How to apply for road tax and MOT exemption for a historic classic car

by Nik Berg
24 January 2023 3 min read
How to apply for road tax and MOT exemption for a historic classic car
Photo: Kwik Fit

Let’s face it, owning and running a classic car isn’t the most economical of hobbies [especially if your classic is a Lotus – Ed], but in a show of support for the hobby the UK Government does allow owners of older vehicles to save a few hundred quid each year.

As long as your vehicle is at least 40 years old then it is exempt from both the annual MOT test (a saving of £54.85 for car owners and £29.65 for motorcycles over 200cc) and vehicle excise duty, better known as road tax (£295 for cars over 1,549 cc and £101 for motorcycles over 600 cc). The exemption doesn’t happen automatically, however, so here’s what you need to know in order to make the savings – which we’d like to think could be put to good use and go toward some great drives, an event or two and maybe even a bottle of polish and tin of wax.

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MOT exemption

Exactly 40 years after the day your vehicle was first registered (not built) it will be eligible for MOT exemption. All you need to do is fill out the DVLA’s form V112, to declare that it now sits in category R: ‘A vehicle other than a public service vehicle registered or manufactured 40 years ago and which has not been substantially changed in the last 30 years.’

That last caveat is crucial, however. If your vehicle has been “substantially changed” (see our story on the do’s and don’ts of modifying your classic) then you’ll still have to submit your car or motorbike in for its annual check. Those modifications focus on six main areas:

  • Chassis – including any sub-frames
  • Suspension – both the front and back
  • Axles – should be original
  • Transmission – should be original
  • Steering – standard system in place
  • Engine – such as changes to the number of cylinders

With the V112 completed you can then tax your car at a post office. Whether you actually pay anything for that depends on exactly when your car was registered (see below).

One further word of caution. Just because your car is exempt from the MOT it doesn’t mean you can skimp on servicing and maintenance. Whether you have an exemption or a current MOT for your car you are still responsible for keeping it roadworthy and can be fined up to £2500 if it isn’t up to scratch. And that would very quickly wipe out any savings you might have made.

Road Tax exemption

Unlike the MOT exemption, getting an exemption from paying road tax doesn’t happen straight after your vehicle turns 40. Instead, you have to wait for the first day of April, and then as long as your car was registered 40 years before the first of January you can apply for road tax exemption from April.

This requires a change to the V5 registration document, so you will need to take the V5 and proof of MOT or exemption (the V112 form) along to a Post Office and request the vehicle class to be changed from PLG (Private Light Goods) to Historic. In Northern Ireland you will also need to present proof of insurance to make the change.

Once the DVLA has approved the change you can apply for a refund of any outstanding road tax and your future tax reminders will show the delightful rate of £0. Don’t ignore these reminders, you still have to visit the DVLA website or visit a Post Office to tax the car, even if there’s no longer any fee. Failure to do so could result in a fine of £30 to £80.

Extra savings for old vehicles

As more British cities adopt Ultra Low Emissions or Clean Air Zones, with daily charges for driving older cars there is some good news for owners of classic vehicles. Once your vehicle is registered as Historic and exempt from road tax you will also be allowed to drive without paying in London’s ULEZ zone and the Clean Air Zones in Bath, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Portsmouth, Sheffield (from 27 February, 2023) and Newcastle and Gateshead (from January 2023). In London, this could save as much as £3250 a year, based on the daily toll of £12.50 per day, although the capital’s £15 Congestion Charge for driving into the city centre can’t be escaped unless you’ve converted your classic to electric power.

To see whether or not a vehicle is liable for charges when driving in the UK’s cities adopting a clean air zone, you can check its status on the government’s website. For driving in London, however, you should use Transport for London’s tool.

Weren’t changes planned for MOT exemption?

Facing calls for an annual or biennial safety test of historic vehicles, the Department for Transport (DfT) argued that cars more than 40 years old are usually well maintained and not used regularly enough to warrant an MOT, while the test itself is no longer relevant to many older vehicles. The DfT also pointed out that vehicle owners could choose to put their car or motorcycle through an MOT, as many already do.

Read more

Prime Minister urges Mayor of London to “properly reconsider” ULEZ expansion
London’s ULEZ zone will expand to M25 from August 2023
9 modern classic cars to beat the ULEZ charge

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  • Mick findley says:

    Thanks nik for the information on the mot and tax my mitsubishi colt Cordia turbo is 40 this year I pay my tax monthly regards Mick.

  • Tadhg says:

    The great thing about the 40-year change to “historic” and zero-VED is the ULEZ exemption. Suddenly a classic becomes a proposition as a daily driver that you can use to stick two fingers up at the London Mayor. In addition, you can run on leaded petrol if your car was originally meant to run on it – let Tetraboost be your friend.

  • ERIC WATLING says:

    Your article states that the vehicle has to be registered (not built) but the Government web site states built or registered. Please can you clarify which is correct. Thank you.

  • Derrick says:

    It now looks like you have to pay 50p for classic cars?

  • Mathew Hopkins says:

    What about imported vehicles that are built over 40 years ago but imported and registered less than 40 years, for instance built in 1982 but imported and registered 2005 etc

  • David McGarry says:

    My 73 mgb gt has been of the road on sorn since 95.
    It’s getting close to completion. Can I get the logbook changed to historic vehicle as it stands or do I need to mot the vehicle first.

  • Jon Rome says:

    The website states:

    You do not need to get an MOT if:

    the vehicle was built or first registered more than 40 years ago

  • Nick Batten says:

    Hi, I have previously registered my bike as an historic vehicle registration XEU 664K, and have previously had Insurance with you which I rode it a couple of times. I assume I have to insure again and go to P.Office and tax it for free, how ever I’m unsure about the MOT it’s 51 years old totally original, what do I need to do, obviously I will reinsure with you many thanks for now.

  • Ray says:

    How can i get historic exemption on a 1968 vehicle imported but v5 says first registered in 1990

  • S Brown Brown says:

    Local post office won’t apply for historic document without first taxing it even tho on Sorn

  • Anthony says:

    Hi,I have a Reliant Rialto 850cc (SORN) nearly ready for 1st MOT For 4Yrs.Its an 1988 model.How soon can I claim free Tax + MOT. I’ve read your article, Awesome.But saw

  • Garry Shufflebotham says:

    please could you tell me as my motorbikes are well over 40 years old so how do i make them exempt please


    I have 998 mini city registration on 07/07/1983 will this be tax exempt on 01/4/2024. Thanks.

  • Douglas Dewar says:

    Just got my reminder in for my Pre-Lit Westfield, built 87, reg. 88 and road tax has jumped from £295 to £ 325 . This is an absolute disgrace as my Westie never does more than 1,000 mls. a year.

  • Vickie Lawless says:

    I have a 1983 Mini Mayfair 1st reg on 16/3/83. Getting conflicting reports as to wether it gains tax exempt status on April 1st this year (2024). Can anyone comment please?

  • Jason Moore says:

    yes it will be

  • Vickie Lawless says:

    Thanks for that info. Even the website was less than helpful, suggesting only pre 1983 classics would qualify..

  • Garry Bond says:

    I have a vehicle registered on v5c registered 1968 some of the original car dates pre 1960s ? so my question is i have registered the vehicle via post office for historic vehicle .( Not received yet ) I have now received an urgent request to sorn my vehicle immediately . should this be done or do i wait for the exemption cert. Vehicle is currently being restored using original spec parts .

  • Damian Tuck says:

    Even when your vehicle reaches 40 you still need to ensure that it is taxed until the following April,then register as historic.when you have done this you can then claim back any tax owed to you.

  • David Dyson says:

    Does a 1982 motorbike and sidecar need mot and tax

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