Cars are grouped in bands for tax purposes. Because motor vehicles differ in terms of age, engine size, fuel type and carbon dioxide (CO2 emissions), they are put into bands when calculating road tax charges.
Car tax bands are also referred to as road tax bands and Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) bands. Although VED is the proper name it is effectively a tax that is paid to drive on the roads so is often called road tax. We used to have to display a tax disc, to show we had paid.
Because most of us drive cars, we call it car tax.
The tax band of your car will be clearly stated on your V5C registration certificate. This is the certificate that is passed to you when you buy the car and which you pass on to the next owner when you sell.
Modern road tax bands are graded from A to M based on CO2 emissions – A being no charge and M the highest.
You can check your car tax by using an online car tax band checker.
If you haven’t got your V5C registration document handy, you can easily find your car tax band online using tax band checkers such as Vehicle Information https://ww1.vehicleinformation.uk/preview - all you’ll need is your car reg number.
And if you are looking to buy a car and want to check the tax band, sites such as Parkers https://www.parkers.co.uk/car-tax/ will provide the data you need.
The type of vehicle you use typically makes a difference to your tax band and therefore what you pay each year.
Vehicle types include:
Private light goods (Vehicles registered before the 1 March 2001)
Alternative fuel car
Light goods vehicle
Heavy goods vehicles (HGVs)
The road tax you pay will depend on several factors – including the age, size engine and CO2 emissions of your vehicle.
In recent years the calculation method has been adapted so that cars are separated into different age groups.
For a car registered before 1 March 2001 the rate of vehicle tax is based on engine size (cc). There are no bands as such just a tax charge for cars with engines 1549cc or below – currently £165 per year; and a tax of £270 per year for cars with an engine bigger than 1549cc.
Car tax bands from A to M apply to petrol and diesel cars registered between these dates. The banding here is based on CO2 emissions, rather than engine size.
For instance, car tax band A covers cars with a CO2 figure of 100g/km or below. Because these cars have such low emissions, they do not pay road tax.
Car tax band B is applied to cars that have CO2 emissions of 101 to 110g/km and these are typically plug-in hybrid cars and the annual tax charged of £20 reflects their relative ‘green’ credentials.
Car tax band C includes cars that have CO2 emissions of 111g to 120g/km – the emissions are slightly higher than Band B and this means a higher charge of £30 a year.
In contrast, cars in Tax Band M, with a CO2 figure of 255g/km or above, pay road tax of £580 per year or £609 if spread over 12 months.
The Government website shows the full breakdown of costs for all tax bands of cars registered between the 2001 and 2017 dates.
The tax band prices of car tax for petrol and diesel cars, if paid in full are:
Car tax band A £0
Car tax band B £20
Car tax band C £30
Car tax band D £125
Car tax band E £150
Car tax band F £165
Car tax band G £205
Car tax band H £240
Car tax band I £265
Car tax band J £305
Car tax band K £330
Car tax band L £565
Car tax band M £580
The full price options for each car tax bad are in this table:
*Includes cars with a CO2 figure over 225g/km but were registered before 23 March 2006.
There are not tax bands as such for cars registered after 1 April 2017 – but there is still a 12-category split – (similar to the A-M bands). Car tax still varies in relation to levels of CO2 emissions but the charges applied are significantly different.
For instance, unlike cars registered prior to this date, only those with zero emissions (not 100g/km) benefit from no tax charge.
The other major tax change for cars registered after 1 April 2017 is the government has really clamped down on high-emission vehicles.
Anyone who buys a car registered after this date with CO2 emissions of 255g/km or above will pay an initial road tax payment of £2,175 and in subsequent years £150.
For alternative fuel cars with the same CO2 emission levels, the charge is slightly lower - £1,265 first year and £140 in subsequent years. All the tax rates are shown on the UK Government vehicle tax website.
There are numerous exemptions from having to pay car tax:
Vehicles used by a disabled person
Disabled passenger vehicles
Mobility scooters powered wheelchairs and invalid carriages
Classic cars, vans or motorbikes registered more than 40 years before 1 January of the current year
While all these categories are not charged road tax, you will still need to apply to the DVLC for an exemption.
Pure electric cars are free from road tax
Ultra-low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs)
The term ULEV covers any vehicle that uses low carbon technology emits less than 75g//km of CO2 from the exhaust.
Fuel cell electric vehicles
Extended range electric vehicles.
Your car tax will depend on the age, engine capacity or CO2 emission level of your vehicle. There is no standard charge.
You can pay for your car tax monthly, six monthly or yearly. You can pay or set up a direct debit for any of these time periods. But it’s worth remembering that you will pay slightly more if you spread your payments out rather than paying in one go.
The road tax you pay will depend on the age, engine capacity or CO2 emissions of your vehicle. As an example, let’s take a petrol 2007 BMW 318 which is in Band H – the annual road tax is £205 and £215.25 if paid in monthly instalments.
Tax rates on motorcycles and mopeds vary depending on the engine capacity. For vehicles of 150cc or below the charge is £20 per year. For 151-400cc the charge is £44; for 401-600cc the charge is £67 and for over 600cc is £93.
For tricycles 150cc or below the tax rate is £20. For all other tricycles the rate is £93
With road tax discs on your windscreen a thing of the past – it is not always clear to see when your road tax is due. But is easy to check. Simply visit the gov.uk website and enter your vehicle registration number. It will immediately tell you when your tax is due.
To check if a car is taxed, simply visit the gov.uk website and enter your vehicle registration number. It will immediately tell you if the car is currently taxed.
To tax your car, you will need to provide a reference number from either:
A recent reminder (V11) or ‘last chance’ warning letter from DVLA
Your vehicle log book (V5C) - it must be in your name
The green ‘new keeper’ slip from a log book if you’ve just bought the vehicle
You can easily pay for car tax online via the UK Government vehicle tax payment page. Just enter your car details and you pay via debit card, credit card or direct debit.
You can tax without a reminder using your V5C – better known as your vehicle logbook.
You can still tax a vehicle at a Post Office so long as you bring your V11 reminder or vehicle logbook with you.
You can call the DVLA’s 24-hour service on 0300 123 4321, although direct debit is not an option if you choose to pay over the phone.
You will be able to tax the car if you have a V11 reminder with your name, address and vehicle details on it.
If you haven’t got a V11 then you should be able to tax the car if you’re shown as the registered keeper of the vehicle on DVLA records. This means contacting the DVLA.
To replace your lost V5C, you’ll need to fill in a V62 ‘Application for a Vehicle Registration Certificate (V5C) which you can download from the UK Government’s vehicle tax page – this duplicate will cost you £25.
Since 2014, road tax doesn’t carry over a car is sold. So, if you are a new owner of a vehicle, you need to buy road tax before you can legally drive it. If you are the seller, you can still claim a refund for unused car tax.
You must buy car tax from the beginning of the month in which you first use it on the road. You get a refund from the end of the month that you finish using it on the road. If you sell a car, this does mean both buyer and seller will be paying rad tax from an overlapping month.
When you notify the DVLA that your car has been sold, either online or by completing the relevant section of the V5C log book your vehicle tax should be cancelled automatically. And if you pay by Direct Debit this should stop immediately too.
Once you have notified the DVLA that your car has been sold, you should get a refund sent to you – this will cover any full months left on your vehicle tax. If you pay by direct debit collections of payments will cease.
Some cars do benefit from free road tax – notably classic cars. Other vehicles such as those designed for disabled drivers and disabled passengers, mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs are also not taxed.
Classic cars, vans or motorbikes built more than 40 years before 1 January of the current year are not subject to road tax. If your car enters this age group you will need to send your V5C Registration Certificate to the DVLA so it can be put in the Historic Vehicle tax-free class. Qualifying as a classic car could also mean a rethink on your car insurance.
Many disabled drivers, as well as carers or nominated drivers for a disabled person, are entitled to free road tax. However, the vehicle must be registered in the disabled person’s name or that of the nominated driver.
As long as the vehicle is declared off the road and kept off the road, on private land, not just parked on a public road you need not pay tax. You will need to complete a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN).
If you need to keep the car on the road for a short period before you, for instance move it to a garage for restoration, it will need to be taxed and you can take out temporary insurance for this period https://www.uswitch.com/car-insurance/temporary/
If you own a car that's not being driven – maybe you are restoring an old car – you're legally required to notify the DVLA by making a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). Filing a SORN means you won't need to pay tax or insurance.
There is no tax to pay on pure electric vehicles.
It is illegal to drive on public roads without car tax, even if the rate paid is zero.
Tax discs were scrapped in 2014.
The revenue from car tax goes into the general taxation pot collected by the Chancellor. Without it there would be less money to spend on essential infrastructure – but the amount raised itself is not earmarked for roadbuilding or repairs.
Car tax is a relatively new revenue raiser for the UK government. For centuries taxes have been imposed on income, alcohol, food, land and during certain periods even windows and beards!
Road and bridge tolls have a long history but given that cars were barely invented 100 years ago, the history of car tax is more modern.
The first official road tax (and tax disc) was introduced in 1920 as part of the Road Traffic Acts of 1919 and 1920 in response to a growing number of cars appearing on UK roads. The tax a driver paid was based on an RAC horsepower rating which was convoluted and open to abuse.
The dreaded RAC rating lasted until 1947. In 1948, a flat rate of duty for all cars was introduced, at £10 per year,
In the 1920 and early ‘30s the money raised was paid into a specific Road Fund which was used to pay for road construction – something that didn’t last too long. The ‘specific’ road tax was abolished in 1937 and replaced by Vehicle Excise Duty. This is a tax on vehicles, not roads, and goes straight into the general Treasury.
Since 1937, money raised by car tax has gone into the Treasury and has not been earmarked for road building and maintenance.
There are no longer flat fees for cars either – drivers pay different tax charges based on the age, engine capacity and CO2 emissions of their vehicle.