Currently reading: Cheap road tax heroes: best cars you actually want
Pick the right used car and you will pay minimal or even no road tax - we sniff out some bargains

What if you could buy cheap enthusiast cars that cost virtually nothing on road tax?

Paying road tax is never fun, and you will have to shell out £735 each year in vehicle excise duty (VED, aka road tax) on many models. There are, however, some available that allow you to scratch your enthusiast itch without hitting your monthly budget all that hard.

Models registered between 1 March 2001 and 31 March 2017 that emit less than 100g/km of CO2 incur zero VED, while even those with emissions of 120g/km incur just £35, and you will find plenty of interesting choices in these groups.

You'll find something as small as a Brabus-tuned Smart with a peppy three-pot, to a brawny six-cylinder diesel Audi, and even a hybrid supercar from the ranks at Munich. 

Cars with cheap road tax



1. Range Rover Evoque eD4


When it was facelifted, the cheapest baby Range Rover's CO2 emissions were just 113g/km and its average economy as much as 65.7mpg. It’s even ULEZ-compliant.

A manual gearbox may put a dent in the stately feel, but it’s nice enough to use and leather seats are standard, so tell any passengers you chose it for the ‘extra driving involvement’ and they won’t even know you’ve skimped by picking a car with the base engine.


Read our review

Car review

Munich's tech-laden electrified streak can now be had from £30k - here's how it stacks up

Back to top

2. Aston Martin Cygnet


Be honest: were you expecting to see an Aston Martin on this list? Probably not, but here we are – even if it is really a poshed-up Toyota iQ.

However, that means it’s most definitely the Aston with the lowest running costs. Tax is just £35 per year and more than 56mpg should be possible if it’s a manual. Plus, it has 100bhp per tonne, which makes it nippy in the city.

Depreciation shouldn’t be a worry either, because only about 150 were sold in the UK and collectors’ interest is piquing. For an odd bird, the Cygnet is a surprisingly frequent spot in London.

3. BMW i8


A supercar that’s exempt from tax? Incredible but true. Fuel costs will depend on how you use it, though. The i8 is officially rated at 134.5mpg, but because it’s a plug-in hybrid, that won’t be a real-world figure for most people.

Still, early models have an official 23-mile electric-only range (perhaps 15 in practice) and, with typical use of the front electric motor and the charismatic mid-mounted 1.5-litre turbo triple, an overall average of around 50mpg is realistic.

Don’t let the Mini origin of that engine put you off: with 228bhp, the i8 is enthusiastic even when its battery has run out. Better still, its combined petrol-electric forces give it 357bhp, 0-62mph in 4.4sec and a top speed of 155mph. Plus, it still looks and drives sensationally and offers great value for money.

Read our BMW i8 review

Back to top

4. Volvo S60/V60 D5

Volvo opted to give the second-generation S60 saloon and V60 estate sleeker, sportier and more youthful appearances to take on the Germans.

More than 10 years on, these siblings still look great, and Volvo is more of a match for the Germans today than ever. But it no longer offers any estates, saloons, diesels or manuals in the UK, which is a shame, because it was rather good at all of those things.

Bag a D5 diesel version and you will have enough power to spin the wheels in second courtesy of 212bhp and 325lb ft of torque – but you will also get yourself a relaxed cruiser capable of nearly 1000 miles from a single tank.

Reliability should impress and it even makes a characterful five-cylinder thrum. The main drawback is that it isn’t ULEZ-compliant.

5. Porsche Panamera/Cayenne E-Hybrid

The figures that result from PHEV economy testing are controversial, but if you drive mostly in town and charge up very regularly, there’s no reason you can’t get the 80-90mpg stated for these mean machines.

If not, you will pay a hefty premium over a diesel yet get the same 30mpg. You will also offset some of the standard German servicing bills, while enjoying 410bhp from the supercharged petrol V6 and torquey electric motors.

Back to top

6. Audi A2 TDI

Most of the cars here are fairly modern, because very few could achieve less than 120g/km of CO2 when the previous tax laws were introduced. One that could was Audi’s space-age A2, owing to its aluminium construction and obsessive weight savings.

Unfortunately, people were put off by its high price and odd proportions, but values for good examples are on the up now. The petrols might be worth the most in the future, but for daily duties one of the uber-efficient, tax-saving diesels makes sense – unless you live in the ULEZ.

7. Alfa Romeo Giulia TD


How does a 177bhp, rear-wheel-drive Italian sports saloon sound? Granted, this one is a diesel, but 332lb ft of torque and a 7.2sec 0-62mph sprint are nothing to be sniffed at. Nor is an official 67mpg combined, and it’s ULEZ-compliant.

The Giulia certainly represented a return to form for Alfa Romeo: the interior is as appealing as the exterior, the body control is excellent, the chassis is taut and animated and the ride is eerily good.

Back to top

8. Audi A4, A6 and A7 TDI

You might not expect to find a sizeable premium car in this tax bracket unless it had a meagre 2.0-litre diesel engine. But shop around and you can get one with a gutsy V6 and even four-wheel drive.

A 215bhp 3.0-litre TDI will propel an Audi A4 Quattro saloon from 0-62mph in 6.3sec, all for just £35 tax. Even a front-driven A6 Avant estate with the same engine will hit 62mph in 7.3sec, all the while returning 62.8mpg, ULEZ compliance and a capacious boot.

9. Volkswagen Golf GTD/GTE

The Volkswagen Golf GTD is stylish, easy to live with and desirable – and highly unusual, as a diesel hot hatch. If you want to shake things up even more, the plug-in hybrid GTE offers 201bhp, a claimed 166mpg and a tax bill that amounts to nothing. 

Its 7.6sec 0-62mph sprint plays 7.5sec for the GTD. Its just a shame that it had an automatic gearbox only, contributing further to a slightly clinical feel. Which hot Golf will prove the more economical will depend entirely on how you drive it and when and where you can charge it.

Back to top

10. Ford Focus ST TDCI

The first diesel-engined ST was a 2003 Ford Mondeo, whose 2.2-litre four made do with just 153bhp for a 0-62mph time that embarrassingly rounded to 9sec in the case of the estate. A second shot with the Focus yielded better results for keen drivers. 

Performance still wasn’t stellar, but it slipped under 8sec, all while achieving 67mpg. It was a good steer too, being more engaging than the rival Volkswagen Golf GTD. Happily, all versions are ULEZ-compliant and there’s even an estate option.

11. Smart Fortwo/ForFour Brabus

Three cylinders, 898cc and Brabus: three things that shouldn’t go together. There are more surprises here too. At £20,000, the Forfour Brabus we tested in 2017 was almost £2000 more expensive than the nearly twice as powerful Ford Fiesta ST, and its dual-clutch automatic gearbox was less than perfect.

But a Brabus Smart will command interest in spades. The Renault Twingo GT has the same peppy 108bhp motor driving the rear wheels, has a manual gearbox and costs less, but it never sneaked into the bargain tax bands.

Alex Wolstenholme

Alex Wolstenholme
Title: Syndication Editor

Alex joined Haymarket, the publisher of Autocar, in 2023. A car fanatic, he loves to delve into the spec-sheet, especially when it concerns something obscure or quirky. He drives a 1992 British Open Classic Rover Mini, or when it is not working so well, a Ford Fiesta. 

In his current position, as syndication editor, Alex mainly assists in managing Autocar and What Car?’s presence online.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Dozza 20 April 2024

Hmmmmm, road tax on that Volvo is £255 a year??! 

Scribbler 19 April 2024

Why in the world would anyone want to buy a used BMW i8? I ask that as the former owner of 6 BMWs. The i8 has outdated tech and poor residuals and can be expensive and difficult to repair and maintain. The car might have supercar looks but it does not supercar performance. You might as well say that you're buy a Fisker Karma.