Car tax: Everything you need to know

Want to know if you need road tax or not? Read our guide to discover all you need to know about taxing your vehicle.

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Most vehicles on UK roads must have road tax, but the cost very much depends on the age of the vehicle, the date it was registered and its level of carbon dioxide emissions. For cars that pre-date March 2001, the amount of road tax paid is based purely on engine size. Cars that are 40 years or older won’t have to pay any road tax at all. Confused yet? Don’t worry. Read our guide to get the facts about road tax including how much you’ll pay and how to pay it.

What is road tax?

Officially known as vehicle excise duty (VED), road tax or car tax as it is more commonly referred as, is the tax that needs to be paid on a vehicle that travels on or is parked on public roads in the UK. A vehicle can be taxed for a full year or six months, though a 5% charge is added to this half-year tax.

Even a vehicle in storage and officially off the road will also need to be taxed with a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN).

How much is my road tax?

The type of vehicle you choose to drive will have a huge impact on the cost of your road tax.

Cars registered on or after 1 April 2007
A vehicle registered on or after 1 April 2007 will have to pay a road tax based on its carbon dioxide emissions for the first year of registration. Every year after this first year, vehicles will be taxed at a standard rate of £140 or £130 for those that use alternative fuel.
Cars registered before 1 March 2001
Any vehicle registered before 1 March 2001 will pay a road tax based on the size of its engine. For example, a car with an engine size of less than 1549cc would need to pay £155 for the year. Any car with an engine size bigger than 1549cc would have to pay £255.
Vehicles that are exempt
There are some vehicles that don’t need to pay road tax such as:

  • Vehicles that are at least 40 years old
  • Electric vehicles that cost less than £40,000 and have zero carbon dioxide emissions
  • Cars registered any time between 1 March 2001 and 31 March 2017 that produce less than 100 grams of carbon dioxide for every kilometre driven
  • Steam-powered vehicles

There are also some owners with a disability that might get free road tax such as if they:

  • Own a mobility scooter or have an invalid carriage in their vehicle
  • Receive the higher rate of Disability Living Allowance that relates to mobility
  • Receive a War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement

It’s important to remember even vehicles that are exempt from paying road tax must still apply for road tax every year. Any vehicle that isn’t properly taxed, even those that are exempt, could face a penalty.

Car tax changes made in April 2018

As a way to encourage car manufacturers to carefully consider and lower the emissions of new vehicles, the government added a new standard for new vehicles registered after 1 April 2018. The Real Driving Emissions Step 2 standard is a test that monitors the amount of toxic pollutants found in a vehicle’s exhaust fumes.

Primarily, this change is focused on new vehicles with diesel engines. Any new diesel vehicle that fails to meet the standard will have to pay more road tax in the first year of registration.

How can I pay for road tax?

You have a couple of options when it comes to paying for your road tax.

You can visit the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) website and apply to pay for your road tax there. Or you can pay in person through select Post Office branches.

Accepted payment methods include debit card, credit card or direct debit payments.

Frequently asked questions

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