Road Tax Guide: How Much It Costs, How to Pay & More

Ellie Dyer-Brown, 4 days ago

5 min read

  • Car ownership
Road tax reminder with some bank notes on it and car key

WhoCanFixMyCar answers all your questions about Vehicle Excise Duty, also known as road tax.

The official name for road tax is Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). It’s one of the main costs associated with owning a car - but what exactly is road tax, and why do we have to pay it? This guide covers everything you need to know.


What is road tax?

What does road tax pay for?

Do I need road tax?

How much is road tax?

Managing road tax

How to report an untaxed vehicle

How long can you drive without road tax?

What is the penalty for driving without road tax?


What is road tax?

Road tax, also known as VED or car tax, is a legal requirement for most road users. It involves annual payments to the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA).

You must register for road tax when you buy a new car and renew it annually. The cost depends on your car’s emissions. Some motorists don’t have to pay if they are exempt for an official reason.

What does road tax pay for?

The money doesn’t go directly towards road maintenance like some people think. It is added to the central funds of the exchequer (the government’s annual budget) and spent on everything from education and healthcare to the police and local councils. Some will cover road maintenance, but the route between your road tax payment and filling potholes isn’t direct.

A pothole in a road

Do I need road tax?

If you use your car on public roads, you probably need to pay road tax.

When you buy a new car, two of the first things you should do are purchase insurance and pay road tax. The law requires you to have both of these things before you can drive anywhere. Even motorists exempt from paying for road tax must still tax their vehicles.

Learn more about car insurance and how to get it cheaper.

Car tax exemptions

You might not have to pay for road tax if any of the following bullet points apply to you:

  • You drive a zero-emissions vehicle that doesn’t need to be connected to a power source while moving.

  • You have a statutory off-road notification (SORN).

  • Your car was made before the 1st of January 1982.

  • The vehicle is used by a disabled person and is registered in their name or their nominated driver’s name.

At the time of writing, electric vehicles (EVs) are exempt from road tax. However, from the 1st of April 2025, drivers of EVs will have to start paying as they will no longer be exempt.

Charging an electric car

How much is road tax? 

Petrol, diesel and hybrid cars are taxed in different amounts depending on their CO2 emissions. Greener vehicles pay a lower rate, which is good news if you own a hybrid. Older diesel models tend to pay the highest road tax.

Vehicles registered on or after 1st April 2017 pay an initial rate in the first year based on their emissions. From the second year onwards, this changes to a standard rate.

Cars registered between 1st March 2001 and 31st March 2017 pay an annual rate that remains the same and is calculated using the vehicle’s emissions. The table below shows how much you can expect to pay based on your tax band.

Band and CO2 emissionsSingle 12-month paymentTotal of 12 monthly installmentsSingle 6-month payment
A, up to 100g/km£0N/AN/A
B, 101-110g/km£20£21N/A
C, 111-120g/km£35£36.75N/A
D, 121-130g/km£150£157.50£82.50
E, 131-140g/km£180£189£99
F, 141-150g/km£200£210£110
G, 151-165g/km£240£252£132
H, 166-175g/km£290£304.50£159.50
I, 176-185g/km£320£336£168
J, 186-200g/km£365£383.25£200.75
K*, 201-225g/km£395£414.75£217.25
L, 226-255g/km£675£708.75£371.25
M, over 255g/km£695£729.75£382.25

*Includes vehicles with a CO2 figure over 225g/km but were registered before 23rd March 2006.

Tax for cars registered after 1st April 2017

New cars that cost over £40,000 are charged an additional £390 on top of the standard rate for five years from the second time the vehicle is taxed. Zero-emission cars are exempt from this charge.

First-year rates

CO2 emissionsPetrol cars and diesel cars that meet the RDE2 standardOther diesel carsAlternative fuel cars
Over 255g/km£2,605£2,605£2,595

Second payment onwards

Fuel typeSingle 12-month paymentTotal of 12 monthly installmentsSingle 6 month payment
Petrol or diesel£180£189£99
Alternative fuel£170£178.50£93.50

Managing road tax 

When is my road tax due?

Your road tax is due at the same time each year, and you can choose to either pay it all in one go or spread the cost out into 12 monthly instalments. The vehicle’s registered keeper will receive a tax reminder letter that outlines the expiry date. The road tax must have been paid by the end of that day - there are no exceptions. 

How to check road tax 

You can check your car’s road tax online using the government website.

How to cancel road tax

There are several reasons why you might want to cancel your road tax. For example, if your vehicle has been:

  • Taken off the road by submitting a statutory off-road notice (SORN)

  • Sold or transferred

  • Written off by an insurance company

  • Registered as exempt from tax

  • Stolen 

  • Scrapped

  • Exported

You can cancel your vehicle tax and get a refund using the government website.

How to pay road tax 

You should receive a V11 reminder later when it’s time to renew your road tax. You’ll need to use the reference number from that document to pay on the government website. Alternatively, you can use the reference number in your V5C logbook.

There are other ways to pay, including:

  • By phone - call 0300 123 4321.

  • At the Post Office - pay over the counter at a local branch using cash, cheque, Direct Debit, credit or debit card.

What documents do I need to tax my car?

You’ll need the reference number from one of the following documents to pay online:

  • A recent V11 reminder

  • Your V5C logbook (pictured below)

  • The green new keeper slip

V5C car logbook

If you decide to pay at the Post Office instead, you’ll also need a valid MOT certificate and an exemption certificate if you claim disabled vehicle tax.

Can you pay road tax monthly?

You can pay your road tax monthly by setting up a Direct Debit. This method allows you to choose whether to pay every month, every six months or annually.

How to report an untaxed vehicle 

You can report untaxed vehicles here. First, you should use the government website to make sure you’re correct about the vehicle not being taxed. You’ll need to provide the car’s registration number, make, model and colour, and you’ll also need to include details about the town and postcode where you saw it.

How long can you drive without road tax?

Driving a car on public roads in the UK without road tax is illegal unless you are exempt or driving the vehicle straight to a pre-booked MOT test. 

There used to be a five-day grace period to allow tax discs to be delivered in the post, but the new tax system is online, so the grace period no longer exists. You must have tax from the first moment you use the car on public roads.

Old fashioned tax disc crumpled up

You shouldn’t try driving for any length of time without road tax. Eventually, you will get caught.

Read about the most common driving offences and penalties.

What is the penalty for driving without road tax?

The Vehicle Excise and Regulation Act (1994) determines the penalties for driving without road tax. The DVLA enforces these penalties and can clamp your vehicle until the tax is paid. 

Clamped car wheel

If your vehicle is identified as untaxed and you haven’t declared it as SORN, a late licensing penalty will be imposed on the registered keeper, accompanied by an £80 fine. At this stage, no points will be added to your licence, and if you settle within 33 days, you may be eligible for a 50% discount, potentially reducing the financial burden.

If you use your vehicle on a public road again without taxing it, an out-of-court settlement letter will be issued. The fine will be £30 plus one and a half times the outstanding tax amount. Failing to pay this fine could mean putting the case into the magistrates’ court, where the penalty is either £1,000 or five times the outstanding tax - whichever figure is higher.

Driving your car on a public road with a SORN will result in an out-of-court letter and a fine of £30 plus twice the outstanding value of the tax. Again, failure to pay could land you in the magistrates’ court, resulting in a fine of £2,500.

Frequently asked questions

Looking for affordable car repairs or maintenance? WhoCanFixMyCar can help you find the right garage at the right price.

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Written by Ellie

Ellie Author Pic

Ellie is WhoCanFixMyCar’s Content Writer. She has a BA in English literature from Durham University, a master’s degree in creative writing, and three years of experience writing in the automotive industry. She currently drives a Suzuki Swift.

Find Ellie on LinkedIn.