How to tax a car online

The Parkers guide to taxing a car online

For anyone who's had to stand in a long Post Office queue at the end of the month, waiting for their turn to tax their car, documents in hand, the idea of being able to do it from the comfort of your home is very appealing indeed. In 2008, your prayers were answered, as you've been able to renew your car tax (or Vehicle Excise Duty to give it its proper title) online.

Doing it the old way was something of a chore, especially if you weren't great at remembering where you've left your paperwork. In order to get your crisp new tax disc, you'd need to take your car's logbook (V5C) or car tax reminder letter (V11), MoT certificate and insurance cover note with you. Not always straightforward if you owned more than one car or were runnng a small business.

These days, doing it online is so much easier. You can renew your car or tell the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licence Agency) your car is off-road by declaring a Statutory Off Road Notice (SORN) by visiting the DVLA’s Vehicle Licensing website. It's a free service and can be done 24 hours a day.

No more need to remember (all) your paperwork

These days, it's so much simpler. You can apply for car tax without documents. Since 2014, car tax discs have been abandoned, so you have no visible evidence that your car is taxed. That is not to say you can drive a car without it being taxed. Anyone can check to see if your car is taxed, especially the police, and if you're caught driving without, you're uninsured and liable for up to a £1,000 fine.

But there's no excuse for not keeping your car taxed. Checking when it's due it a single click away, and getting it taxed online is very simple, as when you apply online there’s no need to have any insurance or MoT documents to hand, as the checks are done automatically.

Insurance

Your car's insurance details are stored on the Motor Insurance Database (MID), and here you can check your car's insurance status. Previously, when you applied for your car tax, the DVLA automatically checked that your car is insured, but now these checks have been relaxed due to the delays it takes the MID to update – some drivers with newly-bought and insured cars were finding themselves unable to tax them online.

MoT

It's the same case with your car's MoT. Details of the car's tested status are stored online, and when applying for car tax, DVLA automatically checks to see if your car is MoT'd. So no need for a certificate. You can also check to see if your car is MoT'd online – a service that can now send you a reminder to ensure you don't forget when your next test is due.

Logbook

Vehicle logbook or V5C. Never buy a car without one

There's no getting away from this one. No logbook, or at least the new keeper's supplement, means no tax. When you're taxing online, you will be asked to quote the document reference number to prove that you are the registered keeper, or at the very least have the green slip that comes with it when you've bought it off someone else. And it's for this reason, you should never buy a car without a logbook unless you know the car is good and legal, and don't mind waiting weeks for a new logbook to be sent to your home address.

How to tax your car online

1: Visit the DVLA website

Visit the DVLA website

Go to the DVLA website if you need to tax your car, whether it's a new one to you, or you're renewing one that you've only previously taxed the old-fashioned way.

2: Fill in your car's details

Add your logbook's document reference number

You'll first be asked if you have a reminder letter – if you do, then enter the reference number. If not, you'll have to use your logbook, and for that you'll need to enter the document reference number and the car's registration number. Without the logbook or tax renewal letter you will not be able to tax the car.

3: Choose how to pay

Choose how to pay for your car tax

If you already own the car, you'll be directed to the 'choose how to pay' page. If not, you'll have to enter your name and address so that you can set up your ownership of the car.

How to pay for car tax

The good news is that when you tax your car online, you do get plenty of options. Unless your car is in the zero-rated or £20-a-year category, you can pay monthly via direct debit. For those who's cars fall into the gas guzzler category, this is a welcome move, as spreading the cost of a £300 annual tax bill can make life considerably easier. Especially if your tax needs renewing in December.

If you pay by direct debit, payments will continue automatically for as long as the car is MOT'd, or until you cancel the direct debit or inform the DVLA that you no longer have the car. However, be aware there is a 5% charge for paying monthly or six-monthly, and bear in mind that you don't get to choose the payment date when initially applying for the car tax.

4: Your car is taxed

And that's it! With all your details entered, your car is now taxed. The DVLA site will confirm you have paid, and if you've set-up a direct debit, details of payments and dates will be displayed on the screen. Take a note of this information. In theory your tax will auto renew every year, assuming your car is still taxed and MOT'd, if you're paying monthly, otherwise you'll receive a renewal letter a month or so before you're due to tax the car again.

A couple more things...

Ford Fiesta 2020 rear view

It's also worth noting that when you sell your car, you need to inform the DVLA as soon as you can, as you'll continue paying the tax until the new owner registers it. That's fine for 99.9% of the time, but there are the odd times where a less than scrupulous new owner might not choose to register it... and if anything happens, and you've not told the DVLA, you'll be liable.

You can tell the DVLA you've sold a car online. This way, your car tax will be cancelled automatically, and a refund (where applicable) will be issued to you, but remember that refunds are only given for full calendar months remaining.

Declaring your car SORN online

If your car is off the road, but you're keeping it, you need to make a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). As long as it's off the road and you're not using it, you don't need to pay car tax on it, although we recommend you keep it insured.

There's a page to declare your car SORN on the DVLA website, and we recommend using this if you know you are going to have your car off the road for any period of time, such as when you have a convertible just used in the summer months, or a classic that's just used at certain times. It takes seconds, and will mean you avoid paying fines for having an untaxed car.

Useful pages

>> Tax your car online 
>> Check if a vehicle is taxed

>> Tell DVLA you've bought or sold a car

>> Tell DVLA you're declaring your car SORN

Read more

>> How to change a car's ownership