How to tax a car: Your complete guide

Questions about road tax? We’ve got your back.

Wondering how to tax a car you’ve just bought? Or which documents you need to tax a car? Or how to check if your car is taxed before you hit the road? You’re in the right place.

Car tax — also referred to as “road tax,” “Vehicle Excise Duty (VED),” or “the road fund licence” — is paid into a centralised UK government pot, which is used for projects that benefit everyone, including maintaining and improving the country’s roads and motorways. Along with car insurance, you need to pay vehicle tax every year to legally drive on public roads.

Here, we explain how to tax a car, how to renew your road tax, and how to check your car’s current tax status, before tackling a few car tax FAQs.

Ready? Let’s dive in. 

How do you tax a car that you have just bought?

The good news is that taxing a vehicle you’ve just bought is pretty straightforward. You can do it online, over the phone, or at the Post Office. Let’s take a closer look at each of these options, starting with the documents you’ll need to have on hand. 

What documents do you need to tax a car?

Before you can tax your car, you’ll need one of the following:

  • The V5C registration certificate (V5C log book) in your name if you’re the current keeper.
  • The green “new keeper” slip if you’ve just bought the car (and do not have a V5C in your name yet). You’ll get this from the previous owner’s log book if you bought the car second hand.
  • The V11 vehicle tax reminder letter from the DVLA.

Can I tax a car without a log book or new keeper slip?

No. If you don’t have your log book or the green slip from the previous owner, you’ll need to apply for a replacement V5C. You can get the application form (V62) from the Post Office. A new V5C costs £25. 

Can I tax a car without an MOT?

No. You need a valid MOT before you can tax your vehicle. The car tax rate depends on how environmentally damaging your car is: the higher the level of emissions your vehicle releases, the more you’ll need to pay (more on this later). An up-to-date MOT will confirm this information. 

Read more here: Can You Tax a Car Without an MOT? 

How to tax a car online

As with just about anything these days, the quickest and easiest way to tax your car is online. Simply navigate your way to the government’s vehicle tax service and click “Start now” to begin. 

Once you’ve done that, it’s just four short steps to sort out your road tax:

1. Choose whether you have your V11 to hand

  • If you do, you’ll need to enter the 16-digit reference number printed on the letter.
  • If you don’t, you’ll need to select the document you have available from: the V5C log book, new keeper green slip, Last Chance Letter printed in your name, or an email reminder.

2. Enter your car’s registration number

  • If you don’t have the V11, but you do have your V5C, you’ll need to enter your car’s registration number and the 11-digit reference number found at the bottom of your log book under “Doc. Ref. No”. 
  • If you have the green slip, you’ll need the car’s registration number and the 12-digit reference number found on the document. 

3. Check and confirm your details

Next, you’ll need to check and confirm the details you’ve provided.

4. Choose whether to pay monthly or annually

Finally, you’ll need to choose whether you’d like to pay your road tax monthly, every six months, or annually. You can pay via credit or debit card, or set up a direct debit

Paying annually is always cheaper. However, if you know you’re going to sell your car before your next renewal date, you might want to consider paying monthly.

How to tax a car over the phone

If you’d prefer to tax your car by phone, you can call the DVLA’s vehicle tax service on 0300 1234 321. This is a 24-hour automated service, but be warned, it’s not free. It can cost up to 10p a minute on a landline, and anywhere from 3p to 40p a minute on a mobile phone.

Before you dial, make sure you have your V11, V5C log book, or the green slip to hand.

Your payment options are slightly more limited when taxing your car over the phone. You can pay by credit or debit card, but you won’t be able to set up a direct debit. If you want to do that, you’ll need to pay your road tax online or at the Post Office. 

How to tax a car at the Post Office

If you’d like to speak to someone face-to-face while sorting out your road tax, you can visit your local Post Office. Simply bring one of the forms mentioned above (V11, V5C, or the green slip) with you, head to your local branch, and ask one of the staff members for help. They’ll take you through the process step-by-step and answer any questions you might have.

How much car tax do I need to pay?

Car tax rates range from £0 to £2,605 a year. It all depends on your vehicle’s official carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and the type of fuel it uses. 

The rates are split into bands (referred to as “car tax bands”) based on how many grams of CO2 a car emits per kilometre driven. 

You can view the most up-to-date vehicle tax rates on the website.

The amount you pay can also vary, depending on whether you pay it all upfront (which is the cheaper option) or choose to pay it monthly or every six months. If you choose to do the latter, there’s a 5% surcharge. 

Is my vehicle exempt from car tax?

All cars need to register for road tax, however, some cars are exempt from paying it. 

For example, if you drive a zero-emissions electric vehicle, you currently don’t need to pay a penny. This will change from April 2025, when zero-emission cars first registered between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2025 will pay the standard rate of road tax (£180 at the time of writing).

Other car tax exemptions include vehicles used by disabled drivers, cars made before January 1st 1974 (also known as “historic vehicles”), and cars declared as “off-road” (SORN).

How do I renew my car tax?

To renew your road tax, simply follow the same steps outlined above. You can do it online, over the phone, or in person at the Post Office. You should get a vehicle tax reminder letter (V11) around a month before your road tax is due for renewal. 

How do I check if my car is taxed?

You can check if your car has been taxed using this checker tool. Bear in mind that it can take up to five working days for the records to update. 

Some extra car tax FAQs

1. Do you have to tax a new car?

Yes. All vehicles need to be taxed before they can be driven on public roads, and new cars are no exception. If you buy a brand-new vehicle from a dealership, chances are they’ll sort out the car tax for you. It’s usually included in the full price of the car. However, don’t assume this is the case before you drive off. Always double-check. 

Likewise, if you buy a second-hand car, the seller needs to transfer ownership over to you by using the V5C form to notify the DVLA that you’re the new registered keeper. Once they’ve done that, it’s your responsibility to tax the car under your name. 

2. How early can you tax your car?

In other words, can you tax a car immediately? Yes! As soon as you take ownership of your car, you’re responsible for taxing it. It’s a good idea to do this right away, otherwise, you could run the risk of being pulled over by the police and issued an on-the-spot fine of £1,000 for driving an untaxed vehicle. 

3. How do you cancel car tax?

The quickest and easiest way to cancel your car tax is online. However, the DVLA will only accept certain reasons for the cancellation of car tax. You can cancel if: 

  • You sell or transfer your car to a new owner or dealership
  • Your car has been written off by your insurance company 
  • Your car has been stolen
  • Your car has been exported out of the country
  • Your car has been scrapped (read more about car scrappage schemes here)
  • You’ve taken the car off the road and applied for a SORN (Statutory Off-Road Notification)
  • Your car is now exempt from road tax (for example, it’s a classic car made before 1 January 1982, or it’s now used by a disabled person)

We explain how to cancel your car tax depending on your circumstances in this article: How to Cancel Car Tax: A Step-by-Step Guide

To recap: How to tax a car

The quickest and easiest way to tax a car is online. However, you can also do it over the phone or at the Post Office. You’ll need your V11 reminder letter, V5C log book, or the green slip from the previous owner to tax your vehicle, along with a valid MOT.

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