Expert guide to motorcycle and scooter tax
There's no getting away from the fact that you have to sort out several key things before you can legally ride a motorcycle or scooter on public roads in the UK; one of these is road tax.
Despite what most people call it, technically it's not road tax, it's Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) and how much you will pay is determined by a few different factors. These include the age of the vehicle, engine capacity, and how you want to pay the overall fee.
Who needs to tax their motorcycle or scooter?
Everyone...sort of! But before you can pay the tax on your motorcycle or scooter, unless your vehicle is over 40 years old, you will need to arrange a valid MOT test at an approved government test centre.
From May 2018, there was a new rule exempting bikes over 40 years old from needing an MOT and tax; but everything else needs one. Your bike has to have been built before January 1st, 1983, to qualify for no MOT or tax and must not have had any substantial changes made to it since then.
However, even if your vehicle is not liable to pay VED, you still have to apply for it to register the motorcycle or scooter correctly. Check out the full details here around MOT and VED for classic vehicles.
What is the penalty for being stopped with no road tax?
It depends, but if you get caught using a motorcycle without a SORN on the road then it could be a £30 out of court fine plus one and a half times the road tax owed. Or, if the case goes to the magistrates court, the fine could be as much as £1,000 or five times the tax chargeable, whichever is greater.
And it could be worse still. If the vehicle is impounded, there can be fees running into the hundreds of pounds that need to be paid to release the motorcycle or scooter. These seized vehicles can also be crushed if they aren't claimed by the registered keeper before 14 days are up. This link will take you to the Government website where all the details mentioned above, and more, can be obtained, but really we'd just recommend taxing your vehicle as it's much easier and less costly!
How much does an MOT cost?
An MOT costs a maximum of £29.65 for a single motorcycle of any engine size; motorcycles with a sidecar cost a higher rate of £37.80 ; and without an MOT pass, you cannot tax or insure your vehicle to be used on the road. You may ride to a booked MOT appointment with no valid MOT, but this is the only exception.
The Police use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) to automatically check the MOT and insurance status of vehicles that pass within range of the video cameras fitted to many patrol cars and specialist vans, so don't be clever and try to get around the system, it could end up costing you much more.
How is motorcycle and scooter tax calculated and how much does it cost? 
Vehicle tax is banded and priced according to engine capacity, and motorcycles (with or without sidecars) and scooters all fall into the TC17 category. There is a separate category for tricycles if you're into big 3-wheelers!
Anything less than 150cc and it's £24 for 12 months tax, or £25.20 if you choose to pay in monthly instalments. There is no option (as there is with larger capacity bikes) to split this into 2 six-monthly payments.
The next band is 151cc to 400cc and the annual cost is £52, rising to £54.60 if you choose 12 monthly payments. Here there is an option to pay for just six months at a rate of £28.60 for a single 6-month payment and £27.30 for six months by direct debit.
From 401cc to 600cc the yearly cost is £80, pushed up to £84 if you choose instalments over 12 months, but at this rate, you can pay for six months at £44 as a single payment or £42 for six months by Direct Debit.
Into big bike territory, over 601cc and the cost of a year's tax rises to £111 or £116.55 if you choose 12 months of Direct Debit payments; £61.05 for a single six-month payment; or £58.28 for six months by Direct Debit.
You can see a full up to date breakdown of all classes of motorcycle and scooter tax (including tricycles) by checking the government website.
How do you pay for road tax?
There are three options when it comes to paying road tax; online through the official government website, at a Post office, or by calling the DVLA and paying over the phone.
When paying online, which can also be done using a smartphone, if you have only just bought the motorcycle or scooter, you will need the new owner's slip (V5C/2) registration document and the debit or credit card you are paying with.
If you already own the vehicle, then you will be sent a V11 reminder in the mail, and you will need to decide how to pay. If you choose to pay online, you can use a debit card or credit card to pay or set up a direct debit.
Another option is to take a trip to a Post Office! You will need the V5C or V5C/2 new keeper form, details of your insurance cover, and it's a good idea to take your MOT pass certificate as it can sometimes take a few days for the system to update with this information. If your motorcycle or scooter doesn't register as having a valid MOT, then you won't be allowed to tax it.
The final option is to use the DVLA 24-hour call service, which you can call at 0300 123 4321, but be aware that there are call charges for using this service.
Is there a way to make buying road tax easier?
Yes! Thanks to DVLA's digital account service, you can do a number of things online now, including setting up an email reminder that will notify you when your tax is due. Further details can be found at www.gov.uk/driver-vehicles-account.
What if I'm not using my motorcycle or scooter?
The rules on Vehicle Excise Duty still apply to those vehicles being taken off the road for whatever time period you decide; even if that is forever.
To register a vehicle as being off the road, you have to log a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). You will then have to tax the motorcycle or scooter before it can go back on the road, using exactly the same process as listed above.
You can claim back any tax that is still valid for a pre-paid period, but only for full months.
Motorcycle (with or without sidecar) tax rates
|Engine||Single 12 month payment||Single 12 month payment by Direct Debit||Total of 12 monthly instalments by Direct Debit||Single six month payment||Six months by Direct Debit|
|Not over 150||£24||£24||£25.20||N/A||N/A|
Ride a motor-tricycle? Here's where you can find the relevant tax rates.
 Data correct as of 4 August 2023, source https://www.gov.uk/getting-an-mot/mot-test-fees
 Data correct as of 4 August 2023, source https://www.gov.uk/vehicle-tax-rate-tables/other-vehicle-tax-rates