Car tax, road tax, vehicle excise duty (VED) - this tax goes by many names.

Some form of road tax has been around in Britain since 1888, and specifically for motor cars since 1920.

The money raised from VED goes towards the upkeep of the national road network.


Does every vehicle need to have road tax?

No matter who you are or what you drive, you will need to apply for vehicle tax - although you may not need to pay for it.

Most vehicle owners will need to pay some form of vehicle tax, but some won’t. Exemptions apply to some disabled drivers, as well as to electric vehicles and some historic or classic cars.

Sticker on window of untaxed car

On the way to the MOT centre

If you are driving to a pre-booked MOT test, you can drive without car tax. However, the purpose of the journey must be solely for the MOT - stop-offs at the supermarket or to visit relatives would be pushing it! MOT road tax checks can and do happen.

Learn more at's vehicle exemption page.

UK MOT service sign

Can you tax a car without an MOT?

No, you need a valid MOT before you can tax a vehicle. However, you can drive to the MOT centre without road tax, as mentioned above.


What if I park my car on a public road but never use it?

If you keep your car on a public road you must pay vehicle excise duty - even if you never drive it.


What if I park my car on private land and never use public roads?

If you store your vehicle on private land (including a private garage) and never use - nor plan to use - public roads, then you do not have to pay vehicle excise duty. However, you must register your untaxed vehicle as ‘SORN’ - which stands for Statutory Off Road Notice.

This might be an option if you're planning a long trip overseas; restoring a vehicle; or otherwise not intending to use a vehicle for a prolonged period.

SORNs once lasted for 12 months and then expired. However, SORNs now are in effect until cancelled.


How much does it cost to declare my car SORN?

It is free to declare your vehicle SORN. Simply visit or complete form V890. You will need to check the address in your VC5 logbook is up to date, since this is where any VED refunds will be sent.


What are the penalties for driving a SORN-registered car?

The authorities take a dim view of anyone who drives their SORN-registered vehicle on public roads. It is an offence - and one considered more serious than simply not paying your VED - because there is an element of fraud.

Offenders could face a fine of up to £2,500.


What about car tax when buying a second hand car?

Since 2014, car tax has no longer been transferred to the new owners of a used car. This means if you buy a second hand vehicle you must tax it.

Conversely, if you are selling a used car, you can have any remaining car tax refunded.

Any newly-purchased car must be taxed at the point of sale. Back in the days of the old paper disc, there was a five-day grace period to allow for the new disc to arrive by post. With the digital system, this leeway is no longer necessary.

Whenever you purchase a second hand vehicle, the seller should give you the green section of the car's log book (new keeper supplement) or V5C/2. The V5C/2 will detail a 12-digit reference number which can be used to tax the car either online, or at the Post Office.

Dealers will normally do this for you before you drive the vehicle away.

Don’t forget, if the car is over three years old, it will need an MOT.

Vehicle Tax Reminder Letter

How to tax a car without V5/V5C

If you do not have a V5 logbook, you'll need another identifying piece of information to tax your vehicle.

You need the V5, V5C or equivalent paperwork to prove you are the owner and apply for the VED.

To get VED on your vehicle, you'll need one of the following:

  • V11 reminder letter
  • V5C logbook registration certificate registered in your name
  • V62 logbook application form (when the vehicle is registered in your name)
  • V5C/2 Green slip, new keepers supplement (you get this having just bought the vehicle not registered in your name)


How do I tax a new vehicle?

This should be arranged by your dealer. But don't forget you'll also need valid motor insurance before you can drive off the forecourt.

If you imported or built the car, then registering and taxing the vehicle is down to you. You'll need form V55/4.

If you're selling your old car, you'll need to send the applicable parts of the V5C to the DVLA. You could face a fine of up to £1,000 if you do not tell the DVLA about the change of ownership. And remember, you'll also get a refund for any unspent road tax.


Can you tax a car without insurance?

No, you need to have motor insurance in place before you can apply for road tax.


Recently passed your test?

If you've recently passed your practical driving test, you won't need to worry about vehicle excise duty until you get your first car.

How much you pay will depend on fuel type, CO2 emissions, engine size and when the car was registered.

Needless to say, those on a budget will look for vehicles in a lower tax bracket.

ANPR cameras road sign UK

How do police catch drivers without VED?

In years gone by, police would manually check the paper tax disc displayed on a car's windscreen. Today, however, the police use Automatic Number Plate Recognition - ANPR - to compare number plates with the DVLA's VED database.

If you’re found to have an untaxed car, the police may issue you with a fine.


Does temporary car tax exist?

There is no such thing as a temporary car tax in the UK. If you drive on a public road you must have road tax.

However, if you only need to use the roads for a single short journey, you can pay the minimum of six month’s road tax, then, after your trip, you can request a refund on the remaining VED.


What are the penalties for driving without VED?

It's near impossible to avoid paying VED these days - since the DVLA runs monthly checks of all registered vehicles nationwide.

Should the DVLA system identify an untaxed car or non-SORN-declared vehicle, a letter and an £80 fine will be sent out to the owner's address. But you won't get any points on your licence, and the fine is halved if you pay within 28 days.

If you don't pay, the fine could rise as high as £1,000 should the case go to court. The DVLA can also clamp your vehicle until the VED is paid.


Suspicious DVLA-scam emails

In recent years there has been a rise in spam emails purporting to be from the DVLA and offering refunds on road tax payments.

The scam email then presents a link to click on which encourages the user to enter their personal details, which might then be used for identity fraud or other crimes.

In response to these scam emails, the DVLA said, “We don’t send emails or text messages that ask you to confirm your personal details or payment information, such as for a vehicle tax refund.

“If you get anything like this, don’t open any links and delete the email or text immediately.”


Has my car got tax?

You can check if your vehicle has VED by visiting


Frequently Asked Questions on Driving Without Road Tax


What is the penalty for driving without road tax?

If you don't pay your road tax on time, you'll be sent a late licensing penalty (LLP) of £80. This is reduced by 50% if paid within 28 days.


Is there a grace period for road tax?

No, you need tax the moment your vehicle is on a public road. There used to be a grace period of five days - but that was when the paper tax disc was issued and needed time to arrive by post.


Can you get points on your licence for not having road tax?

No, you will not get points on your licence for not having road tax.


Does not having VED invalidate insurance?

Yes, since you are not legally allowed to drive on public roads without VED, any car insurance you have in place will be automatically invalidated.


Can I claim road tax back?

Yes, if you buy 6 or 12 months of road tax but do not plan to use it for the entire period, you can apply to the DVLA for a refund.


Can I tax my car while awaiting my logbook?

Yes, you can apply for VED at the Post Office while awaiting your V5C logbook. You can also request a new V5C at the Post Office.


Can speed cameras detect absence of VED?

No, generally speaking speed cameras only gauge speed. However Automatic Number plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras CAN read your number plate and therefore detect if your VED has lapsed.


What happens to road tax when a car is sold?

The seller of a vehicle will get a refund of any remaining VED. The new owner must take out their own VED on the vehicle.

It was once possible to transfer VED across to the new owner, but this is no longer the case.