20+ years, I had one problem- my license was recently renewed and did not show its original issue date. All things being equal, it looked like my license was issued just three months before.

Cue panic.

Ultimately, this small detail ended up being a non-issue, and my car was rented to me without question. In this one, I wanted to break down why this one exists and what documents you may want to have with you to protect yourself in the unlikely event that you are questioned.

One Year Issuance is Often for New Drivers

Car in Piedmont Winery

While the fine print text does not explain any caveats, the implication that I've come to understand is that many countries in the EU (and elsewhere) simply do not want to rent to new drivers. This would point to that the fine print is simply poor wording as it is often meant for the driver not the license itself.

In a way, this makes a lot of sense. 

You are likely used to minimum age requirements to rent a car (when I was growing up I was always told the USA was 25, although many states/car companies often have a younger age limit), and this issuance requirement is often an extension. Been driving for less than a year? Rental companies are, perhaps rightfully, concerned about your driving history.

But the problem we had was that our state, Pennsylvania, did not show the original issue date on my license. In this case, I am thankful to look old enough that no one took a minute to question my driving history, but I could see this being open to question. How do car rental agencies know how long you have been driving? They don't, and they may use your license as a proxy.

Are you in your early 20s, with a baby face, and just renewed your license? I wouldn't be surprised if a grumpy agent may have more questions for you than they would a disheveled, pushing 40 travel blogger. Therein lies the problem. Thankfully, there may be some proof you can take to have insurance just in case you were in a similar situation to me.

Disclaimer: As I was not asked for any supporting documents, I cannot say with absolute certainty that they will be accepted. The following are simply ideas to help support your case if you are still concerned.

Forms of Proof You May Want to Have

Car in Piedmont Winery

I went down a rabbit hole of paranoia in printing several documents to show “proof” that I have been driving longer.

The easiest one is, if you are lucky enough to have it, bring your expired license. I didnt even think of any scenario where keeping an expired ID would make sense, but I thankfully had a scanned copy in my email. Proof number one.

Next up was our state's DMV could issue me a license history report on official-looking letterhead for a nominal fee. This took a few days of processing (10 by mail), but the agent was happy to get a digital copy to me within 24 hours as our departure was close (your mileage may vary). This history showed my original license issue date and the recent expiration/renewal cycle.

After that, I became hesitant about supporting documents as things start to become less and less official.

Did I have a copy of my insurance receipts for my personal car? Yes. Old car rental receipts from Europe and abroad? Also yes. My 5+ year AAA card? Okay okay, that too. I was also prepared to argue that my international driver's license was issued before my license. Why would they do that? Because I had a regular license!

I did say I was a bit paranoid about this.

The problem is that this one is likely not a problem for most drivers- until it is. Since I always operate under the rule that “the one time I forget something is the time I get in trouble”, grabbing some supporting documents simply gave me peace of mind.

As mentioned above, I had no issues and perhaps not even a glance at my ID beyond comparing my name to my passport when picking up my car in Milan. But one agent who is having a bad day and needs to take it out on someone is possibly all it takes to have this issue come about.

As such, if you are reading this, it is probably because you are panicked about an upcoming trip and need some reassurance. I cannot give them to you with 100% assurance as I do not work for any of the agencies that make or enforce these rules. But I can say that in, my unique circumstance from one rental experience, I had no issue.

But if you want to feel more secure, grabbing a few documents on hand can be a good hedge against the (likely extremely low) chance that you will have an issue.

So have your new license, ensure you have an international driver's permit if going abroad (rental agencies most certainly will not rent to you in most countries without this!), and grab some supporting documents before getting your next rental!

Have you ever been given trouble getting a rental with a license issued less than 12 months ago? Comment below to share what happened!

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About Jeremy

Jeremy from Living the Dream

About the Author: Jeremy is a full-time travel writer based in Pittsburgh and primary author of this site. He has been to 70+ countries on five continents and seeks out new food, adventure activities, and off-the-beaten-path experiences wherever he travels.

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