Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), commonly referred to as Road Tax or Car Tax, is one of the many costs that come with the upkeep and maintenance of your car. For some cars, it can be as high as £2,365 – this will depend on when it was first registered, its fuel type, and how many grams of CO2 it emits.

All vehicles on the road must be insured, have a valid MOT certificate, and be taxed – it’s a legal requirement. Failure to do so will result in a fine that will periodically increase if not paid on time.

That’s why you must have your car taxed at all times. But how can you check if it’s taxed or not?

That’s what we’ll explain in this article, along with how much Car Tax costs for your vehicle and much more. Let’s dive in.

Using the government’s online checker, you can check if your vehicle is taxed or not. It is completely free to use and is an incredibly straightforward process. All you need to do is enter the vehicle registration number on the website.

The government tool will also provide important information on your vehicle, such as its engine size, CO2 emissions, and when the last vehicle log book (V5C) was issued.

There are two ways to tax your vehicle. You can either pay the tax online on the government website or at a Post Office.

You will need your vehicle log book or a keeper slip on hand. If you don’t have this with you, you can use the reference number from a V11 reminder document.

When paying for your Road Tax, you can pay a one-time payment for the whole year or choose the 6-month option. It should be noted that if you decide to pay in 6-month instalments, there will be a 5% surcharge on your total.

To make matters easy for you, you can also set up a Direct Debit which will withdraw the amount you owe on a 6-month or 12-month basis – depending on which one you choose.

You’ll be able to tax your vehicle without a logbook if you have a new keeper slip or a V11 reminder document. If you don’t have these either, then you can apply for a new V5C which can also be done on the government website.

In the past, you could check if your vehicle was taxed or not by looking at the tax disc, also known as the Road Tax sticker. The tax disc was a sticker that would be stuck onto the windscreen and contained all the tax-related information, such as when it was taxed and its tax expiry date. But the government abandoned this system in 2014 in favour of a more digital approach.

These days, you can run a Car Tax check on your vehicle online. Simply enter your registration number into the tool to find the tax and MOT status of the vehicle.

The tool will then present you with the vehicle’s name and colour and ask you to verify if this is the correct vehicle. If it is, you can confirm and press ‘Continue’. The website will then direct you to a page that outlines if the car is taxed and if it has a valid MOT.

It will display if the vehicle is currently taxed and if it passed its MOT. It will also outline the expiry date so you can stay up-to-date on when it needs to be renewed. You will then be shown details of the vehicle. This will include information such as the year of manufacture, engine size, carbon emissions, vehicle type approval, weight, wheelplan, when the last V5C logbook was issued and much more.

The amount you pay for your vehicle tax will vary depending on various factors, such as the type of vehicle and engine size. But, the biggest factor determining how much you pay is the vehicle’s age and when it was registered.

There are three main tax categories that your vehicle will fall into depending on when it was registered:

  • Before 1 March 2001
  • On or after 1 March 2001 but before 1 April 2017
  • On or after 1 April 2017

Vehicle registered before 1 March 2001

Cars that weigh no more than 3,500kg and registered before 1 March 2001 are classified as Private/Light Goods (PLG) vehicles. Their Road Tax costs will be evaluated based on the car’s engine size.

PLG Tax Class 11Lump sum 12-month payment (non-direct debitLump sum 12-month payment (direct debit)12 monthly instalments (direct debit)Lump sum 6-month payment (non-direct debit)Lump sum 6-month payment (direct debit)
Not over 1549cc£180£180£189£99£94.50
Over 1549cc£295£295£309.75£162.25£154.88

Vehicle registered on or after 1 March 2001 but before 1 April 2017

Road Tax costs for these cars will be evaluated based on the vehicle’s official CO2 emissions and fuel type. This is split up into tax bands, or brackets, that outline how much should be paid based on the grams per kilometre (g/km) emitted.

VED BandCO2 emissions (g/km)Lump sum 12-month payment (non-direct debit)Lump sum 12-month payment (direct debit)12 monthly instalments (direct debit)Lump sum 6-month payment (non-direct debit)Lump sum 6-month payment (direct debit)
AUp to 100£0£0N/AN/AN/A
MOver 255£630£630£661.50£346.50£330.75

Vehicle registered on or after 1 April 2017

If the car is registered on or after the 1st of April 2017, the vehicle will be taxed on its CO2 emissions. For the first year the car is registered, your costs will be as follows.

CO2 emissionsDiesel cars (TC49) and petrol cars (TC48)All other diesel cars (TC49)Alternative fuel cars (TC59)
1 to 50g/km£10£25£0
51 to 75g/km£25£120£15
76 to 90g/km£120£150£110
91 to 100g/km£150£170£140
101 to 110g/km£170£190£160
111 to 130g/km£190£230£180
131 to 150g/km£230£585£220
151 to 170g/km£585£945£575
171 to 190g/km£945£1,420£935
191 to 225g/km£1,420£2,015£1,410
226 to 255g/km£2,015£2,365£2,005
Over 255g/km£2,365£2,365£2,355

Your tax costs will be significantly lower for all subsequent payments after the first year as they will be charged at the standard rate.

CO2 emissions (g/km)Petrol or dieselAlternative fuelElectric vehicle
1 - over 255£165£155£0

However, if your vehicle has a list price of more than £40,000, you will have to pay an extra £355 per year for five years after the first payment, after which your costs will be charged at the standard rate. Cars that have zero carbon emissions are exempt from this extra cost.

For instance, if your car costs £40,000, you will have to pay a total of £520 for five years after the first payment. This is £165 (standard rate) + £355.

Fuel typeLump sum 12-month payment (non-direct debit)Lump sum 12-month payment (direct debit)12 monthly instalments (direct debit)Lump sum 6-month payment (non-direct debit)Lump sum 6-month payment (direct debit)
Petrol or diesel£520£520£546£286£273

As you can see, when you pay Road Tax, paying in instalments will cost you a bit more than if you pay in one go. So if you want to keep your tax costs as low as possible, it’s better to pay in a lump sum.

The tax bands above show that not every car owner will have to pay tax. Some vehicles are exempt if they satisfy any of the following criteria:

  • ‘Historic vehicles’ – the vehicle was first registered before 1 January 1979
  • Electric vehicles where the energy comes from an external source of power
  • Electric vehicles with a list price of less than £40,000 but release zero CO2 emissions
  • Electric vehicles with a list price of more than £40,000 and were registered on or after 1 April 2017
  • Vehicles used for forestry, horticulture, and agriculture
  • Vehicles registered between 1 March 2001 but before 1 April 2017 and emit 100g/km or less of CO2
  • Driven by a person with a disability

It is illegal to drive a vehicle that does not have Road Tax. The only exception to this rule is if you are driving your vehicle to a pre-booked MOT test.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) will run monthly checks on all registered cars in the UK to ensure there aren’t any illegal cars on the road. If your vehicle is found to be breaking the law, you will receive an £80 fine through the post.

If you receive such a fine, it’s vital that you pay it on time. Paying within 28 days will result in the fine being reduced in half to £40. If you fail to pay on time, the fines will periodically increase to as much as £1,000. You may even find that the DVLA clamps your car until it is paid – something they are entitled to do.

You are automatically refunded for all full months remaining on your payment which is calculated from the date you inform DVLA of your sale.

Suppose you’ve paid your Road Tax for 12 months, but two-and-a-half months in, you sell the vehicle. However, it takes you a further month to notify them that you would like to cancel your Car Tax.

Instead of receiving a tax refund for nine months, you will only receive a rebate for the remaining eight months.

This will depend on if you paid as a lump sum 12-month payment or if you are paying in instalments. To determine when your Car Tax expires, it’s best to check your status on the government’s free Car Tax check tool.

If you apply for vehicle tax by post, you are able to tax your vehicle two months prior to expiry. However, this does not apply to everyone. You can also do this in specific circumstances, for instance, if you will be on holiday during the expiry month.

For most people, you can tax your car from the 5th day of the expiry month. For example, if your Car Tax expires on 30 November, you will be able to tax it from 5 November onwards.

You will be unable to tax your vehicle without valid car insurance. The DVLA will check to see if your vehicle is insured and has a valid MOT certificate before approving any Car Tax payments.