Which cars are exempt from road tax?

February 02, 2023 by

Road tax can vary from £0 to £630 a year depending on your car; out guide highlights the ones that sit at the bottom of that scale

Road tax, officially known as vehicle excise duty, has been a fact of life for UK motorists since 1903 and has, like almost every taxation system known to humankind, become more complex and expensive since its inception.

Canny motorists, however, may be able to secure a car that attracts no road tax whatsoever; this guide will detail which cars this applies to.

We should highlight that there are two parts to road tax: when a new car is first registered it is liable for a one-off payment, which is linked to its carbon dioxide emissions (CO2), ranges from £0 to £2,365, and is bundled in a car’s on-the-road price.

The second element is an annual payment, which has a further sub-section that applies a £355 surcharge to cars costing over £40,000 or more from new, and runs for five years, applying from years two to six of the car’s life.

Our guide to road tax has more information.

Tax exempt cars

There is more than one route to having a zero-VED-rated car, with electric cars, cars with low CO2 emissions, historic cars and cars used by someone with a disability all exempt – assuming certain criteria are met.

Electric cars

Electric cars are currently exempt from both the first-year one-off road-tax payment, and the annual charge. They are also exempt from the £40,000 ‘luxury car’ road tax supplement.

Low CO2 cars

There was a time, believe it or not, when the Government wanted to encourage people to buy diesel cars, as these emit relatively little carbon dioxide. Because of this, cars first registered between 1 March 2001 and 31 March 2017 that produce less than 100 grams per kilometre of CO2 are exempt from road tax. Hybrids registered from these dates emitting under 100g/km of CO2 are also road-tax exempt.

Cars used by someone with a disability

Some disabilities exempt you from having to pay road tax. People claiming the following benefits are eligible for this exemption:

  • Higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • Enhanced rate mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • Enhanced rate mobility component of Adult Disability Payment (ADP)
  • Higher rate mobility component of Child Disability Payment
  • War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment

The Government has a webpage on disability-related road-tax exemption.

You may also be able to get a car on the Motability scheme if you receive one of these benefits; our guide to the best Motability cars should be next on your hitlist if you qualify for.

Historic cars

Those of us who have been knocking around on the planet for a while may be aghast to learn that a car is considered ‘historic’ if it is more than 40 years old, but that’s the definition the Government uses, and it means older cars are exempt from road tax. This is a rolling exemption, but it begins on 1 April each year, so a car made on 1 January 1983 becomes exempt from road tax until 1 April 2023, rather than 1 January 2023.

Cars with a SORN

If you have a car you plan not to use for some time, you can make a Statutory Off Road Notification, also known as ‘SORNing’ a car.

You won’t be able to drive the car if you SORN it, but you won’t have to pay road tax on it, either.

Is the tax exemption for electric cars changing?

Do note that from 2025, electric cars will be liable for road tax; new cars and those registered between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2025 will attract the standard £165 annual rate that petrol and diesel cars get now, while EVs first registered from 1 March 2001 and 30 March 2017 will pay £20. Electric cars will also attract the luxury supplement from 2025 if they cost £40,000 or more.

Are there any other tax exempt vehicles?

Yes, but they are all edge cases: think ride-on lawn mowers that can be driven on the road, tractors and steam-powered vehicles.

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