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How long can you drive without road tax?

24th May 2021

Taxing your car, alongside your insurance and yearly MOT, is one of the legal responsibilities you have as a vehicle owner. Previously, car tax was managed through paper tax discs, but these were phased out in 2014. Now, all car tax is processed online, which means the DVLA has an up-to-date database for monitoring taxed vehicles and vehicles declared off road (known as SORN - statutory off road notice).

There are some circumstances when it’s possible to drive without registered road tax, but wherever possible, you should ensure your vehicle is correctly taxed to avoid penalties, including fines and clamping.

When can you drive without road tax?

If you are obliged to pay road tax, the only time you may drive without taxing your vehicle is if you’re driving to a pre-arranged MOT appointment. You should take the vehicle directly to the appointment and not stop along the way - this could be seen as improper use of the vehicle.

Not all vehicles have to pay for road tax, but all must be registered for road tax, even if you are exempt from paying it.

Exemptions from paying road tax include:

  • Vehicles that are used by a disabled person or persons. Including disabled passenger vehicles used by organisations for transport
  • Mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs
  • Any vehicles manufactured before 1981 - these are classed as historic vehicles
  • Electric vehicles
  • Any vehicles used for mowing, agriculture, horticulture and forestry management

What is the penalty for driving without road tax?

In the first instance, you will be issued a fine of £80. This will be sent via letter and the fine will be reduced to £40 if you pay within 28 days and tax your vehicle. Your vehicle may also be clamped until a valid road tax certificate can be produced. If you refuse to pay or ignore the fine, this can increase to a maximum fine of £1,000.

You will not be issued points on your license if you drive without road tax. However, the police can easily spot untaxed vehicles thanks to number plate recognition, and the DVLA run monthly database checks to review vehicles where tax is due or not paid, so it’s not worth the risk!

When is my road tax due?

It’s easy to check with your road tax is due. Visit GOV.uk and enter your number plate to find out when tax is due. You can also find out when your MOT is due and how to declare a vehicle off road if necessary. For road tax, you’ll also receive a letter in the post to remind you.

When you buy a new vehicle, you are responsible for arranging the road tax. You have to pay for new road tax for the vehicle - this cannot be transferred from the previous owner. 

If you have any questions about how to manage your legal vehicle obligations, including road tax, insurance, and MOT, the team here at Merityre are always happy to help.  You can also explore our range of articles and insights to find out more about car maintenance and upkeep, choosing a new vehicle and electric and hybrid vehicles.