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What first-time car buyers need to know about owner's responsibility

If you're about to become a car owner for the first time, there are a few important things you need to consider.

Car ownership isn't as simple as just driving away in your new set of wheels; this handy guide highlights the additional things you need to consider.

Car ownership isn't as simple as just driving away in your new set of wheels; this handy guide highlights the additional things you need to consider.

When it comes to owning a vehicle, the responsibility falls to the person whose name appears on the vehicle licence. Here are just a few important obligations you’ll need to fulfil as a vehicle owner.


A car’s servicing requirements will vary, depending on the manufacturer’s recommendations, its age and the number of miles it has travelled. A new car may need a service after its first two years on the road or after its first 10,000 miles, whichever comes first. After its first service, the car must continue to be serviced every year.


An MOT is carried out annually, and tests for safety, emissions and other important aspects that could deem it non-roadworthy. The MOT is a legal requirement for a car that is three years old or older and is an annual requirement after this time.

Vehicle excise duty (VED)

No matter the age of your car, vehicle excise duty (more commonly known as road tax) is a legal requirement that must be paid for every six or twelve months. However, if a car is not in use and stored off a public road then the owner of the vehicle does not have to pay road tax on this, but must ensure they have a Statutory Off-road Notification (SORN). Despite some new cars being available free from road tax, the owner of this type of vehicle must still apply for road tax, despite no fee being paid.


When you buy your new car, one of the first things that you should do is take out insurance. There are a number of different insurance policy types available, each varying in cost, but insurance is a legal requirement that every car owner must have. Like many responsibilities of car ownership, insurance must be paid for every year. There are three main types of insurance you can buy, and it’s important to know what’s covered with each one. These are third party, third party fire and theft, and fully comprehensive.

  • Third party – This is the insurance option with the lowest level of cover. It only covers the cost of damage to third party vehicles or property – not to your car.

  • Third party fire and theft – This offers the same level of cover as ordinary third party insurance, but you’ll also be covered if there’s any damage to your car as a result of fire or theft.

  • Fully comprehensive – This will cover you for all of the above, plus any damage to your vehicle even if you were at fault. You may find that some insurance companies also cover you when driving other vehicles with this insurance type. However, your level of cover may drop to third party when driving another vehicle.

Whichever option you go for, remember to check your policy terms and conditions, as the details will be different for each insurance company.


As a car owner you may take the decision to make changes to your car, such as engine modifications, paintwork and even suspension. However, if you choose to take this path and make changes to your car there a number of factors that you must consider before carrying out any work.

  1. Does the car belong to you? When buying a car, despite you making the payments for the car, until that final payment is made the car may not belong to you, but in fact the finance company. Due to this changes and modifications may not be permitted.

  2. Your vehicle’s V5 must be updated with any changes that are made to the vehicle, to ensure that anyone who buys the car in the future knows all they need to know about the car and any changes that have been made.

  3. Have you informed your insurance provider of the changes? Any changes made to a vehicle, no matter how small or insignificant you may believe them to be, must be reported to your insurance provider as this could make your insurance invalid if you were to be involved in an accident.

  4. Are the changes legal? In order to make your car stand out from the rest you may choose to make some significant changes, such as tinted windows or engine remapping. However, before carrying out this work you must ensure these changes are legal and meet DVLA standards.

Up-to-date information

A final aspect that you must consider when owning a vehicle is to ensure that your details are kept up to date and relevant throughout your driving life. Information may include your address, name, contact details and any changes in your health. All of this information is relevant to the DVLA and the information that is related to your vehicle. In addition to this, the driver of a vehicle is responsible for their own license and must ensure that it is kept up to date and is valid for them and the type of vehicle they will be driving.