Road Tax and MOT

As a vehicle owner, it is your duty to ensure that your car is taxed and has a valid MOT, and as a driver you must also have valid insurance. Failing to follow these rules is a criminal offence.

Vehicle Excise Duty (car tax)

It is a widely held misconception that the tax paid on your vehicle is known as ‘Road Tax’, and is paid towards the upkeep of the roads. In actuality, Vehicle Excise Duty (also known as vehicle or car tax) has nothing to do with fixing roads, and is charged based on the CO2 emissions that the vehicle produces (or, if the vehicle was registered before March 2001, the size of its engine).

Vehicle tax is required for most mechanically propelled vehicles – this includes motorbikes and motor tricycles. Certain vehicles, such as electric cars, mobility scooters and vehicles made before 1974 are exempt from paying vehicle tax. If your vehicle is exempt, you may still need to register.

If a vehicle is used by someone who is disabled, they may qualify for a disability exemption from vehicle tax. A vehicle used by an organisation to provide transport for disabled people would also be exempt, unless it is an ambulance.

Failing to pay vehicle tax can result in a fine of up to £1,000, as well as being ordered to back-pay all of the tax that you missed.

Registering a new vehicle for tax

To ascertain how much tax you will need to pay on a vehicle, you can use the government’s vehicle tax rate calculator. You will need to know the make and model of the vehicle, as well as when it was registered.

You will also need to complete and send a V55/4 form to the DVLA to register a new vehicle, or a V55/5 form if you are registering a used car that has not been registered in the UK before. These can be obtained from the government's website.

When registering a new vehicle you will need to include documents to prove your name, such as a passport, birth certificate or current paper passport, and your address, such as a council tax bill for the current year or a utility bill from the last three months.

You will also need to send the cost of the vehicle tax and the new registration fee, which is £55. If the vehicle is new, you will need to include a certificate of newness, or declaration of newness if it has been imported. If it is over three years old, you will need to provide an up-to-date MOT certificate.

Depending on the vehicle, you may need to include other documents. Contact the DVLA for more information.

Renewing your vehicle tax

You are expected to keep your tax up-to-date at all times, so you should not wait until your tax expires before renewing it. As with insurance, you cannot leave your vehicle untaxed unless you have declared it off the road with a Statutory Off Road Notice (SORN), even if you do not drive it and have no plans to do so in the near future.

If your car is not exempt from vehicle tax, an exception may be made if you are caught driving without tax on the way to a pre-booked MOT. This is not guaranteed however, and will depend on the situation – if you are driving to an MOT test centre which is particularly far away, the police are unlikely to be sympathetic.

Exceptions To Car Or Vehicle Tax

You will not need to pay vehicle tax if your vehicle falls into one of the following categories:

  • Vehicles made before 1973 ("historic vehicles")
  • Vehicles powered by electricity or steam
  • Mowing vehicles or machines
  • Agricultural, horticultural or forestry vehicles
  • Mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs

You are also exempt from paying vehicle tax if you are disabled, or if the vehicle in question is used by an organisation to carry disabled passengers.

Note that there are certain exceptions to these rules – for example, a mobility scooter is only exempt if it cannot exceed 8mph on the road.

Tax Discs

Tax discs were abolished in October 2014, meaning that you no longer need to display a disc. However, you will still need to tax your vehicle if it is on the road.

Taxing a car from abroad

You can bring a car from abroad to drive on the road in the UK, provided that:

  • It is registered in your home country;
  • You do not use it in the UK for more than six months within a 12-month period;
  • You do not move to the UK.

If you move to the UK or you use it here more frequently than is allowed, it will need to be registered and taxed here.


An MOT is a regular check that must be carried out on a vehicle to ensure that it is in a roadworthy condition. Generally, a vehicle must first be tested once it is three years old, and must subsequently be tested every year. Certain passenger-carrying vehicles, such as taxis and private passenger vehicles with nine or more seats, must be tested once they are a year old.

Driving without an MOT is a criminal offence, unless you are driving to a pre-booked MOT test at an approved centre, or you are driving to an appointment at a garage to have any necessary work carried out after the vehicle has failed an MOT test. Failing to have a valid MOT certificate can result in a fine of up to £1,000.

The MOT test

Only an approved MOT test centre can give you a valid MOT. Make sure that the centre you use is displaying the official MOT logo, a blue sign with three connecting white triangles in the centre.

If your vehicle passes its MOT, you will receive an MOT certificate. Your vehicle will also be recorded on the central MOT database as having passed. If the vehicle fails, this will also be recorded, and you will need to have repairs made to the vehicle to bring it up to MOT standards.

If the test was carried out before the previous MOT expired, a failure would not invalidate the previous MOT, and the vehicle could still be driven on the road. However, bear in mind that driving an unroadworthy car is a criminal offence, regardless of whether there is a valid MOT. It would therefore be wise to have any necessary repairs made.

Dealing with an MOT failure

If you have the vehicle repaired and retested, you should be able to get a partial retest if you have it retested less than ten working days after the initial test. This will be cheaper than the full test – in fact, if the vehicle is left at the centre for repairs and then retested, the retest should cost you nothing.

If you do decide to take the car away for repairs, you should return it to the same centre for the retest.

If you disagree with the test result

If you are unhappy with the result of the test, you can file an appeal by filling in form VT17. You can obtain this from the test centre or download it from GOV.UK. You can also call the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) on 0300 123 9000 to request a form.

Your appeal must be received within 14 days of the test. The DVSA will then offer you an appointment to have the car retested. You will have to pay the test fee again, but this will be refunded in part or in full if the appeal is successful.

You can also contact the DVSA over the test result if you believe that the vehicle was passed incorrectly. If the DVSA accepts your complaint, they will retest your vehicle for free if no more than 28 days have elapsed since the test (or three months if there is a corrosion-related issue with the vehicle, such as rust).

Replacing an MOT certificate

If your MOT certificate has been lost or damaged, you can get it replaced at an MOT testing centre. This does not have to be at the centre that carried out the most recent MOT; it can be done at any centre.

You will need to pay £10 for the replacement certificate or half the price of the MOT test fee for the vehicle, if this is lower. You will need the vehicle registration number, as well as the original MOT test number or the V5C document reference number.

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