Cheaper used car tax: road tax rules before April 2017

How to pay less car tax: choose low-emission cars registered before April 2017 and high-emission models registered after

Matt Rigby
Feb 21, 2020

Before 1 April 2017, road tax system was heavily focused on encouraging drivers to buy cars that emitted as little carbon dioxide (CO2) as possible in an attempt to limit the environmental impact of the UK's roads.

As a result, cars that ducked under the threshold of 100g/km of CO2 emissions – some small petrols, a lot of diesels, most hybrids, and all electric cars - attract no tax at all. Tax costs were very low for cars emitting up to 120g/km CO2, too, but cars with higher emissions could see annual charges rise over £500 per year.

However, since the road tax rules were changed in April 2017, this is no longer the case - unless your car was registered prior to the change. For this is the interesting bit, cars registered prior to that 1 April date remain governed by the old rules, so you could find that a slightly older version of an identical car will be cheaper to tax.

Read on for more details on how you could save yourself some money with used car tax by opting for a car registered before the rules were changed.

Why a used car might get you a cheaper tax rate

Since 1 April 2017, all brand new cars have been taxed under a new system, which is substantially different and will cost most owners considerably more each year.

Some drivers will find themselves paying several hundred pounds a year for cars that used to qualify for free tax and virtually everybody must pay an annual fee. So if you buy a used car that was first registered between 31 March 2001 and 31 March 2017 you could potentially save yourself a lot of money.

Among the hardest hit under the new system are the hundreds of thousands of people who buy low-emission cars. These vehicles used to be exempt from road tax, but are now subject to more than £400 in tax over three years.

On the other hand, high-emission cars registered from April 2017 onwards that cost less than £40,000 new may work out far cheaper to tax on the new system. Read our guide to car tax for vehicles registered from April 2017 onwards to understand how costs for more recent models compare.

How much is my car tax if I go for a car registered before 2017?

All cars produced since 2001 have an official CO2 figure. Vehicles that emit 100g of carbon dioxide or less per kilometre driven (100g/km CO2), are exempt from tax.

This means that many of the cars with the lowest tailpipe emissions, such as zero-emission electric vehicles, and hybrids, are exempt from car tax. Even so, the majority of cars still produce more than 100g/km CO2. These are are classified into different bands and taxed on a sliding scale, shown in the table below.

If your car is a hybrid, or powered by compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), then they are taxed as alternative fuel cars. The rates for those are further down the page.

Car tax prices for vehicles registered between 2001 and 2017

CO2 emissions

Car tax band

Annual car tax cost

Up to 100g/km

A

Free

101 - 110g/km

B

£20

111 - 120g/km

C

£30

121 - 130g/km

D

£125

131 - 140g/km

E

£145

141 - 150g/km

F

£160

151 - 165g/km

G

£200

166 - 175g/km

H

£235

176 - 185g/km

I

£260

186 - 200g/km

J

£300

201 - 225g/km

K

£325

226 - 255g/km

L

£555

Over 255g/km

M

£570

*Vehicles producing more than 225g/km but produced up to March 2006 fit into tax category ‘K’

How much is car tax for an alternative fuel vehicle?

Alternative fuel cars are powered by something other than just a petrol or diesel engine. These include hybrids, as well as vehicles that run on compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). They typically benefit from car tax that’s £10 cheaper than conventionally-powered cars.

CO2 emissions

Car tax band

Annual car tax cost

Up to 100g/km

A

Free

101 - 110g/km

B

£10

111 - 120g/km

C

£20

121 - 130g/km

D

£110

131 - 140g/km

E

£130

141 - 150g/km

F

£145

151 - 165g/km

G

£185

166 - 175g/km

H

£220

176 - 185g/km

I

£240

186 - 200g/km

J

£280

201 - 225g/km

K

£305

226 - 255g/km

L

£530

Over 255g/km

M

£545

 

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