What happens if you forget to renew your car tax, insurance or MOT?

When life’s busy, it can be hard to get on top of life admin like your MOT, insurance or car tax. But what happens if you forget to renew them? Will you be in trouble? And, if so, how much? Here’s what you need to know.

When life’s busy, it can be hard to get on top of life admin like your MOT, insurance or car tax. But what happens if you forget to renew them? Will you be in trouble? And, if so, how much? Here’s what you need to know.

Written by
Rory Reid
Car and technology expert
Last Updated
21 OCTOBER 2022
5 min read
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What happens if you forget your MOT or car tax? 

It’s easy to forget to book in your MOT or renew your car tax. But it’s important to get on top of it, as forgetting to renew them can result in serious consequences – including fines and maybe even losing your vehicle. Here’s what could happen if you don’t do it.

What happens if you forget to tax your car? 

The first thing to know is that it’s illegal to drive your car unless it’s taxed, so forgetting to do it is a criminal offence – even if you’ve genuinely just forgotten to.

If you don’t tax your car or tell the DVLA it’s off the road using a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN), you could be fined £80 . If you don’t pay the fine, the authorities are within their rights to clamp or crush your car. The fine could also be passed on to debt collectors.

The DVLA sends you a reminder that your car needs taxing so don’t ignore it when it arrives. If you move, make sure to update them with your change of address so that reminders can come to the right place.

Remember, if you’ve declared your car off the road with a SORN, you can’t drive it or even park it on a public road – it has to be kept on private land or in a garage.

Are there any circumstances where it’s legal to drive without car tax? 

There are a few situations where it’s possible to drive without paying for tax. These are:

  • If you’re taking the car to the garage for its pre-booked MOT
  • If you’re disabled and exempt
  • If you drive an electric car – this doesn’t include hybrids or plug-in hybrids.

That said, even if you’re exempt, you’ll have to tax your car – you just won’t have to pay for it.

How can I check if a car is taxed? 

If you buy a car second-hand, you may not always know if it’s been taxed. There are ways to check, though. The simplest of these is to look on the government’s website. You’ll just need the car’s registration.

What happens if you forget to MOT your car? 

If your MOT runs out, you’re not allowed to drive your car or even park it on the road. If you’re caught doing so, you could be fined £1,000 and prosecuted. And if you have an accident while driving without an MOT, you’re likely to find your insurance is invalid.

How can I remember to MOT my car? 

It’s worth making the effort to remember, as the consequences of forgetting can be extremely serious. It’s always worth adding a reminder to your calendar on your phone. Alternatively, the government offers a service where you can sign up to free text reminders a month before your MOT is due.

How do I check the MOT status of a car? 

What happens if you don’t know when your car’s MOT is due – or if it has one at all? Fortunately, there’s a government service where you can check your car’s MOT status. Again, all you need is the registration number.

What happens if you forget to renew your car insurance? 

Driving without car insurance is illegal. If you’re caught doing it, you could be fined £300 and receive six points on your licence. And if it goes to court, you could be disqualified from driving and landed with an unlimited fine. 

Many insurance policies have an auto-renew clause. This means your car insurance will renew automatically without you having to do anything. However, if you cancel your auto-renewal, make sure you have another policy in place when your car insurance runs out. 

It’s almost always worth shopping around for a better deal, rather than auto-renewing, because insurance providers tend to save their best prices for new customers. Also, it’s easy to compare car insurance and should only take a few minutes of your time.

What’s the best way to renew my car tax? 

The best way to renew your car tax is to do it online. To do this, you’ll need a reference number. You’ll find this on: 

  • A letter from the DVLA
  • Your car log book (sometimes known as a V5C)
  • A slip from your log book. 

You can also pay for your vehicle tax by Direct Debit. If you do this, it automatically renews for you. That way you don’t need to do anything – you’ll just get an email or letter confirming that the payment has gone through.

I’m disabled and don’t pay for car tax – do I still need to tax my car? 

Yes, you still need to tax your car, even if you don’t have to pay.

What happens if my Direct Debit bounces? 

If the Direct Debit for your car tax fails because you don’t have enough cash in your account, the DVLA will email you. They’ll then try and take the payment again within four working days. 

If that fails again, you’ll get an email confirming that your Direct Debit has been cancelled and your car is no longer taxed. If that happens, you’ll have to take it off the road until you can renew your road tax.

Frequently asked questions

When do I need to get an MOT?

An MOT is a test to make sure your car meets road safety and environmental standards. By law, you need to get one done by the third anniversary of your car’s registration. If your car’s more than three years old, you’ll need to do it by the anniversary of your last MOT.

Can I renew my car tax if my MOT has expired?

No. If your car tax is about to run out, you’ll need to call the DVLA and register your car as off the road. You can’t renew your car tax without having a valid MOT.

Where can I book an MOT?

You can book your MOT at any approved MOT test centre. Many garages will offer you free pick-up and delivery.

How much is an MOT?

Garages aren’t allowed to charge you more than £54.85 to MOT a car, or £29.65 for a motorbike. And there’s no VAT added to that, either.

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