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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

What is SORN?

The statutory off road notification (SORN) was introduced in 1998 so the owners of vehicles kept off road would be able to avoid fines for not having paid road tax.

What does SORN mean?

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

  • 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

  • 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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What does SORN mean?

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 breaker, 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

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 are buying a car and plan to keep it off the road

In the past 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 at the moment, but will be needed when coronavirus restrictions lift.

When should I SORN my car? 

If your car is not 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 are a motor trader or vehicle tester.

Where can I keep a SORN vehicle?

If your car is SORNed and kept off the road, 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. 

What happens if I fail to insure or SORN my car and keep using it?

If you fail to SORN a vehicle that has no insurance you have an uninsured vehicle. 

  • You will get a fixed penalty notice of around £300 and six points on your licence

  • If you still fail to insure or SORN your car the case could go to court where you could be fined up to £1,000 and be disqualified from driving

  • Your car can also be seized and eventually destroyed if you don’t pay to have it released

  • Getting car insurance in the future may be difficult or more expensive

How do I declare my car SORN?

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

  • Your vehicle registration document (V5C) 

  • The 16-digit number from your tax renewal reminder

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.

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.

Can I un-SORN a car?

SORN’s used to expire after a year. Once you have ‘un-SORNED’ your vehicle 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 also expires once the car changes ownership or gets scrapped or permanently exported.

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.

How do I SORN my car without logbook?

You will need to go onto the Gov.uk 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 Gov.uk 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.

When you don’t own a car

You don’t need to own a car to get car insurance. Unlike a full car insurance policy you won’t build up a no claims bonus but it does mean you can drive someone else’s car, as long as you have their permission. If you are only planning on borrowing a car you can also compare quotes for short-term or temporary car insurance

If you are needing to insure several cars search multi-car insurance policies.

Multi insurance might also be suitable:

  • If you own more than one car

  • If you’re a family with more than one driver

  • If you’re a couple with more than one vehicle 

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See a range of car insurance quotes in just a few minutes when you compare with Uswitch