Classic car tax exemption: 10 modern models that will be tax and MOT exempt from this year

BMW, Volvo, Porsche, Ford
Some of the big name models (and one or two oddballs) that will qualify for historic vehicle status for the first time in 2023

Say classic car to most people and images of mid-20th century gems like the Jaguar E-Type, Ford Mustang and VW Beetle spring to mind.

But there’s a lot more to the classics world than wire wheels, chrome trim and patchy reliability. As generations of car fans grow up, the dream cars of their childhoods become the subject of their nostalgia, bringing ever more modern fare into what we consider “classics”.

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And it’s not just car enthusiasts who have a changing sense of what makes a classic, even the government doesn’t sit still on the matter, granting historic status to a growing range of models.

Under the DVSA’s historic tax classification, any car over 40 years old qualifies for free tax as well as an exemption from annual MOT testing, meaning each year a raft of new models fall into this category. From 1 April 2023, owners of vehicles built before 1 January 1983 can apply for the exemption.

That means vehicles which first launched in the UK in 1982 will become eligible for the first time, including some true legends and one or two oddballs. To mark the latest additions, servicing specialists BookMyGarage have compiled a list of some of the biggest modern classics becoming eligible for tax and MOT exemption this year.

While you absolutely should apply for tax exemption, it’s still a good idea to present your classic car for an MOT. In 2021, research by BookMyGarage found that one in five of the 140,000 classic cars which underwent a voluntary MOT test between 2019 and mid-2021 failed it.

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Jessica Potts, head of marketing at, said: “The historic vehicle tax and MOT exemption helps make classic motoring more accessible by reducing costs. However, it’s crucial owners make sure their vintage car is free from safety defects whenever it ventures onto public roads.”

BMW 3 Series (E30)


The BMW 3 Series has been around since the mid-70s but for many car fans the most iconic iteration is the second-generation E30 that launched as a two-door coupe in 1982. A lot of that fame is thanks to the first appearance of the legendary M3, but that didn’t launch until 1986 so doesn’t quite qualify for tax exemption. Still, even less powerful models have a charm and simplicity that make any version of this early 3 a desirable modern classic.

Ford Sierra


The Sierra caused a bit of a stir when it arrived in 1982, replacing the boxy Cortina with its radical new aerodynamic shape. Critics hated the “jelly mould” looks but within a year it was Britain’s best-selling car and was a common sight on the roads even after the Mondeo arrived in 1993. Like the BMW, the desirable and powerful XR4i and RS models came later in the Sierra’s life but are already priced out of the reach of most mere mortals, so a tax-exempt early one could be the model to go for.

Porsche 944


The 944 was introduced in 1982 as a “bridge” between entry-level versions of Porsche’s flagship 911 and the more affordable, less potent and much derided 924. Based on the 924 but with a stronger design and more powerful 2.5-litre engine developed by Porsche it evolved over the following decade, gaining power and performance. For now, however, only the very early 160bhp cars are tax and MOT exempt but it’s still a hell of a way to get into a “proper” Porsche.

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Volkswagen Polo (Mark 2)


The Polo name is the only one on this list still going after 40 years. In fact, the first generation of VW’s baby hatchback arrived in 1975, making the nameplate also half a century old. But fresh for 2023, early examples of the second generation now qualify for tax and MOT exemption. It doesn’t have quite the appeal of the bigger Golf but every old VW has its hardcore of enthusiasts and there’s a distinct appeal to the Polo’s honest simplicity and weird looks.

Volvo 760


The 760 is the car that spawned the famous movie line “Buy a Volvo: they’re boxy but they’re good” and that pretty much sums up this big Swedish saloon. Recent Volvos are sleek and stylish but there’s a pleasing honesty to a car that looks like it was designed with a set-square. The 760 was the luxurious launch version of the long-lived 700 series and came with a 2.8-litre V6, plush interior and market-leading safety standards.

Reliant Rialto

One to file under “special interest”, the Rialto was a reskinned Reliant Robin which stuck a new squarer body design onto the infamous three-wheeler chassis. Later versions brought mechanical and powertrain upgrades but the first generation in 1982 made do with the Robin’s 39bhp 850cc engine, which was reportedly capable of up to 85mph if you were feeling brave.

Lotus Excel

Fancy a 1980s Lotus but can’t stretch to an Esprit? Then how about an Excel? The plastic-bodied Excel was a larger 2+2 tourer rather than the two-seater Esprit sports car but used the same 2.2-litre engine and boasted 50:50 weight distribution plus a gearbox and brakes from engineering partner Toyota. Despite being less well-remembered, the Excel impressed critics on its launch, being ranked above the Porsche 944 by Car magazine and praised for its driver engagement.

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Austin Ambassador

Less modern classic, more dire reminder of British car manufacturing in the 1980s, the Ambassador was a heavily revised version of the Austin Princess built to try and restore Austin’s position in the large family car segment. New bodywork, including a hatchback boot, and a new interior weren’t enough to tempt buyers from the Sierra or Vauxhall Cavalier and the Ambassador was dropped after just two years to make way for the Montego.

Renault 9

1982’s European Car of the Year, no less, but unlike fine French wine, the Renault 9 hasn’t aged well. It’s not so much that mid-sized saloon’s styling is a problem - the boxy design is actually quite cool in a retro fashion. The issue is more that dodgy electrics and dissolvable bodywork have done for most examples over the years. Still, if you can track one down it’ll be tax exempt from this year. Just don’t scrimp on the MOT...

Talbot Samba

The Samba isn’t desirable in the way some cars on this list are but it is of historical interest to real car nerds as the last car launched bearing the Talbot name. An early example of the PSA group’s passion for platform sharing it was essentially a Peugeot 104 under the skin but with the option of a convertible body style to differentiate it. The Samba only lasted four years before being replaced by the Citroen AX and just 20 are thought to survive in the UK.

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