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How to SORN a car - statutory off road notifications explained

Find out why you might need a statutory off road notification (SORN), and how you can declare your car off road
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Statutory off-road notifications explained - How to SORN a car

If you own a vehicle it is a legal requirement to have tax and insurance on the vehicle. Otherwise you will face the possibility of receiving a fine, or points on your licence.

However, if you're currently not using the vehicle, or plan to take it off the road in the future, it would be worth saving money by getting a SORN. This will legally cover you for not having tax on your vehicle during the time you have requested the SORN.

What is SORN?

The statutory off road notification (SORN) was introduced in 1998. Once you declare a car that a car is SORN, it means that you are confirming your vehicle will be kept off the road. This means you avoid paying any fines for not paying road tax.

How does SORN work?

The SORN system was introduced to help police more easily identify uninsured and untaxed vehicles. 

With automatic number plate recognition, tied in to the police register, patrol cars can automatically let police know when there is an uninsured vehicle in front of them.

While that's incredibly handy for catching rule breakers, it was a potential problem for people who had parked up and not insured their cars because they didn't use them.

The introduction of statutory off road notices gets round this problem.

  • Until SORN was introduced, offenders could only be caught if they were pulled over while driving without insurance or if they were reported by someone

  • The Motor Insurer’s Bureau (MIB) keeps track of all uninsured cars in its database, and warning letters/fines are automatically sent to those car owners without tax or insurance

Should I SORN my car?

  • If you own a vehicle you no longer drive on a public road, you can legally avoid paying tax so long as you complete a SORN

  • New insurance rules that mean all privately-owned vehicles must either be insured or declared SORN to be legal

  • It is free to declare a SORN and if you don’t plan on using your car for some time, it can save you money on road tax and insurance

  • Now is a good time to explore this option and possibly save some money if you have no plans to drive

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Why do I need to SORN my car?

You might choose to SORN a car if you won’t be driving the car for an extended period:

  • If you’re going away

  • Your car is being restored

  • If you only drive it at certain times of the year

  • If you intend to keep the vehicle in question on a driveway, in a garage, or on private land for a period of time

  • If the vehicle is uninsured (even for a short time) because of a delay in renewing a policy

  • If you plan to salvage parts from the vehicle before it is scrapped

  • If you're buying a car and plan to keep it off the road

In the last year, a lot of people have been driving less, particularly in a household that has more than one vehicle.

Using a SORN would mean one or more of those cars could be registered as off road if it's not being used currently, but will be in the future.

When should I SORN my car? 

So if you know that you have no plans of using your car, say from today onwards, you can declare your car SORN and this will take effect immediately.

However, if your car isn't being used, but is still being kept on a public road you will still need tax and insurance, even if the vehicle is not in use.

  • A SORN is only valid if the vehicle is kept in a garage, on a drive or on private land

  • Separate rules apply for the motor trade — you don’t need to insure or SORN vehicles that are only temporarily in your possession if you're a motor trader or vehicle tester.

Where can I keep a SORN vehicle?

If you have applied a SORN to your car, it can be kept off the road on a drive or in a garage, it doesn’t need to be taxed or insured.

As it’s free to SORN your vehicle, a SORN could save you money on tax and insurance for periods your car’s not being used. However, you may still wish to insure a vehicle on SORN as this covers it against theft or damage from flood or fire.

Can I get my tax refunded?

If you’ve paid upfront for your tax and you decide to SORN it, you’ll get a refund for any remaining months you’ve paid tax for.

How do I know if a car has been SORN?

If your vehicle is not in use, you must SORN it and keep it off the road unless it is taxed and insured. You can check online if your car is taxed or on SORN.

All registered cars are recorded on the Motor Insurer’s Database (MID), and any owners whose cars are not insured or SORNed will automatically receive an Insurance Advisory Letter (IAL) in the first instance. 

How do I declare my car SORN?

To SORN your car online, go to the website. You will need:

  • Your vehicle registration document (V5C). If you use your V5C, this will mean that your car is SORN immediately.

  • The 16-digit number from your tax renewal reminder. If you use your tax reminder, then this means that your vehicle will be off the road from the first day of the next month. You can only use this method once.

You can also apply by post or phone. 

Pick up a V890 form from your Post Office, and send the completed form to the DVLA at DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1AR, or call 0300 123 4321.

If the vehicle is not registered in your name, you will need to use the postal method to do this.

Where else can I get a SORN for my car?

Remember it is free to SORN a car, so be wary of any websites that offer to process your application for a fee. 

What if I want to use my SORN car again?

Once a car is declared SORN, it cannot be driven on the road until the SORN is cancelled. You must pay the necessary road tax before using it on the road. You must insure it too.

How to unSORN a car/Remove a SORN

SORNs used to expire after a year. Once you told the DVLA that the vehicle is back on the road, it must be insured before you can legally drive it.

To remove the SORN status from your vehicle, you simply need to tax it. 

Can I buy a SORN car?

SORN status expires once the car changes ownership, gets scrapped or permanently exported. So once you purchase the car, you are then required to make sure it's insured.

If I buy a car can the SORN transfer over?

You can't transfer a SORN from a previous owner.

  • Even if there is one in place, you must complete a new SORN in your own name as the new legal owner of the car

  • If you're selling a car which is registered as off road, it is no longer under a SORN until the new owner either applies themselves or re-taxes and re-insures it

Do I pay tax on my car after I have SORN it?

No you don’t, and remember, unless your car is SORNed, it must be insured. Compare car insurance quotes to get started.

Do I need to insure a car that is not being driven?

Unless you have filled in a SORN for your car it still needs to be insured. You might decide t9o continue having car insurance on your vehicle even whilst it is SORN to protect it against theft or damage.

How do I SORN my car without logbook?

You will need to go onto the website and send an application for a log book (V62) and V890 form to the DVLA.  A new log book costs £25.

Can I find out if a car has been SORN?

Yes, you can find out via if a vehicle has up-to-date vehicle tax or has been registered as off the road (SORN) . It can take up to 5 working days for the records to update. You can also use ‘askMID’ to check if your vehicle is insured.

Where can I park a SORN car?

It will need to be parked in a garage or private driveway or private land.

Can I drive a car once it's been SORN?

It's illegal to drive an untaxed and uninsured vehicle in the UK. If you get caught doing so, you could be given a hefty fine or face prosecution.

Although, there are two exceptions to this:

  • If you have declared a car SORN and it's on private land, then it can still be driven on this private land. As long as it isn't taken on public roads.

  • If you have an MOT appointment booked for the car, it can be driven to the appointment.

These are the only exceptions, so it's important to avoid prosecution simply be taxing the vehicle and having current car insurance.

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