Vehicles and Driving

Before driving any vehicle you should check that you meet all of the legal requirements which apply to both the driver and the vehicle, including vehicle tax, car insurance and MOT. If you are an international or EU student, you are not necessarily covered by arrangements in your home country – read the Immigration & International Student Advice Team’s Driving in the UK page for more information.

See the Government’s advice about driving and transport for up-to-date and detailed advice.

Vehicle tax

Vehicle tax is a mandatory requirement for all motorised road vehicles. You must ensure that the vehicle tax for your car is paid before you drive a vehicle, or alternatively you have completed and returned a SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) to the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency).

You can re-licence your vehicle up to 14 days in advance. The DVLA do not grant you a period of grace to renew the licence following its expiry. You can obtain a tax disc by completing an application form (V10) that is available from any Post Office or you can apply online at the Tax discs and car tax website.

The cost of a tax disc varies dependant on the type of car you drive. For details, see the Vehicle tax rate tables online.

The DVLA carry out computer checks to identify those vehicles without a valid tax disc. This means it is no longer necessary for the vehicle to be seen on a public road before a penalty is issued. Failure to tax your vehicle or declare SORN will incur an automatic fine.

The tax disc must be displayed and be visible in your car at all times. Further information on vehicle tax including costs, where to apply and documentation needed can be obtained from the Driving, transport and travel section of the Gov website.

Insurance

The law requires all motorists to have valid vehicle insurance that provides cover for them or anyone they permit to use the vehicle. There are three main types of motor insurance:

  • comprehensive (which provides the fullest cover)
  • third party, fire and theft
  • third party only (this is the minimum cover).

It is up to you to decide which level of cover you require. Motor insurance normally only provides cover for the vehicle owner or certain named drivers. However, some policies do provide cover for anyone with a valid driving licence to use the vehicle. If you are using a friend’s or relative’s car, unless you have your own insurance that will cover you driving another person’s vehicle, you must ensure that they have adequate insurance in place to allow you to drive it. It is the driver’s responsibility to make sure that they are insured to drive. It is no defence to say that you believed (wrongly) that you were insured. Always check before driving.

The cost of motor insurance cover will vary according to a number of factors such as your age, how long you have been driving, where you are living, the age and value of your car and the type of car you have. Costs can vary widely between insurance companies. It is worth the effort to shop around to ensure you are getting the best deal.

The Pass Plus scheme is a practical training course that helps drivers to improve their skills and drive more safely. It may help you get a car insurance discount if you successfully complete the course. See the end of this page for more information

MOTs

An MOT is a test to ensure that all vehicles are safe to be on the road. Once a vehicle is over three years old, it must be tested every year by an approved MOT garage. The MOT Certificate is not a guarantee of the general mechanical condition or of the roadworthiness of a car; it simply means that on the day of the test the car met the legal requirements needed to pass.

MOTs can be obtained from most garages; however prices can vary so it’s best to shop around. MOTs can be obtained at any time within the calendar month prior to the due date and the test certificate will run from the date of the test to one year after the expiry date of the current certificate.

Further information on MOTs, including what checks are undertaken as well as the base prices for an MOT, can be obtained from the motoring section of the MOT and vehicle insurance section of the Gov website.

Pass Plus

The Pass Plus scheme is a practical training course for drivers to improve their skills and drive more safely. It is designed to be most useful to new drivers in the year after passing their test.

It may help you get a car insurance discount if you successfully complete the course.

In Wales, Pass Plus Cymru offers a discounted, but enhanced version of the Pass Plus course for £20 to drivers aged between 17 and 25 years of age. This is a government-funded and official scheme – even though the website looks a little informal.