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How to SORN your car

A Statutory Off Road Notification, or SORN, declares that your vehicle is off the road. Find out more about taxing and insuring a SORN vehicle.

Key points

  • A SORN vehicle must be stored away in a garage, or on a private driveaway or private land
  • You don't need to get car insurance, MOTs or car tax when a SORN is applied
  • The SORN automatically ends when you tax the vehicle

If you’re new to car ownership, and to the expensive business of vehicle tax, insurance and MOTs too, you might not know about Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN).

It’s worth knowing about, because if you ever need to take your car off the road for a while, then it’s a way to save a little money on car insurance in the meantime.

So, here’s everything you need to know about this official document.

What's a SORN?

If you own a car, or other vehicle, that you’re not driving for any reason, you could be forgiven for assuming that you can just park it up and save some money on tax and insurance for a while.

But it’s not quite as simple as that.

Even if you don’t plan to drive your car, you can’t just leave it on the road without tax and insurance.

What you can do is apply for a SORN, which is an official way of informing the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) that your car is off the road, and means that you don’t have to tax or insure it.

However, this does mean what it says - off the road.

You can’t drive, or even leave, a vehicle on a public road while it has a SORN; it must be in a garage, on a driveway or on private land.

Why would you need a SORN?

A SORN is useful if you own a vehicle you’re not planning to use - not even occasionally - and you don’t want to tax or insure it.

In a nutshell, it can save you money.

If you get a SORN, you’re likely to be able to suspend your insurance policy or reduce it to fire and theft cover, which may well result in a refund

If you get a SORN, you’ll be refunded any full months of unused tax you’ve already paid for, and you won’t need a valid MOT when the SORN is applied.

You may be able to get a refund on part of your vehicle insurance too.

Lloyd Purnell of insurer LV explained: “You’re likely to be able to suspend your policy or reduce it to fire and theft cover, which may well result in a refund.”

But even if your tax or insurance is about to run out, you must still register a SORN.

Why? Because it’s illegal to own an uninsured vehicle and a SORN is the only legal way to avoid paying insurance - if you don’t declare your car off the road or insure it, you could face a fine of up to £1,000.

The benefits of a SORN

The RAC’s spokesperson, Pete Williams, declared made a SORN on his Piaggio Vespa.

“The police recovered my scooter after it was stolen earlier this year, but the thieves had caused significant damage trying to start it,” he explains.

“My insurer wrote off the scooter, but I’ve just bought it back from them and intend to repair it myself.

"While I was waiting for the keys to be returned to me by the insurer, the MOT expired and I won’t be in a position to MOT it until I’ve carried out the necessary repairs, so there’s no point in paying tax on it in the meantime.”

It might also be useful if:

  • You've got a car that’s a write-off or is going to be scrapped, and you want to salvage parts from it first
  • You can’t insure your car for a period due to a delay in renewing a policy, you can’t afford it temporarily, or you need to arrange an MOT
  • You’re going to be away for a while

Driving a SORN vehicle on the road

It’s illegal to drive it on a public road, unless you’re on your way to a pre-booked MOT appointment.

If you were stopped, you’d have to be able to prove this, otherwise you’d be liable to court prosecution and a hefty fine of up to £2,500.

While I was waiting for the keys to be returned to me by the insurer, the MOT expired and I won’t be in a position to MOT it until I’ve carried out the necessary repairs, so there’s no point in paying tax on it in the meantime

How do you get a SORN?

It’s very easy - and free - to get a SORN if you already own a vehicle, and you can do it immediately online; Alternatively, you can contact the DVLA on its 24-hour number 0300 123 4321, or complete a V890 application and send it to the DVLA. You’ll need the vehicle log book (V5C).

If you don’t own the vehicle - for example, if you’re buying it - you’ll have to apply by post.

Whichever method you use, you can specify when you want the SORN to begin.

Ending a SORN

It will automatically end when you tax your vehicle again, sell it, scrap it, or permanently export it.

You don’t need to renew it every year - as long as the vehicle remains in the UK, the SORN will be valid until one of the events outlines above occurs. 

Buying a SORN vehicle

A SORN can’t be transferred from a previous owner.

Once you buy and tax the vehicle, the SORN will expire.

If you want to test-drive a SORN beforehand, you’ll need to make a few arrangements first.

“You must be insured,” confirms Direct Line’s Chloe French. “And you, or the owner, should apply for vehicle tax too - it can be done monthly.”

She adds that even unknowingly driving a SORN car could invalidate your insurance if you were involved in an incident while behind the wheel, so if you’re in any doubt, check if a vehicle has a SORN applied beforehand.

As long as you have the registration number, you can check it with the DVLA.

You can also confirm other useful details here, such as when its tax and MOT expires.

It’s also worth noting that if you buy a SORN car, the SORN won’t automatically be transferred to you as a new owner, you would have to apply for it yourself.

By Katrina Hendley