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Can you tax a car without insurance?

When it comes to tax and insurance, can you have one without the other, do you need both tax and car insurance, and which one should you do first? Here’s what you need to know.

When it comes to tax and insurance, can you have one without the other, do you need both tax and car insurance, and which one should you do first? Here’s what you need to know.

Written by
Kate Hughes
Insurance expert
Last Updated
6 MARCH 2023
5 min read
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What is car tax?

Car tax is officially called Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). The amount of VED you’ll pay depends on how much CO2 your car emits, as well as how much your car is worth.

In 2023 for example, zero emission cars are charged zero VED, but you still need to submit the same paperwork. It just won’t cost you anything in vehicle tax. However, the UK government has announced that, from 2025, zero-emission car owners will need to pay road tax.

But at the other end of the scale, if your vehicle produces more than 255g of CO2 emissions for every km driven, it could cost you £2,365 in VED in the first year.

You can find more in our handy guide to car tax bands.

What is car insurance?

The law is very clear. If you drive a car, you must have car insurance. The absolute minimum required by law is third party insurance. This covers you for any injuries you cause to other people and damage you cause to their car and property. It won’t cover the cost of repairs to your own vehicle.

Check out all the levels of cover available in our guide to the different types of car insurance.

Can I tax my car without insurance?

No, you can’t. To tax a car, you must already have an insurance policy in place.

You can tax your car without having the actual insurance document to hand, but you still need to have car insurance. In Northern Ireland, you’ll need the insurance document or cover note if you pay for your car tax at the post office.

The DVLA’s Motor Insurance Database automatically knows if a car is insured and has an MOT. This information will be used when you tax your car either online or at a post office.

The only time you don’t need to tax or insure your car is if you declare it off the road and make a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). This means you can’t drive or park your uninsured car on a public road, and it must be kept in a garage or on private land.

Can I drive my car home if I’ve just bought it?

Yes, but you need to tax it in your name before setting off. Road tax is not automatically transferred from the old owner to the new owner when you buy the car.

And you must have insurance, as well as a valid MOT if the car is more than three years old.

What do I need to tax my car?

You can tax your car instantly online or go to a post office in person.

Online

To pay for your VED online by Direct Debit, debit or credit card, you’ll need a reference number that can be found on:

  • A recent reminder (V11) or ‘last chance’ warning letter from the DVLA.
  • Your vehicle log book (V5C), which must be in your name.
  • The green ‘new keeper slip’ (V5C/2) from the V5C log book, if you’ve just bought the car.

Post Office

To pay for your VED at a post office, you’ll need to take one of the following:

  • Your vehicle log book (V5C), which must be in your name.
  • The green ‘new keeper slip’ (V5C/2) from the V5C log book, if you’ve just bought the car.
  • You may be asked to show a valid MOT certificate if the vehicle is more than three years old.
  • In Northern Ireland, you’ll also need an insurance certificate or cover note.

How long does it take for my car tax to be registered?

According to the DVLA, it can take up to five working days for your car tax records to update.

Can I drive my car as soon as I’ve taxed it?

Yes, if you’ve taxed your car online and had the confirmation, you can drive it straight away. However, you still need to have car insurance, to legally drive on UK public roads.

What happens if I don’t tax my car?

If you don’t tax your car, you could be fined up to £1,000. You could also face court action and have your vehicle clamped or impounded.

Frequently asked questions

Can I tax my car without a logbook?

Yes. It’s possible to tax your car online without your log book, but you’ll need to have the 11-digit reference number found on the V11 reminder letter.

If you don’t have a V5C log book – for example, you’ve lost it or it’s been damaged – you have to apply to the DVLA for a replacement. It costs £25 and should arrive within five working days if you apply online, or within six weeks if you do it by phone.

Can I use temporary insurance to tax my car?

Yes, you can use a temporary car insurance policy to tax a car. This could be useful if you’ve bought a new car and simply need to insure and tax it to drive home.

Is it always illegal to drive without car tax?

Nearly always, although there are a few exceptions.

You can drive your car to a pre-booked MOT test without it being taxed – but you must drive straight there.

There are some exemptions from actually paying road tax. These include:

  • Disabled people
  • Electric cars - however, the government have announced that, from 2025, electric car owners will have to pay car tax, just like petrol and diesel cars
  • Cars classed as ‘historic’ vehicles (made before 1 January 1981)

Just be aware that you still need to tax your vehicle even if you don’t have to pay VED.

How can I check if a car is taxed?

This bit is easy. You can check if a car is taxed using the handy tool on the DVLA website. Simply enter the car’s registration number to find out if it has valid road tax and when it’s due to expire.

How do I report an untaxed car?

You can report an untaxed vehicle on the DVLA government website. Your report is anonymous, and an investigation will take place into the vehicle in question.

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