Road tax, car tax, Vehicle Excise Duty – call it what you want, it’s the government charge associated with owning a car. But if you choose wisely, you don’t have to pay.
The government has, for a number of years, incentivised people to buy cars that emit fewer polluting exhaust emissions by dangling the carrot of no road tax. Since 2017, that privilege has been reserved for zero-emission cars – namely pure electric cars.
It’s something well worth considering, as some cars attract road tax charges worth hundreds of pounds a year. However, the rules are set to change from April 2025, when road tax will be introduced for electric cars.
Here we look at 10 examples that attract no road tax: five affordable secondhand cars registered before April 2017, and five desirable new electric cars.
Cars with zero road tax
- Volkswagen Golf
- Ford Fiesta
- Nissan Qashqai
- Toyota Aygo
- BMW 3 Series
- Kia EV6
- MG4 EV
- Fiat 500 Electric
- Tesla Model 3
- Hyundai Ioniq 5
The Volkswagen Golf is a staple of the secondhand car market. Motorists love its high quality feel and easy-to-use nature. The broad line-up includes a diverse range of engines, including several that enjoy zero road tax. The most affordable are the low-emission 1.6-litre TDI diesels, which emit less than 100g/km CO2. When new, these sold in healthy numbers, particularly to tax-conscious company car drivers, so you’ll find plenty of used examples to pick from. The plug-in hybrid Golf GTE also benefits from free road tax, with the added advantage of around 20 real-world miles of electric driving when fully charged.
Read our full Volkswagen Golf (2013-2020) review
The Ford Fiesta is Britain's most popular new and used car for a reason. Whichever model you’re looking for on the secondhand market, you’ll be spoilt for choice – even if your heart is set on a pre-April 2017 Fiesta with free road tax. Diesel versions are generally all free to tax, but our favoured choice is the 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol engine. Not every variant is tax-free, but most are: enter your chosen car’s registration in the official government road tax online checker before you buy, just to be sure. The Fiesta’s popularity should also means it will be cheap to run and easy to sell, plus it has a good reputation for reliability.
Read our full Ford Fiesta (2013-2017) review
The Nissan Qashqai is a family-sized SUV that arguably invented an entirely new type of ‘crossover’ car when it was launched in the 2000s. We’re looking at the second generation model here, though. In 1.5-litre dCi diesel form, it boasted sub-100g/km CO2 emissions to enjoy free road tax up to April 2017. It’s an impressive achievement for such a roomy and practical five-seat family car, particularly as performance doesn't seem to suffer. The Qashqai still looks good, with youthful styling and a high-quality interior. It’s easy to drive, easy on fuel and always in demand as a used car.
Read our full Nissan Qashqai (2014-2021) review
The Toyota Aygo is a funky city car equipped with an ultra-efficient 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine. It’s a simple setup, without a turbocharger or any clever hybrid gadgetry, but still delivers sub-100g/km CO2 emissions. It does so thanks to its light weight and efficient engineering, which also has the added benefit of serving up a throbby soundtrack, which combines with agile handling and a really simple-to-drive nature. It’s among the easiest cars to park, too. The budget-conscious Aygo is affordable to buy and run, while numerous reliability surveys confirm it is an extremely dependable car to own. Motoring doesn’t get much cheaper.
Read our full Toyota Aygo review
BMW 3 Series
While there were diesel-engined post-2012 versions of the BMW 3 Series that enjoyed zero road tax, we’re looking here at the capable and trend-setting 330e plug-in hybrid variant. This too has zero tax, and it’s capable of traveling around 25 miles in pure electric mode before the petrol engine kicks in. This has the added advantage of improving fuel economy – indeed, the average motorist may find the petrol motor is rarely needed for everyday commuting, saving them a fortune on fuel. The growing popularity of plug-in hybrid cars should bolster the stylish and desirable 330e’s already-impressive retained values.
Read our full BMW 3 Series (2012-2019) review
The Kia EV6 is one of the very best electric cars on sale – it’s great to drive, comes with lots of features as standard and has plenty of space inside. If that’s not enough it charges fast and has a large battery range of more than 300 miles, whatever model you choose. Oh, and it comes with a seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty that no other car on the market can beat. It’s genuinely hard to think of anything major that’s wrong with it – it’s a brilliant car at a brilliant price.
Read our full Kia EV6 review
The MG4 EV is a really great and very affordable electric car, but it doesn’t scrimp on features and comfort, though. The interior is nicely finished, the list of standard features is more than acceptable, and there’s a good amount of space inside for a family. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s good to drive as well, with confident handling and a ride that won’t shake your fillings out. A single charge of the standard car’s battery will get you up to 218 miles, while the Long Range SE model will manage up to 281 miles. The MG4 EV is a bargain, but it’s also a very decent car in its own right.
Read our full MG4 EV review
Fiat 500 Electric
The fashionable Fiat 500 Electric comes with two battery options: the more affordable one gives a modest range of 124 miles, with the larger 42kWh version offering a more practical 199 miles between charges. For such a compact city car, that’s great going – and Fiat says it will travel even further between fill-ups if you mainly restrict your driving to city centres. The 500 Electric looks fantastic, with a great blend of modern and retro design, while its interior has come on in leaps and bounds. It now feels really high quality inside, and is packed with useful gadgets.
Read our full Fiat 500 Electric review
Tesla Model 3
Although the Tesla Model 3 has a high-end list price, this didn't stop it becoming, remarkably, the UK’s second best-selling car overall in 2021. We’ve therefore included it on our list of cars with zero road tax, as the pure electric Tesla is zero-rated for vehicle excise duty (VED). This wasn’t the case until April 2020; although it is a zero-emissions car, owners still had to pay the ‘first year’ rate for cars costing £40,000 or more. Fortunately, this charge was sensibly waived by the government in 2020 – and Tesla sales in the UK haven’t looked back since.
Read our full Tesla Model 3 review
Hyundai Ioniq 5
Another higher-end electric car that is growing in popularity is the radical-looking Hyundai Ioniq 5. It is an electric car with a generous range of up to 298 miles, and you can choose versions with either two- or four-wheel drive. The Ioniq 5 is larger and roomier than it looks, while its interior is modern and packed with tech. It’s also an easy and relaxing car to drive. Surely the biggest draw, though, is its amazing design, which is like nothing else on the road. It’s already a modern classic in our eyes. And one for which you’ll pay zero road tax...
Read our full Hyundai Ioniq 5 review
Which new cars are tax-free in the UK?
All pure electric cars are tax-free in the UK, at least until the rules change in April 2025. Previously, those costing £40,000 or more had to pay the first-year 'luxury car tax’, but this was lifted in April 2020 to encourage more people into EVs. It cut confusion and has accelerated the shift into electric cars, as motorists look for ways to save money. Elsewhere, motoring costs have continued to rise, including road tax charges for petrol and diesel cars.
Which used cars are tax-free in the UK?
For petrol and diesel cars, the important date you need to keep in mind is April 2017. Before this, cars that emitted less than 100g/km of CO2 enjoyed free road tax, an advantage that continues to this day. It was a popular benchmark for manufacturers to target, so there are lots of diesel and petrol cars on the secondhand market that still benefit from zero road tax. Check using the government’s online tax tool before you buy.
Are classic cars tax-free?
You can buy a classic car that is tax-free, too – so long as it is aged 40 years or older. This is on a rolling basis, which means an ever-growing number of classic cars with zero road tax will emerge. Although you still have to fill out the form and apply for road tax each year, you won’t actually have to pay anything. Just don’t try to drive your classic without registering it for zero road tax first.
What taxes are on new cars?
What taxes do you have to pay when purchasing a new car in the UK?
20% VAT, £55 first registration tax and a graduated tax depending on CO2 from £0 to £1,000.
Answered by Honest John
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