Do you need car insurance before you can tax your vehicle?

author image-sarah
By Sarah Watts
Updated on Thursday 30 September 2021

Cars on the motorway in the rain

Making sure your car is roadworthy and legal to drive on UK roads can be slightly confusing and for some, an arduous and complicated affair, especially for drivers who are buying their very first car.

In addition to having an MOT certificate and regular servicing checks, you need to ensure that your car is taxed and fully insured before driving or parking it on any public road in the UK.

But what do you need to do first – tax your car or insure it? Here’s all you need to know.

Do you need to have car insurance and road tax?

Yes, if you have not submitted a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) to the DVLA to declare your car as being off the road, then you must have both car insurance and car tax, also known as Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), for your car.

What should you get first?

Insurance - you need to already have car insurance in place before taxing your car.

This is because the DVLA’s Motor Insurance Database (MID) stores insurance information about all vehicles in the UK and so the authorities will know if you have no insurance in place when you go to tax your car.

In addition, ANPR cameras can also flag up to the authorities if a car has no MOT, tax or insurance, so there's no getting out of it.

What is road tax?

Vehicle tax is a type of excise duty that a registered keeper of a vehicle is responsible for paying, either monthly or annually, so that they are legally entitled to drive or park their vehicle on public roads in the UK.

Excise duty is typically levied on unhealthy products like alcohol and tobacco to discourage consumers from buying them. Likewise, certain vehicle owners will have to pay more tax for vehicles with high emissions which are bad for the environment, in accordance with the government’s car tax bands. And, if you have a car with a green number plate (i.e. it’s purely electric), then you will have to pay no tax at all!

What is car insurance?

There are 3 different levels of car cover in the UK, and they are:

In order to be legally able to drive a car on UK roads, you must take out a minimum of third-party car insurance cover.

In the event that you’re involved in an accident, third-party car insurance can pay compensation to a third party to cover any losses sustained by them.

Third party, fire and theft additionally includes cover for a vehicle fire or costs relating to a car being stolen.

Fully comprehensive insurance covers all of the above and additionally includes compensation payable to you for any losses you suffer as a result of an accident, whether or not the accident is your fault.

Note: In order for any car insurance claim to be valid, you must fully comply with your policy’s terms and conditions and the accident must not have been your fault.

Read more: How does car insurance work?

Do I need insurance to be able to tax my car?

Yes, before you can tax a vehicle, you must have a minimum of third-party insurance in place.

What do I need when taxing my car?

To be able to tax your vehicle, you’ll need:

  • A DVLA letter warning or reminding you to tax your vehicle (V11)
  • A vehicle log book showing you as the registered keeper of a vehicle (V5C)
  • The green segment of the V5C registration certificate called the “new keeper’s details”
  • A valid insurance certificate (although you do not physically need the certificate to hand)

Where can I tax my car?

You can tax your car:

  • Online via the’s website
  • Over the phone by calling the DVLA vehicle tax service on 0300 123 4321
  • In person at a Post Office that processes vehicle tax applications

Can I tax my car while I am waiting for my log book to arrive?

So can I tax my car without a V5 I hear you ask? The answer is yes, you can tax your car without a logbook, just as long as:

  • You’re the registered keeper: if the logbook has simply been lost, damaged or stolen, you can still apply for car tax as long as you have the V5C 12-digit reference number*.
  • You’ve just bought a used car: you can tax a second-hand car that you just bought if the previous owner gives you the green new keeper’s slip from the V5C.
  • You have a V11 letter from the DVLA: You can use the 16-digit reference number from the V11 reminder or warning letter to tax your vehicle.

*If your logbook has been lost, stolen, destroyed or damaged, you can simply apply for a new V5C online, by telephone, by post or at a participating Post Office and you can also apply for it to be taxed at the same time.

Read more: What you need to know about SORNing your car

How long does it take for your car tax to show online?

If you apply online to tax your vehicle, the DVLA states it can take up to 5 working days for their records to update.

Taxing a car that you’ve just purchased

If you buy a brand new car from a car dealership, then the first year’s tax will usually be included with the purchase price and the tax will already be arranged, but be sure to check this with your dealer first.

If you buy a used car privately, the owner should give you the green slip “new keeper’s details” from their existing logbook - it’s not recommended you proceed with the purchase of a car without receiving that green slip.

What must you have when renewing your vehicle tax?

You must have valid car insurance in place before renewing your vehicle tax and have either your V5C log book or V11 reminder letter to hand .

The consequences of not having car tax

You can get fined £80 for driving without car tax, but as long as you pay the fine within 28 days of receiving a notifying letter, that amount should be halved to £40.

However, if you fail to pay the initial fine, the amount you could end up having to pay could increase to £1,000 and your vehicle could be clamped!

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