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Can I tax my car without insurance?

Written by Adrian Holliday, Finance Writer

18 August 2020

You will need to have car insurance to tax a car. Find out about road tax – officially called Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) – and car insurance, plus when you can keep a vehicle off the road without either car tax or insurance.

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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.  

What do I need to buy VED for my car?

To re-tax your car you need the 11-digit reference number found on the DVLA V11 reminder letter. This goes to car owners annually three weeks or so before their tax expires as a helpful nudge. 

You can also renew your car tax at the Post Office. You’ll need your car’s registration log book (the V5C), which must be in your name, as well as your MOT certificate. 

If you declare your vehicle SORN you are eligible for a refund for any full months of the tax left. However you must not use your car, motorbike or truck until it’s re-taxed.

How do you tax a car you’ve bought?

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. 

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

If you’ve bought a car from a dealer it’s likely they will handle the tax renewal. Don’t take this for granted and double-check.

How long does it take for car tax to show online?

It takes up to five working days for renewed car tax to show online – the time DVLA says its system takes to update. It makes sense to renew car tax online as it’s super-quick and easy. 

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 a six-month payments, though you’re charged 5% extra for this. DVLA takes monthly payments on the first working day of the month.

How soon after buying a car can I tax it?

Before driving a car you’ve just bought you must tax it. Any remaining tax doesn’t follow you home as it once did. If you buy through a dealer, it’s likely they will fix 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. Do 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.

Do I need insurance to tax my car?

You need insurance to tax your car. It’s legal to tax your car without the physical insurance documents, however. 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 automatically. To be clear, the only time your car doesn’t need insurance is when it’s declared SORN. In other words, you’ve made it clear to the government that you’re not driving it – at all.   

If your car’s parked innocently and safely on the road outside your home, it needs to be insured. If you do not want to commit to full insurance then consider temporary insurance cover. Your existing insurer may not offer it so shop around.

As mentioned, if you live in Northern Ireland and you want to renew your car tax at the Post Office you will need hard proof of car insurance cover. 

Can I tax my car while waiting for the log book?

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. If you live in Northern Ireland you’ll also need to present a paper copy of your insurance certificate.

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 up to 4-6 weeks to process.

Can I tax my car with temporary insurance cover?

It is 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.  

Most insurers will notify the Motor Insurers Database (MID) promptly of temporary cover, normally the same day. MID is used both by DVLA and the police. 

How can I check if a car is taxed or not?

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 too. 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 and colour

  • Click on ‘Continue’ 

What happens if I don’t tax my car?

If you don’t tax your car when you buy it you are liable for a fine up to £1,000. Any car that you buy will be untaxed. So it is up to you to organise the tax, possibly with dealer help. 

You may be surprised by the number of people who risk this fine. In 2018 almost 500,000 people got caught driving without car tax in the UK. 

However, 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. 

What vehicles don’t have to pay road tax?

Some vehicles are VED-free. 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.

It’s simply not sustainable for the government to offer VED-free indefinitely to EVs. The Treasury makes almost £30bn a year from fuel duty alone. So watch this space. 

Hydrogen cars are VED-exempt though their crushing expense will deter many for the moment. Some agricultural vehicles do not pay VED. Also vehicles that transport disabled people are VED-exempt.

A word or warning: even if your car qualifies for free VED you still have to renew this ‘tax’ annually – even if there’s zero to pay.  

Can I report any untaxed car anonymously?

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 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 by post: Enforcement Section, W070/D12, DVLA, Longview Road, Swansea, SA7 0XZ.

How do I tax a brand new car I’ve bought?

Your dealer should be happy to fix your new car tax as long as you take responsibility for the cost of insurance. This should be the case with a bricks-and-mortar garage franchise and an online operation. 

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.

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