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A guide to road tax for cars, motorbikes and other vehicles

Cars, vans and motorbikes all need road tax, or car tax, or Vehicle Excise Duty to give it its proper name. Find out how to buy car tax, how much it will cost, the documents you’ll need and which cars and motorcycles pay the lowest road tax.

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Road tax, car tax, or Vehicle Excise Duty to give it its real name, must be paid on any motor vehicle used on public roads. Car tax rates are based on emissions, motorbike tax is by engine size and several vehicles or drivers can get exemptions. But it needn’t be complex.

What is road tax?

Road tax is a payment we all have to make if we want to drive our car on the road. If your car is registered – it has a number plate – then you must pay road tax when the car is on the road. 

You can drive an untaxed car on private land. If the car has a registration number it must be registered as being kept off-road using a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). But even a vehicle just parked on the road, not driven, must be taxed.

Road tax is administered by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).

Road tax for cars, vans, tricycles and powered two wheelers

How much car tax you pay depends on when the vehicle was first registered, its fuel type, its emissions and, sometimes, its list price. The three key dates are:

  • Cars registered on or after 1 April 2017

  • Cars registered between 1 March 2001 and 31 March 2017

  • Cars and light goods vehicles registered before 1 March 2001

There are also separate rates for:

  • Some motorhomes not covered by car tax rates

  • Vans (called light goods vehicles)

  • Tricycles

  • Motorcycles and mopeds (called powered two wheelers)

Some vehicles are exempt from road tax. But that doesn’t mean you can just ignore the tax. It usually means the tax rate is set at zero. As the government says: “You must tax your vehicle even if you do not have to pay.”

How much is road tax?

You will need to know when your car was first registered, its fuel type and emissions to calculate how much your road tax will be. 

If you have the reference number from your registration document – the V5C – you can easily find out how much you need to pay using the government (DVLA) website.

You cannot find out just by using your registration number – though you can check if your car is currently taxed and has a valid MOT.

How is road tax calculated?

A deciding factor is the age of your car. Modern cars each have a published CO2 emissions figure. This is used to calculate how much road tax you need to pay. Older cars do not have emissions figures, so engine size is used. 

The type of fuel is important too, with the most polluting fuel – diesel – costing the most and zero-emission cars, such as electric vehicles, costing the least.

Cars registered on or after 1 April 2017 

When you first register your car there is an initial payment based on the emissions and type of fuel used. This first payment covers the first year (12 months) of driving.

Electric cars are the cheapest. Alternative fuel vehicles, including hybrids, bioethanol and liquid petroleum gas, come next. Petrol and diesel cars are the most expensive to tax.

CO2 emissions (g/km)Diesel cars (TC49) that meet the RDE2 standard and petrol cars (TC48)All other diesel cars (TC49)Alternative fuel cars (TC59)
0£0£0£0
1 - 50£10£25£0
51 - 75£25£110£15
76 - 90£110£135£100
91 - 100£135£155£125
101 - 110£155£175£145
111 - 130£175£215£165
131 - 150£215£540£205
151 - 170£540£870£530
171 - 190£870£1,305£860
191 - 225£1,305£1,850£1,295
226 - 255£1,850£2,175£1,840
Over 255£2,175£2,175£2,165

From the second year onwards you will pay:

Fuel type Single 12 month paymentSingle 12 month payment by Direct DebitAlternaTotal of 12 monthly payments by Direct Debittive fuel cars (TC59)Single 6 month paymentSingle 6 month payment by Direct Debit
Petrol or diesel£150£150£157.50£82.50£78.75
Electric£0N/AN/A£0N/A
Alternative£140£140£147£77£73.50

If your car is expensive – more than £40,000 – you may have to pay even more car tax. This is based on the “list price” of the car, which is the official price the manufacturer or dealer has stated. Even if you managed to drive a bargain and get a discount, if the list price was more than £40,000 you may need to pay extra car tax.

Again, you do not have to pay this extra car tax if you have a zero-emission vehicle.

The cost is an extra £325. You pay this rate for five years (from the second time the vehicle is taxed). If you have to pay this extra tax your car tax will cost:

Fuel typeSingle 12 month paymentSingle 12 month payment by Direct DebitTotal of 12 monthly payments by Direct DebitSingle 6 month paymentSingle 6 month payment by Direct Debit
Petrol or diesel£475£475£498.75£261.25£249.38
Alternative£465£465£488.25£255.75£244.13

Cars registered between 1 March 2001 and 31 March 2017 

The rate of car tax is based on the fuel type used and your car’s CO2 emissions.

CO2 emission details are shown on your car’s V5C registration certificate, or you can search for your car’s emission details  on the DVLA website.

The rates of car tax for petrol and diesel cars are:

Petrol car (TC48) and diesel car (TC49)

BandCO2 emission (g/km)Single 12 month paymentSingle 12 month payment by Direct DebitTotal of 12 monthly instalments by Direct DebitSingle 6 month paymentSingle 6 month payment by Direct Debit
AUp to 100£0£0N/AN/AN/A
B101-110£20£20£21N/AN/A
C111-120£30£30£31.50N/AN/A
D121-130£125£125£131.25£68.75£65.63
E131-140£150£150£157.50£82.50£78.75
F141-150£165£165£173.25£90.75£86.63
G151-165£205£205£215.25£112.75£107.63
H166-175£240£240£252£132£126
I176-185£265£265£278.25£145.75£139.13
J186-200£305£305£320.25£167.75£160.13
K*201-225£330£330£346.50£181.50£173.25
L226-255£565£565£593.25£310.75£296.63
MOver 255£580£580£609£319£304.50

*Includes cars with a CO2 figure over 225g/km but were registered before 23 March 2006.

The rates of tax for alternative fuel cars are:

Alternative fuel car (TC59)

BandCO2 emission (g/km)Single 12 month paymentSingle 12 month payment by Direct DebitTotal of 12 monthly instalments by Direct DebitSingle 6 month paymentSingle 6 month payment by Direct Debit
AUp to 100£0N/AN/AN/AN/A
B101-110£10£10£10.50N/AN/A
C111-120£20£20£21N/AN/A
D121-130£115£115£120.75£63.25£60.38
E131-140£140£140£147£77£73.50
F141-150£155£155£162.75£85.25£81.38
G151-165£195£195£204.75£107.25£102.38
H166-175£230£230£241.50£126.50£120.75
I176-185£255£255£267.75£140.25£133.88
J186-200£295£295£309.75£162.25£154.88
K*201-225£320£320£336£176£168
L226-255£555£555£582.75£305.25£291.38
MOver 255£570£570£598.50£313.50£299.25

*Includes cars with a CO2 figure over 225g/km but were registered before 23 March 2006.

Cars and light goods vehicles registered before 1 March 2001 

For older cars the rate of vehicle tax is based on engine size.

Private or light goods (TC11)

Engine size (cc)Single 12 month paymentSingle 12 month payment by Direct DebitTotal of 12 monthly instalments by Direct DebitSingle 6 month paymentSingle 6 month payment by Direct Debit
Not over 1549£165£165£173.25£90.75£86.63
Over 1549£270£270£283.50£148.50£141.75

What are the cheapest cars to tax?

Some vehicles are exempt from tax. This means they pay no tax, although officially they do pay road tax but the rate is zero.

Vehicles used by a disabled person

If you are disabled, you can claim disability exemption when you apply for vehicle tax. You can check online if you’re eligible and how to claim and you can also remove an exemption from a car if it’s no longer being used by a disabled person.

Disabled passenger vehicles

Disabled passenger vehicles (apart from ambulances) are those used by organisations providing transport for disabled people and are exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty, commonly called road tax.

Mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs

In law these are called ‘invalid carriages’. They must be capped to a maximum speed of 8mph on the road, and be fitted with a device limiting them to 4mph on footways, to be exempt from road tax.

Historic vehicles

Any classic car or motorbike is one made before 1 January 40 years ago. They are exempt.

Electric vehicles

Cars totally powered by electricity – not hybrids – are exempt. The electricity must come from an external source, or an electric storage battery not connected to any source of power when the vehicle is moving, to be exempt.

Mowing machines

Lawn mowers must be designed, constructed and used just for cutting grass to be exempt. This does not include tractors used to tow mowers.

Steam vehicles

Rail enthusiasts with old steam locomotives do not have to pay vehicle tax on any steam-powered vehicles.

Vehicles used for agriculture, horticulture and forestry

The agricultural exemption includes tractors, agricultural engines and light agricultural vehicles used off-road. It also includes ‘limited use’ vehicles used for short journeys (not more than 1.5 kilometres) on the public road between land that’s occupied by the same person.

How much is my car tax?

How much car tax you will have to pay depends on your car. If you have the reference number from your registration document – the V5C – you can easily find out how much you need to pay using the government (DVLA) website.

Can I pay for car tax monthly?

You can pay for your car tax monthly by Direct Debit. You can buy six months car tax or pay for the full year in advance. You will pay 5% more over the year if you buy six months or pay monthly by Direct Debit.

How much is six months road tax?

Six month car tax is just over half what you would pay if you paid for 12 months of road tax in one go. The is a 5% surcharge.

How much is road tax for my motorcycle, moped or powered two wheeler? 

Motorcycle, motorbike and moped tax rates depend on engine size. These days the government calls them powered two wheelers. Along with tricycles (trikes) they have their own road tax bands.

Motorcycle (with or without sidecar) (TC17)

Engine size (cc)Single 12 month paymentSingle 12 month payment by Direct DebitTotal of 12 monthly instalments by Direct DebitSingle 6 month paymentSingle 6 month payment by Direct Debit
Not over 150£20£20£21N/AN/A
151-400£44£44£46.20N/AN/A
401-600£67£67£70.35£36.85£35.18
Over 600£93£93£97.65£51.15£48.83

Tricycles (not over 450kg unladen) (TC50)

Engine size (cc)Single 12 month paymentSingle 12 month payment by Direct DebitTotal of 12 monthly instalments by Direct DebitSingle 6 month paymentSingle 6 month payment by Direct Debit
Not over 150£20£20£21N/AN/A
All other tricycles£93£93£97.65£51.15£48.83

When is my road tax due?

Road tax runs from the beginning of the month from when you first registered it or bought it. Buying and selling a car or other vehicle will change the date car tax is due and if you use a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) at all, that will change the due date again.

The easiest way to check when your road tax is due is by putting your registration number into the DVLA website.

How do I check if a car is taxed?

You can check if your car is currently taxed and has a valid MOT using the government DVLA website. Just enter your registration number from your number plate.

How do I tax my car?

You can tax your car, motorcycle or other vehicle online using a reference number from:

  • a recent reminder (V11) or ‘last chance’ warning letter from the 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 pay by debit or credit card, or Direct Debit.

What documents do I need to buy road tax?

The documents you need to tax your car, motorcycle or other vehicle online include a reference number. You can get it from either of three documents:

  • a recent reminder (V11) or ‘last chance’ warning letter from the 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

If you do not have any of these documents, you’ll need to apply for a new log book (V5C) from the DVLA. This will cost you £25.

Can I pay my road tax online?

You can tax your car, motorcycle or other vehicle online using a reference number from:

  • a recent reminder (V11) or ‘last chance’ warning letter from the 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 pay by debit or credit card, or Direct Debit.

Can I tax my car without the V11 reminder?

You can tax your car, motorcycle or other vehicle online without your V11 reminder using a reference number from either:

  • 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

Can I pay car tax at a Post Office?

You must find a Post Office that deals with vehicle tax, as not all smaller Post Offices do. You need to take a method of payment, or take your bank details to set up a Direct Debit.

You also need to take one of the following:

  • 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

Can I pay my car tax by phone?

You can tax your car on the phone but you cannot set up a Direct Debit by telephone. The DVLA vehicle tax service telephone number is: 0300 123 4321.

What if I have lost my V5C registration document?

If you have lost your V5C registration document, often called your log book, you’ll need to apply for a new log book (V5C) from the DVLA. This will cost you £25.

What happens to road tax when I buy or sell my car?

If you sell your car and buy a new one, you need to cancel the tax on the vehicle sold and buy tax on the new car. You must buy tax before you drive your new car. 

For one month you will end up paying tax on both cars. The tax gets cancelled from the end of the month in which you sell a car, but you must buy tax from the beginning of the month in which you bought the new one.

The easiest way to cancel the tax when you sell  (or scrap) a car is on the DVLA website.

How do I cancel my road tax?

You can cancel your road tax on the DVLA website. The valid reasons for cancelling car tax are:

How do I get a refund on my car tax?

You can cancel your road tax on the DVLA website. If you pay by Direct Debit, the Direct Debit will be cancelled automatically.

If you paid by card or cheque or cash in a Post Office, you’ll get a refund cheque for any full months left on your vehicle tax. The refund is calculated from the date DVLA gets your information. The cheque is sent to the name and address on the vehicle log book.

You won’t get a refund for:

  • any credit card fees

  • the 5% surcharge on some Direct Debit payments

  • the 10% surcharge on a single six month payment

Do some vehicles get free road tax?

There are several vehicles that get exemptions from paying car tax. These include:

  • vehicles used by a disabled person

  • disabled passenger vehicles

  • mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs

  • historic vehicles

  • electric vehicles

  • mowing machines

  • steam vehicles

  • vehicles used for agriculture, horticulture and forestry

Do you pay road tax on cars over 40 years old?

Any classic car or motorbike – one made before 1 January 40 years ago – are exempt from road tax. You will need to notify the DVLA when your car reaches that age.

Do I have to pay car tax if I am disabled?

Many disabled drivers can get exemption from car tax. You can check online if you’re eligible and how to claim and you can also remove an exemption from a car if it’s no longer being used by a disabled person.

Disabled passenger vehicles (apart from ambulances) are those used by organisations providing transport for disabled people and are also exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty, commonly called road tax.

Do I need to pay road tax if I keep my vehicle off-road?

If your car, motor cycle or van is registered – it has a number plate – then even if you keep the vehicle off road the tax rules apply. You will need to tell the DVLA you are keeping the vehicle away from public streets using a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN).

You can keep unregistered vehicles, most commonly 4X4s and motocross motorbikes, on private land without paying road tax and without having to notify the DVLA. Some vehicles used on farms are also permitted to drive on public roads for short distances between farmland.

But in the main, if your car or motorbike is used on the road – even parked on the road, you must pay road tax.

What is SORN – Statutory Off Road Notification?

SORN stands for Statutory Off Road Notification. This is when you register your vehicle as being off the public roads – it cannot even be parked on the road. You can garage your car or you may drive it on private land, but not on the road.

You will need different information depending on when you want to begin your SORN:

  • Immediately: use the 11-digit number on your vehicle log book (V5C) to take the vehicle off the road immediately.

  • On the first day of next month: use the 16-digit number on your vehicle tax reminder letter (V11) to take the vehicle off the road from the first day of next month. You can only use this number once.

You can register a SORN:

  • online

  • by phone: 0300 123 4321

  • by post: send an application form (V890) to DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1AR

How much is car tax on electric vehicles?

Electric vehicles (EVs) are free to tax. The government says: “The electricity must come from an external source or an electric storage battery not connected to any source of power when the vehicle is moving to be exempt.”

Can I drive without road tax? 

Unless your vehicle is exempt you must have road tax to drive on the road. You can drive on private land without paying road tax.

Do I need a tax disc?

Tax discs for cars, motorbikes and vans were abolished in the UK in October 2014. You no longer need to display a tax disc. If you still have a tax disc in your car, you might find it is worth a lot of money as they have become collectors’ items.

Does road tax pay for the roads?

Road tax, car tax or, given its proper name, Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) does not pay for the roads. The money goes into general taxation, along with fuel duty on petrol and diesel sales, plus VAT and income tax. General taxation then pays for the roads.

A potted history of road tax

The original Road Fund started in 1909. How much you paid depended on how much horsepower a vehicle produced. 

Whether the money should have been dedicated to spending on the roads was a debate even then. The UK does not traditionally hypothecate taxes (dedicate a tax to a single purpose).

The term ‘road tax’ was officially abolished in 1937 and replaced by Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). But calling it road tax has continued – it is a tax only paid to drive on the roads, as the same vehicle can be untaxed when driven on private land.

Since 1999 VED has been increasingly linked to CO2 levels. Vehicle Excise Duty is managed and enforced by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).

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