How do I tax a car?

Taxing your car is a necessity, but what if it’s already been taxed? Do you still need to tax it, or are you in the clear until it’s up for renewal? We’re answering your questions and everything else you need to know about car road tax in this guide.

How do I tax a car?

Paying tax isn’t a topic that gets pulses racing, but it is a necessary evil. And we promise that if you read to the end of this, we will delight you with a very fun joke. 
 
Car tax is one of those essential expenses that’s part and parcel of car ownership. If you want to drive or park your car on a UK road without breaking the law, you’ll need to make sure it’s taxed first.
 
In fact, taxing your car should be at the top of your to-do list as soon as you’ve agreed to buy a car, signed all the paperwork, and have the keys in your hand.
 
Don’t panic; the process is a lot easier than you might think. All you need is your new car’s registration number and the completed new keeper slip from its V5C logbook – you could have the tax sorted online in a matter of minutes!
 
Ready to learn more? Here’s everything you need to know about how to tax a car:

Why do I have to tax my car?

If you plan on driving or parking your car on the road in the UK (and you probably do if you’re reading this), then it needs to be taxed.
 
Car tax is a legal requirement, and you could face serious penalties if you don’t pay up. The consequences can range from fines and court action to your car being clamped, impounded, or even crushed!
 
Don’t plan on moving your car this year? If you keep your pride and joy on your drive or safety tucked away in the garage, you can register it as officially off-road. This is known as making a Statutory Off-Road Notification - SORN for short.
 
Have a car that’s exempt from charges? Unfortunately, you’re not off the hook. You still need to go through the motions and tax your car, even if your bill comes to £0.

How do I tax a car I’ve just bought?

Congratulations - you’ve found your dream wheels, sorted out the finance, and have the keys in your hand! But wait, before you hit the road and start attracting those approving nods from jealous passerby, you need to tax the car.
 
There’s no grace period when it comes to car tax, so don’t be tempted to even drive the car home for the dealer if you haven’t got the tax in place.   
 
The good news is that it’s a relatively straightforward process. You can choose to pay at your local Post Office or online at gov.uk. Depending on your payment preferences, you can pay in full, bi-annually, or monthly either by Direct Debit or with a credit or debit card.
 
Don’t run straight to the website just yet, it’s worth double-checking the differences between taxing a brand-new car and a used model first:

How to tax your new car

When you buy a car fresh off the forecourt that’s never been driven before, it’ll usually already have been taxed by the dealer.
 
For the first 12 months of a car’s life, its tax will be based on its emissions. In most cases, that first year will be included in the on-the-road price offered by the dealer.
 
They’ll also typically have shared your details with the DVLA already, so you’re good to go until year two.

How to tax your used car

While buying a used car can help you save money on a new set of wheels, it often means missing out on perks like having your tax thrown in by the dealer.
 
Instead, you’ll be responsible for making sure your tax is paid before you drive away. You’ll need to complete the green new keeper slip of your new car’s logbook (V5C) first and then you can pay for your tax online at the gov.uk website or at your local Post Office.

How do I tax my car without a V5C?

To tax your car online or in person, you’ll usually need at least one of the below documents:

  • A recent V11 vehicle tax reminder or last chance warning letter from the DVLA
  • The vehicle’s logbook (V5C) in your name
  • The completed green new keeper slip if you’ve just bought the car

Keep in mind that you might also need to show evidence of a valid MOT.

How much will my car tax cost?

The exact amount you’ll need to pay each year to tax your car will depend on how old it is and how much pollution it emits.

The tax is weighted to try and encourage people to swap their polluting cars for more efficient smaller models, hybrid cars, and electric vehicles.
 
Your bill will also depend on when your car was registered:

If it’s more than 40 years old, your car will likely be exempt from car tax

If it was registered before 1st March 2001, your tax will be based on its engine size

Between 1st March 2001 and 1st April 2017, your car will be taxed based on its CO2 emissions

Models registered after 1st April 2017 will have their first year’s tax based on CO2 emissions

How do I check when the tax is due? 

In most cases, you’ll receive a reminder letter – known as the V11 – when your car tax is due. Some dealerships and garages will also remind you when your MOT is due, which can be helpful if it coincides with your tax due date too.
 
If you don’t receive a reminder or would like to check the date ahead of time, you can use the DVLA’s online road tax check service.

What about that joke?*

You made it all this way! Through all that tax stuff. Thought we might have lost you at the V5C bit but you persevered.

So! A joke for you…

What do you say to a frog who needs a ride?
“Hop in.”

*Carmoola is not liable for the quality of any jokes. 
 

FAQs about car tax

Can you set up an automatic renewal for car tax?

 If you struggle to remember to make payments or you just like the convenience of having a Direct Debit in place, you’ll be pleased to know that your payments will automatically renew if you choose this payment option.
 
Instead of a reminder letter, you’ll get an email or letter in the post to let you know that the Direct Debit has renewed, and payment has been taken.

Does MOT transfer to the new owner of the car?

 Unlike tax, your car’s MOT has nothing to do with who owns the vehicle. In fact, its MOT will remain valid for the full year after it was issued no matter how many times the car changes hands and gets a new registered keeper.
 
If you’ve bought a used car with a valid MOT, make sure you check the certificate is included in the documentation when you go to pick up your keys, just in case.

How do I change car tax class?

Your car’s tax class will be based on several factors including its age, engine size, and how much pollution it emits.
 
If you need to change its class, you can make an application at the Post Office or by writing a letter to the DVLA.
 
You’ll usually need to provide:

·      Your V5C logbook
·      Your V11 tax reminder letter
·      Your MOT certificate
·      Your insurance certificate
·      A method of payment
 
If your car is already taxed but you need to change it to another class, you’ll need to complete a V70 form.

Can I change the renewal date of my tax?

 The date your car tax will renew won’t change from the day you bought and taxed it in your name for the first time.
 
Unfortunately, if you pay by Direct Debit, you can’t choose the date the payments will be taken either. All car tax Direct Debits are taken on the first working day of the month.
 
If you’d like to change how often you pay (switch from bi-annual to monthly payments, for example), you’ll need to cancel your Direct Debit and then tax your car again.

How often do I need to pay car tax?

 Your car tax needs to be paid annually but you don’t need to pay the full amount upfront. You could choose whether to pay in full, split it into two payments due every six months, or pay in 12 monthly instalments.

Can you still get a tax disc?

 The colourful tax discs that used to be displayed in windscreens are no more. These discs were abolished in 2014 and now there’s no physical sign that a car has been taxed. 

What happens if I forget to tax my car?

 It’s against the law not to get your car taxed before driving or parking it on a UK road – and unfortunately, there’s no grace period if you forget.
 
If you miss your renewal date, you’ll usually be automatically issued with a late licensing penalty (LLP). The charge will be £80, reduced to £40 if you pay within 33 days.
 
Don’t pay your LLP and you could face an out of court settlement (OCS) of £30 plus a fine of one and a half times the outstanding car tax.
 
Still fail to pay and a criminal case could be pursued against you at the Magistrates’ Court. You could end up with a penalty charge of £1,000 or five times the cost of your tax and your car could be clamped or even crushed!

What is the difference between owner and registered keeper?

A car’s owner and its registered keeper can be the same person or two different people.
 
Legal ownership of a car means you were the person that bought it. If you bought the car on Hire Purchase (HP) or Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) finance, the lender will be the car’s legal owner during the loan term. 
 
The registered keeper doesn’t have to be the car’s owner – as is the case with a financed car – but they are the person who is responsible for taking care of it. They should be registered on the V5C logbook and will need to tax the car, insure it, check its MOT, and pay any charges for offences like parking fines or speeding tickets.