When Does Motorcycle Tax Become Exempt?

old, tax-exempt motorcycle

How Old Does My Motorcycle Have To Be To Be Tax Exempt?

In May 2018, legislation that abolished the need to tax and MOT a vehicle over 40 years old was introduced.  As of 2023, this means that any motorcycle manufactured before 1 January 1983 is exempt from vehicle tax (VED).

Are Modified Vehicles Eligible For Tax Exemption?

Modified motorcycles over 40 years old are still tax-exempt, but you may still be required to MOT the vehicle.

The law states that ‘Most vehicles manufactured or first registered over 40 years ago will be exempt from periodic testing unless they have been substantially changed.’

What Constitutes a Substantial Change?

A substantial change can be described as a change to the technical characteristics of the main components*. 

*This rule only applies to changes made to the vehicle within the last 30 years.

A substantial change will apply if your motorcycle:

  • Has been issued with a ‘Q’ prefix registration
  • Is a reconstructed classic (as defined by the DVLA)
  • Is a kit where new or old parts are added to the existing vehicle’s body, chassis, or monocoque shell (changing the overall appearance)

Do Motorcycles Automatically Become Tax Exempt?

While they’re automatically eligible after 40 years, you still need to apply for vehicle tax exemption. This is often referred to as putting the motorcycle into the ‘historic tax class.’

The same rule also applies to both electric and tax-exempt motorcycles due to disability. Despite not having to pay a fee, the motorbike must still be taxed!

Am I Eligible for Tax Exemption Due to My Disability?

You may be eligible if you receive one of the following benefits:

  • War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement (WPMS)
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP)
  • Disability Living Allowance (Higher Rate)
  • Personal Independence Payment (Enhanced Rate Mobility)

Maintaining Your Tax & MOT-Exempt Motorcycle

Despite being exempt from periodic testing & VED (Vehicle Excise Duty/Tax), it’s essential to keep your motorcycle roadworthy. This is a legal obligation, so make sure your motorbike is still in a condition to pass an MOT test.

Unfortunately, not all of us are as mechanically inclined as others. For some riders, cleaning and lubrication is the extent of their DIY maintenance knowledge.

If this isn’t something you’re confident doing yourself, consider voluntarily taking your motorcycle to a garage. This is one option that the government actively recommends ensuring that even historic vehicles are safe to ride on modern roads.

Key Motorcycle Maintenance

If you’ve opted to own a vintage motorcycle, there’s a good chance you’re happy to get your hands dirty. To keep your pride and joy in roadworthy condition, here are a few things to keep an eye on:


Check that they work, their condition, and if they’re fitted with the correct colour. You may also need to adjust the aim of the headlight/s periodically.

Wheels & Tyres

As the point of connection between you and the road, it’s essential to get this right. Ensure that the correct size/type of tyre is fitted to the bike with no apparent cuts or bulges. Ensure that the tyres have adequate tread depth and the wheels are aligned correctly.


Ensure that the frame is free from any damage, including cracks, corrosion, or distortion.

This is especially important on vintage motorcycles as they’ve been exposed to environmental factors for an extended period.

Steering & Suspension

Pay attention to the head bearings, forks, handlebars, swing arm, shock absorbers, and ensure they’re in all working order.

In particular, look for signs of excessive play, resistance, or wear of these components.

Any significant changes to the handling characteristics of the bike should be investigated.


Brakes aren’t something you want to overlook.

Check for sponginess or excessive resistance from the lever. Ensure the pads are in good condition, and both wheels can rotate freely when the brake is released.

Fuel & Exhaust

As exhausts and fuel lines can deteriorate over time, it’s vital to check they’re in good condition.

Exhausts should be securely mounted and as corrosion-free as possible. Exhaust clamps should also be adequately fastened to avoid any leaks.

Rubber fuel hoses also tend to break down and deteriorate over the years. Make sure they’re all in an acceptable condition and securely tightened to avoid any leaks.

Drive Chain

Ensure the chain is free from corrosion and tightened to the correct specification.

Final Thoughts

You should now know when motorcycle tax becomes exempt, how to apply for exemption, and the steps necessary to keep your motorcycle roadworthy.

If you’re left with any questions, feel free to get in touch, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.