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Can I tax my car without valid insurance?

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You need far more than just a valid driving licence to take your car on the road. Legally, you must make sure your car tax, officially known as Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), is up to date. VED is collected by the Driver and Licensing Agency (DVLA) on almost all vehicles on UK public roads, with the system most recently updated in April 2020.

But before you sort out your VED, it is important to know about the link between car tax and car insurance, and which you need to get first.

Do I need to have insurance to tax my car?

You will need car insurance, alongside a valid MOT certificate, in order to tax your car. Your insurance policy and MOT certificate will need to be valid from the date your car tax starts, or the date your car tax is issued, whichever of the two is later.

If you are registering a car in England, Scotland or Wales, you will not need your car insurance policy details to hand. Instead, the DVLA will check its official database to ensure your car has been insured when you tax it.

In Northern Ireland, however, you will need an insurance document or cover note when taxing your car in order to prove you have taken out a policy.

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Just as you must have, at minimum, third party car insurance, car tax is a legal requirement to drive on the UK’s roads. If you are caught driving an untaxed car, you can be fined up to £1,000 by the DVLA.

Even if your car is tax-exempt and you are not required to pay, for example if you are disabled or drive certain electric cars, you still need to ‘tax’ it. This means you must go through the process online, call the DVLA vehicle tax service, or visit your nearest participating Post Office to do it in person.

If you let your car tax lapse, you legally cannot use your car on the road until you have renewed it. In this instance, you must take your vehicle off the road by making a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). The same is true if your vehicle is no longer insured.

However, if you have submitted a SORN while there is tax remaining, you will be refunded for any full months you have already paid for. You will not need to pay any car tax as long as the SORN is in place.

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Alongside a valid car insurance policy (with insurance document or cover note in Northern Ireland) and MOT certificate, you will need a vehicle reference number when taxing your car. You should be able to find your reference number using one of the following:

 

  • a tax reminder or warning letter (or email) from the DVLA
  • the vehicle log book (V5C), if it is in your name
  • the green ‘new keeper’ slip from a log book for a car you have recently bought

If you cannot find any of the above, then you will need to apply for a new vehicle logbook before you can proceed with your car tax. You can do this online at gov.uk or over the phone.

How do I tax my car?

Whether you are taxing a car you have just purchased, or looking to renew your car tax, you can use the government website:

  1. Click Start Now on the gov.uk website
  2. Select which vehicle reference number you will be providing (eg tax reminder letter, V5C logbook)
  3. You may be asked to provide your vehicle registration (number plate) alongside your reference number
  4. Check the details that appear are correct
  5. Decide how and when you want to pay. You can pay by credit card, debit card or direct debit. If you set up a direct debit, you can pay annually, every six months, or monthly, and your VED will be automatically renewed when it is due.

If you do not feel comfortable registering for car tax online, you can instead visit a participating Post Office or call the 24-hour DVLA vehicle tax service on 0300 123 4321 (however, you will not be able to set up a direct debit over the phone).

If you have recently bought a car, you will not be able to drive your new car home without first completing the tax registration.

How much is car tax?

Even the most seasoned driver may struggle to get their head around how much the VED will end up costing them a year. It predominantly depends on when the car was registered for the first time, and the CO2 emissions associated with the car model. Additionally, every April the VED rises in line with the Retail Price Index (RPI).

VED rates are calculated as follows:

Cars registered on or after 1 April 2017

Any car first registered on or after 1 April 2017 will pay a different rate of tax for the first 12 months when compared to the rest of its life on the road.

For the first 12 months, the VED is based on the grams of CO2 produced per kilometre. There are then further adjustments based on whether the car runs on petrol, diesel, or an alternative fuel. Cars registered from 1 April 2020 onwards may face higher CO2 emissions costs due to a change in testing.

After those first 12 months, VED is charged at a flat six- or 12-month rate. It is cheaper to pay for 12 months upfront, rather than six months. Again, the exact cost depends on whether the car runs on petrol, diesel, or an alternative fuel.

Currently, if your car had a list price greater than £40,000 when new, you will need to pay an extra £390 a year, unless it is a zero-emissions vehicle. From 1 April 2025, newly-registered zero-emissions cars will also pay the higher VED rate. This higher rate of car tax lasts for five years from the second time the vehicle is taxed.

It is important to note that if you bought a secondhand car after 1 April 2017, but it was first registered before that date, you would pay one of the old VED rates.

Cars registered between 1 March 2001 and 31 March 2017

If your car was first registered between 1 March 2001 and 31 March 2017, the amount of VED you will pay depends on your car’s fuel type, and the grams of CO2 it produces per kilometre. If your car produces up to 100 grams of CO2 per kilometre, you will not have to pay any car tax.

You can find the details of your car’s CO2 emissions either on its V5C registration certificate, or by using the government’s online search tool.

You will pay more if you opt for a single six-month payment over a single 12-month payment.

Cars registered before 1 March 2001

If your car was first registered before 1 March 2001, you will pay a flat rate based on your car’s engine size. There is one rate if your engine is 1,549cc and below, and one rate if your engine is above 1,549cc. If you choose to make a single six-month payment, you will pay more than if you make a single 12-month payment.

Can I drive my new car as soon as I tax it?

As long as you have met all of the other legal requirements for driving, including valid car insurance and an up-to-date MOT certificate, you can drive your new car as soon as you have taxed it.

Can I tax a car with temporary insurance?

It is possible to tax your vehicle with temporary car insurance rather than a full insurance policy. However, you will need to make sure the Motor Insurance Database (MID) is updated with this temporary policy before taxing your car online.

Taxing your car using temporary insurance can be useful if, for example, you need to drive a new car home from the dealership, but want to take more time to shop around for the best car insurance deal available. Once your temporary car insurance has expired, you will not be able to legally drive your car, so it is a good idea to find a full-term policy as soon as possible.

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Can I tax my car without an MOT?

You won’t be able to tax your car without a valid MOT certificate. Your MOT certificate must be valid from the start date of your VED, or the date it is issued, whichever is later. If your MOT is set to expire before the later of those dates, you won’t be able to tax your car until you have secured a new MOT certificate.

One of the only times you can drive an untaxed car is if you are on your way to a pre-booked MOT test. Once the test is complete, however, you will need to tax your car as soon as possible to legally drive it on the road.

Frequently asked questions about taxing a car without insurance

In theory, you can insure your car without tax. In reality, however, since you cannot legally drive on the roads without registering for VED, car tax and car insurance go hand-in-hand.

Most car insurance policies will require your vehicle to be taxed. That means, if you drive your car untaxed and get into an accident, your insurance claim could be rejected as per the terms of your policy.

You can use the gov.uk vehicle enquiry service to check whether or not your car is taxed. You will need your registration number, ie your number plate, in order to check.

Even if you do not have to pay the VED because your car is exempt, you will still need to go through the process of taxing it.

However, there are certain instances where you are not required to have car tax:

  • if you have taken your vehicle off the road, and have submitted a SORN
  • if you are driving to a pre-booked MOT test

If you want to report an untaxed car, you can do so by filling out a form for the DVLA. To submit the form, you will need the car’s number plate, make, model and colour, alongside the street name, town and postcode where you saw it.

However, you should always check online whether or not a car is taxed first before submitting your report.

Connor Campbell

Finance Writer

Connor Campbell is an experienced personal and business finance writer who has been producing online content for almost a decade. 

Connor is the personal finance expert for Independent Advisor, guiding readers through everything they need to know about car insurance and home insurance. From how much it costs to the best insurance providers in the UK, he’s here to help you find the right policy for your needs. 

In his capacity as writer and spokesperson at NerdWallet, Connor explored a number of topics close to his heart, such as the impact of our increasingly cashless society, and the hardships and heroics of British entrepreneurs. His commentary was featured in sites such as The Mirror, the Daily Express and Business Insider

At financial trading firm Spreadex, meanwhile, his market commentary was featured in outlets such as The Guardian, BBC, Reuters and the Evening Standard

Connor is a voracious reader with an MA in English, and is dedicated to making life’s financial decisions a little bit easier by doing away with jargon and needless complexity.

Molly Dyson

Editor

After growing up with a passion for writing, Molly studied journalism and creative writing at university in her home country of the United States.

She has written for a variety of print and online publications, from small town newspapers to international magazines. Most of her 10-year career since relocating to the UK has been spent in business journalism, writing and editing for admin professionals at PA Life magazine and business travel managers at Business Travel News Europe and representing those titles at conferences around the world.

Now an Editor at the Independent Advisor, Molly is an expert in a broad range of consumer topics, that include solar panels and renewables, home improvements and home insurance, and consumer technology such as home security and VPNs.

In her free time, Molly can usually be found exploring the outdoors with her husband and their young son or gardening.