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  Driving tips for new and experienced drivers


Road tax - 5 days grace

Technically it is an offence not to display a valid vehicle tax regardless of whether you have one or not. However, you are entitled to a 5 days grace period if you have ordered your new tax online before your old tax has expired to allow time for its arrival. Although legally a valid tax disc should be on display, an officer should perform a check on the DVLA database to establish if the vehicle is in fact taxed, but not being displayed. If a Fixed Penalty Notice has been given, the fact that you purchased tax before your old tax expired should go some way to aid in having the penalty removed if proof can be provided.

The 5 day grace period allows you to legally keep or drive your vehicle on a public road until your new tax disc arrives. The old tax disc must be displayed until the new one arrives.

If the DVLA database has detected an untaxed vehicle on its system, an automated penalty notice is sent to the registered keeper 14 days from the expiry of road tax. This 14 day period from the tax expiry is where a '14 day grace period' myth came from, when in fact it is only 5 days.



Driving without tax

Vehicles registered in the UK that are used or parked on public roads must be taxed. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) are responsible for issuing road tax discs and for maintaining checks on which vehicles are taxed and not taxed.

If kept off road, a vehicle must be declared SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification). If a vehicle isn't declared SORN, you are still required to tax the vehicle. SORN lasts for 12 months and must be applied for again when expired.

In order to tax a vehicle, suitable insurance cover must be provided plus a valid MOT must be in place if applicable. An MOT certificate is required for cars that are more than 3 years of age.

Penalty for driving without tax

The DVLA maintain a computer database of all vehicles registered in the UK. Database checks are made on a monthly basis and amongst other things, this database informs them of which vehicles have current tax along with those that don't. If the system flags a vehicle as being untaxed and not declared SORN, an automated letter and fine of £80 will be issued to the registered keepers address. Early settlement of this fine if paid within 28 days can see a 50% discount where you will be required to pay a fine of £40.

Failure to settle the fine will result in prosecution where the court may increase the fine to a maximum of £1000 depending on the circumstances (this usually includes any tax arrears owed), plus offenders will be faced with paying court costs.

Vehicle clamped for no tax
The DVLA also have the power to clamp vehicles. If your vehicle is clamped, either a release fee of £100 must be paid or a valid tax disc must be produced within 24 hours. Failure to produce a tax disc results in the owner having to produce a surety deposit of £160 for cars and motorcycles, this increases up to £700 for other vehicles. If a valid tax disc is produced within 2 weeks, the surety deposit is refunded. If a valid tax disc is not produced, the deposit will be lost and the vehicle may be re-clamped or impounded.

Impounded vehicles
A fee of £200 must be paid to release impounded vehicles, plus £21 per day storage costs. On top of clamping fees or impound fees, prosecution costs and fines may apply.


Caught with no road tax

If you have a valid tax disc but it is not on display, an officer may issue you a Fixed Penalty Notice as a tax disc should be clearly visible in the window. If there is not valid tax for the vehicle determined by the officer contacting the DVLA, the officer has the power to seize the vehicle and have it impounded.

Is car insurance valid without road tax?

Generally speaking, if a car is driven without any valid road tax, car insurers are still obliged to pay for any claims made for the vehicle. Although driving without tax is an offence, it is irrelevant in most cases to what is stated as being a prerequisite for insurance cover.

Car insurance contracts stipulate that a vehicle must be in a road worthy condition and as such, driving without tax, which is a Vehicle Excise Duty bears no relevance to the road worthiness of a vehicle.

In the event of an accident however, a car insurance provider may use whatever means they have to avoid paying for a claim. In such cases, the contract clause will not usually state such terms directly and advice should be sought from a legal representative.

Driving without tax penalty points

Penalty points are not issued if you are caught driving without tax or your vehicle is parked on a public highway.

Driving vehicle while SORN

Driving a car whilst declared SORN is much more serious offence than simply driving without tax. The fine and penalty depends on individual circumstances and the ultimate outcome is decided by the court. The maximum fine for this offence is £5,000 and a possibility of imprisonment.

Along with the higher penalties of driving a car while SORN, it will likely result in your car being seized from the roadside and impounded, where the same costs as above (driving or keeping a car on a public road without tax) will apply.

Can I drive without tax?

You are legally entitled to drive a car on a public road if going to a pre-booked MOT test. Disabled drivers may also be exempt from vehicle tax and certain vehicles are exempt. Further information for who is exempt from paying vehicle tax and which vehicles can be found here.