Can you tax a car without insurance? The short answer is no. You need to have some form of insurance in place before taxing your car.
We know there’s plenty to do when buying a new car. From choosing the right one, to arranging tax and insurance, booking MOTs, and getting all your documents in place.
To take one thing off your mind, here’s everything you need to know about the rules on car tax, including whether you need it, the insurance required, and how to arrange it.
Can you tax a car in the UK without insurance?
Quite simply, no. You need insurance to tax a car in the UK.
This must be at least third-party motor insurance, meaning you’re covered if you injure someone else or damage their property while driving.
Well, car insurance and car tax (which is officially called Vehicle Excise Duty) come hand in hand.
When you apply for car tax, the DVLA checks you have valid insurance before issuing your tax. Taxing a car without insurance isn’t possible.
The reason is a UK law called Continuous Insurance Enforcement (CIE), which means drivers always need car insurance — even when they aren’t driving. This rule applies even if your car is just sitting in your driveway.
The only time you don’t need insurance is if you’ve declared your car “SORN”. This is known as a Statutory Off-Road Notification. It tells the government you never drive the car and means you don’t need insurance or car tax.
If you do want to drive your car (even a short distance), you’ll need to insure it and tax it as normal.
What documents do you need to tax a car?
You don’t need any physical documents to tax a car.
But you will need to enter some information and have certain things in place. This includes:
- Your vehicle registration (number plate)
- Your vehicle’s 11 or 12-digit reference number
- A valid MOT
- An insurance policy
Your reference number is found on:
- A recent vehicle tax reminder letter, known as a V11
- Your vehicle’s V5C logbook — this must be in your name
- The new keeper slip from your logbook (if you’ve just bought the car)
If you don’t have any of these to hand, you’ll have to apply for a duplicate logbook.
While you don’t need physical insurance documents to tax your car, you will need an insurance policy in place. This could be a “standard” policy or temporary cover for a matter of hours, days, or months.
As long as you’ve taken out an insurance policy (even if you’re still waiting for documents to arrive), this will show up on the DVLA’s Motor Insurance Database (MID). They’ll automatically know whether your car’s insured.
For cars over three years old, you’ll also need a valid MOT. A brand-new car doesn’t need an MOT, as it’s unused and won’t have wear and tear.
While you can’t tax a car without a valid MOT, it’s sometimes possible to insure a car without an MOT. You’ll have to check with your insurer what their policies are. While some insurance companies will take you on, others need an MOT to prove your car is roadworthy.
Can you keep a car on the road with tax but no insurance?
If your car is taxed but your insurance has expired, can you still keep it on the road?
If your car is on the road, it must be insured at all times.
The only exception is if you’ve made a SORN declaration. But you’ve got to keep your car on private land (such as on your driveway or in your garage) when you’ve SORN’d it. This means it can’t be on public roads anyway.
So again, if your car is on the roads, you’ll need insurance.
Can you drive without tax if you just bought your car?
Your car must be taxed before you drive it on public roads.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to buy the tax yourself though. If you’re purchasing your car from a dealership (even if it’s second hand), the dealer might arrange car tax for you.
With appropriate insurance in place, you drive straight off the forecourt.
Car tax is important, as driving an untaxed car is a criminal offence. If the police catch you on a public highway, penalties range from an £80 fine (reduced to £40 if paid within 33 days) to charges of £2,500 or more if you end up in court.
The only time you can drive an untaxed vehicle is if you’re heading to a pre-booked MOT test. You must drive straight there (no detours or errands) and it’s a good idea to keep your appointment confirmation handy, just in case you’re stopped.
What are the exemptions for car tax?
If you’re driving on UK roads, you need to register for car tax.
Even so, not everyone has to pay car tax. If you’re a disabled person or drive certain types of vehicles, you could be exempt. For instance, disabled passenger vehicles, powered wheelchairs and mobility vehicles are all exempt from vehicle tax.
Other exemptions include:
- Historic vehicles: Cars manufactured over 40 years ago
- Electric vehicles: Charged from external sources or hydrogen fuel cells (not including hybrid vehicles)
- Mowing machines: Designed exclusively for cutting grass
- Farming and forestry vehicles: Including tractors and “limited use” agricultural vehicles, used for short journeys (under 1.5 kilometres) on public roads
- Steam-powered vehicles
While electric cars, vans and motorbikes are currently exempt from tax, the government announced they’ll be subject to vehicle excise duty from 1 April 2025. These new rules mean you’ll pay tax on your electric car in the same way as a petrol or diesel car.
Looking for electric car insurance? Whether hybrid or fully electric, we offer specialist insurance to fit your needs.
Can you drive a car straight away if you tax it online?
Yes! In good news, you can drive your car straight away if you’ve successfully taxed it online.
It’s worth knowing this tax must be in your name though. Road tax doesn’t automatically transfer from the seller to the new owner. It has to be in the name of the registered keeper.
So even if the seller’s road tax is valid for the next few months, you’ve still got to arrange this in your name.
Can I tax a car with temporary insurance?
Yes. Temporary car insurance is absolutely fine for taxing your car.
These flexible car insurance policies cover motorists for just a few weeks, days or even a matter of hours.
Temporary insurance is especially useful if you’ve just bought your car and need tax to drive it home.
Be careful though. While it’s usually pretty quick, your temporary car insurance policy might not show up in the DVLA’s MID immediately.
This process normally happens on the same day (within a couple of hours), but in rare circumstances you could be waiting up to a week. It’s a legal requirement that car insurance must appear on the DVLA’s database within seven days though. So you should never wait longer than this.
How much does annual road tax cost?
The amount of money you pay depends on what car tax band your vehicle is in.
This is based on factors such as:
- Your fuel type
- Your vehicle’s list price
- Your CO₂ emissions
- Your car’s age
- Your disability status
There’s a handy online calculator for new cars, letting you know how much you have to pay.
You can arrange road tax in one of three ways, paying by debit card or credit card.
Your options are:
- Over the phone: Call the DVLA’s 24-hour phone on 0300 1234 321
- At the post office: Visit your nearest branch
- Online: Head to gov.uk
Remember, even if you don’t have to pay anything for road tax — you still need to renew it each year. If you don’t, you could face significant fines ranging from £80 to £2,500 or more.
How can I check my car’s road tax status?
Once you’re taxed and on the road, how do you know it’s time to renew?
Don’t worry if you have no idea when your road tax expires. It’s really simple to find out.
You’ll probably get a tax renewal letter. But if not, all you need to do is enter your car number plate on gov.uk. This tells you the tax status of your vehicle and when it’s due for renewal. It also lists the expiration date of your MOT.
There’s loads of other useful stats too, including the year of manufacture, fuel type and technical info like the cylinder capacity (essentially engine size) and CO₂ emissions.
So, can you tax a car without insurance? No. You’ll need some form of insurance policy in place before taxing your car. While this must be at least third-party motor insurance, temporary cover (i.e. cover that lasts for months, weeks or hours) is absolutely fine.
There are a few extra things you’ll need too — a valid MOT, your car’s number plate, and your 11 or 12-digit reference number.
If your car is on the road, you always need tax and insurance. While there are some exemptions for paying car tax, you still have to register and renew it each year. It’s easy to check when your car tax is due for renewal, just head to the gov.uk website.
At Howden, we provide brilliant value insurance to over 350,000 motorists a year. Whether you’re looking to insure your petrol car, electric vehicle, motorbike, caravan or just a day’s temporary insurance, our expert advisors are on hand. For the right cover at the best price, get in touch today.