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Road Tax for classic cars and bikes

Every vehicle, whether vintage, classic, prototype or kit, needs road tax if being used or kept on the road. No cars or bikes are exempt from road tax. However, there are certain concessions for older vehicles. The tax disc is still needed, but it is free.

For many years a car or bike would become eligible for road tax once it was 25 years old. This changed in 1998 with the government setting a fixed date for vehicles to be classed as “Historic Vehicles”. This change meant that any car or bike built before 1st January 1973 was eligible for free road tax, whereas anything after that date would have to pay.

It is worth noting, that the DVLA would actually accept dates of registration up to and including 7th January 1973, with the assumption that the vehicle would have actually been manufactured the year before.

In the 2013 budget, the cut-off date for UK road tax was altered by one year to 1st January 1974. There are now campaigns to return to a rolling age system.

To qualify for free road tax, you need to prove the date of manufacture using your Vehicle Registration Certificate (V5C). If you do not have a V5C, or you believe the date of manufacture is incorrect, you should be able to speak with a classic owners’ club to track down evidence to prove its actual date of production. You can also contact the Heritage Motor Centre in Gaydon, who are able to provide Heritage Certificates and Dating Letters, which will also give you the proof you require.

Other vehicles exempt from paying road tax include:

  • Most electric vehicles
  • Steam vehicles
  • Agricultural vehicles

Tax when off the road

If your classic car or motorcycle is being kept off the road for a period of time you will need to notify the DVLA. As all systems are now electronic, the DVLA will assume that your vehicle is being used on the road and may start proceeding for you using an untaxed vehicle. To overcome this you will need to declare you vehicle SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification).

If you buy a vehicle that is already declared SORN, the SORN will end at point of purchase, so you will need to make your own declaration as soon as you purchase the vehicle.

The old system meant that you had to declare your vehicle SORN every 12 months for as long as it was off the road. However, now you only need to declare it SORN once, until you want to tax it again and put it on the road.

It is worth noting that the SORN only has to be made for vehicles which have been taxed since 31 January 1998.

Vehicles that have remained off the road prior to this do not need to make SORN declarations. For any queries regarding UK Road Tax, contact the DVLA


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