Can You Test Drive A Car Without Paying Road Tax?

The aim of this blog post is to help in answering the question of whether or not you can test drive a car on public roads without paying the due tax. For this purpose, we will explore situations when vehicles are exempted from Road Tax as well as the consequences of driving an untaxed car on public roads. Additionally, we will also discuss the application process for Road Tax in the case of a new car.

Can You Test Drive A Car Without Paying Road Tax?

No, you cannot test drive a car without paying Road Tax. It is illegal to drive a car on the road without an updated Road Tax or Vehicle Excise Duty. If someone is caught driving an untaxed car on public roads, they can be fined up to £1,000. 

The only exception to this rule is when you need to drive an untaxed car to a pre-booked MOT. However, if you make stopovers on your way to the MOT test or take an unexpected amount of time to reach your destination, it will be assumed that you were driving an untaxed car on public roads and your exemption will no longer be applicable.

If you intend to tax your car temporarily until it is sold to a new owner, you will not be able to do so. Car tax is an advance payment that can either be paid ahead in the form of a lump sum payment for 6 months, 12 months or through monthly instalments. 

In the case of a second-hand car, it is advisable to make sure that road tax payments (as well as vehicle insurance) are updated until the car is sold to its new owner. The DVLA usually takes between 4 to 6 weeks to process a change of ownership and issue a new vehicle logbook to the new owner. However, they can use the new keeper’s green slip as proof of their ownership of the car during this time.

If an untaxed vehicle is found on public roads, the registered owner of the vehicle will have to pay a fine of £80. In case this fine is paid within the next 28 days, the owner will be given a 50% discount and will only have to pay half of the penalty. 

On the other hand, if the registered owner fails to pay this fine according to the indicated due date on their slip, the penalty for driving an untaxed car will increase to £1,000. Car owners can also be taken to court for this offence or their vehicle can be clamped so that it cannot be driven on public roads until the fine is paid.  

If you are driving a historic vehicle or an electric car, you may be exempted from paying Road Tax at all. However, you are still required to apply for the tax and carry written proof of your exemption while driving on public roads.

Unless you are driving a tax exempted vehicle from the below list, you must pay your Road Tax before driving a car on a public road; even if it is for a test drive:

  • Electric vehicles
  • Historic vehicles
  • Mowing machines
  • Steam vehicles
  • Disabled class vehicles
  • Disabled passenger vehicles
  • Mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs
  • Vehicles used for agriculture, horticulture and forestry

Do You Have To Pay Tax On A Newly Purchased Car?

Yes, you have to pay tax on a newly purchased car.

When someone buys a new car through a car dealership, the dealer usually arranges for the car tax to be paid, manages the paperwork on behalf of the car owner and adds the vehicle registration fee of £55 to the price of the car. 

In this case, the dealer will require the following information to proceed with car tax payments:

  • Name of the vehicle owner
  • Address of the vehicle owner
  • V5C/2 registration or New Keeper Supplement of the vehicle

If someone has bought a brand new car and they are the first owner, they should check whether or not the car tax has been paid as dealers usually make such arrangements. Most of the time your car tax is included along with the price of your car and any registration fee that is to be levied. You can check if a vehicle is taxed online by using the car registration number. 

If you need to tax a new car on your own, you will need to fill out a V55/4 form. This form can also be used to tax newly imported vehicles and newly built (kit) cars. When applying for your car tax, you will need to prove your identity either using a copy of your driving licence. 

Can New Owners Drive A Car Without Transfer Of Ownership?

Yes, new vehicle owners can drive their recently purchased car without transfer of ownership under the below-listed conditions:

  • the previous owner has updated the change of ownership details with the DVLA
  • you (the new owner) have the green slip or new keepers slip from the V5C with you
  • you have a valid MOT

The seller of the car must inform the DVLA of this change in ownership (this can be done online nowadays) and hand over the green slip or new keeper’s slip from the vehicle logbook to the new owner.

Using this green slip, the new owner can pay their car tax before driving the car on public roads. In addition to this, they will need to make sure that they have valid insurance and updated MOT applicable to the vehicle.

That said, it is important to remember that even though ownership of a vehicle can be transferred, the previous car owner cannot transfer the remaining amount of their car tax when they sell a car. 


The discussion in the above article brings us to the conclusion that you cannot drive an untaxed car on public roads even if you intend to take it out only for a test drive. The only exception to this rule is when you have to take a car to a pre-booked MOT test.


Driving without tax – what’s the penalty?

When can you drive a car with no tax?

Is it illegal to drive a car without road tax? | The Sun

Apply for vehicle tax in advance – GOV.UK