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Everything you need to know about vehicle tax and insurance

| Insurance

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’s no longer a physical sticker on the windscreen to show that your car has been taxed. The easiest way is on the government website, using the simple form provided. The only thing you need to know is your registration plate number. The website will confirm the make and colour of your vehicle to ensure that it’s correct, before telling you whether your car is taxed, as well as when it expires. It will also let you know when your MOT expires, the fuel type, the CO2 emissions and 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 your vehicle’s logbook (also known as a V5C) and it must be in your name. Alternatively, you will need the reference number from a recent reminder letter (V11) sent to you by the DVLA.

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.

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 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.

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 1st January 1980. However, please be aware that you must still tax your vehicle even if you’re exempt and have nothing to pay.

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 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.

Can I renew road 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 road tax, so you must make sure that 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.

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How is road tax calculated?

If your vehicle was registered before 1st March 2001, there are only two possible figures you could pay: £160 a year for vehicles with an engine size of 1549cc or smaller or £265 for vehicles with an engine size of over 1549.

For a vehicle registered between 1st March 2001 and 1st April 2017, the tax depends on the CO2 emissions of that vehicle. The more CO2 your vehicle produces, the more you will be taxed. This is part of the government’s clampdown on vehicles that are particularly bad for the environment. You can use the table below for your own interest to calculate your road tax if you know how much CO2 your car produces. However, please do keep in mind that the government will automatically calculate how much tax you will pay. You can find out more information on different vehicle tax rates on the DVLA website.

Vehicles registered after 1st April 2017 will pay a different amount. In the first 12 months, you will pay tax based on its CO2 emissions. After this time, a flat fee is paid each year. For vehicles with a list price of under £40,000, petrol or diesel cars pay £155 per year. For cars with a list price of over £40,000, you’ll need to pay an additional £345 per year from year 2 to year 6, however, this does not need to be paid if your vehicle is zero-emission. If you want to know more about your car’s CO2 emissions, please take a look at our post dedicated to the topic.

Do you pay road tax on electric cars?

As you’ll have seen from the tables above, any vehicle that has zero emissions and was registered after March 2001 doesn’t have to pay anything in road tax. As electric cars don’t have any exhaust emissions, they are exempt.

Do you get a road tax reminder?

When you purchase or register a vehicle that’s new to you, you will need to set up VED. If you don’t do this straight away, the DVLA will likely send out a V11 reminder form. This form can be filled in so that your road tax is set up. You can also use this form to mark your vehicle as Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). This means that the car doesn’t need to be taxed because it isn’t being driven or parked on public roads. When this is the case, the DVLA needs to be alerted so that they’re aware the car isn’t being used, as well as your insurance provider.

A V11 form is generally only sent to people who renew their tax each year via a local Post Office branch or over the phone. The form is split into three sections. The first will show your name and address, registration number and the date the tax is due to expire. The middle section gives you the option to pay the tax, register the car as (SORN) or state that you no longer own the vehicle. The final section gives you the option to pay online, by phone or at a Post Office.

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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