Car tax is often relatively cheap, so it can be easy to overlook when working out running costs.
But for cars that emit a high level of CO2 emissions and were registered after 1 March 2001, car tax can be expensive – costing as much as £580 per year.
And if you buy a heavily polluting new car, you could face a bill of more than £2,000 in the first year.
So, if you’re after a new motor with free car tax, it needs to be either
- Electric (those emitting 0g/km of CO2) of all ages
- Emitting up to 100g/km of CO2 and registered between 1 March 2001 and 31 March 2017
With that in mind we’ve searched our classifieds to find the best cars that are exempt from car tax, including petrol, diesel, hybrid and electric models.
Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion
While diesel engines in small cars are rare on the new market, there was a time when these models proved popular, with free car tax helping to guarantee low running costs.
That’s definitely true with the Volkswagen Polo, which was even available in a special ‘BlueMotion’ grade, reserved for ultra-efficient models. This came with tweaked styling for enhanced aero and a 79bhp 1.4-litre diesel engine, which gave it CO2 emissions of 99g/km (meaning it only just qualified for free car tax), along with a claimed economy figure of 74.3mpg. The ‘BlueMotion’ option first arrived with the facelifted fourth-generation Polo, and was around between 2007 and 2009, with these being the most affordable versions.
Electric cars of any age will get you free car tax. They’re cheap to run in general thanks to low charging costs (especially if you charge at home or at free public chargers). One of our favourite EVs also happens to be one of the most affordable – the Renault Zoe.
This quirky and surprisingly spacious EV has been around since 2013, and earlier cars – despite their sub-100-mile range – are a great option if you’re looking for a city car. Just be aware that the majority of used Zoes (particularly earlier cars) are subject to a battery leasing scheme where you essentially rent the battery from Renault. The price of this varies depending on your mileage, but typically costs £50-£100 a month. However, it does mean the battery is guaranteed.
Before the April 2017 car tax changes, all plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) would cost you nothing in car tax, but now it’s only EVs that qualify. So, if you’re after a PHEV that has free car tax, you need to make sure it’s registered before that date.
Enter one of the earliest plug-in models – the Vauxhall Ampera. It’s technically a range-extender electric vehicle, which means that an engine is used to charge up the electric motor that drives the wheels, though you can plug it in as well. This quirky model was sold between 2012 and 2015, and is impressively efficient – especially on shorter journeys.
This model falls into the category of cars that emit less that 100g/km of CO2 and qualified for free car tax before April 2017.
The XE saloon is arguably one of the best-looking Jaguars around. It’s great fun to drive, and is ultra-efficient if you choose the 2.0-litre diesel engine with 161bhp. To qualify for free car tax, it needs to be a manual model, which has CO2 emissions of 99g/km and will return up to 50.7mpg. Make sure any model you’re buying was registered by the end of March 2017.
If you’re fortunate enough to be buying a new performance car, it’s worth noting that such a vehicle can cost an absolute fortune to tax in the first year. Take a Porsche Panamera Turbo, for example, which emits 278g/km of CO2 – it’ll cost an eye-watering £2,175 to tax in the first year. And while that might seem like small change on a £100,000 plus car, it’s still not cheap.
One way around this is to go electric and Porsche’s new Taycan is a worthy option. Admittedly it’s a very elaborate and expensive way to get free car tax, given entry-level models cost £83,367 – but at least it’ll it will be affordable to run once you get it, with models capable of a range up to 256 miles.
Small turbocharged petrol engines are now some of the cleanest around, and are often cheap to run. One of the best options is the Audi A1 – it’s one of the most premium superminis around with its high-quality interior and classy styling.
For free car tax on petrol A1s, you’ll need to make sure it uses the 94bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine and features a manual gearbox, and that it was registered before the cut-off point of April 2017. This model delivers CO2 emissions of 97g/km, and promises to return an impressive 67.3mpg. Diesel A1s featuring the 1.6-litre TDI engine will also qualify for free car tax.
We’ve covered most types of powertrains on this list so far, but not regular ‘self-charging’ hybrids. Toyota and Lexus have been at the forefront of this technology for years. They’re known for bulletproof reliability, and one of the best options is the Lexus CT200h.
It’s neither fast or particularly fun, but looks good and has an upmarket interior that makes the CT feel premium behind the wheel. It first arrived on sale in 2011 and has held its value well, with even the cheapest examples not dipping much under £6,000. Just make sure any example you’re buying was registered by the end of March 2017 to get free car tax. In terms of running costs, Lexus claims it’ll return 68.9mpg, with CO2 emissions of 94g/km.
Note – Always check how much your car will be to tax before buying, as some specifications and engines may not qualify for free car tax. You can do this here.