Car Tax and Insurance for First-Time Car Owners: A Beginner’s Guide

Written by Danny Collins
Last updated: October 3, 2023

Passing your driving test or buying your first car is a thrilling milestone. But amidst the excitement, it’s crucial to remember that safe and legal driving comes with responsibilities. 

There are various factors first-time car buyers must consider when owning a vehicle, such as what type of car insurance to get and understanding why it’s necessary. Many new drivers may ask, ‘How can I find out if my car is taxed?’, which is something that is vital to know.

This guide explores why car tax and insurance are essential, the consequences of neglecting them, and how to secure both for your vehicle.

What is Car Tax?

A woman's hand writing on a pad next to a toy car and money.

Vehicle excise duty (VED), commonly called car tax, is a fundamental aspect of car ownership in the UK. It’s a mandatory annual tax that vehicle owners must pay. But what exactly does it entail?

Yearly Financial Obligation

Car tax is an annual fee, and its amount varies depending on several factors, including your vehicle’s emissions and list price when new. This tax is a recurring expense you must budget for.

Funding Road Infrastructure

One of the critical purposes of car tax is to contribute to the maintenance and improvement of the road network. When you pay your car tax, you’re helping to keep the roads safe and well-maintained for everyone.

In essence, car tax is more than just an annual expense; it’s a commitment to the well-being of the roadways you’ll be travelling on and the broader community.

What is Car Insurance?

A dark haired man on mobile phone looking at a damaged car.

Car insurance is your financial safety net when you’re on the road, and it’s a legal requirement for drivers in the UK.

Financial Protection

Car insurance is designed to cover you in various scenarios, reducing the financial burden if an accident or unfortunate event occurs involving your car. 

Different insurance policies cover different situations, which we will explore later in this guide.

Accident Coverage

If you’re involved in a car accident, your insurance can cover the costs of repairing your vehicle. This saves you from substantial out-of-pocket expenses and can help you get back on the road quickly.

Liability Coverage

Car insurance doesn’t just protect you; it can also cover injuries to other people or damage to their property if you’re found at fault in an accident. 

This liability coverage ensures that you’re not personally responsible for hefty medical bills or repair costs of others involved.

Comprehensive Benefits

Depending on your policy and coverage, car insurance can also extend its protection to other aspects, such as theft. Insurance can help cover the loss if your car is stolen, provided it’s included in your policy.

It’s important to note that the specific coverage you get can vary based on the type of policy you choose and the insurer you opt for. 

As a new driver or first-time car owner, it is crucial to understand the different types of car insurance available and their associated benefits. It ensures you select the coverage that best suits your needs and budget.

Why Do You Need Car Tax?


A clamped green car being towed on a truck.

As established, car tax is a critical requirement for every car owner in the UK, so you must understand why.

Legal Obligation

First and foremost, car tax is not only a critical requirement but a legal one, too. 

You cannot drive your car on public roads without a valid tax disc or confirmation of tax paid electronically. This means you must have car tax to avoid breaking the law.

Link to Insurance

To tax your car, you need to have valid insurance in place. These two elements are interlinked. 

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) verifies your insurance status through its motor insurance database when you apply for or renew your car tax. It’s a way to ensure that every road user has a minimum level of insurance coverage, promoting safety for all.

MOT Certificate

In addition to insurance, you’ll also need a valid MOT certificate to tax your car. This certificate confirms that your vehicle meets the required safety and environmental standards. 

Without a valid MOT, you won’t be able to tax your vehicle.

Off-Road Possibility

If you have a car not in use and kept off the road (known as a Statutory Off Road Notification or SORN), it doesn’t need to be taxed. However, if you intend to use it on public roads again, you must tax it before you do so.

Tax and Insurance Are Separate

While tax and insurance are related, they serve different purposes. 

Your insurance policy may still be valid even if you don’t have tax, but remember that it’s illegal to drive a car on public roads without tax. So, both are necessary to stay on the right side of the law.

Tax Exemptions

Some vehicles, like electric or classic cars, may be exempt from car tax. However, you must check with the DVLA to confirm if your vehicle falls under an exemption category.


As of 2014, tax is non-transferable between car owners. When you buy a car, you must tax it in your name, even if the previous owner’s tax is still valid.

In summary, car tax is more than just a financial obligation; it’s a legal necessity that ensures you’re contributing to the upkeep of the road network while complying with regulations that prioritise safety for all road users. 

Understanding these reasons will help you navigate the process of obtaining and renewing your car tax with confidence.

Why Do You Need Car Insurance?

A policeman walking towards a car with a woman getting out.

Car insurance is a non-negotiable necessity. It’s not just about financial protection; it’s a legal requirement with various implications you should know.

Legal Requirement

Driving your car without insurance is against the law in the UK. You must have a minimum of third-party insurance to use your vehicle on public roads. Without it, you risk facing fines, penalties, and even disqualification from driving.

Parking and Insurance

It’s not just about driving; where you park your car matters, too. 

Whether on the road, in your driveway, or safely tucked away in a garage, your vehicle typically needs insurance. Even if you’re not actively driving it, accidents or incidents can happen while it’s parked, and insurance can provide crucial coverage.

Policing Insurance

The police have the authority to check your insurance at any time, and if they find your insurance isn’t valid for any reason, they can seize your vehicle on the spot. This can lead to costly consequences and significant inconvenience.

Accident Consequences

Without insurance, you’ll be personally responsible for covering the costs of any accidents or damage you cause. These costs include repairs to your vehicle and any damage to others’ property or injuries to other people involved.

Types of Exemptions

While insurance is generally required, there are some specific situations where it may not be necessary.

Valid SORN

You don’t need insurance if your car has a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN), indicating it’s not in use and is off public roads. 

If you intend to scrap your car, you cannot drive it to be scrapped without insurance and tax. Many Authorised Treatment Facilities (ATFs) will collect your SORN vehicle for you.

Off Public Road

Your vehicle may not require insurance if it has been off public roads since 1998. This includes vehicles used solely on private land.

Vehicle Status

If your car has been scrapped, stolen, exported, or is between dealers, you may not need insurance, but it’s essential to confirm this with the appropriate authorities and your insurer.

Understanding the critical role of car insurance and its legal obligations is fundamental. It’s not just a financial safeguard; it’s a legal and moral responsibility that ensures you’re protected and compliant while on the road.

What Happens if You Don’t Have Car Tax?

A calculator, row of coins, and the front of a toy car.

Owning a car without proper taxation is best avoided for new drivers and first-time car owners. 

Here’s what can happen if you neglect your car tax obligations.

Fines and Penalties

Driving an untaxed car on public roads can result in expensive fines ranging from £80 to £1000, depending on the severity of the offence. 

Increased Insurance Costs

If caught driving without tax, it may affect your car insurance. 

Insurance providers may consider you a higher risk, leading to increased insurance premiums. So, the financial consequences can extend beyond just the tax penalty.

Vehicle Clamping or Seizure

The DVLA has the authority to clamp or even seize untaxed vehicles. 

If your car is clamped, you must pay a release fee, car tax, and any outstanding fines before it can be released. 

In severe cases, if you continue to drive without tax, your vehicle might be crushed.

It’s essential to recognise that the consequences of driving without tax go beyond immediate financial penalties. It can result in inconvenience, damage to your reputation with insurance providers, and even the loss of your vehicle.

To avoid these complications, it’s crucial to understand the car tax process, including when and how to renew it. By doing so, you’ll stay within the bounds of the law and ensure your continued enjoyment of your vehicle without unnecessary disruptions or expenses.

What Happens If You Don’t Have Car Insurance?

A man sitting on the ground at the back of his damaged car.

Operating a vehicle without insurance can lead to legal and financial consequences. As a new driver or first-time car owner, it’s vital to understand what can occur if you neglect your car insurance responsibilities:

Contact from Motor Insurance Bureau

If you’re found driving without insurance, the Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB) may contact you. They play a role in compensating victims of uninsured and untraced drivers. Receiving communication from the MIB should be taken seriously, as it often signals potential legal actions.

Fixed Penalty Notice

Driving without insurance can result in a fixed penalty notice (FPN), a substantial fine you’ll have to pay. 

FPNs can be significant and vary depending on the circumstances, which can significantly impact your finances.

Vehicle Seizure

In some cases, your vehicle may be seized if you’re caught driving without insurance. This can be a significant inconvenience and expense, as you must pay to release your vehicle. 

Additionally, you may be taken to court for further legal action.

Court Proceedings

Driving without insurance is a criminal offence, and you can be taken to court for prosecution. You may face fines, penalty points on your licence, and even disqualification from driving if found guilty.

It’s essential to grasp that the ramifications of not having car insurance go beyond just financial penalties. It’s a responsibility that you should not take lightly.

To avoid these repercussions, ensure you’re adequately insured and understand the terms and conditions of your insurance policy. Being a responsible car owner means protecting yourself and others on the road, ensuring everyone’s safety and compliance with the law.

How Much Does Car Tax Cost?

Back of a car with exhaust fumes.

If you are wondering, ‘How much is the tax for my car?’, it varies based on several factors. 

In 2023/2024, the flat rate for car tax is £180. However, it can be slightly higher or lower depending on specific considerations.

Vehicle and Fuel Type

Your car tax cost is primarily determined by your vehicle’s type and fuel efficiency, meaning different cars attract different tax rates. Electric and hybrid vehicles, for instance, often benefit from lower tax rates due to their reduced emissions.

Emissions-Based Bands

How much your car tax is depends on your vehicle’s tax band. 

Car tax rates are organised into bands ranging from A to M, predominantly based on your vehicle’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. 

Generally, the more emissions your vehicle generates, the higher your tax liability. 

We’ll explain these bands and their implications in more detail later in this guide.

As a new driver or first-time car owner, understanding how car tax is calculated is essential for budgeting and financial planning. Choosing a vehicle that aligns with your budget for the purchase and ongoing costs like car tax is vital. 

Additionally, selecting a more eco-friendly vehicle can lead to tax savings and contribute to a greener environment.

Car Tax Bands Explained

This tax is calculated based on several factors, including engine size, fuel type, and, most importantly, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. For cars registered on or after 1 March 2001 or 1 April 2017, the rates are divided into different CO2 bands.

Emission-Based Bands

Car tax bands revolve around tailpipe emissions. The principle is simple: the lower your vehicle’s CO2 emissions, the lower your vehicle tax. 

This assignment of tax bands serves as an incentive to opt for more eco-friendly cars that are kinder to the environment.

Registration Date Matters

The specific band your car falls into depends on when it was registered. There are different bands for cars registered before and after 1 March 2001 and another set for those registered after 1 April 2017. Each of these bands has its own associated tax rates.

Importance of Regular Checkups

Car tax rates are subject to change every year. 

New drivers and first-time car owners should check the latest rates before purchasing a vehicle to help ensure accurate budgeting and compliance with tax regulations.

As mentioned, to pay your car tax and legally operate your vehicle on the road, you’ll also need appropriate car insurance and a valid MOT certificate if your car is over three years old. 

How Much Does Car Insurance Cost?

A suited man pointing at insurance policy document.

Many factors influence the cost of car insurance, and for new drivers and first-time car owners, understanding these factors is crucial to ensure effective budgeting.

Here’s a breakdown of what can affect the price of your policy so you can establish how much your car insurance is per month.

Type of Policy

The type of insurance policy you choose plays a significant role in determining the cost. 

There are three primary types:


  • Third-Party

This minimum legal requirement covers damage to other vehicles and property but not your own.


  • Third-Party Fire and Theft

In addition to third-party coverage, it includes protection against fire and theft of your vehicle.


  • Comprehensive

This provides the most extensive coverage, including damage to your vehicle in accidents and more.

Driver’s Age and Experience

Your age and the number of years you’ve been driving significantly impact insurance costs. Car insurance for young, new drivers tends to be a higher premium.

No Claims Bonus (NCB)

Building a No Claims Bonus by driving accident-free can substantially lower your insurance costs over time. It’s a valuable consideration for both new and experienced drivers.

Application Details

When applying for insurance, you must fill out an application form, providing information such as your vehicle type, age, how it’s used, your location, and any other drivers on the policy. Being as accurate as possible is essential to ensure you get appropriate coverage.

Additional Covers

Various types of additional covers are available, such as learner driver insurance for those learning to drive or temporary car insurance for short-term needs. These covers can affect the overall cost.

Understanding these factors and how they apply to your situation is vital when shopping for car insurance. It’s recommended to compare quotes from different insurance providers to find the best policy that suits your needs and budget.

How To Tax My Car

A desktop screen showing an online tax form.

Paying your car tax is a straightforward process, and for new drivers and first-time car owners, it’s essential to understand the steps involved.

1. Know Your Car’s Tax Band

To determine what tax band your car is in and the amount you need to pay, refer to your car’s V5C logbook. This document contains crucial information about your vehicle, including its registration date. The registration date helps to categorise your car into the appropriate tax band.

2. Payment Options

You have two primary options for paying your car tax: online or at the post office. 

Paying online is often the most straightforward and convenient method. It allows you to pay using a debit or credit card, and you can set up recurring payments if you prefer to pay in monthly instalments.

3. Reference Number

If you don’t have your logbook on hand, you can still pay your car tax using your reference number from a DVLA reminder letter. However, having the correct reference number is essential to ensure accurate payment.

4. Apply for a New Logbook

If you’ve misplaced your V5C logbook, applying for a new one from the DVLA is advisable. This will provide you with the necessary document for future reference and any changes in vehicle ownership.

5. Payment Frequency

Car tax can be paid either in monthly instalments or as a single yearly payment. The choice is yours, and you can select the best option for your financial preferences.

Remember that car tax is an ongoing obligation; renewing it promptly to avoid fines and legal complications is essential. Keeping your car tax up to date ensures you can continue using your vehicle legally on the road.

How To Get Car Insurance

A man in a car looking at his laptop while on the phone.

Getting the right coverage is critical for new drivers and first-time car owners. 

Here’s a guide on how to get car insurance for the first time:

1. Start Early

If you’re asking, ‘Can you drive a new car without insurance?’, the answer is no. 

Even before driving your new car off the dealership lot, it’s essential to have insurance in place. You can arrange insurance beforehand, at the dealership or opt for temporary insurance to cover the drive home.

2. Consider Your Car Choice

Before buying a new or used car, consider the type of vehicle you’re buying. Due to factors like engine size and safety features, some vehicles may be more costly to insure than others. Research insurance prices for various models to make an informed decision.

3. Payment Options

For insurance, paying upfront for the entire year is often more cost-effective than monthly payments. This option can help you save money overall.

4. Adjust Your Excess

You can lower your insurance premium by choosing a higher voluntary excess. Remember that this means you’ll have to pay more out of pocket in the event of a claim, so find a balance that suits your budget.

5. Enhance Security

Taking steps to increase the security of your car, such as parking it in a garage or installing an alarm system, can lead to lower insurance fees. Be sure to inform your insurance provider of any security enhancements you’ve made.

6. Use Comparison Websites

To find the best insurance deal, use comparison websites that allow you to compare quotes from different providers. These sites can help you identify the most competitive rates and coverage options.

Don’t rush the process. Instead, take the time to research and compare insurance options to find the best fit for your unique circumstances.

How To Check if Your Car is Taxed

Tax time written in chalk above a black clock.

New drivers and first-time car owners must ensure their vehicle is properly taxed. You can verify the tax status of your car in various ways, including car tax checks.

1. DVLA Check

The most direct way to check if your car is taxed is by visiting the official website of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). Their dedicated online service allows you to check your car’s tax status. You’ll need your vehicle’s registration number to use this service.

2. Free Car Check

Numerous online platforms offer free car checks that provide comprehensive information about your vehicle, including its tax status, MOT status, and whether it has been scrapped. These services often provide a convenient and quick overview of essential data.

Late Tax Payment

The DVLA will notify you if you’ve missed your car tax payment deadline. 

The government will attempt to retake payment, so it’s crucial to settle any outstanding tax as soon as possible. Driving without tax is illegal and can lead to fines, penalties, and potential vehicle seizure.

Verifying your car’s tax status is a simple yet crucial step in responsible car ownership. It ensures that you comply with the law and helps you avoid unnecessary complications and costs associated with driving an untaxed vehicle.

How To Check if You Have Car Insurance

An insurance claim form on a desktop screen.

Verifying that you have valid car insurance is a critical responsibility for every car owner. 

Here’s how you can confirm your insurance status:

1. Free Car Check

As mentioned previously, several online platforms offer free car checks that provide a comprehensive overview of your vehicle’s information, including its insurance status. 

By entering your vehicle’s details, you can quickly determine whether your insurance is valid. These checks often also provide additional information about your car.

2. Review Your Policy Documents

If you have a physical or digital copy of your insurance policy documents, review them carefully. They should contain information about your coverage, policy dates, and insurance provider’s contact details. Ensure that your policy is active and up-to-date.

Late Fees and Policy Cancellation

As mentioned, missing a payment for your insurance premium can have serious consequences. You may have to pay late fees, and if you continue to miss payments, your insurance policy could be cancelled. 

Regularly checking the status of your car insurance is an essential part of owning a vehicle. It ensures you’re adequately protected and aware of your insurance coverage. 

A woman driving a car.

Remember, car tax and insurance aren’t just options but legal requirements. Always abide by your local guidelines and ensure compliance.

If you want to sell your car before buying a new or used one, various platforms are available to help you get the best deal, whether through car checks or services to assist with the selling process.