Owning and maintaining a car can come with its fair share of commitment and stress. There’s a lot to think about as a driver, from day-to-day stuff like getting a service and MOT, to more serious issues like what to do if your car is stolen.

To help you navigate the confusing world of car ownership, we’ve made a list of the most Googled car questions on the internet and aimed to answer them with simple, impartial advice. We’ll be adding to this list from time to time, so ensure you stop by again to get your most common motoring questions answered.

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Car Tax and Insurance

Have a question about when your car tax is due? Perhaps you’re looking for advice on insuring your car? Your question may be answered below.

Why is car insurance so expensive?

A range of factors affect the price you pay for car insurance, so this is no easy question to answer. Here’s a list of what factors can make your car insurance expensive:

  • Your age, your job title and where you live have a big impact on insurance costs. Young drivers are most likely to get stung by pricey premiums, while some occupations also drive up prices because insurers think you’re a bigger risk (examples?).
  • Some cars are pricey to insure because they’re powerful and expensive. Make sure you get an insurance quote before buying a new car, so you know what the overheads are likely to be.
  • Previous claims, driving penalties and a criminal record can send insurance prices through the roof.
  • Middlemen like insurance brokers and comparison sites, can also result in a pricier premium as they add their overheads to your quote. We’d always recommend using a comparison site to search for the cheapest insurers, and then visiting the site directly (not through the link provided on the comparison site) to get the best deals.

car tax

What happens when my car insurance policy ends?

At the end of a car insurance policy, you can renew and stay on your existing policy or find a better deal elsewhere. Most insurance policies work on an auto-renewal basis, so your current insurer will automatically renew your premium.

Most insurers offer a grace period of 14 days after your policy ends for you to switch to another insurer without charge before your policy auto-renews. After 14 days, you can still switch but you may have to pay a cancellation fee.

Some policies are non-renewal, meaning the insurer won’t carry it forward and start a new policy. In this case, policies normally last for 13 months, with a 1-month grace period to keep your car covered if you haven’t arranged another policy.

For more car insurance tips and advice, read our guide on how to choose the right insurance for your car.

When is my car tax due?

You can use the DVLA car tax portal to check when your car tax is due. Have your registration number to hand and check that the information about your car is correct. The tool can also tell you when your MOT expires, which you can read more about below

Have another question about car tax? Read our guide to car tax for help and advice.

Maintenance, MOT and Servicing

Car maintenance can be tricky to manage if you’re a new or inexperienced driver. Below, we’ve answered some of the common questions about servicing and the MOT.

How do I know when my MOT is due?

The DVLA’s MOT and car tax tool can tell you when your MOT is due. Simply input your registration number and check that the information about your car is correct.

car mechanic

What happens if my car fails its MOT?

There are two scenarios if your car fails its MOT, depending on whether a fault is graded dangerous or major:

  • Major – You can drive your car away, but you won’t be allowed to drive it again unless you’re taking it for repairs or to a scheduled MOT re-test.
  • Dangerous – The garage will advise that you don’t drive the car until the necessary repair work has been carried out. You can choose to drive it away, but you must understand that your car poses an immediate risk to yourself and other road users. You won’t be able to drive it again unless you’re taking it for repairs or to a scheduled MOT re-test.

An MOT is a legal requirement, and you’ll receive a fixed penalty notice of £100 and a potential court fine of £1,000 if you drive your car without an MOT. The only time you’re allowed to drive when your car has failed is when you’re taking it for repairs or a re-test.

How do I know when my car needs servicing?

There are a few ways to find out when your car needs servicing:

  • Check the vehicle logbook, which will tell you the date of its last service.
  • The manual will recommend service intervals (usually every 12 months or xxx miles (?) for a full service).
  • Lots of cars have a dashboard service alert, which will tell you when your car is ready for a full service. The garage will reset this alert after the service.

Where is my car colour code?

You’ll find your car’s colour code in:

  • The manual
  • The service history
  • On the body of the car itself

There are a few places where you could find your colour code. Our guide on how to find the colour code for your car can show you where the code is for your make and model.

car vin number

Where is my car VIN number?

The VIN number is stamped onto your car’s chassis, usually under the bonnet or on the passenger or driver-side door jamb. Manufacturers often stamp the VIN in two or more places, preventing the serial number being lost or damaged when repair work is carried out.

Take a look at our guide on how to read your car’s VIN code for more helpful tips and advice.

Car Ownership and Miscellaneous

Here, we answer general questions about car ownership, so you know what to do in certain situations.

How do I find out where my car is registered to?

If you’re not sure which address your car is registered to, you can request information from the DVLA. This will tell you where the car is registered and give details about the registered keeper.

To request information from the DVLA, you’ll need to provide your full name, current address and the registration number of the vehicle. If you move house, always remember to change the address on the V5C logbook.

How is car depreciation calculated?

Depreciation is the difference between what you paid for your car and what it’s worth when you sell it or trade it in. It’s calculated based on a number of factors, including:

  • Price
  • Running costs and economy
  • Brand and model
  • Mileage
  • Condition
  • Regular servicing

Most new cars lose around 40% of their value in the first three years of ownership, with an average drop in value of around £2,000 a year. So, if you bought a new car for £12,000, it will be worth around £7,200 after three years (assuming that it’s lost 40% of its value – £4,800).

car sale

Are new cars cheaper to buy at certain times of year?

Yes, seasonal factors affect the price of new cars, so it pays to keep an eye on the calendar and buy at the right time.

For example, demand for convertibles goes up in the spring and summer months, so it’s better to buy one in the winter. The opposite can be said of 4x4s, with demand rising in the winter and falling off over summer.

Be mindful too of when dealers’ quarterly sales periods are coming to an end, which are usually March, June, September and December. In the weeks before the end of these months, there may be some good deals to be had from dealers looking to hit their targets.

Wait until a new or face-lifted model is due to come out before buying a brand-new car. Dealers will be keen to sell old stock before a new version hits the market, so you can get a good deal on a new car.

For more tips on the best times of year to buy new and used cars, check out this useful guide from the Money Advice Service.

What happens if my car is stolen?

Here’s what to do if your car has been stolen:

  1. With details about your car to hand (colour, registration number, make and model), call the police on the non-emergency 101 number. Obviously, if you’re in danger, call 999.
  2. The police will give you a crime reference number – make a note of it. You’ll need this for claiming on your car insurance.
  3. Next, call your insurance provider. They will probably have a designated number of new claims in the event that your car is stolen. Do this as soon as possible after the event; the sooner you make a claim, the sooner you can get a payout and start the process of getting a replacement car.
  4. Call the DVLA to get a refund on any outstanding car tax. The police will notify them that your car has been stolen, but you may still need to call to get your money back for any tax you’ve paid.

car theft

What happens to my car if I die?

If you die, your car will pass to the named party in your will. There are a few things they’ll need to do when taking ownership of your car, which we’ve covered below.

If you own your car outright

In cases where you own your car and there is no outstanding finance, transferring ownership to your next of kin is easy. They’ll need to notify the DVLA by sending a ‘new keeper’ slip and a letter explaining the situation. They’ll also need to register the vehicle as SORN if they don’t want to tax or insure it.

If you don’t own your car outright

If you have outstanding finance on your car, things are a little trickier. Your next of kin will need to follow the steps above to contact the DVLA, before getting in touch with the finance company. If they intend to keep the car, they’ll continue making payments on your behalf. If they don’t, the car will be returned to the finance company, who will sell it at auction to account for the remaining finance on it. In cases where the sale doesn’t cover the finance, the shortfall will be taken from your remaining estate.

Holts believes that owning and maintaining a car should be simple. That’s why our DIY maintenance products are simple to use either on your driveway or in an emergency at the side of the road. For more information, visit the homepage.