If you aren’t going to be driving your car for a while, you can stop paying insurance and tax, if you declare it off-road. But it’s vital to follow the correct legal procedures. Find out how to SORN your car with our guide.
What does SORN mean?
SORN stands for ‘statutory off-road notification’ and it’s a legal process that tells the DVLA that you aren’t driving your vehicle on public roads You might also hear it described as declaring your vehicle ‘off-road’.
Once your car has been declared off-road you don’t have to pay car insurance, tax it (officially known as vehicle excise duty or VED), or have an up-to-date MOT certificate.
However, you have to make sure your car is kept on private property – in a driveway or garage, for example.
You can’t park it on a public street, nor can you drive it
Why would I SORN a car?
During the 2020 and 2021 lockdowns, the number of people applying for a SORN for their car rose dramatically According to the DVLA, SORN requests doubled to over 500,000 between February and March 2020.
But global pandemics aside, there are many other reasons to apply for a SORN.
You might declare your car off-road if:
You’re going to be overseas for a few months or more
You or your child is going away to university
You have a classic car that is only driven in the summer
You have a fixer-upper that isn’t roadworthy yet
You have a second car you aren’t using but don’t feel ready to sell
How to SORN a car
The easiest way to get a SORN is to apply online on the government website.
Visit GOV.UK to get started. You need some of your car’s documentation to complete your application:
Your V11 tax reminder - including the 16-digit reference number
Your logbook (V5C) - including the 11-digit reference number
Your New Keeper's Supplement (V5C/2)
You can also set the process in motion by calling the DVLA on 0300 123 4321.
It’s important that the address on your tax reminder letter as well as your log book is correct before you apply.
If the address on your log book is wrong, visit GOV.UK to update your details.
How do I SORN my car without a logbook?
If you’ve mislaid your V5C logbook, you have to apply for a replacement, which costs £25.
Log onto GOV.UK and start the application process. This assumes that you don’t need to make any changes to the details on the logbook such as your name or address.
Note that you won’t be able to get the £25 refunded if you find your original logbook at a later date.
If you’ve just bought the car and don’t have the log book yet, you can SORN your car with the reference number on your VC/5. You should have this from the seller.
How long is a SORN valid for?
Your car’s SORN status continues until you take steps to get the vehicle back on the road – i.e. as long as you want.
There’s no time limit on a SORN.
If you buy a car that has a SORN, you need to apply for a new SORN under your own name if you want to keep it off the road.
The SORN status doesn’t transfer automatically from one owner to the next.
When will my SORN start?
You can choose to have your SORN start immediately or on the first day of the next month.
If you want it to start right away, you need the 11-digit number on your log book (V5C).
For a SORN that you want to start the following month, you need the 16-digit number that’s printed on your V11 tax reminder letter.
It should take no more than 4 weeks to process a SORN request.
If the process takes longer than this, any tax refund you are due should be backdated.
Do you have to pay to SORN a car?
You don’t need to pay to SORN a car.
Applying for a SORN costs nothing, other than the time it takes to make the application.
However, if you don’t have off-street parking of your own, you may need to pay for the vehicle to be kept on private property.
You can’t keep a SORN vehicle parked on the street or any other public road.
What happens when I drive a SORN car?
It’s illegal to drive any vehicle that has been declared off-road on a public road.
If you’re caught driving a vehicle that has been declared SORN, you could face a fine of up to £2,500. The only exception is if you’re driving to a pre-arranged MOT appointment.
You can drive a car that has been declared SORN on private land.
How to unSORN a car
The process to take your car out of SORN is simple – you just have to tax it again.
Before you can buy car tax for your vehicle, you need to get a current MOT certificate, which means taking your vehicle for an MOT test.
You can drive to an MOT test while your car is still classed as a SORN.
That’s as long as the test has been pre-booked and you go directly there.
But note that you need to get car insurance on the vehicle before you can head off onto public roads.
It's worth preparing your car for its MOT beforehand, especially if it's not been in use for a while.
If you’re concerned that your car might fail its MOT, you could look at taking out a temporary car insurance policy.
This might turn out to be cheaper than signing up for a whole year.
Once you have the MOT certificate, you can buy your car tax.
The DVLA should update its records to reflect the fact that your car is no longer classed as a SORN.
Alternatively, if you follow the correct procedure to scrap your vehicle, you inform the DVLA that you’ve taken your car to an authorised treatment facility (ATF) for disposal.
The agency should then automatically update its records to reflect that your car is no longer a SORN.
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Do I still need to pay car tax if my car is SORN and can I get a refund?
Applying for a SORN means you don’t have to continue to pay VED tax for a car you’re not using.
If you’ve already taxed a vehicle that you’re applying for a SORN for, you could be entitled to a tax refund for any unused whole months.
Take for example, if you applied for a SORN in mid-September for a car you’ve taxed until the end of the year.
You should get 3 months’ worth of tax refunded to cover October, November and December.
Do I still need to pay car insurance if my car is SORN and can I get a refund?
If your car is declared SORN, you no longer have a legal obligation to insure it.
This means you can contact your car insurance provider and ask them to refund the rest of the current year’s cost.
They should be happy to do this although they may charge an admin fee for doing so.
Think carefully about whether you really want to cancel the insurance on your car.
If it is no longer insured, you won’t be able to make a claim for any accidental damage it suffers while it’s off the road.
You won’t be able to claim it if it's stolen either.
Does a SORN car need an MOT?
As with tax and insurance, if a car is off the road with a SORN it doesn’t need to have a current MOT.
So, you don’t need to get it re-tested when the existing MOT runs out.
However, you need to have an up-to-date MOT when you want to get the car back on the road .
Even if your motor is not in use for an extended period of time, it's important to keep your car healthy. This means it has a better chance of passing its MOT when you do use it again.
This is the only situation in which you’re allowed to drive a SORN car on the public roads – if you’re heading for a pre-booked MOT appointment.
You might be asking, can you drive a SORN car to an MOT testing centre without insurance?
The answer to this is no - you have a legal obligation to insure any vehicle that’s on a public road.
Do I need to SORN my car?
SORN might not necessarily be the best answer to your problems.
You won’t be able to use it at all once it is a SORN – and you could face a fine of up to £2,500 for driving a SORN vehicle.
It might also be necessary to find somewhere off-road to store your car. You won’t be able to park it on the street when it’s SORN.
You might also have to pay a cancellation fee if you want to terminate your current insurance policy.
If you want to reduce the amount you’re paying in car insurance, you should compare car insurance prices.
There are also steps you can take to reduce your car insurance costs.
You might be able to save more than you expect on your overall costs and not need to SORN your car.