Road Tax and MOT

What is Road Tax?

Many believe that they pay road tax on their car or vehicle, which pays for the maintenance of the roads - however, this is not the case, and has not been the case since 1937.

The tax you pay on your car is actually known as Vehicle Excise Duty, or vehicle tax, which is based on the emissions from on your vehicle. This is why cyclists do not pay road tax. As such, drivers of electric cars do not need to pay vehicle tax either.

Car and vehicle tax

All motor vehicles, except for those listed below, must be taxed in order to be eligible for use on the road. Insurance and a valid MOT are required to tax a vehicle. The maximum penalty for not displaying a new tax disc in a car windscreen is £200. If a motor vehicle is not taxed there is an immediate £80 fine and the possibility of a County Court Judgement, which holds a minimum £1,000 fine.

The DVLA checks its tax database monthly and carries out wheel-clamping in conjunction with partner firms. Owners must pay a release fee of £100 and produce a tax disc within 24 hours or the vehicle will be impounded. If no tax disc is available the owner must pay a deposit of £160 for cars and motorcycles, rising up to £700 for other vehicles.

The deposit will be refunded if a tax disc is produced within 2 weeks. If not, the deposit will be lost and the vehicle re-clamped. Release of an impounded vehicle costs £200 and a £21 per day storage fee — prosecution and fines of £1,000 plus tax arrears could also be imposed upon offenders.

Exceptions to Car or Vehicle Tax

You will not need to pay vehicle tax on your car or vehicle if it 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.

Even if you are exempt or your vehicle is exempt, you must still apply for a tax disc. You will receive a "nil value disc", which you must display on your vehicle.


An MOT test is required to be passed annually by most motor vehicles over 3 years of age.

It is not an offence to drive a motor vehicle without a valid MOT if:

  • you are taking it directly to a pre-arranged MOT test,
  • you are taking it to a place of repair after it has failed an MOT test in order that it will be able to pass the test.

Insurance is required to take a motor vehicle to an MOT test. Driving without an MOT does not automatically invalidate your insurance - insurers are more likely to be concerned about how roadworthy your vehicle is than whether or not your MOT was up-to-date.

If you are stopped by police when you do not have an MOT, they will also take this into account - you may still be found guilty of an offence if your car is deemed unsafe to drive, even if you are driving it straight to an MOT or a place of repair.

Three white triangles on a blue background is the symbol for an authorised MOT-issuing garage.

Dealing with car and vehicle legal problems

If you find yourself in legal trouble due to MOT or road tax issues, it is worth seeking out legal advice which is more specific to your own situation. To this end, we launched Instant Law Line - a telephone legal advice service which allows those in need to get legal advice without needing to pay high legal fees. You could be getting legal advice in 5 minutes' time.

Try Instant Law Line Today!

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