The cost of convenience

In the UK, every vehicle has to display a tax disc which generally needs to be renewed once a year.
Road tax disc
This year, for the first time, I could pay for the replacement online, and it was posted to me. Very convenient. The details are also printed rather than handwritten, and are rather more legible than last year’s one!

But in the past you had to go to the post office taking both evidence of your insurance and your vehicle’s MOT (road-worthiness) certificate, which would be checked by the cashier before you could get the disc. In theory, then, the police or the traffic wardens could look at a car and tell that it had appropriate insurance and mechanical condition.

With the online process, you just have to tick boxes affirming that you have these. No other human is involved. Somehow this doesn’t make me think that our roads will become safer…

Actually, if I remember correctly, the MOT test database is checked as part of the process, so that bit is covered. But what about the insurance companies? Is there a central service that can be checked for that too? I think uninsured drivers are more of a problem than unreliable cars…

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I got mine on-line too. I assume they check your MOT and insurance by noting the details submitted electronically from the garage and the insurer. Even showing pieces of paper to a post office clerk won’t stop the car falling apart the next day, or the owner cancelling the insurance.

The problem for the post office is it is one less reason to go to your local post office.

In the envelope along with my V11 was a FAQ leaflet.

Quote: “When you renew your tax disc on the internet or by phone, we’ll electronically check that your vehicle is insured on the Motor Insurers’ Information Centre database. If applicable we’ll also electronically check if your vehicle has a valid new-style computerised Test Certificate (MOT/GVT) on our database, so there’s no need for you to show us your paperwork. However if you’ve recently renewed, updated or changed your insurance policy or test certificate, our electronic check may not be successful. If this happens we’ll ask you to renew your tax disc at a licence-issuing Post Office branch or DVLA local office, in which case you would need to take your paperwork with you.”

I’d got several steps into the on-line renewal when I came across the warning that you could not do this until the 15th of the month in which your tax disc ran out. The V11 arrived by post on the 11th and I was attempting to renew the same day. Quite impressive, really, I thought, when you consider the general record of large government agencies and the internet. Let’s hope they’re not as efficient with the identity cards.

Interesting to read the UK requirements for such in contract with local policy. Here in the US, and specifically my state Washington, to get your vehicle tabs, as they’re called, you can either mail, in-person, or electronically pay. Waiting in line for the in-person version is notorious for the long lines. I started paying by mail a few years ago.

Every two years you need to get your vehicle emissions checked by a state 3rd party company contracted by the state, but am not aware of any specific “road-worthiness” checks (perhaps its assumed that if you can pass the emissions test that’s good enough).

To get your vehicle tabs you need no documentation at all other than your renewal card and, if it was your cars’ year for emissions-testing, your proof of emissions test sheet. There is no need to prove that you have insurance nor, I believe, a drivers license.

Drivers licenses are renewed every four years. I cannot remember if you need to prove your insurance at that time or not, but I suspect not. You don’t need to prove ownership of a vehicle I believe.

As an aside, it’s interesting to note that cars over (I believe) 20 years old do not need an emissions test — they’re classified as “classic” cars. This seems to be contradictory to the purpose of an emissions test as it would logically seem that older cars have worse emissions.

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