Check MOT and Tax

There are three important things you have to get before you can take a vehicle on the UK’s roads.

One of these is an MOT to demonstrate if the car is fit to be driven or if it needs repair.

The second is Vehicle Excise Duty or car tax.

You also need to arrange suitable insurance coverage.

It can all seem complicated. This article explains what an MOT is and how car tax is calculated and paid.

We can also help you check when your next MOT test is due and how much car tax you will need to pay.

What is an MOT Test?

The MOT test is an annual inspection to make sure your car meets both environmental and road safety standards. It is a check of different parts of your car. They make sure that vehicles are safe to be driven, and do not injure you or other people.

It has the name ‘MOT’ because that stands for Ministry of Transport, the body that introduced the tests in 1940

Which vehicles require an MOT test?

In England, Scotland and Wales, you must get an MOT for your vehicle on the third anniversary of its first registration with the Driving Vehicle Licencing Authority (DVLA). After that, you need to get an MOT test EVERY YEAR on the anniversary of the last MOT.

You can MOT your car up to one month before the due date without affecting the annual renewal date of your MOT.

In Northern Ireland, most vehicles do not need to be tested until they are four years old.

There are some exemptions. Cars over forty years old are classed as ‘vintage cars’ and do not need an MOT unless they have undergone major alterations. Also, MOT tests are not needed for tractors, and electric goods vehicles registered before 1 March 2015.

How can you check your MOT renewal date online?

Your existing MOT certificate will have a date on it. You will need to renew your MOT no more than one year after that date. The date is usually printed in the format DD/MM/YY.

If you can’t find your MOT certificate, then you can use our online checker to work out when your MOT is due.

All you need to do is enter your vehicle licence plate below. The results will then show you whether your vehicle has passed or failed, the mileage recorded when it was tested, and when the next MOT is due.

What other information connected with an MOT can you find out online?

If you got your previous MOT test in England, Scotland or Wales, our MOT checker will also show you the history of your car since 2005. Using the 11-digit number from the vehicle’s log book (V5C), you can access this information quite easily. We can tell you which parts failed at each test and if any parts had minor problems.

If you got your MOT test in Northern Ireland, you can only get results for tests done since 2017.

What happens if you fail to renew your MOT?

Your MOT test certificate is only valid for 365 days. Your MOT is valid until 23:59 on the day it is due to expire. As soon as midnight comes, an MOT will not be valid. It is illegal to drive a car on a public road after an MOT has expired. There is no legal grace period.

Under the law, you MUST have an MOT certificate if your vehicle is eligible. If you drive a vehicle without an MOT, you could end up in court and get fined up to £1000. If your car is classified during an MOT test as ‘dangerous’, the fine can go up to £2500 and you could also get 3 points on your driving licence.

In addition, because your car insurance is linked to the road safety of a vehicle, it will no longer be valid once your MOT has expired. This means you could be charged with driving without valid insurance as well as driving without an MOT. Driving without insurance can also result in a fine.

Who can carry out an MOT?

You book an MOT directly with a qualified MOT test centre. These will have a blue sign with three white triangles on it.

Testing normally takes about an hour. MOT tests check a wide range of car parts, including the braking and fuel system as well as the seatbelts, wipers, mirrors, and lights. All these need to be in order, or you can fail your MOT.

An important part of the test is the exhaust system. If the tester believes that your emissions are too high, your vehicle will fail its MOT.

There will be a charge from garages for carrying out your MOT and – if repair work is required – that will be added to your bill.

How much does an MOT cost?

The government sets maximum charges for UK MOT checks. The top charge is currently £54.85 for a car and £29.65 for a motorbike. Garages can charge less than this though, and some do that to encourage people to use them for testing.

What happens after your MOT test?

This depends on whether your car has passed or failed its MOT.

If you have PASSED, you will get the MOT certificate and can drive the vehicle for another year. Sometimes even if you have passed you will be told of very minor problems which you should get fixed when you can.

If you have FAILED the MOT test, it will always be for specific reasons and these will be explained to you. You then have a series of options:

  • You agree with the garage that did the testing they can make the necessary repairs. They will do so and then will retest the vehicle ONLY for the reasons it failed the test in the first place. If all is now good, an MOT certificate will be issued. You will NOT be charged for the retest.
  • If you require minor repairs to your car, you do have the option of taking it to another garage. If you decide NOT to get the garage to make the repairs but instead take it elsewhere, then you can legally bring it back to the same test centre within 10 days for a retest. It won’t be free, but it will usually be cheaper than having a completely new MOT done.
  • If there is a major fault with your vehicle, depending on the nature of the problem you may still be able to drive it elsewhere for repair. Most people choose to use the garage where they have tested it,
  • In extreme circumstances, your vehicle may be classified as too dangerous to be driven. This means it cannot be driven away. You either need to arrange its repair at the garage which tested it or move it elsewhere on a tow truck.

What is Vehicle Excise Duty or car tax?

Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) is also known as car tax, vehicle tax or road tax and is a tax charged by the UK Government for driving on public roads. It has been charged on cars and other motor vehicles since 1937.

It is collected and processed by the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency). The DVLA receives almost six billion pounds a year from road tax.

The whole system is now computerised and there is no longer a car tax disc (a visual proof of payment attached to your vehicle).

How do you pay car tax?

The easiest way to pay road tax is online through an online service or via direct debit. You can also tax a vehicle at some Post Offices that are licenced to deal with VED.

To pay your tax you’ll need a reference number from your vehicle logbook (V5C), from a letter from the DVLA, or from a green, new keeper supplement (V5C/2) which comes with a brand-new car. You will automatically receive a reminder before the tax is due to expire, which is always at the end of a given month.

You can pay your tax every year or in blocks of six months.

Exemptions for road tax include vehicles for disabled people, vehicles over forty years old, or those linked to agriculture, horticulture, and forestry.

How is car tax calculated?

The UK government decides how much car tax is charged.

The amount you are charged depends on different factors including the date the car was first registered for road use, and its engine size or level of CO2 emissions. The level of pollution is based on the level of CO2 emissions declared by the manufacturer. In general terms, the more emissions a vehicle produces, the more VED you will pay.

Virtually all motor vehicles, including motorbikes and motorhomes, are taxed using an adaptation of the principles used to tax a car.

There are different sets of bands in place for car tax depending on the age of the car. The three age phases are:

  • Cars first registered after 1 April 2017
  • Any cars first registered between 1 March 2001 and 31 March 2017
  • Cars first registered before 1 March 2001

How does it work for cars first registered after 1 April 2017?

If you have a car that was first registered after 1st April 2017, there is a system of bands in place related to how polluting the vehicle is.

Another factor is the ‘showroom tax’ which the government charges. This means that a car can be more expensive to tax in its first year.

You also have to pay a higher rate for diesel cars that do not meet the Real Driving Emissions 2 (RDE2) standard for nitrogen oxide emissions.

The scale of charges goes from £0 for vehicles with 0g/km CO2 emissions, to £2,365 for those emitting over 255g/km.

There is another complication. VED for alternative-fuel cars – such as hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and those that run on LPG, CNG or biofuel – is around £10 less than regular petrol or diesel cars. This is factored into the bill you receive and the charge you are expected to pay.

There is also an additional £355 per year for all vehicles (cars or motorhomes) with a list price of over £40,000 (this is not reflected in the above table). You currently do not have to pay this if you have a zero-emission vehicle, but this is likely to change in 2025.

What about the second year of tax for cars registered after 1 April 2017?

Cars made beyond 2017 are judged to be mostly less polluting than older models. That’s why there is just a fixed charge of £165 for all cars that are not exempt.

You can enter your licence number into the calculator below and we will draw on DVLA data to give you an accurate figure for the tax which you owe. We will also tell you when it is due.

How does it work for cars first registered between 1 March 2001 and 31 March 2017?

For cars first registered between 1 March 2001 and 31 March 2017, the rate of road tax is based on both fuel type and CO2 emissions.

All cars registered in this period fall into 13 bands. The general rule is the lower the CO2 emissions, the lower the tax band.

Again, the rate of road tax for alternative-fuel cars is £10 less than regular petrol or diesel cars.

If you don’t know the band into which your car falls, we can help.

Enter your licence number into the calculator below and it will give you an accurate figure for the tax which a car owes and when it is due.

How does it work for cars first registered before 1 March 2001?

Cars registered before 1 March 2001 are classed only by engine size. This makes the system easy to understand. Vehicles not over 1549cc are currently charged at £180, and those over 1549cc are taxed at £295.

If your car qualifies but you don’t know its engine size, just use our easy-to-use calculator below. It will give you the amount of tax you owe.

What about electric cars?

Currently, cars with 0g/km CO2 emissions, such as electric cars, do not have to pay any car tax since they are not polluting in any way. But this is changing. From 2025, electric car owners will pay both a first-year rate and then a standard rate of £165 per year.

Are there fines for not having car tax?

Driving without the tax properly paid on your car is monitored by the police. They use the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras. The VED system is enforced through fines and penalties. At a minimum, you can be charged £40 as a Late Licensing Penalty (LLP). There are also maximum fines of £2500 that you can receive in a magistrates court.