Car tax and car insurance go hand in hand. You must have insurance in place when taxing a car. You can tax your car online or via the phone without a physical copy of your insurance document. But the road tax office, the DVLA, will check you have valid car insurance before issuing your car tax.
The law’s clear: your car must be insured and taxed at all times, unless off the road and declared SORN – the Statutory Off Road Notification.
To re-tax your car you need the 11-digit reference number found on the DVLA V11 reminder letter. This goes to car owners three weeks or so before their annual tax expires as a helpful nudge.
If you declare your vehicle SORN you're eligible for a refund for any full months of the tax left. However, you must not use your car, motorbike or van until it’s re-taxed, and it cannot be kept parked up on the road.
It’s easy to tax a car in your name by calling the DVLA on 0300 123 4321 (charged at local rate). You will need the New Keeper’s slip, known as the V5C/2.
You can tax your vehicle online as well as at the Post Office. If you pick the Post Office route, you’ll need to take a V5C/2 New Keeper slip and an MOT certificate. If you’re in Northern Ireland you’ll need to present an insurance cover note too.
As you can see, there’s a fair bit of alphanumeric decoding with car tax. Here’s a summary of what’s what:
A V5C is your car’s log book. It has an 11-digit reference number
A V5C/2 is a New Keeper’s Slip. It has a 12-digit reference number
A V11 is the tax reminder letter you get every year, you can also use this to declare your car SORN
If you’ve bought a car from a dealer, it’s likely they will handle the tax renewal. But, don’t take this for granted and double-check.
According to the DVLA, it can takes up to five working days for renewed car tax to show online.
Once completed you can check the status of your vehicle by using DVLA’s Vehicle Enquiry System. Your car insurance details are also checked at the same time – which is why you don’t need your physical insurance documents.
You can re-tax a vehicle by debit or credit card and pay monthly or make six-monthly payments, though you’re charged 5% extra for this. DVLA takes monthly payments on the first working day of the month. This date can’t be changed.
You must tax your car before driving it. Any remaining tax doesn’t follow you home as it once did. If you buy through a dealer, it’s likely they will arrange your car tax so you don’t have to. However, if you sell the vehicle again you can claim the unused tax back.
If you’re buying privately you can tax it online or over the phone 24/7 by calling 0300 123 4321. Make sure you’ve got your V5C or V5C/2 paperwork.
Or you can nip to the nearest Post Office. Again, make sure you’ve got your V5C/2 New Keeper slip and MOT certificate when you do this, and don’t drive to the Post Office, as you won’t be road legal until you’ve paid the road tax and arranged insurance.
You need at least third party motor insurance to tax your car. It’s legal to tax your car without the physical insurance documents. However, you’ll need them if you’re paying over the Post Office counter. That’s because the UK’s Motor Insurance Database knows if a car is insured or not when you tax it. It also knows your car’s latest MOT status.
What was once disparate information is now streamlined and shared between the various government agencies automatically. To be clear, the only time your car doesn’t need insurance is when it’s declared SORN, which is the only alternative to tax. In other words, you’ve made it clear to the government that you’re not driving the vehicle at all. So even if it’s parked on your drive, it needs to be taxed unless you declare it SORN.
It is possible to tax your car without your log book. You can tax your car if you have the V11 reminder letter, using the 11-digit reference number. You can then tax your car online. You can also tax your car from a new keeper slip, using the 12-digit reference number.
Alternatively, you can tax your car at the Post Office. If you choose the Post Office, then you will need a valid MOT certificate and the new keeper slip, plus a paper copy of your insurance certificate if you live in Northern Ireland.
DVLA says that if you’re the new keeper and you don’t have the new logbook (V5C) then you must apply for a log book replacement. This costs £25 and can take from four to six weeks to process.
It’s possible to tax a car with temporary insurance in place. Increasing numbers of insurers offer temporary insurance, from one hour to a month. Business use can be included and the process should be quick and hassle-free. European temporary cover can be bought, too.
Bear in mind that temporary insurance cover may have tighter restrictions on your age and the age of your vehicle, so check thoroughly.
To check if a car is taxed, go online and enter the vehicle’s details. This tool also can check its insurance and MOT status as well. It’s easy to do:
Click on the green-coloured ‘Start Now’ icon
Enter the registration details and click on ‘continue’
Confirm the precise details i.e. make, model and colour
Click on ‘Continue’
If you don’t tax your car when you buy it you’ll be liable for a fine up to £1,000. When you buy a car the previous owner cancels their tax, meaning the car is untaxed until you organise the your own tax.
If you buy from a dealership they should be able to help you with this. If you buy privately, don’t be tempted to take to the road until you have arranged tax and insurance.
You may be surprised by the number of people who risk this fine. In 2021 more than 100,000 drivers had their vehicle seized because they were caught behind the wheel without insurance, and by definition road tax.
There is one exception to the rule about road tax., you don’t have to tax your car if you’re driving to a pre-booked MOT test and make no stops – shopping, dropping a friend off, answering a call of nature – on the way.
Some vehicles are VED- exempt from road tax. This includes all electric vehicles (EVs), even if they cost more than £40,000 (the rules were changed on 6 April 2020). However, this rule’s only valid if the electric car was registered on or after 1 April 2017.
However, we may find that iIt’s simply not sustainable for the government to offer vehicle excise duty-free indefinitely to privately-owned EVs.
Company cars are subject to 1% road tax for the 2021-2022 tax year. Rising to 2% in 2022-2023.
Hydrogen cars are currently- exempt from road tax though the savings in vehicle excise duty doesn’t offset the high purchase price attached to these cars.
Other vehicles that are exempt from vehicle excise duty include:
Vehicles used by a disabled person
Disabled passenger vehicles
Mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs
Vehicles used for agriculture, horticulture and forestry
A word or warning: even if your car qualifies for free vehicle excise duty you still have to renew this ‘tax’ annually – even if there’s nothing to pay.
You can report an untaxed vehicle online. This is an anonymous service with a DVLA promise to keep your personal data safe. Only cars that appear untaxed and are kept on the public road should be reported.
You’ll be asked for the full street details including postcode, if you know it. You can make other comments that also support your report.
It’s also possible to report suspected untaxed vehicles by post. Write to:: Enforcement Section, W070/D12, DVLA, Longview Road, Swansea, SA7 0XZ.
Your dealer might be happy to help with your new car tax, as long as you take responsibility for the cost of insurance. But it’s not a guarantee.
If you’re selling your old car and don’t return the right section of the log book to DVLA you could be fined. That’s because the DVLA has strict rules about registered keeper records, which it likes to keep tight and regular.