14th September 2023

How To Declare Your Classic Car or Motorcycle as a Vehicle of Historical Interest

Most vehicles that have had their 40th birthday will become exempt from MOT testing and vehicle tax.

Here’s some helpful advice on whether your classic will qualify, how to go about declaring a Vehicle of Historical Interest and guidance on if your motor is “substantially changed”.

Classic cars that were registered 40 years ago and earlier may no longer have to undergo the annual roadworthiness test if they are declared to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) as a historical vehicle.

This MOT exemption is on a rolling basis, for instance in 2018, cars registered in 1978 or earlier can apply for Vehicle of Historical Interest (VHI) status.

As well as becoming tax and MOT exempt, registering your vehicle for the historic tax class can also help when it comes to driving in Ultra Low Emission Zones. The cameras should detect your numberplate and automatically understand that your vehicle is exempt from the ULEZ charge.

For more information on this, visit our guide When does a classic car or bike become MOT exempt?

How To Make a Declaration

To declare your car or motorcycle as a Vehicle of Historic Interest, MOT exempt and tax exempt, you need to apply at a Post Office with:

  • the log book (V5C in your name)
  • a valid MOT certificate or a completed V112 MOT exemption form
  • your vehicle tax reminder letter if you have it

But remember, just because your vehicle has passed the big 4-0, doesn’t mean it automatically becomes exempt. The responsibility to ensure that your vehicle meets the criteria lies with you, and so it’s important that you make sure your vehicle is not exempt from the new rules.

This can include consulting an expert on your particular marque, or a specialist in historic vehicles.


Knowing the exclusions that apply to the new rules is essential. These exceptions are:

  • If your vehicle has been substantially changed in the last 30 years, then it will still require its MOT. There is some guidance on this below.
  • If you’re not able to determine whether your vehicle has been substantially changed, you should not claim to be exempt from testing.
  • Buses, public service vehicles, and commercially used vehicles with eight or more seats registered before 1960 are excluded and will require testing.
  • Buses over 40 years old that are not public service vehicles will be exempt from MOT testing from May 20, provided they meet the new definition of “vehicle of historical interest”.
  • A vehicle issued with a registration number with a ‘Q’ prefix that infers it has an unknown registration date.
  • Kit cars assembled from components from different makes and models.
  • A reconstructed classic vehicle as defined by the DVLA.
  • Kit conversion cars that see new parts added to an existing vehicle or older car parts added onto the kit of a manufactured body, chassis or monocoque bodyshell.


Vehicle Excise Duty

Even if your classic car or bike meets the criteria for MOT exclusion and is declared as a VHI, you must still ensure your vehicle is taxed when on a public road – whether it’s parked or being driven.

You are required to declare that your vehicle is MOT exempt when you apply to the DVLA for your Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax) each year.

If your car or bike has a current MOT certificate but is likely to expire within the year, and will then fall under the new rules for exemption from future MOTs, at the time of relicensing you’re required to declare that the vehicle is a VHI.

Substantial Change Guidance

If a VHI is deemed to have changed considerably from its original spec then it may still require a roadworthiness test, even if it meets the age criteria for exemption.

The definition of “substantially changed” is if the technical characteristics of the vehicle’s main components have changed in the previous 30 years.

What Changes Can Affect Exemption?

The Engine

If the engine has been changed to one that is different from its original, this is considered a substantial change. One way of identifying this is if the number of cylinders in an engine is different from the original. However, if it is the same basic engine with alternative cubic capacities then these are not considered a substantial change.

Chassis or Monocoque Bodyshell 

This includes any sub-frames. However, replacements of the same pattern as the original are not considered a substantial change.

Axles and Running Gear

If the type and or method of suspension or steering is altered then this constitutes a substantial change.

Unless they have been kept in pristine condition, the age of many classic cars means they will usually have undergone some work to bring them to a roadworthy standard.

Acceptable Modifications That Don't Affect Exemption

  • Different parts being used to preserve a vehicle when original type parts are no longer reasonably available
  • Changes to axles and running gear aimed at improving efficiency, safety or environmental performance
  • Type changes that took place during the model’s production years, or within 10 years of the end of production
  • Changes made to commercial vehicles at a time they were being used commercially


Other MOT exempt vehicles

In addition to the Historical Vehicles class, there are other exemptions from full or part MOT testing.

For instance, steam-powered vehicles are fully exempt and all spark ignition (petrol) vehicles over 3.5 tonnes are not required to undergo the metered check in the test.

If a heavy goods vehicle weighing more than 3.5 tonnes was first used before 1960 and used unladen, it will be exempt from testing, providing it has not been substantially changed.

However, some pre-1960 large goods vehicles will require goods vehicle tests. If they have never been tested, owners will need to apply for a first test using a VTG1 application form.

If you require more guidance, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency can provide advice over the phone and via email.


You may not need to tax and MOT your vehicle, but you will still need insurance. Visit our classic car insurance and classic bike insurance pages to find out more about our policies.


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Thank you for the article posted on historic vehicles (Tax and Mot). I found it very comprehensive and informative. Regards, Bertie Dunlop.

Bertie Dunlop, 13/03/2022