Traveling with an expired driver’s license

elvis drivers licenseLast week was my birthday. Unbeknownst to me, my driver’s license was set to expire on my birthday this year. I was pretty surprised when I discovered at the airport that it was expired! Here is my experience traveling with an expired driver’s license.

TL;DR: For domestic air travel  you can use a license up to a year after expiration; hotels don’t seem to care if your ID is expired; car rental companies CAN NOT rent to you if your license is expired.

Air travel

I didn’t even realized my license was expired until I went through the TSA checkpoint. I get to the front of the Pre-check line, and the TSO says, “Did you know your license is expired?” It must have been clear I did not know by my face, and she said, “Don’t worry! You can fly for up to a year on an expired license.”

There is no clear answer on the TSA website about expired licenses, but anecdotal data from various websites indicates my experience is fairly standard. I mean, they will typically let you fly domestically even if you don’t have any ID, so an expired license must not be that big of a deal. But as with many things, it seems to be up to the TSO’s discretion.

Renting a car

Understandably, this was where I had the biggest issue. By the time I got to the car rental counter it was almost 1am Texas time, I was exhausted, and I had completely forgotten about my expired license. When the Hertz agent handed me back my license and said, “Did you realize it’s expired?” I assumed, wrongly, that it would again be no big deal.

She said, “Unfortunately we can’t rent to you if your license is expired.” This had not even entered into the realm of possibility for me, so I was shocked. She said, “You can take a taxi to your hotel, then in the morning have your DMV fax us something.” I’m not going to lie, I cried a little. Not only did I have to go to the office the next day, but I had evening events and errands to run to prep for all of my meetings. There was no way I could take  a cab for all of that, and the idea of calling the Texas DPS and getting them to fax something anywhere seemed ludicrous.

But after checking with other rental places I realized that I didn’t have much in  the way of options. I went and got a cab (after ensuring he took credit cards) and headed to my hotel. On the way there I calmed down and bit and started looking for solutions. In most states, including Texas, there is an option to renew your license online if you meet certain qualifications. Once I arrived at the hotel I used their business center to renew and print out a temporary license. The next morning I took an Uber back to the airport to pick up my car.

Staying at a hotel

Hotels don’t seem to care if your driver’s license is expired. So at least that was easy.

Clearly this whole predicament was my own fault. I’m sure I’m not the first, nor will I be the last, to get so preoccupied with all the busy-ness of life that I miss a crucial detail. Interestingly enough, the night before I left I dreamed I was flying to Manila and forgot my passport. Obviously my subconscious was trying to tell me something! Luckily it was a pretty easy fix, and the biggest casualty was a precious hour of sleep.

Readers, have you ever traveled with an expired license or other document? What was your experience?

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  1. I can’t believe I telling this but last month I had to rent a car…but my license was suspended (long story). I borrowed a coworkers license (he has same dark complexion & is bald), booked a rental under his name, bypassed the counter -thanks, preferred status!, & only had to show his card when I was exiting the airport. Guy didn’t even pay attention to the picture!! Worked like a charm.

  2. I completely get the tears, I probably would have done the same. But next time something like this comes up – proof of documentation required – try doing it right there on the spot with your phone, tablet or laptop. I bet a nice car rental agent would have been more than happy to print that out for you once you took care of it online.

    Now, I might not have thought of this myself late at night. But I’ve renewed my license online before, so it’s very possible it would have occurred to me. And I know for sure that I’ve done similar things before with nothing more than my phone.

    Three things that have helped me more than anything else are:

    Print to .pdf on laptop
    Fax from email
    Dropbox – which has 2 GB available for free. You can share docs with anyone, one at a time or entire folders. Google Drive offers 15 GB free, and Google docs are easily shareable, as well.

    I haven’t even seen a fax machine in forever. But companies like car rental agencies seem to prefer receiving faxed docs rather than email. In this case, you could have renewed your license online, printed it to your laptop or taken a screenshot with a mobile device, then faxed or emailed it to the agent, or given a link to a Dropbox folder they could access online from their computer.

    The printed copy you gave them was almost certainly scanned and entered into this system, so a digital copy just gives them exactly what they need. Maybe none of this would have worked, but it never hurts to try. Because, if it had, you would have gotten your car that night and driven to your hotel feeling very relieved and pretty damn smug for using your tech to get out of a tight spot.

  3. My insurance agent sends me a birthday card every year. It says does your license expire this year. Mine expires in 2020.

    You could move to Arizona your DL would be good unail your 65th birthday.

  4. It really blows my mind that you do not need valid ID to fly. Why are we going thru the rituals at TSA checkpoints when you don’t even need to prove you are who you say you are. Seems like a terririost could get away with murder. What if you are on the no fly list? You just pretend to be someone else??? Why do even go thru TSA!

  5. 1. I do not understand why a driving license that has expired cannot be used for *identification* purposes. During the validity period of the license, it was valid for identifying the licensee, no ? So why could it not be used when it has expired ???

    2. Similarly, several decades ago when I first applied for my State of Rhode Island driving license, the Department of Motor Vehicles employee who received my application required me to submit two identification documents issued by a government office that contained my photograph.

    One of the documents I handed was my recently-cancelled/ expired passport. The DMV employee told me that the latter was not acceptable because it was cancelled by our Embassy upon issuance of my new passport (which at that moment was in some consulate awaiting visa issuance).

    I argued that I was merely presenting my expired passport for identification purposes and not for travel purposes (after all, that was the DMV and not the then-Immigration and Naturalization Service) but being a DMV employee, he was unmoved.

  6. Last fall, I flew about 3 weeks before my birthday (and the expiration date of my license) and the TSA agent reminded me of this. I did a facepalm and he said “don’t worry, you’d be good for up to one year after your license expires.” So, I guess that’s pretty standard.

    My state has new “real ID” licenses, so I went in soon after that encounter and took care of it.

  7. My license expired on May 6 2018 and I flew from O’Hare to San Francisco with the ID on May 9th and back to O’Hare on the 16th. No issues. The TSA agent in Chicago reminded me that it was expired and that was it. The TSA agent in San Francisco didn’t mention anything. Because I knew the ID was expired before I left for my trip, but didn’t have enough time to get a new one, I scoured the web for info on what to do and decided to bring along any identification I could find which ended up being an expired passport, SS card, old school IDs, an even older expired drivers license, old work badges, my checkbook, pieces of mail, insurance cards, credit/debit cards and my Costco membership card. So needless to say, I was prepared for the worst! Flying with an expired ID must be a million times easier to do than with no ID at all. It seems from my online research, all they need to do is confirm that you are who you say you are.

  8. Thanks for the article. We are also from TX but live in Germany and we are taking a trip to Spain soon. I was stressed that I was going to have to drive bc my husband’s license expired in January. I knew they could mail it but I didnt know we could print out a temp so now I can put the car in his name and get a cheaper one bc he can drive a stick Haha.

  9. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! This happened to me in October & I felt so lame! It’s been a great story to tell, though! In my case It was Halloween night when I realized at the rental car counter that they wouldn’t rent to me. I did the same thing…TSA told me at the airport but I forgot about the rental car factor! I ended up taking Uber from Nashville to Memphis!!!!!!!!!!!!! Expensive lesson!!!

  10. If you have an expired driver’s license, it is true TSA pre check will accept it for a year, but God forbid you try to do the correct thing and renew your license and then have to travel with the temporary license that DMV gives you. TSA won’t accept the temporary license. So keep your expired license – but here is the Catch-22: CA and Oregon ( and probably lots of other states) punch a hole in the expiration year! So, now you can get through security but NOT TSA pre check! Can our government agencies get their acts together please?

  11. Just yesterday I traveled with an expired ID. My departure was on the 9th with a return on the 13th. My driver’s license expired on the 12th. I only learned of my expiring ID upon landing at about 12:45 AM on the 10th as I was trying to pick-up my rental car. I was allowed to rent the car but I was only permitted to rent the car from the 10-11th even though my ID didn’t expire until the 12th (more on that part later).

    When I arrived at the United Airlines counter for my return flight on the 13th, I was initially told they could not issue a boarding pass to me because of my expired ID. I stayed calm and reasoned with the ticketing agent that it was only one day expires and that it didn’t make sense for them to strand me in a city thousands of miles from home, without the ability to renew and without any ability to rent a car to get home. A second agent seemed more willing to approve the issuance of a boarding pass but didn’t really know if she should and even said she didn’t want to have the final say. Finally, after speaking to a supervisor they issued the return boarding pass and told me I would be subject to enhanced screening by the TSA.

    The TSA agent seemed very informed and although I had mentally prepared myself for a pat-down and even additional questioning, the TSA agent told me that the TSA accepts licenses that have been expired for up to a year. It ended up working out fine but it certainly could have been a real problem especially since United oversold the flight and was trying to bump people anyway. It never occurred to me to check the expiration date on my drivers license but it is something that will always occur to me in the future.

    As far as the rental car goes, the Enterprise agent was not terribly friendly. Because he only rented me a car for basically 1 day and I needed it for at least 3, I called the regional manager and Enterprise’s national customer support. Nobody I spoke with seemed to know what Enterprise’s policy was. Actually, the regional manager has not as of this post made any attempt to return my call. It made sense that I wouldn’t be able to rent a car after the expiration of my ID but in my mind I should have at least been able to rent the car through my date of expiration, if not even the day following the expiration because I was in Michigan and on the Michigan Dept. of Transportation’s website it clearly stated that a driver’s license did not expire until the following business day if the actual date falls on a Saturday, Sunday or State/Federal Holiday.

    Nonetheless, because the guy at the counter was not at all accommodating and the people at from the customer service department were clueless, I ended up calling the toll-free reservation department once I had the car and extended my rental car through the 12th. No problems. No questions asked. Returned the car on the 12th without any issue whatsoever.

  12. I was flying to Vegas once and my license was expired. They told me it was good for a year. When I got to the casino hotel I was staying at, my Players Card was expired and they needed my driver’s license to renew it, despite the fact that I’d stayed there a dozen times before. They noticed my license was expired and would not renew my Players Card.

    I guess earning a penny on every dollar gambled is a greater threat to national security than riding on an airplane.

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