How do you tax a car you've just bought?

You need to make sure your car’s been taxed before you can drive it around.

If you're buying your car from a dealership, they might already sort it out for you. But if you're buying privately, you need to make sure you're covered.

Here's everything you should know about how to tax a car.

V5C logbook

When your Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) – or car tax – is up for renewal, you should get a V11 reminder letter.

Just put this number into the online tax service and follow the steps.

If you don't have a V11 reminder, you can also use the number in your V5C (logbook).

You should also have a credit or debit card ready to make the payment.

If you've just bought a car and don't have a logbook yet, you should have a number on your V5C/2 supplement. This is given to you by the previous owner.

If you've lost your V5 logbook, don't worry, you can replace your missing paperwork online.

You’re still able to tax your car by checking online with the car’s registration number.

The advantage of having the V5 is you can get details about how much tax you’re likely to pay.

The cost depends on the tax band your car falls into, which is influenced by how much emissions the car gives off. Cars in the lowest band - A - are currently exempt from paying any tax.

The price could go up (or down) each year. We keep track of these costs in our UK car and van tax bands guide.


How to tax a new car

If you’re buying a car brand new from a dealership, ask about tax before you get behind the wheel.

The dealer should sort out the car tax for you. In fact, it's likely to be included in the full price of the car along with the new registration fee.

The dealer should also give your details to the DVLA along with the car's details.

How to tax a second-hand car

if you're buying a used car from a dealer, they might sort the tax out for you when they settle up.

If you’re buying a used car from a private seller, they first need to notify the DVLA about the change in ownership.

They can do this by completing the new keeper section of the V5C document and sending it to the DVLA. You keep hold of the green part of this form.

You can use the green part of the V5C to tax your new car by going to GOV.UK. You must do this before you start driving the car. You should get the full V5C within 4 weeks.

If you don’t receive a V5C, or the seller has lost it, you need to fill in a V62 form and apply for a new registration certificate.

Be wary of any seller that hasn't got the V5C log book, as it might indicate that the vehicle is stolen.

Make sure you check all the paperwork, and you know your rights before buying a used car.

However you buy your car, whether it’s new or used, it’s also important to check online to see if the car's already been taxed.

Don't forget to update your car insurance policy while you're at it.

Compare car insurance quotes

If you’re wondering how to check if a car is taxed, the easiest way to find out is by using the government's vehicle enquiry service.

All you need is your car's number plate. The service will ask you to confirm the make and colour of the car. Once you're in, it tells you when your tax is due for renewal as well as when your MOT is up.

If you have your V5C reference number, you can also get tax rates and other information.

If I tax a car online, can I drive it straight away?

Yes, as soon as you've had confirmation that your car is taxed you can drive it.

You can also choose to tax your car in advance to be on the safe side. If your vehicle is up for tax renewal, you can tax it up to 2 months before it expires.

This could be especially useful if you know you're going to be away on holiday during the time your car tax renewal is due.

Other ways to tax a car

If renewing your tax online isn't for you, there are several other options available including:

  • By phone
  • At the post office

How to tax a car over the phone

You can pay for your tax by phone - just call the DVLA on 0300 123 4321 and have your V5C or V5C/2 to hand.

How to tax a car at the post office

Certain post office branches also allow you to tax your car in person.

Put your postcode into the Post Office branch finder and select 'vehicle tax' as your preferred service.

To tax your car via the post office, you may need to show a valid MOT certificate as well as your V5C or V5C/2.

Can you pay for car tax monthly?

You can pay for your car tax in a lump sum – either by cash, cheque, debit or credit card.

You also have the option of paying via direct debit.

You can pay by direct debit:

  • Annually
  • 6-monthly
  • Monthly

There’s a 5% charge added for 6-monthly or monthly payments.

Tax charges and rules can change. For more information, check out our guide to this year’s changes in driving law.

According to GOV.UK, if you've set up a direct debit, your vehicle tax renews automatically when it's due to run out.

You should get communication from the DVLA letting you know when payments are to be taken out. A V11 reminder letter isn't sent.

If you've paid your tax any other way, you need to renew your car tax manually.

If I tax my car on the last day of the month will I lose a month?

Yes. If you tax your car on the last day of the month, you've essentially lost a whole month of tax.

Best practice is to tax your car from the first date of the next month instead.

But if you choose to do this, it's vital that you're not driving your car whatsoever on the last day of the month. You also can't have your car parked on a public road.

Driving without tax is illegal, and you could be issued a fine of £80.

Can I transfer car tax?

It’s impossible to transfer car tax.

Back when paper tax discs were around, people could sell a car with a few months’ tax left on it.

Now whenever someone sells a car, any full months’ worth of tax left over are automatically refunded to the previous owner.

That means whenever you buy a used car, it's untaxed.

By law, the car must be taxed by you at the point of sale, and driving off without it could result in a fine.

When did the UK get rid of car tax discs?

Car tax discs were abolished in October 2014.

They were first introduced in 1921, where it was a legal requirement to display it in the car windscreens. Even for vehicles that were exempt from paying the charge.

The DVLA said the change was a cost-cutting exercise and that getting rid of printing and postage costs would save £10 million each year.

If you have a car you no longer drive, you don’t have to pay tax on it if it has a Statutory Off Road Notification - or SORN.

To do this you need to contact the DVLA to tell it you’re registering the vehicle as being off road.

Once you’ve done this, you should get a tax refund for any unused months of car tax that you paid in advance.

How do I get a refund on my car tax?

If you no longer own your vehicle, or it's off the road, you can get a refund on any full months’ worth of remaining tax.

You should let the DVLA know if your car:

  • Is sold or transferred to someone else
  • Has been written off by an insurance company or scrapped at a scrap yard
  • Has been exported out of the UK
  • Is registered as tax exempt

If your vehicle is stolen, you have to apply for the cancellation and the refund separately.

Once you've told the DVLA, your tax should be cancelled. You then automatically get a refund by cheque for any full months left on your car tax.

To calculate the refund amount, the DVLA work out the remaining months left from the date you first told them.

The cheque is then sent to the name and address on the logbook, so make sure this information is up-to-date.

You don't get a refund for any credit card fees or additional charges.