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What to do if you forget to tax your car

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I forgot to renew my tax, MOT and car insurance: What should I do?

In the UK, you must tax your car, have an MOT and purchase car insurance to drive legally. If you fail to do so, you’re committing a criminal offence – even if it’s an oversight. The repercussions can be serious: first, you’re likely to be fined, but the consequences can escalate if you don’t put things right.

This guide explains what might happen if you fail to pay your car tax, take your car for an MOT or renew your insurance.

What should I do if I forgot to tax my car?

The official term for car tax (or road tax) is Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). 

If you don’t tax your vehicle, you’ll be fined £80. You’ll also have to pay for the time it was not taxed. If you don’t pay the fine, your vehicle could be clamped or crushed, and your car tax debt may be passed to a debt collection agency.

You are not required to pay VED on all cars: if your car was first registered between 1 March 2001 and 31 March 2017, car tax is calculated based on your car’s CO2 emissions. If the emissions are very low (under 100g/km), the VED is £0. 

Electric car owners currently don’t pay VED, but this will change in 2025. 

However, regardless of whether you need to pay VED, you must renew your car tax yearly.

When your car tax is due, the DVLA will send a reminder – a V11 letter – to the address listed in your vehicle’s V5C logbook. The letter contains a reference number so you can pay your car tax online, at a Post Office or via the DVLA’s 24-hour telephone service (0300 123 4321).

If you do not drive your car and park it somewhere other than on a public road (eg a garage or private parking space), you can register for a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). This is the only legal way not to tax your car.

How to check if a car is taxed

There are various free online services where you can check the tax status of any vehicle – for example, if you are involved in an accident, you might want to check whether the other car is properly taxed.

You can check the current tax rates for your vehicle and if your car is taxed on the government website.

What happens if my MOT expires?

MOT stands for the Ministry of Transport. This government department was responsible for checking vehicle roadworthiness when the MOT test was introduced in 1960.

An MOT is an annual vehicle inspection to ensure cars meet minimum safety standards set by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency. During an MOT, the assessor will check the vehicle’s lights, electrics, brakes, tyres, wheels, exhaust, fuel and emissions.

The government mandates a maximum MOT cost of £54.85 for a car and £29.65 for a motorbike.

You can be fined up to £1,000 for driving a vehicle without a valid MOT, and most insurers require an up-to-date MOT as a condition of insurance, so you might not be able to claim from your car insurance if your MOT has expired.

How to check an MOT

You’ll need to take your car for an MOT when it is three years old, then yearly after that. You must renew the MOT before it expires. 

The assessor will give you a record of the test, and you can check your car’s MOT history online

You can even sign up online for a reminder to be sent one month before your car, van or motorbike MOT is due.

What happens if I don’t renew my car insurance?

In the UK, the minimum requirement is for drivers to have third-party car insurance. 

If you’re caught driving without insurance, you can be fined a fixed penalty of £300 and receive six penalty points. If you are caught driving while banned or drink-driving, you may end up in court. In these cases, if you do not have the minimum insurance, the court can issue an unlimited fine and/or disqualify you from driving. Your vehicle could also be seized and destroyed.

Below are a few situations where it is legal to drive without tax, MOT or insurance.

Driving without taxing your car

If you register for a SORN and park your vehicle on private property, you don’t need to tax your car. In this case, you can only drive your vehicle to or from a pre-booked MOT – and you’re not allowed to stop on the way. You could be fined up to £2,500 if you drive a car with a SORN for any other reason.

Some types of vehicles are exempt from car tax, including cars used by disabled people, historic vehicles (made before 1 January 1983) and electric vehicles (but this will change in 2025). If your vehicle is exempt, you must apply for a vehicle tax exemption or update your car’s tax status. 

Driving without an MOT

Cars don’t need an MOT until three years after initial registration. After that, you can drive without an MOT in the following limited circumstances:

  • You are driving to a garage to rectify faults highlighted on your most recent MOT
  • You are driving to a pre-booked MOT 
  • You have a classic car registered more than 40 years ago, and no “substantial changes” have been made to the vehicle in the past 30 years 

Driving without insurance

The only situation in which you can legally drive without insurance is if your car has a SORN and you’re driving it to an MOT test.

As stated previously, if you’re caught driving without insurance, you could be fined.

Will my tax and car insurance automatically renew?

As many car insurance policies are set to “auto-renew”, a new policy will begin on the renewal date, and you’ll be billed via the same payment method you used when you bought the policy.

This might sound helpful because you will never forget to renew and unknowingly drive without cover. But your insurer might increase the price, hoping you accept the increase.

However, your insurer should notify you about a month before your policy is due to auto-renew. Use this reminder as a prompt to shop around for cover and switch to a cheaper insurer if you can.

If you choose to pay VED or car tax by direct debit, the payment is made automatically each time it’s due. The direct debit can be paid annually (the cheapest option), six monthly or monthly.

How long do I have to renew if my tax, MOT or car insurance expires?

There isn’t a “grace period” for renewing your car tax, MOT or car insurance, so you must arrange these on time.

To ensure you don’t miss a deadline, you can set up a direct debit to pay your car tax and register for email or text reminders for your MOT. If you want to keep the same renewal date for your MOT, book it one month before the expiry date (minus one day). For example, if your MOT expires on 15 August, you could take the vehicle for an MOT on 16 July.

Regardless of whether you have auto-renewal, your car insurer will contact you about a month before your policy expires and quote a renewal price. You might be able to beat this by shopping around.

Forgetting to renew car tax, MOT and car insurance FAQs

If you don’t have sufficient funds to pay your car tax when it’s due, the DVLA will try again after four days. If the payment fails again, your vehicle will no longer be taxed.

Similarly, if you have insufficient funds for your car insurance renewal, your insurer will try to retake the payment later. If it fails a second time, your policy could be cancelled – how long this takes depends on the insurer, but your insurer should notify you.

Most vehicles can’t be taxed without a valid MOT. If you tax your car on GOV.UK, it will check whether your vehicle has a valid MOT before accepting payment. Similarly, Post Office employees will check if your car has an MOT before accepting payment.

Check your policy documents. These might be paper documents or digital files you can access via your insurer’s website.

emma lunn

Emma Lunn

Money Writer

Emma Lunn is a multi-award winning journalist who specialises in personal finance and consumer issues. 

With more than 18 years’ experience in personal finance, Emma has covered topics including mortgages, first-time buyers, leasehold, banking, debt, budgeting, broadband, energy, pensions and investments. 

Emma’s one of the most prolific freelance personal finance journalists with a back catalogue of work in newspapers such as The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, the Mail on Sunday, and the Mirror. 

As a freelancer she has also completed various in-house contracts at The Guardian, The Independent, Mortgage Solutions, Orange, and Moneywise. She also writes regularly for specialist magazines and websites such as Property Hub, Mortgage Strategy and YourMoney.com. 

She has a real passion for helping people learn about money – especially when many people are struggling to get by in today’s challenging economic climate – and prides herself on simplifying complex subjects.

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After growing up with a passion for writing, Molly studied journalism and creative writing at university in her home country of the United States.

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