Everything you need to know about vehicle tax and insurance

10 minute read

Sack stamped with the word Tax next to two people shaped wooden figures

In order to drive a car on a public road in the UK it is a legal requirement that your vehicle has a valid MOT (depending on the age of your vehicle), car insurance and is taxed. In this guide, you can find out all the information you need to know about car tax, including how much it costs, how to check your car is taxed and more information on vehicle tax exemptions.

How to check my car tax

Car tax discs were phased out in 2014, which means there won't be a physical sticker on the windscreen to show that your car has been taxed.

The easiest way to check the tax status of your car is on the government website, using the simple form provided. The only thing you need to know is your registration plate number.

Using the website, you'll be able to confirm:

  • Whether your car is taxed and when this expires
  • The make and colour of your vehicle 
  • When your MOT expires
  • The fuel type
  • CO2 emissions
  • When the last V5C logbook was issued

This information is all available free of charge on the government website, and you shouldn’t need to pay for it. There are some other websites and companies that may contact you or claim they can provide you with these details, but you should avoid using them as they will often charge you a fee.


What do I need to tax my car?

You can tax your vehicle in a number of ways, including online, over the phone or in your nearest Post Office branch. To do this, you will need either:

  • Your vehicle's logbook (also known as a V5C) and must be in your name
  • The reference number from a recent DVLA reminder letter (V11) 

Whether you opt for monthly, six month or annual payments, taxing your car is quite a straightforward process that doesn’t take much time at all. Once you’ve set up the tax, it should automatically renew each year so you don’t have to do it again.

If your car is brand new, the tax may already have been prearranged by the dealer and paid for as part of the cost of the car, however, you should confirm this with them - you don’t want to be driving an untaxed vehicle. If they’ve organised this on your behalf, your logbook should arrive within a few days.


How to tax a car without a logbook

If you’ve just bought your car and do not have a V5C in your name yet, you can tax the vehicle with the 12 digit reference number on the green ‘new keeper’ slip. This can be done online, over the phone or in your nearest Post Office branch.

If you don’t have a new keeper slip, you’ll need to apply for a new logbook by post or you can pick up the form from your local Post Office. A new logbook costs £25.

If you’ve misplaced your logbook or it’s damaged, you can get a duplicate logbook online, as long as none of the details need to be changed, and the logbook will be delivered to the address registered with the DVLA.


Do I still need a tax disc?

In the past, you may have received a tax disc that was to be stuck on your windscreen, displaying the date your tax was due to expire. These had been in circulation since 1921 and were provided as proof that you’d paid your road tax. However, they were abolished in 2014 because it was thought that the government could save £10m a year by no longer producing them. Therefore, you will no longer receive a tax disc to stick on your car’s windscreen.


How early can I tax my car?

Your vehicle can be taxed up to two months before it expires, by post. The details of how to do this and any extras that need to be included can be found on the gov.uk website.

Alternatively, you can tax your vehicle early online but only from the 5th day of the same month as expiry. For example, if your tax expiry date is July 27th the earliest you could tax the vehicle online would be July 5th.


How much will my car tax be?

So the big question is, how much does road tax cost? This depends on a variety of factors, including the type of car you drive, how old it is, how big its engine is and where you live.

The bracket that your vehicle falls into generally depends on its age, and the amount you pay will depend on whether your car was registered:

  • Before March 2001
  • Between 1st March 2001 and 1st April 2017
  • On or after 1st April 2017

For vehicles that were registered before March 2001, the tax will be based purely on the engine size. For those that were registered between 1st March 2001 and 1st April 2017, the tax will be based on the official CO2 emissions for that car. Vehicles that fall under registration on or after the 1st April 2019 will pay tax based on their first year emissions - after that, it’s a flat rate.


Do you pay tax on electric cars?

You do not need to pay road tax on electric vehicles. This is because they don’t produce any tailpipe emissions. However, the exemption only applies to purely electric vehicles, so does not cover hybrids. 

Motorists should also be aware that this exemption is set to be removed in 2025. From April 2025, zero-emission cars that were first registered on or after 1 April 2017 will have to pay the lowest first-year rate of road tax (also referred to as vehicle excise duty). After this first year, they will be moved to the standard annual rate. 


How old does a car have to be to be tax-exempt?

Vehicles that are exempt from paying for car tax include disability or mobility vehicles and vehicles registered or made before 1 January 1983. However, please be aware that you must still tax your vehicle even if you’re exempt and have nothing to pay.


Can I renew my tax without insurance?

When you renew or take out road tax using the ways outlined above, the DVLA will check their database to make sure that your vehicle has a valid MOT (if required) and is insured. If your vehicle isn’t insured, you cannot renew your tax, so you must make sure this is in place first.


How do I check if my car is insured?

The easiest way to check whether your car is insured is online via the Motor Insurance Database (MID). Searching the database is free to use, all you need to do is enter your vehicle registration number and the database will identify the model and make of the vehicle and let you know if it’s insured.

You should have been sent a confirmation and policy wording either by post or via email by your current provider and can contact them when it’s due to renew if you have any questions.

Line up of cars 16.9

Tax and off-road vehicles

If you have a vehicle but do not drive it on the road you need to let the DVLA know by declaring it as being off the road. One of the benefits of registering a SORN is becoming exempt from paying tax on the vehicle, and you will even receive a refund for any remaining months of tax on the vehicle. A SORN remains in place and does not need to be renewed unless the vehicle is scrapped or sold.

If you want to return your car to the road you simply just need to get it taxed. However, remember that as well as being taxed, the vehicle must also be insured and have an up to date MOT. If you’re looking to get back on the road quickly, keep in mind that it can take up to five working days for car tax records to update online, and therefore forward planning may be necessary.


Can you drive a SORN car to an MOT without insurance?

If you have a pre-booked MOT test you can drive the car to the test without a valid MOT or vehicle tax, but only if it is roadworthy and if you have the correct car insurance in place. It’s illegal to drive a SORN vehicle to get an MOT without any insurance.


What happens if you forget to tax your car?

If your vehicle is found to be untaxed, there is a penalty that you could receive either by the police or by the DVLA. The DVLA runs regular random checks within their database of registered vehicles in the UK.


What’s the fine for an untaxed vehicle?

If the DVLA discovers that your registered car is untaxed, you will be sent a letter to your home address alerting you of an £80 fine and reminding you to tax your vehicle as soon as possible.

If the fine is paid quickly (usually within 28 days), it will be halved, meaning you only need to pay £40 and you won’t be given any points on your licence at this time.


How long do you have to tax your car after it runs out?

Previously, when paper discs were still in use there was a five-day grace period to give the new tax disc time to arrive in the post. As that process has been moved online, there is no longer any grace period.

And there you have it, our guide to vehicle tax and insurance. If you receive a V11 reminder form, this will tell you when the tax is due to expire, giving you plenty of time to ring the DVLA or renew it at a local Post Office or online.


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