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How Do You Check Vehicle Tax Rates?

To drive a vehicle on roads in the United Kingdom, you need to ensure that you register it, take out insurance for protection and pay your excise duty. Yet rates can vary a lot when it comes to this duty, and it's not always easy to work out how much you owe. So how do you check your vehicle tax rates and how are they calculated? Where does all this money go?

How to Check Road Tax Online

To check your vehicle tax rates, you need to consider several factors including age, engine size, fuel type or CO2 emissions. You can find out how much you will need to pay in a couple of different ways.

Check your road tax online by going to the DVLA website and entering the registration number. You will be able to gather a lot more information as well, such as an MOT expiry date, emissions levels or type approval category.

Alternatively, you can visit the Vehicle Certification Agency, which is a separate branch of government. You will need to know when they first registered the vehicle as the information breaks into different categories. The agency does offer a separate search tool with several different drop-down boxes. You will need to select the type of fuel, the transmission system, the manufacturer, model and variant.

How are Tax Rates Calculated?

Vehicles Registered Since April 1 2017

When New

The rate that you will pay here divides into two different categories. You will need to pay an initial level of tax when you first register the vehicle if it is brand-new, depending on its CO2 emissions. Rates may be higher for diesel cars that do not meet the Real Driving Emissions 2 (RDE2) standard around nitrogen oxide. Otherwise, different bands apply, linked to those CO2 emissions.

The tax for newer diesel cars and most petrol cars may be as low as zero if the CO2 emissions are 0 g per kilometre, rising to as much as £2,175, should the CO2 emissions be greater than 255 g per kilometre. Most vehicles will be in the middle of this band, and somewhere in between £175 and £215. Diesel cars that do not comply with RDE2 can expect to pay a premium that gets larger towards the top of the band.

Alternative fuel cars price differently, and their tax rate during the first year will be slightly lower. This category will include those powered by bioethanol or liquid petroleum gas, and hybrids.

Second Payment Onwards

From the second tax payment onwards, the tax rate is standardised. Petrol or diesel cars will cost £150, alternative fuel vehicles £140 and electric vehicles do not pay any road tax at all.

Higher-Value Vehicles

If your vehicle has a list price of greater than £40,000, you will need to pay an extra £325 per year, unless it is a zero-emission vehicle. This rate only applies for five years from the second time that you tax the vehicle.

Between March 1 2001 and March 31 2017

A slightly simpler system applies for these vehicles but based on fuel type and CO2 emissions. You can figure out your CO2 emission details by looking at the vehicle's V5C certificate.

Petrol and Diesel

CO2 emissions are broken down into bands starting at up to 100 g per kilometre (zero tax) and going up to 255 g per kilometre (£580 tax). You can pay by instalments, or by direct debit and the rates will vary slightly according to the method you choose.

Alternative fuel cars have their own banding system and pricing structure.

Older Cars and Light Goods Vehicles (before 2001)

Here, the rate of tax is dependent on the engine size.

Private or Light Goods

Vehicles with an engine size of up to 1549 cc will cost £165 per year. If the engine size is larger, the tax will be £270.

Vehicles Exempt

If you operate a certain type of vehicle, you may be exempt. Note, however, that you must always go through the process of taxing the vehicle, even if you don't have to pay.

If you are disabled, you may be eligible for an exemption. For example, this will include those who claim a higher rate mobility component through the Disability Living Allowance scheme. Only the disabled person should use the vehicle, however, and registration should be in their name.

Mobility scooters, invalid carriages and other powered wheelchairs are also exempt. They must have a maximum speed of 8 miles an hour and have a limiting device that restricts pavement speed to 4 mph.

Historic vehicles made before 1980 are exempt, as are specialty vehicles like mowing machines, or those designed for use in forestry, horticulture or agriculture.

Zero-emission cars are also exempt. Still, its power must come from an electric storage battery or external source, and this means that hybrid cars are not exempt. Furthermore, if the list price of the electric car is over £40,000, then tax may be due.

Where Does the Money Go?

When you perform a road tax check, you can see how much it will cost you to drive on British roads. However, where does all the money go?

Many years ago, government officials would set aside the tax to pay for road upkeep and infrastructure. This policy changed back in the 1930s, and it now goes into a big pot, also known as the "Consolidated Fund." As such, it is difficult to trace the money all the way to pothole repair, but your cash does become part of a larger central government fund. These taxes will at least in part go towards building new roads and other infrastructure, and other funds are directed towards local councils to help them with those potholes, resurfacing and other work.

In Closing

It can be challenging to figure out your obligations from government tables alone when you want to check your vehicle tax obligations. Thankfully an online tax checker can make the job a lot easier.