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Sort your car tax

Your guide to sorting car tax

5 min read
Updated: 13 Jul 2022

Everything you need to know about tax and MOT including how much it will cost.

The cost of car tax, or road tax, or Vehicle Excise Duty (VED)

Whether you call it car tax, road tax, or its proper name, Vehicle Excise Duty,  your car has to have tax – as well as an MOT and insurance – to be on the road.

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How can I tax my car?

When your car tax is up for renewal, you should receive a V11 reminder letter, but you can use the reference number in your V5C log book if you haven’t received this or have lost it. If your vehicle is a new purchase, you should have been given a V5C/2 supplement with a reference number from the past owner that you can use if you are without a log book.

You can pay your tax online on the government website and fill in the reference number. From this, you can view the tax status of your car, and you can choose how you wish to pay.

Can I pay my car tax at my Post Office?

Yes, you can pay for car tax at main Post Offices. You can either take the DVLA reminder form with you, otherwise known as a V11, or you can take your log book.

To tax your car, you will need an up-to-date MOT certificate, which is valid from your tax start date. In Northern Ireland, you’ll also need to provide an insurance certificate or cover note.

If you want to check if your local Post Office (PO) can process your car tax, you can find your local post office online and contact them.

Can I pay my car tax by phone?

Yes, you can. The DVLA advises that you call with your log book (the V5C) to hand – the number is 0300 123 4321. If you’re the new owner of the car, then you will need the ‘new keeper’ V5C/2 form.

How much is my car tax?

How much you pay in car tax depends on the make and model of your car, how environmentally friendly the government thinks it is, and how old your car is. Find out exactly how much tax you need to pay.

To understand the recent changes to car tax rules, it helps to split things into four camps:

  • Car registered before 1 March 2001: you pay £180 for a single annual payment if your engine size is up to 1549cc; it’s a higher £295 rate if the engine size is above 1549cc

  • Cars registered between 1 March 2001 and 31 March 2017:  the rate you pay is based on CO2 emissions and whether your car is petrol or diesel powered; broadly, you will pay lower in many instances between these dates than if your car is registered from 1st April 2017.

  • Cars registered on or after 1 April 2017: how much you pay in the first year depends on the fuel type and the car's emissions. After the first year, petrol and diesel cars will pay a flat ‘standard’ rate of £165. Alternative-fuel vehicles will pay £155. Cars that cost more than £40,000 pay an extra £355 for the subsequent five years from the beginning of the second taxation, unless they are a zero-emission vehicle.

  • Cars registered after 1 April 2022: with price increases, a new car’s tax could vary between £0 to £2,365 in the first year depending on the vehicle’s carbon dioxide emissions. After the first year, all cars have a flat annual rate, being £165 for petrol and diesel as well as £155 for alternatively fuelled cars.

    Be aware that newer diesel cars registered from April 2018 may not meet the new Real Driving Emissions 2 (RDE2) standards for nitrogen oxide (NOx).

These vehicles may attract a higher tax band, especially for bigger-engined diesel cars which is all part of the plan to encourage us out of diesel-powered vehicles. If your vehicle was built before 1 January 1978, then your vehicle is exempt from all vehicle tax.

Be aware that newer diesel cars registered from April 2018 may not meet the new Real Driving Emissions 2 (RDE2) standards for nitrogen oxide (NOx).

These vehicles may attract a higher tax band, especially for bigger-engined diesel cars which is all part of the plan to encourage us out of diesel-powered vehicles. If your vehicle was built before 1 January 1978, then your vehicle is exempt from all vehicle tax.

When is my car tax due?

Enter the registration plate of your car and you can find out when your car tax is due. It doesn’t have to be the car you personally own.

If you forget to pay your car tax, you may be liable for a fine of up to £2,500 – so mark the date in your diary to get it renewed every year.

Which cars are exempt from paying road tax?

Some types of vehicle are exempt from vehicle tax, meaning it’s free to tax them. 

You do not have to pay if you have one of the following types of vehicle:

  • Vehicles used by a disabled person

  • Disabled passenger vehicles

  • Historic vehicles (Vehicles made before 1 January 1981)

  • Electric vehicles

  • Mowing machines

  • Steam vehicles

  • Vehicles used for agriculture, horticulture, and forestry

Why are electric cars exempt from road tax?

Since April 2020, all zero-emissions vehicles have been exempt from road tax, which includes all electric cars. This is because tax bands for Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) are based on CO2 emissions, and as electric cars don’t produce any, they pay zero tax. As you can see from our tables, the highest first-year rate charge for vehicles with CO2 emissions that have been registered on or after 1st April this year is £2,365, an increase of £120 since cars registered in 2017.

First licence rates for cars registered on or after 1st April 2022 due to carbon dioxide emissions and fuel type.

Petrol or diesel car* (tax class 48 and 49)

Diesel car**

(tax class 49)

Alternative fuel car (tax class 59)


12 months

12 months

12 months





1 to 50




51 to 75




76 to 90




91 to 100




101 to 110




111 to 130




131 to 150




151 to 170




171 to 190




191 to 225




226 to 255




Over 255




*Tested to NDE2 standards

**Tested to RDE standards

Data according to the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency, accurate as of 1st April 2022.

Vehicles with a list price of more than £40,000

You have to pay an extra £335 a year if you have a car or motorhome with a ‘list price’ (the published price before any discounts) of more than £40,000. You do not have to pay this if you have a zero-emission vehicle.

You only have to pay this rate for five years (from the second time the vehicle is taxed). Including the additional price, the rates for an annual non direct debit are £520 for petrol/diesel vehicles or £510 for alternative fuelled cars.

How do I cancel my car tax for a refund?

There are just six scenarios for a refund:

  1. Your car is sold or transferred to a new buyer

  2. Your vehicle is taken off the road – or is served a Statutory off Road Notification (SORN)

  3. Your insurance company has written it off

  4. It’s been scrapped or stolen. If your car is going to be scrapped, there is a specific procedure to follow. If you keep to the guidelines, then a refund will be organised automatically

  5. The vehicle has been exported. If your car leaves the UK for more than 12 months, then the DVLA deems it as a permanent ‘leaver’

  6. It’s legally registered as tax exempt

To cancel your car tax, you will need to contact the DVLA to start the refund process. If you pay your car tax by direct debit, it will be cancelled by the DVLA, and you should be entitled to a refund for all the months left on your tax.

However, any partial months won’t be refunded. So if you cancel on the first day of the month, you will pay for that entire month.

The refund cheque is sent to the name and address on the log book only. You won’t be refunded the 10% surcharge for a single six-month payment, unfortunately, or the 5% surcharge on direct debit payments.

The amount repaid to you will be based on the first tax payment you made when you registered the car or the rate for the second tax payment onwards, whichever is lower.

What happens if I drive without tax?

Some circumstances may mean that you are exempt from paying tax, as listed above. However, if this doesn’t apply to your circumstance and you are caught driving without paying, you will face a penalty.

Typically, you will receive a warning letter, in which you are instructed to pay £80. This can be halved if you pay within 28 days. Ignoring this notice could result in a fine of up to £1,000, or alternatively, you could face a fee of up five times the annual road tax amount if your case is severe enough to go to court.

Compare car insurance

Save money by shopping around and comparing policies on MoneySuperMarket to make sure you’re getting the cheapest car insurance deal for your circumstances. Just pop in a few details about yourself and your car and we’ll put together quotes to match your requirements.