Motorway at night time

DVLA or DVSA: Difference Explained  

Although it can be a mouthful at times, the government of the United Kingdom sure does love a good abbreviation. From HMRC and the Department for Education to Defra and the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government, they are a lot to take in. Despite the fact that we have listed departments that belong to different parts of the government, there are times when agencies belonging to the same department use abbreviations that are similar to one another. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) are two agencies that fall under the purview of the Department of Transport.

It is not surprising that people frequently confuse one organisation with another given that the abbreviations for DVLA and DVSA are so comparable to one another. Don’t worry about it; we’ve got you covered in every way. After reading this article, you will have a much better understanding of the differences between the two organisations, and you will never get them confused again!

What is DVLA?

DVLA is the abbreviation for Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. Pick up your driving licence, and you should see these four letters — DVLA — printed on the 4c section.

The agency was formed about 57 years ago — not long ago a time ago if you think about it — and is the government agency responsible for keeping a database of all drivers and vehicles in the UK. DVLA is also responsible for issuing driving licences and selling personalised registrations. Not only that, but every UK driver would have to face the DVLA at least once a year to do the dreaded thing we all hate: paying taxes. More specifically, DVLA is the agency in charge of collecting road tax payments — also known as vehicle excise duty.

DVLA is an executive agency of the UK Department of Transport (or DfT, to add another abbreviation). “Executive agencies” are treated as separate aspects of a government department. This means that executive agencies have their own budget and management structure.

What is DVSA?

Now we go onto the DVSA, or Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency. This is another agency that drivers, more specifically car owners, will have to interact with on a yearly basis, but it’s also the first DfT agency that all UK drivers come across on their journeys to becoming drivers. This is because the DVSA handles everything relating to standards.

DVSA is the body that carries out driving tests as well as trains and certifies driving instructors. The agency is also responsible for training and certifying MOT testers — hence why you might come across the DVSA on a yearly basis! DVSA is responsible for testing the roadworthiness of any vehicle in the UK — including lorries and buses— through its MOT tests and carries out random roadside checks on drivers and their vehicles for roadworthiness. The DVSA isn’t all bad news, however, because of the role it plays in monitoring car recalls and keeping drivers safe.

The agency was formed in 2014 as a merger between the former DfT agencies, the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA). Much like the DVLA, the DVSA is another executive agency of the DfT.

The difference between DVSA and DVLA

Aside from their abbreviations, the key distinction between the DVSA and the DVLA is that the former is concerned with setting standards, while the latter is concerned with issuing licences. However, as was noted in our earlier explanations of the two DfT agencies, they are both accountable for additional responsibilities that are connected to driving and the drivers of the United Kingdom. DVLA is in charge of licensing and collecting taxes, whereas DVSA is in charge of rules and testing.

In the end, the two agencies are wholly separate branches of the United Kingdom Department of Transport, each of which is responsible for a unique set of duties in relation to the activity of driving in the United Kingdom. Are you still perplexed? Continue reading for some useful guidelines that will help you determine which organisation you should get in touch with regarding your specific circumstance.

Who should I contact — DVSA or DVLA?

There are certain circumstances under which you should call the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) rather than the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), however, those circumstances are rare. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) may be the organisation with whom motorists in the UK are required to communicate the most frequently, but this does not imply that you should ignore the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). No way, no how, not even close!

Therefore, in order to assist you in determining whether you should get in touch with the DVSA or the DVLA, we have devised a useful system that will help you keep track of who is responsible for which circumstance:

Licences — DVLA

Anything relating to driving licences in the UK, whether it’s obtaining your very first licence or renewing your driving licence, falls under the jurisdiction of the DVLA. Even the provisional licence, the one you get as a learner driver, needs to be obtained from the DVLA. Thankfully, much like a great many things in the UK, all of this is possible online. So, don’t worry bout needing to go to a DVLA office as we see in those American movies!

And, of course, if you need to update the address on your driving licence after moving homes, you need to contact the DVLA, too!

UK Driving Licence

Testing and driving instruction — DVSA

When you first start out as a driver, as you begin to take driving lessons and prepare for your driving test, the DVSA is the agency that you’ll interact with. While the DVLA is in charge of providing you with your provisional licence, the DVSA is in charge of ensuring that you, as a driver, are roadworthy. 

Additionally, if you have any questions concerning the driving test process, the DVSA is the appropriate organisation to contact. Take note, though, that this only applies to actual driving exams. However, the theory tests are handled by Pearson, a private company, on behalf of the DVSA. Fun fact: Pearson is also the one responsible for marking and providing our GCSEs and A Levels qualifications.

The agency is also responsible for certifying driving instructors and testers, so if that’s a job you’re keen on pursuing, you’ll need to ring the DVSA up!

Pay vehicle excise duty — DVLA

With the exception of specially adapted cars used by the disabled and certain types of electric vehicles (for the time being!), paying road tax is required of all motorists in the United Kingdom. The amount fluctuates widely depending on when the car was first registered and its emissions level, determined by the DVSA.

However, by filing for a Statutory Off-Road Notification (SORN), you can avoid paying vehicle excise duty if your automobile will not be driven on public roads. You can do this by calling or filling out the online form for the DVLA’s Vehicle Enquiries department.

When it comes to paying road tax, the DVLA allows you to pay it yearly or spread your road tax payments monthly or biannually. Thankfully, this can all be done and set up online by simply using the 11-digit number on your vehicle log book (V5C) as a reference. Be sure to keep the address on your vehicle log book up to date to avoid any hiccups when paying your vehicle excise duty.

Vehicle roadworthiness — DVSA

Since MOT checks are typically performed by private companies, you might be surprised to learn that the DVSA is involved. But in order to become a certified MOT tester, one must first complete a training programme and a series of exams administered by the DVSA. 

So, when it comes to the roadworthiness of your precious car, the DVSA is in charge of making sure everything is in tip-top shape. Your visits to a certified garage or test centre for your vehicle’s upcoming MOT test are handled by the DVSA. And be sure to check your vehicle log book (V5C) to be absolutely sure when your vehicle’s next MOT test is due! You may never know when you might be pulled over for a random roadworthiness check.

When a DVSA officer pulls you over, they’ll inspect your tachograph records, your driver’s licence, your vehicle for roadworthiness and mechanical defects, and your load to make sure it doesn’t exceed the legal limit. Remember that failing to stop for a uniformed DVSA officer is considered a legal offence — so keep an eye out for those bright yellow cars and jackets!

The DVSA might place a ban on your driving privileges if they discover a problem with your car. If this happens, you won’t be able to go back behind the wheel until the problem is resolved. These may occur instantly or at a later time. If you are given an instant ban, your car will likely be rendered inoperable. You usually have 10 days to resolve the issue with your vehicle if it is delayed.

The DVSA also inspects buses, trailers, and HGVs once a year. Tests can be scheduled at either an official DVSA testing centre or an Authorized Testing Facility.

Vehicle registration — DVLA

Since the DVLA is responsible for maintaining a record of not just all drivers in the UK but also all vehicles, anything relating to vehicle registration — whether it’s informing DVLA of a car sale or whenever you buy a new car — this agency is in charge. In the same way that you can look up a driver’s record on the internet, you can do the same for checking a vehicle’s record. These allow you to determine if a vehicle has been properly registered and has a current MOT.

A vehicle registration certificate (V5C), often known as a log book, is a piece of DVLA documentation you’ll become familiar with if you’re registering a car — regardless of whether it’s fresh off the market or buying your mum’s car second-hand. A car’s registration typically includes information on the owner and the vehicle, and you can expect a first-time cost of £55 to register a car under your own name.

Unclamping your car — DVLA

There’s nothing worse than waking up one morning to find a huge yellow triangle on your beloved car. But how do you get your car unclamped? Easy — by getting in touch with the DVLA. The DVLA typically sends their agents to clamp cars that have not had their tax paid or are uninsured. Worst case scenario: your car may have instead been towed, in which case, you definitely need to call up the DVLA!

Vehicle recalls — DVSA

You might not realise this, but the DVSA also has the responsibility of coordinating recalls for motor vehicles. You may be certain that the agency is the driving force behind all automotive recalls, whether they include individual parts or the complete vehicle.

Thankfully, a user-friendly online tool is made available by the DVSA to determine whether or not a particular vehicle is subject to a safety recall. You are also able to conduct safety checks on anything from motor trikes to horse trailers, in addition to the inspection of their individual components and accessories, such as car seats and tyres.

Declaring a medical condition — DVLA

Did you know that if you have a certain type of medical condition, you need to declare the medical condition to the DVLA? While the DVSA certainly is in charge of anything related to roadworthiness, certain medical conditions need to be declared upon the licences of the driver with the condition — such as certain types of cancers, bipolar disorder and epilepsy. 

However, keep in mind that declaring certain conditions like diplopia (double vision) and vertigo might result in a temporary suspension of your licence. While having your licence taken away definitely isn’t the best thing to happen, it is to help keep yourself and other drivers on the road safe. So be sure to inform the DVLA of any condition that your doctor has required you to declare!