Rules not clear for classics

Legislation for older cars isn’t always easy to understand and recent proposed changes to the MoT and the dumping of the old school paper tax disc have further muddied the waters. Need some help? Well, we’ll try and get to the bottom of what the smallprint really means…

Bureaucracy – who needs it? Red tape can be a right royal pain in the posterior for classic car enthusiasts. That said, if you’re willing to read between the lines and don’t mind doing away with tradition, we’re pleased to reveal that things are slowly working in the favour of the old car enthusiast. Well, sort of…

This year’s Budget, for instance, was good news for many older car owners because it introduced a rolling road tax exemption for vehicles more than 40 years old. Previously to qualify you needed to own a car built before 1 January 1973 to duck out of paying road tax but this was changed to 1 January 1974 at the 2014 Budget. From April 1, 2015, vehicles built before 1 April 1975 will now also qualify for the freebie with the cut off date being rolled forward by one year on every 1 April subsequently. Obviously, while lots of early air-cooled Dub owners already take advantage of the ruling, as the rolling effect continues lots of water-cooled VW owners will also start noticing a few more pennies in their pocket. The early Golf Mk1 will be one of the first ‘scene’ cars to qualify,


Indeed, it’s estimated that the measure will benefit around 10,000 classic vehicle owners who are currently paying Vehicle Excise Duty. Every year thereafter, the number of classic vehicles affected will increase with the estimated 28,000 people employed in the UK historic car industry also benefiting from the extra savings. A win-win, in other words…

We reported recently about proposed changes to the MoT, with vehicles 30 years and older which haven’t undergone ‘significant changes’ one day being excluded from having to undergo an annual test. Such was the confusion created by the announcement that the Department for Transport has set up a new website where enthusiasts can let off steam and discuss the changes. Obviously there’s a big debate likely to take place about what qualifies a car as a ‘historic vehicle’ and also what constitutes ‘significant changes’ where modifications from standard spec are concerned. What are the implications, for example, if you fit radial tyres to a very early Beetle, or convert it from 6 to 12v… If you want to voice your opinion on something that could well affect you in a few years time, now’s the time to have your say…

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Then there’s the general uproar about the ditching of the old paper tax disc, and specifically the fact that it can no longer be transferred to the new owner. This means that when you buy a car, you must not only check you’re suitably insured but also arrange vehicle tax as well before driving it home. You can do this by calling 0300 790 6801, by visiting a Post Office or by going online at

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Obviously if you buy a car, any refund on the old tax disc will go to the previous owner so don’t get cajoled into considering valid tax as a deal sweetener. Moreover, sellers will only receive a refund for any complete months of outstanding tax, so if you sell a car after a new month has started you’ll lose a month’s worth of refund. Incidentally, you are still legally allowed to display a valid tax disc – but there’s no obligation to do so. A neat alternative is to have a custom reproduction disc made up for your vehicle.

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Incredibly, there’s already a market for old paper discs, with some selling for £50 on eBay. Ones not removed from their perforations or with the latest date possible (namely September 30, 2015) are likely to be worth the most in years to come.

Although on the face of it such rule changes arguably make things unnecessarily complicated, there’s benefits as well. Such as the ability to pay monthly by direct debit which will instantly take the sting out of having to fork out for a whole year’s road tax.

And if you were worried about the fact that you can no longer check a vehicle’s details by looking at its tax disc, you can now do this online too by visiting this Government website which will allow you to check not just the tax status of a vehicle but also verify whether it’s got an MoT, its engine capacity, date of first registration and colour as well to make sure everything’s kosher. All you need to know is the make and registration number…

See, not all new rules are created to get one over on historic car lovers – although having access to a smartphone or laptop could certainly prove handy if you want to make the most of the new changes…


The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of VW Heritage

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