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How to get an up-to-date car tax check

Instant road tax checks via a vehicle registration number

Car tax also referred to as road tax or vehicle excise duty (VED), must be paid on every car registered within the UK. 

Car tax applies to all vehicles, regardless of how often they are driven or if the car is parked on a UK public road.

Any vehicles parked unused off of private roads must be taxed or have a DVLA Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN).

To help you understand car tax, including the reason for it, how the amount due is calculated, how to make your payment, and more, we’ve created this car tax guide to help.

Cool, sassy woman wearing sunglasses and holding fingers to her lips.

What is Car Tax or Vehicle Excise Duty?

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is the UK government organisation responsible for maintaining an accurate record of drivers in Great Britain and all vehicle registrations in the United Kingdom.

This agency also collects vehicle excise duty (road tax costs) and acts against anyone who evades paying their car tax. VED must be paid annually to the DVLA.

If your taxing a car for the first time, look at a DVLA car check for number plate changes, previous theft and mileage issues. 

Calculating the Amount of Car Tax Due

The amount of the car tax payment you must pay every year is determined by which tax band your car falls into. VED car tax bands largely depend on a vehicle’s carbon dioxide emissions, as the government has targets it must meet in regards to climate change and emission.

Car tax rates also depend on when the vehicle was initially registered, with the first-year rate being highest for most cars. As of January 2021, the bands are:

  • Car was registered before 1 March 2001
  • Car was registered between 1 March 2001 and 31 March 2017
  • Car was registered on or after 1 April 2017


Cars Registered Before 1 March 2001

The tax rate for any vehicle registered prior to 1 March 2001 is based entirely on the engine size.

Engines up to 1549cc are taxed at a rate of £145.00 annually. Engine sizes exceeding 1549cc are taxed at a rate of £235.00 annually.


Cars Registered Between 1 March 2001 and 31 March 2017

Vehicles registered between 1 March 2001 and 31 March 2017 fall under the old tax bands. In this case, the amount (or tax rate) due depends on the amount of CO2 emissions produced by the vehicle. 


Cars Registered On or After 1 April 2017

The cost of the first payment of car tax due for cars registered on or after 1 April 2017 depends on the vehicle’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

 However, when renewing your annual car tax, you will pay a flat rate based on the vehicle’s fuel type. After paying the first year’s car tax, CO2 emissions no longer factor into your car tax.

Additionally, cars with a list price exceeding £40,000 are required to pay an extra £310 in tax each year for a period of 5 years (the list price refers to the advertised price before any discounts are applied.) This 5-year period starts the second time the vehicle is taxed. 

Certain cars using alternative fuel sources, usually electric vehicles, are not required to pay any car tax if the car has a list price of less than £40,000 and has CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km. Other alternative fuel vehicles include bioethanol, hybrids, and liquid petroleum gas. 

Alternative fuel cars, specifically electric, with emissions exceeding 50g/km, are required to pay tax the first year. After the first year, there is no car tax to pay. 

What is a Car Tax Disc?

Prior to 1 October 2014, vehicles were required to display a car tax disc in the bottom left corner of the windscreen. This is no longer the case. Instead, the DVLA relies on their digital database to verify who has and has not paid their car tax.

Vehicles Exempt from Car Tax

According to the DVLA, a small number of cars in the UK are exempt from vehicle tax.

They include:


  • Specific alternative fuel cars, such as the BMW i3
  • Cars manufactured before 1 January 1974
  • Vehicles owned by individuals with specific disabilities

Recent UK Car Tax Changes

On 1 April 2017, Gov.UK introduced new car tax rules.

It was primarily due to the government’s need to hit specific targets on fighting carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and climate change. To do this, vehicles with higher emissions saw an increase in their road tax.

Before introducing the new VED bands in April 2017, charged cars with CO2 emissions exceeding 255g/km £550 for the first-year rate. After the new rates went into effect, it rose to £2,000 for the first-year rate. That is an increase of 263%.

However, after the first-year rate, the vehicle’s car tax switches to a flat rate with a maximum of £147. This amount stays the same for all petrol/ diesel vehicles, regardless of the amount of CO2 emissions produced by the car.

As a result, it is possible to pay less vehicle tax on a high emissions vehicle in the long term than it was following the old car tax rules.

These new rules, specifically a large amount of vehicle tax due the first year, were put into place to make people rethink purchasing a high emissions vehicle. Of course, this is usually included in the vehicle’s purchase price.

Diesel Car Tax

From 1 April 2018, new diesel cars may be required to move one band above their original band if they do not meet the latest Euro 6 emissions standards, as laid out in the RDE2′ real-world tests. This test calculates the amount of NOx emissions a vehicle is expected to produce in ‘real-world driving conditions.

Currently, the limit is set at 80mg/km, though the government allows for a compliance factor of 1.5 times.

Around 2 million vehicles with high emission engines are likely to be affected by this change. Cars with big engines, such as SUVs and sportscars, may pay as much as £500 extra during their first year.

Smaller diesel vehicles, such as the Ford Fiesta, should anticipate £20 being added to their first-year car tax rates.

Small car asking to be tax checked.

Paying your Car Tax

There are several ways to pay or renew your car tax, including online, at the post office, and by phone.

Before you get started, you will need at least one of the following:

  • V5C vehicle logbook, which must be in your name
  • V5C/2 – the new keeper’s detail slip, which you should have received from the previous owner if you recently purchased the vehicle
  • V11 letter – sent by the DVLA and posted to you about a month before your VED is due
  • V85/1 – for a Heavy Goods Vehicle

If none of these documents is available, you must apply for a new V5C. This requires you to complete a V62 form and pay a £25 fee. This form is available on the gov UK website.

In addition, the car must have a valid MOT test certificate (valid from the date your car tax starts or the date your car tax is issued, whichever is the latest.)

If you have just bought a car without a V5, tax reminder or green slip you cannot tax your car. At least until now. Have a look at the video here that describes a way to tax a car without a V5 logbook or reminder.


Paying Your Car Tax Online

Step 1: To pay online, visit the government’s vehicle tax service website. Click ‘Start Now.’

Step 2: You will be asked whether you have your V11 to hand or not. Select ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and continue.

Step 3: Enter the vehicle’s registration number and the 11-digit reference number. (This number can be found on the inside of your V5C document at the bottom.) Look for ‘Doc. Ref. No.’ This is the 11-digit number you will enter.

Step 4: You must check and confirm the information that you have provided. If the information is correct, press ‘continue.’

Step 5: Select whether you want to pay your VED annually (once a year) or monthly (yearly will save you money.) Then, you’ll have the option of paying by debit or credit card or setting up a direct debit. (A direct debit will ensure your payment is automatically taken out of your account each year.) Click ‘submit.’


Paying Your Car Tax by Phone

To do this, contact the DVLA on 0300 1234 321. Before you do this, be sure you have one of the forms detailed above and your vehicle’s vehicle registration mark (VRM) to hand.

You have the option of paying by credit or debit card by phone. If you choose to pay by phone, you will not be able to set up a direct debit for future payments.


Paying Your Car Tax at the Post Office

To pay your VED in person, simply go there. Remember to bring one of the forms detailed above with you. When you arrive, a staff member will be able to assist you. You have several payment methods available, including:

Debit card
Credit card (£2.50 handling fee)
Cheque made payable to Post Office Limited
Post Office Budget Card
Postal order
Cash (unless paying by post)
Sterling traveller’s cheques

Cancelling Your VED Tax and Getting a Refund

If you have sold your vehicle or it has been written off, stolen, scrapped, taken off-road, registered exempt, or exported out of the UK, you may be eligible for a VED refund.

To cancel your car tax, you will need to contact the DVLA on 0300 123 4321. If you paid your vehicle tax by direct debit, it is automatically cancelled, and you’ll get a refund.

You will receive your refund by post in the form of a cheque. The amount will be equal to any full months left on your vehicle tax. It’s essential to make the DVLA aware of changes immediately, as the date they receive the information is the date used to calculate your refund amount.

Getting a Tax Refund After Selling or Declaring Your Vehicle SORN

If your car is sold, whether to a dealer, individual, or online car buyer, you will be due a VED refund on any outstanding tax.

Usually, this occurs automatically when you complete your V5C change ownership information or when you register your car as SORN (statutory off road notification).

You will receive a refund cheque for any months remaining on your tax. The cheque will be sent by post to the name and address on the car’s V5C document.

You should receive your cheque after six weeks.


You are getting a Tax Refund After Your Vehicle has been Written Off

When a vehicle is written off, it is essentially like selling it to your insurance company. If your vehicle is written off, you can communicate this to the DVLA using this link. After six weeks, you should receive a refund cheque in the post.


You are getting a Tax Refund After Your Vehicle has been Stolen

If your vehicle is stolen and insurance has paid out, you will be eligible for a refund if there are any months remaining on your tax. You can communicate this to the DVLA using this link. After six weeks, you should receive a refund cheque in the post.


Getting a Tax Refund When Exporting Your Vehicle

If you are moving to another country or taking your vehicle to another country for more than 12 months, you must inform the DVLA to get your tax refund. To do this, follow this link. You will also need to complete page V5C/4 of your V5C logbook and return it to:

DVLA , Swansea, United Kingdom, SA99 1BD

You will also need to include a letter with your new address. Your refund cheque will be sent to your new address after six weeks.


Getting a Refund After Changing Your Vehicle’s Tax Class

Use this link to learn how to change your vehicle’s tax class, as well as learn if you may be eligible for a refund.