Can you tax a car without insurance?

Do you need insurance to tax a car? The short answer is yes. Our guide explains the process involved and whether or not there are any exceptions.

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It is illegal to drive an untaxed car, and it’s also illegal to drive without at least the most basic insurance. We’ve looked at whether you can insure your car without taxing it and what the process involves.

What is car tax?

The official name for car tax is Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). Following new rules introduced in April 2017, the amount of tax you have to pay is calculated according to how much CO2 your car emits, as well as how much your car is worth.

Can I tax my car without insurance?

No, you must take out an insurance policy for your car before you tax it (though you don’t need to have your documents to hand, unless you live in Northern Ireland).

The DVLA’s Motor Insurance Database automatically knows if a car is insured and has an MOT, and will use this information when you try to tax your car online or through the post office.

The only time your car can be untaxed is if you’ve declared it as SORN. In that case, you cannot drive or park your car on public roads, but you can still keep your insurance if you wish to (in case it is stolen or damaged while parked).

Can I drive my car home if I’ve just bought it?

Before driving a car you’ve just bought, you must tax it. While the tax used to automatically transfer from the old owner to the new, this is no longer the case.

If you’ve bought a car from a dealer, it’s likely the dealer will handle the tax renewal, but double-check this before you get behind the wheel.

What do I need to tax my car?

You have two choices for taxing your car:

Online

You can tax your car instantly online by setting up a direct debit, or by paying with a debit or credit card. You’ll need a reference number that can be found on:

  • A V11 letter (a reminder or “last chance” warning) from the DVLA
  • Your vehicle logbook (V5C), which has to be in your name
  • The green “new keeper’s details” slip (V5C/2) from the V5C logbook, if you’ve just bought the car

Post office

You can tax your car in person at the post office. You’ll need to take one of the following:

  • Your vehicle logbook (V5C), which has to be in your name
  • The green “new keeper’s details” slip (V5C/2) from the V5C logbook, if you’ve just bought the car
  • If your vehicle is more than three years old, you may be asked to show a valid MOT certificate
  • In Northern Ireland, you’ll need an insurance certificate or cover note

How much car tax will I pay?

This depends on the car you drive. Car tax is calculated by the amount of CO2 that your car emits and how much it’s worth. Each car falls into a different car tax band, and the cost of tax varies for each one of those.

How long does it take for tax to show online?

It usually takes up to five working days for renewed car tax to show online – this is the time the DVLA says it takes its system to update.

How soon after buying a car can I tax it?

You must tax the car before you drive it, so this can mean having to sort it out at the point of purchase. If you buy from a dealer, they will handle the tax renewal for you, but make sure it’s done before you drive away.

Can I tax my car while waiting for the logbook?

Yes. You can use the 11-digit reference number on your V11 reminder letter, or the 12-digit reference number from the new keeper slip.

Another option is to tax your car at the post office. You’ll need a valid MOT certificate and the new keeper slip to do this, plus a paper copy of your insurance certificate if you live in Northern Ireland.

According to the DVLA, any new keeper who hasn’t got their car’s logbook (V5C) must apply for a replacement. This costs £25 and can take up to 4-6 weeks to process.

Can I tax my car with temporary car insurance?

Yes. Many people use temporary car insurance to drive their car home from the point of purchase. If you have this type of cover, you can still tax your car. This allows you to take a little more time while shopping around for an annual car insurance policy.

How can I check if my car is taxed or not?

You can check the status of your vehicle by using the DVLA’s Vehicle Enquiry System.

Your car insurance details are also checked at the same time, which is why you don’t need your insurance documents when you go through the process of taxing your car.

What happens if I don’t tax my car?

Any car that you buy will be untaxed, as tax does not transfer between owners. This mean it’s up to you to organise the tax (if you buy from a dealer, they can help with this).

In 2018, almost 500,000 people got caught driving without car tax in the UK. If you’re caught with an untaxed car that isn’t declared as SORN, you will be liable for a fine of up to £1,000.

You don’t need tax if you’re driving to a pre-booked MOT test, but you mustn’t make any stops on the way (including just dropping someone off).

Frequently asked questions

Finder survey: What proportion of Brits say the the level of the excess is one of the most important considerations when choosing car insurance?

ResponseMaleFemale
Level of excess44.84%37.5%
Source: Finder survey by Censuswide of 1032 Brits, December 2023
*Based on data provided by Consumer Intelligence Ltd, www.consumerintelligence.com (Mar ’24). 51% of car insurance customers could save £539.54
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Written by

Ronny Lavie

Ronny Lavie was a deputy editor at Finder, specialising in insurance content. She has almost a decade of experience writing about financial topics, including five months spent as the interim managing editor for the Fintech Times newspaper. Ronny has a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from London Middlesex University. See full profile

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