What happens if I pay my car tax late?

    an old land rover

    Unless you have an electric vehicle or are otherwise exempt from paying car tax, it’s something no one can avoid in the UK. If you don’t pay it, you could end up with a hefty fine or even your car being towed or clamped. 

    But what happens when you pay it late? Are the penalties as severe? And how much leeway do you have?
    As with all things, it’s key to set alerts for due dates and payment deadlines. Checking your tax status is worth doing so you give yourself enough time to stay on top of your bracket and payment deadlines.

    The consequences of late car tax payments

    We’ve all missed a deadline at some point in our lives – and for some of us, that deadline has been paying our car tax on time. 

    Missed payments, particularly if you’re a repeat offender, are problematic. There are a range of repercussions which can affect both your finances and legal standing:

    Financial penalties:

    • You’ll get an initial fine of £80 for missing the deadline.
    • There will be further fines if not paid promptly. These will increase the longer it remains unpaid.

    Enforcement actions:

    • Your car could be clamped or towed by authorities.
    • There is a risk you could be summoned to court for repeated non-payment.  

    Legal ramifications:

    • Court fines and legal fees will be incurred if the issue escalates.
    • Registration renewal could be refused until outstanding payments are settled.

    Impact on vehicle use:

    • You may not be able to legally drive your car if it’s been clamped or towed.
    • Restriction on renewing your vehicle’s tax until payments are up to date.

    Credit rating implications:

    • Non-payment records can negatively impact your credit score.
    • Potential difficulty in obtaining credit or financial services in the future.

    Direct debit failures and cancellations

    If you’ve set up a direct debit for your car tax and it fails or is cancelled, you need to act quickly to rectify the issue. Even if it was an innocent technical error, it will still be chalked down as a missed payment and could wind you up with a fine or legal repercussions. 

    Make sure your direct debit details for all types of car payments are routinely kept up-to-date, e.g. if you change your bank account or know that the nominated account has low funds. Making sure your payments can go out maintains your compliance with DVLA regulations. 

    a car being towed
    If you’re caught driving without car tax, you could face fines or the possibility of your car being clamped or towed.

    If you’re caught driving without car tax in the UK, you will end up in hot water. You could be issued with fines of up to £1,000 and your car could be clamped or towed and impounded. 

    If you’re caught more than once, it’s likely you will have to make a court appearance, face higher fines or even have your car destroyed. 

    Special circumstances regarding car tax

    Of course, there are some specific circumstances which mean your car tax obligations differ from those of other road users. 

    If you drive an EV, you can enjoy £0 car tax until 2025

    Similarly, certain protected categories of driver or vehicle are not liable for car tax, including drivers with disabilities, and people with historical vehicles. That said,  you require specific documentation to qualify and renew your tax-free benefit. 

    Changes in vehicle ownership or usage can also impact tax requirements. Understanding these exemptions and requirements ensures compliance with DVLA regulations and prevents unnecessary fines or legal issues.

    Managing car tax: Practical tips and tools

    Managing your car tax efficiently involves several practical strategies:

    🗓️ Set reminders: Use calendar alerts or DVLA notifications to stay updated on tax due dates. Motorway’s Car Tax Checker allows you to set an alert a little before your renewal due date, for free.

    🪪 Direct debit: Opt for Direct Debit payments for convenience and to avoid missed payments.

    📜 Exemption checks: Verify if your vehicle qualifies for tax exemptions or reductions based on usage or emissions.

    🖇️ Documentation: Keep all paperwork related to vehicle tax in a secure place for quick access during checks or audits.

    By staying organised and informed, you can navigate car tax responsibilities smoothly, ensuring compliance while avoiding penalties and disruptions to your vehicle’s legal status.


    How many day’s grace do you get with car tax?

    In the UK, there is no grace period for car tax. It must be renewed by the first day of the month it expires. Failure to renew on time can result in penalties and legal consequences, so it’s crucial to plan ahead.

    Will I get a reminder to pay my car tax?

    Yes, the DVLA sends reminders via post about 3 weeks before your car tax expires. These reminders include instructions on how to renew online, by phone, or at a Post Office. Ensure your address is up to date with the DVLA to receive these reminders.

    Motorway’s free Car Tax Checker also runs an instant check for you to show you how much longer your car is taxed for, how to re-tax it quickly and easily, and you can even set a handy email alert ahead of time.

    Can I tax my car with only 3 days MOT left?

    Yes, you can tax your car with only 3 days left on its MOT certificate. However, the MOT must be valid at the time of taxing. Ensure your vehicle passes its MOT to avoid legal issues and keep it road-legal.

    Need to sell your car?

    Want to learn more about owning, maintaining, and selling your car? Check out more of our guides here, covering everything from Clean Air Zones to car tax, and plate changes to part exchange.