How to tax a car (step-by-step guide)

How to tax a car (step-by-step guide)

Last updated January 19th, 2024

It is your responsibility to ensure that your car is taxed. Even if you are eligible for classic car tax exemption (or are exempt for another reason), you will still need to apply to tax your car to remain legally compliant.

When your car tax or vehicle excise duty (VED) needs to be renewed, you’ll usually receive a V11 reminder letter in the post. (You may receive this document any time after the 5th day of the month before your car tax is due.)

However, for extra peace of mind, we recommend using our free car tax check tool to find out when your car tax is due for renewal.

In this guide, we will explain how to tax your car and what documents you’ll need to do so. We’ll also cover the penalties you may face if you miss a car tax deadline.

Value your car in under 30 seconds

How to tax a used car

If you buy a used car from a dealership, the dealer may have already taxed the vehicle for you. However, this will not always be the case, so it’s important to check before driving your new car away.

If the car is not taxed, you can apply to tax it via the website. (You can use the reference number printed on the green ‘new keeper’ slip.)

When buying a car privately, there is a different process to follow:

  • Step 1

    Check online to see if the car has already been taxed with a free car tax check tool.

  • Step 2

    If the vehicle isn’t taxed, the private seller will need to get in touch with the DVLA so they can confirm the change in ownership.

  • Step 3

    The private seller should complete the ‘new keeper’ section of the V5C logbook. You will retain the V5C/2 document (the green part of the form).

  • Step 4

    You can use the reference number on the green ‘new keeper’ slip to tax the vehicle on the website or at your local Post Office.

  • Step 5

    If you don’t receive your new V5C logbook within four weeks, you’ll have to complete a V62 form to receive a replacement logbook.

Taxing a new car from a dealership

If you buy a new car from a dealership, ask about its tax status before driving it anywhere. Sometimes, the dealer will sort out the car tax for you (and this will be included in the price).

If the new car is not taxed, you can tax it online via the website using the reference number printed on the ‘new keeper’ slip.

What documents do I need to tax my car?

To tax your car online, you’ll need to cite the 11-digit reference number found in the following documents:

  • Your V11 reminder document.
  • Your V5C logbook.
  • Your V5C/2 document (or the green ‘new keeper slip).

How to renew your car tax

  • By phone

    To tax your car over the phone, call the DVLA on 0300 123 4321. (Make sure that you have your V5C or V5C/2 to hand.)

  • Online

    To tax your car online, visit the website and enter your vehicle's details. Ensure that you have your V11 form, V5C logbook or V5C/2 document (and your SORN [Statutory Off Road Notification], if applicable) to hand.

  • At your local Post Office

    You’ll need to bring a valid MOT certificate (you cannot usually tax a car without an MOT) along with your V5C logbook, V11 reminder or V5C/2 document. There are several payment options available, including cheque, credit/debit card and cash. (If you want to request a replacement V5C logbook, you can also obtain a V62 form at your local Post Office.)

How often do I need to pay car tax?

You can pay for your car tax annually, in twice-yearly or monthly instalments.

Monthly or every 6 months

If you decide to pay your car tax monthly or with a six-month lump sum, a 5% surcharge will be added.


If you pay for your car tax annually, you’ll avoid the 5% surcharge.

Can you set up an automatic renewal for car tax?

According to the website, if you set up a Direct Debit, your car tax will be automatically renewed when it runs out. The DVLA will also notify you when the payment is due be taken.

However, if you paid your car tax using a different method, you’ll need to renew it yourself.

How much will my car tax cost?

The amount of tax you’ll pay for your car will depend on which car tax band it falls into:

  • In most cases, cars with higher CO2 emission levels will be charged higher rates of car tax.
  • However, for many older cars (registered before 1st March 2001), car tax rates are determined by engine size.
  • If you or your car qualify for car tax exemption, you will not be charged. However, you will still have to apply to tax your car.

How do I check my car tax?

You can check your car’s tax status instantly by entering its reg number into our free car tax check tool.

What happens if I forget to tax my car?

  • It is illegal to drive your car without tax and if caught doing so, you could be fined up to £1,000.
  • If you have forgotten to make a SORN to tell the DVLA that you have taken your car off the road, you may be issued an £80 fine.
  • If you fail to pay a car tax fine, your car may be clamped or crushed. The fine may also be passed on to debt collectors who will take action to recover the money owed.

Getting a tax reminder (V11)

You should receive a V11 reminder document in the post on the 5th day of the month before your road tax is due.

In August 2023, the DVLA launched a new ‘Driver and vehicles account’ service, which allows you to set up your car tax reminders by email and/or SMS (and opt out of receiving V11 reminders by post).

Tax discs

Historically, each UK car owner had to affix a paper tax disc to their windscreen as proof they had taxed their car.

However, on October 1st 2014, the tax disc system was officially retired as the UK’s car tax records were digitised. Nowadays, both the DVLA and the police rely on an electronic database to check whether car tax has been paid, so the old-style paper discs are no longer needed.

As a result of this change, when a car is sold, any remaining car tax is no longer transferred to the new owner. Instead, after the seller tells the DVLA they have sold their car, they will receive a car tax refund from the DVLA for any full months’ outstanding cover.