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Car insurance, tax, MOTs and the law

If your car documents aren't up-to-date, you could be fined and given points on your driving licence. 

Find out what documents you need to drive and what your legal requirements are as a driver.

Car keys on top of finance papers 

Car tax, insurance and MOTs: what does the law require?

It’s against the law to drive a car without a valid car insurance policy. You also need to ensure you have a valid driving licence and that your car has valid car tax.

If your car is more than 3 years old, you also need a valid MOT certificate.

It's also an offence to keep an uninsured car on a public street.

Only cars that are registered with the DVLA with a Statutory Off-Road Notification (SORN) can be kept uninsured and untaxed. But you have to keep the car off the road - for example, locked up in a garage.

MOT rules

Can you drive without an MOT?

No, it’s illegal to drive or park your car on the road if the MOT has run out. The only exceptions include driving to an MOT test centre or to a garage for repairs.

If you're caught driving without a valid MOT certificate, you could get a fine of up to £1,000.

To check your car's MOT status, you can use our free MOT check tool. Just put in your car's registration number and it tells you whether it has a valid MOT. You should also see when your MOT expires.

How long can you drive without an MOT?

If your car is more than 3 years old, it’s illegal to drive it any distance without an MOT.

The only exception is if you’re driving the car to a pre-booked test at an authorised test centre. But there's no definitive 'maximum distance' for this.

How long is an MOT certificate usually valid for?

An MOT typically lasts for 1 year. The date it runs out should be printed on your MOT certificate.

When does a new car need an MOT?

You should book an MOT for your new car once it’s reached 3 years of age.

If you have a new car, you must book an MOT before the third anniversary of its registration.

However, some cars may need to be tested sooner, often once it's reached 1 year old.

You can check the MOT fees table on GOV.UK to see when your car needs to be first tested.

Can you insure a car without an MOT?

You might be able to insure a car without a valid MOT, but it’s not guaranteed.

However, you can’t legally drive your car unless it has an up-to-date MOT certificate. The only exceptions to this rule are:

  • If you’re driving to a pre-arranged MOT appointment at a garage
  • Your car is less than 3 years old and doesn’t require an MOT
  • Your car was built or first registered more than 40 years ago, making it a classic car

Can you tax a car without an MOT?

No, you need a valid MOT certificate to tax your car.

It’s illegal to drive a car without an up-to-date MOT and in addition to driving penalties, it could also invalidate your car insurance.

Car tax rules

Do you legally have to tax your car?

Yes, your car must be taxed to legally use it or keep it on a public road.

But if you're keeping your car off-road, it must have a SORN.

How to check if a car has tax

The easiest way to check if your car is taxed is to visit the government website.

Enter your car registration and it tells you whether the car has valid tax. It also tells you when your tax expires.

If your car isn't taxed, you could get an £80 fine. If you don't pay the fine, your car could be clamped or crushed.

This is why it’s vital you understand how to tax your car correctly.

Can you insure a car without tax?

Your car insurance might be valid even if your car isn’t taxed. Some insurance companies may have it as a condition of insurance though, so it’s important to check your policy.

That said, the penalties for driving an untaxed car can be severe - starting at £80 and rising to more than £1,000.

If the police discover you haven’t taxed your car, they can issue you a fixed penalty notice (FPN) of up to £1,000.

Insurance companies don’t like driving convictions either. So if you’re caught driving an untaxed car, you may see the cost of your car insurance increase.

Can you get an MOT without tax?

Yes, but only to a test centre. You can drive your car to get an MOT done even if the car isn’t taxed or the MOT has run out.

Without a valid MOT, you can’t pay or renew your car tax.

Can you cancel your car tax?

Yes, and you can even apply for a refund for the remaining months.

You can cancel your car tax with the DVLA. But before cancelling, you must tell them if:

  • You’ve sold the car or transferred ownership
  • You’ve taken the car off the road and declared SORN
  • The car was written off by your insurance company
  • The vehicle was scrapped
  • Your car was stolen
  • The car has been exported out of the UK
  • The car has been registered as exempt from vehicle tax

Car insurance rules

Why is car insurance mandatory?

Car insurance is a legal requirement if you own a road-worthy car. Third-party insurance is the lowest level of cover available and the minimum legal level required.

A valid car insurance policy provides drivers with financial protection and covers them in case of an accident. Some policies also cover injuries to other drivers, pedestrians and passengers. 

These policies were designed to cover drivers for the costs included after an accident. It could potentially cover the repair costs for your or another person’s car. 

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How to check your car insurance

You can check if your car is insured by visiting the Motor Insurance Database (MID).

The MID was created to help compensate the victims of uninsured drivers and so holds the details of all insured cars in the UK.

Its askMID service is free to use. It can identify the make and model of your car as well as whether it’s insured.

Can you insure a car without an MOT?

If you don’t have a valid MOT certificate, your insurance could become invalid.

Most insurance providers include a valid MOT certificate as a condition of your policy. This means if you drive without an MOT, you may also be driving without valid insurance.

If your insurer doesn’t include this condition, your car must be roadworthy for your policy to be valid. While this doesn’t necessarily mean you need a MOT, a valid MOT certificate is often used as proof of this.

Driving without insurance is an offence and could result in a £300 fine. Driving without a valid MOT certificate is also illegal and could result in a fine of £1,000.

With this in mind, it’s safer to have a valid MOT certificate to ensure you’re driving legally.

Can you tax a car without insurance?

No. Before you tax your car you need to have a valid car insurance policy in place.

You may not need car insurance if you’ve declared it off-road with a SORN.

Thankfully, you don’t need your car insurance documents to tax your car. When you tax your car, the system should be able to tell whether the vehicle you’re paying tax on is insured or not.

What happens if I cancel my car insurance?

As the policy is a private arrangement between you and your insurer, you can cancel your car insurance at any time.

But, once you’ve cancelled, you shouldn’t drive your vehicle as it’s illegal to drive without insurance.

Driving without insurance could be a costly mistake. The police could give you a fixed penalty of £300 and 6 points on your licence.

If it’s taken to court, you could get an unlimited fine and be disqualified from driving. Your car could also be seized and destroyed by the police.

If you need more time to compare insurance quotes, temporary car insurance could be an option until you have a longer-term plan. 

Car servicing rules

Is it illegal to not service your car?

It’s not a legal requirement to service your car.

But an annual service could help your car’s condition and help you avoid expensive repairs further down the line.

When it comes to selling your car, having a full-service history could help increase the price.

How often should you service your car?

You should service your car year every 12 months or every 12,000 miles.

But if the ‘service required’ light turns on, it’s advised you book a service as soon as possible.

The service light is one of the many warning lights your dashboard may have. It’s often used to remind drivers to change the oil and filter in their cars.

But it could also mean there's a problem elsewhere, which is why you should book a service when it appears, just to be sure.