Motorbike tax explained

Not much beats the freedom of the open road. Opening the throttle and feeling the engine respond is one of the great thrills of motorcycle ownership. However, not every aspect is so enjoyable. There are plenty of less enticing and more expensive elements that you need to consider.

A person calculates their tax bill

One of them is paying your annual motorbike tax bill. You need to ensure your motorbike is properly taxed before riding it on the road. But why is road tax so important? How much does it cost? Are there any exemptions – and what are the potential downsides of not having it in place?


What is motorbike tax?

This tax – which is also known as vehicle excise duty (VED) – is a government levy that must be paid for just about every vehicle that operates on the roads.

This list includes:

  • Cars
  • Vans
  • Heavy goods vehicles and
  • Motorcycles

It’s a payment that needs to be made every year and there are penalties for non-compliance.

The origins of this tax date back to the 1880s, courtesy of the Customs and Inland Revenue Act 1888.

About 100 years ago, the revenue generated from vehicle excise duty was ring-fenced to pay for road construction. This is why many people still call it ‘road tax’.

However, this has since changed. The money is now paid into a general pot held by the government. The costs of road maintenance are funded from general taxation.

Of course, having paid out for this tax can be rather galling as you steer through the seemingly endless number of potholes on our roads.


Do you need motorbike tax?

Yes you do. If you want to use your motorbike on the road then it’s non-negotiable. Along with motorbike insurance, it’s an annual bill that you must factor into the cost ownership.

In fact, it’s illegal to ride on the road without having the necessary tax in place – unless you have a disability or the bike is exempt. 

If you don’t have valid tax on your bike then you could face a penalty.

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How much is motorcycle tax?

The levy placed on cars is based on factors such as how much CO2 is produced, the engine size and when it was registered. 

However, life is a lot simpler for motorbike owners. The cost of the tax depends on the size of your bike’s engine. And the good news is it will be a lot cheaper than a car. 

Payments are broken down into four categories:

  • Under 150cc
  • 151cc-400cc
  • 401cc-600cc
  • Over 600cc

Unsurprisingly, the bigger the engine, the more you pay.

Currently, the fees for motorbike tax are:

  •  £21-a-year if it’s up to 150cc
  •  £45 for 151cc-400cc
  • £69 for 401cc-600cc
  • £96 for those with engines over 600cc

If you want to spread the cost of motorbike tax out over 12 monthly instalments to help with your budgeting, that’s also possible. However, you pay a slight premium for this privilege.

This takes the prices to:

  • £22.05 for up to 150cc
  • £47.25 for 151cc - 400cc
  • £72.45 for 401cc - 600cc
  • £100.80 for over 600cc

If you have one of the more powerful bikes - anything over 400cc – you can make a single six-month payment for £37.95 and £52.80, respectively. You can also trim this price slightly by agreeing to pay every six months by direct debit. This should bring it down to £36.23 and £50.40.


How about tricycle tax?

The tax cost for tricycles is even simpler. Those with engine sizes of up to 150cc pay £21-a-year, with all others costing £96. Again, you can pay by monthly instalments, making it £22.05 or £100.80.


How to tax a motorbike

Taxing a motorbike shouldn’t be a long process. In fact, if you have all the information to hand then it can be done online in a matter of minutes.

The easiest route is by visiting the GOV.UK website and you should be walked through the process.

You need a number of documents before you can get started. The first is a recent reminder (V11) or, possibly, a last chance warning letter from the DVLA.

If you haven't had a V11 reminder letter, there’s a chance that DVLA doesn't have an up to date address for you and you may need to change your address.

You also need your logbook (V5C) which must be in your name. If you’ve just bought the bike then the green ‘new keeper’ slip from the previous owner’s logbook is required.

The payment can be made by debit card, credit card, or by direct debit. Base your decision on what suits you best – and factor in any cost differences.


Are there other ways to tax my bike?

Yes, if you don’t want to use the online service, there are alternatives. You can do it over the phone by contacting the DVLA Vehicle Tax Service on 0300 123 4321. 

You can also still queue up at your local Post Office, which was always the traditional way to get your tax sorted.

Along with the  V5C logbook and V11 reminder, you need to bring along some other information.

The first is a valid MOT certificate that’s valid from the date your vehicle tax starts, or the date your vehicle tax is issued – whichever is the later.

You can make payment via direct debit, cheque, debit or credit card, cash, or even a Postal Order. 

If you’ve any other queries about taxation, you can contact the DVLA by telephone, email, webchat or even post.

The enquiry line is: 0300 790 6801. This is available Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm. It’s also open on Saturdays from 8am to 4pm.


What if I haven’t got my logbook?

If you can’t find your logbook – it’s gone missing, been destroyed or has been stolen – then you need to get a duplicate. If nothing needs to be changed, you can order one online.

It should be sent to the address that the DVLA has on record for you – as long as you’re the registered keeper. This service usually costs £25 and the logbook takes up to five working days to arrive.


How to check if your motorbike is taxed

You can easily find out if your motorbike tax has been paid by checking online via the GOV.UK website.

All you need is the vehicle’s number plate. The service then walks you through a couple of steps before it confirms whether or not the tax has been paid.

You need to confirm some basic details to check the bike listed is yours. 

The website then confirms its tax status and lets you know the dates when the next payment, as well as the annual MOT, are due.


What about electric bike tax?

The rules are different for electric motorbikes.

You will need to tax your electric motorbike, but the charge is £0.


How old does a motorcycle have to be to be tax exempt?

There are lots of benefits to owning a beautiful classic bike – and one of them is not having to pay tax every year.

Currently, you can apply for historic vehicle tax exemption if your bike was made 40 years ago.

The rules state that you can stop paying for vehicle tax from the beginning of April 2021 if your bike was built prior to the start of 1981.

However, you  still need to go through the tax process – even if you don’t have to pay.

Also, it won’t be exempt from vehicle tax if it’s used for hire or reward, as well as commercially for a trade or business.

If you’re in any doubt then contact the DVLA.


Other motorbike tax exemptions

You may qualify for exemption from road tax if you have a disability. 

For example, if you are in receipt of any of the following:

  • Higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • Enhanced rate mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • Enhanced rate mobility component of Adult Disability Payment (ADP)
  • War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment

Certain conditions also apply. The vehicle must be registered in the disabled person’s name or their nominated driver’s name – and must only be used for the disabled person’s needs. Also, only one vehicle tax exemption can apply at any one time.


Can I get a refund on motorbike tax?

Yes, in some circumstances you’ll be able to get a refund on your tax. 

You could get a refund on your motorbike tax if:

  • If you’ve sold or transferred the bike to someone else. New owners are responsible for arranging their own tax. It can’t be transferred with the bike.
  • If it’s been taken off the road and being kept in a garage. For example, if you’re looking to restore or repair the bike and it won’t be on the road for a while. This requires a SORN.
  • If it’s been written off in an accident. Your insurance company may have written the bike off, meaning it’s not economical to repair.
  • If it’s been scrapped. Bikes that have come to the end of their life – or need repairs that cost too much for what it’s worth – may be taken to a vehicle scrapyard.
  • If it’s been stolen. However, you need to follow a process that involves telling the police and your insurance company immediately. You can find more information on the GOV.UK website.
  • If it’s been exported out of the UK.
  • If any changes relating to tax exemption apply