How to ensure your car is road legal

Ensuring a car is road legal in the UK isn’t difficult, and keeping it legal isn’t expensive. Here are some critical things you must ensure are adhered to if you want to keep your car road legal.

It must be registered

The very first step that you need to do to ensure your car is road legal is to register it. If you’ve recently bought, built, rebuilt or imported a vehicle, you need to register it with the DVLA by completing the relevant forms and submitting them. It might sometimes be necessary for the DVLA to do an inspection of your vehicle at the time of registration, but there is no fee if this is the case. Registering a vehicle is law in the United Kingdom and driving any vehicle that is not registered is illegal. You do not need to register vehicles that are going to be used off-road only.

It needs to be insured

It is law that you need to have motor insurance for your car to drive it on UK roads. By law, this needs to be third party insurance at a minimum, which will cover the damages or injuries to any person, vehicle or property. Third party insurance, however, won’t cover your own vehicle.

Fully comprehensive insurance is generally recommended because it will cover your needs too should you ever be involved in a road accident. Consider using a service to compare car insurance to find the best deal for you and to see if you can find a cheaper policy

All modifications must be legal

There are a good few car modification options that will get you into trouble if you install them and use your car on the road. The most common offender is tinted windows, where the law expressly states that a minimum of 75% of the light must be able to pass through the front windscreen and 70% of the light through the side windows. You are free, however, to tint the back window as dark as you want to. You should also avoid large and big bore exhausts if you plan on driving on public roads because of the additional noise these exhausts create. Fitting blue lights to your car can also land you in hot water as these are reserved for emergency vehicles. This applies to both lights mounted on your roof as well as LEDs or neon lights under the car body. There are several other offences when it comes to modifications, so be sure to familiarise yourself with them before deciding to make modifications to your car.

It should have a current MOT certificate

If your car is older than 3 years, you need to make sure you have a current MOT certificate, which needs to be renewed annually. The test will check your car is in roadworthy condition and meets all the requirements of being road legal. It will also check emissions to make sure they’re within acceptable levels. If your car is newer than 3 years or older than 40 years without significant modifications, you might not need a MOT certificate, but you should always check to make sure.

Documents you should have with you while driving

If you’re ever stopped by a police officer, you need to make sure you have some documentation on hand to produce to them. The very minimum you should keep in your car or on your person at any time when you’re driving is your driving licence, a valid insurance certificate and a valid MOT certificate if required for your vehicle. If you don’t have these documents handy, you might face a fine or be asked to present them at a police station within 7 days of being asked for them. It’s much easier to just make sure you have them with you.

A note about SORN

The process of declaring your vehicle as SORN (Statutory Off the Road) has seen a recent surge since the start of 2020, thanks in part to the various lockdowns we have experienced during the year. The DVLA reported the number of SORN applications more than doubled in 2020 to around 545 000 individual applications. As the lockdown lifts, more people are going to want to return their car to the road, and that means you need to reverse the SORN process. Thankfully this is quite simple. All you need to do is go the dedicated DVLA website and register it again for tax. You can immediately use your car again once you’ve completed the process online, paid for tax and insured the car again as the records are updated immediately.

By abiding by the laws for motor vehicles as laid out in the UK, you shouldn’t run into any trouble if you’re ever pulled over or stopped by a police officer, provided you were obeying all of the traffic laws!

Image cc by Jarod Carruthers on Flickr