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Can I transfer road tax to a new or second-hand car?

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January 9, 2019
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The simple answer to the question, ‘can I transfer road tax to a new/second-hand car?’ is no. This has been law since 2014 when new legislation came into force saying road tax was not transferable between owners of a car. It is therefore essential that you tax your new or second-hand car before you drive it away. This article will tell you exactly what to do to drive legally and avoid incurring any penalties and fines.

Buying a vehicle

As soon as a car is sold, the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) must be informed. This must be done by the seller as they complete the ‘new keeper’ section of the V5C certificate and send it to the DVLA. You, as the new owner, retain the green section of the certificate. This can also be completed quickly online by telling DVLA that you’ve sold, transferred or bought a vehicle.

While car owners were previously able to carry over any remaining months of tax to a new vehicle, this is no longer the case – the seller can’t transfer it. Most importantly, you cannot drive the car until you tax it and you cannot tax it until you buy the car. If your car is not taxed, your insurance may be invalid. Not only are you liable to be fined for not having tax, but if you’re involved in an accident or have your car stolen you may be fined for not having insurance and even face a criminal conviction.

Because you need to tax the car before you drive it, you need the new keeper section of the V5C online. This will allow you to tax the car immediately. You can do this online, over the phone or at a Post Office.

Taxing your car online

To tax your vehicle, gather one of the following documents or pieces of information and head to

  • The 16-digit reference number on your vehicle tax renewal letter (V11)
  • The 11-digit reference number on your log book (V5C)
  • If you’ve just bought the vehicle you can supply the 12-digit reference number on your new keeper supplement (V5C/2).

Some older vehicles have reference numbers of fewer than 12 digits. If yours is like this, you should contact the DVLA.

Taxing your car by phone

For taxing your new vehicle by phone, call the DVLA’s automated 24/7 service. The process should take no more than five minutes. The number is 0300 123 4321 (textphone 0300 790 6201) and calls are charged at the local rate.

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to pay by Direct Debit over the phone – you must pay via your credit or debit card. To do this you will need the same information that you would when applying for tax online (see above).

Taxing your car at the Post Office

First, ensure that the Post Office branch you intend to use still taxes vehicles, as many no longer do. If you’re not sure, your local Post Office will be able to tell you which branch to visit.

Ensure you take the following documentation:

  • Completed V11 reminder, V5C or new keeper supplement (V5C/2)
  • The correct payment or a Debit or Credit Card (see below)
  • MOT test certificate (must be valid when the tax starts)
  • Insurance certificate or cover note (Northern Ireland only)

Can I tax my car without a V5C or V11 reminder?

Yes, but you must apply for a new V5C online or via post (you can get a form from the Post Office) first. This can take four to six weeks and will cost £25.

How much tax will I pay?

First-year tax rates for new cars are based on CO2 emissions in g/km and differ from the standard rate. For example, a new, high-performance car such as the 2018 Ferrari Portofino costs £2,070 for the first year of tax but comes down to the standard 12-month rate of £140 thereafter. A 2018 Fiat 500 is £105 for its first year, but – like the Ferrari – £140 thereafter.

Standard rates can also vary for new cars, ranging from around £30 per year to around £540 – depending on power and emissions.

Used cars have already had their first-year tax paid so you will only pay the standard rate when buying a second-hand car. Most used cars registered on or after 1 April 2017 have a standard rate of around £150. Older used cars – those registered between 1 March 2001 and 31 March 2017 – tend to have higher standard tax rates, from around £230-£315.

Cars registered before 1 March 2001 fall into two tax bands – engine sizes above and below 1549cc. See the table below to work out the tax you will pay.

Costs for 2017 / 2018   
Car engine sizeStandard 12 - month rate6 - month rateTotal of 12 monthlySingle 12 - monthSingle 6 - month
instalments by Direct Debitpayment by Direct Debitpayment by Direct Debit
1549 cc and below£155.00£85.25£162.75£155.00£81.38
Above 1549 cc£255.00£140.25£267.75£255.00£133.88

Cars registered after 1 March 2001 are split across 13 tax bands (A-M) based upon CO2 emissions.

The best way to work out the specific amount of tax you would pay for a specific model is to use the Vehicle Certification Agency’s online tool. By putting in the age of the car, the model, its fuel type and transmission, the tool will tell you the amount of tax you must pay per year.

Selling a vehicle

If you’re selling your car, you must let the DVLA know by returning the relevant portion of the V5C. Failure to do so will result in a £1,000 fine. Any full months still left on your road tax will be refunded automatically. For example, if you sell your car in mid-January and your tax runs out in the middle of March you will get one month’s tax refund.  

Transferring ownership of a vehicle

Sometimes people will have ownership of a vehicle transferred to them – for example, a parent passing their car to a son/daughter. In this case, individuals are still not allowed to transfer tax remaining on it. Treat this situation as if it were a purchase and register the transfer with DVLA using the V5C.

As per a purchase, you will receive a refund for any remaining full months left on the vehicle tax when ownership is transferred. You may want to bear this in mind when choosing the date you transfer ownership.

Do I have to tax my car if it’s not on the road? (SORN)

SORN stands for Statutory Off Road Notification. It is a declaration that you must make to the DVLA if your car is not in use on public roads. This means that you won’t need to pay tax or insurance for your vehicle.

You cannot transfer a SORN when you buy, sell or transfer a vehicle, so you must tell the DVLA that the car is off the road by making a SORN. If you stop taxing or insuring your car but have not declared it SORN, you may face a fine. This is the case even if you have a short delay in renewing your insurance policy.

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