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How to SORN your motorcycle

Why pay for your motorbike all year if you use it for a few months only? It seems reasonable enough – but there are plenty of pitfalls when SORNing your bike.

Motorcyclist looking at bike

What is a SORN?

When you ‘SORN’ a motorcycle you’re telling the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) your motorbike’s not being used.

This means you might not be on the hook for annual vehicle tax or motorbike insurance, which could be a huge annual saving.

SORN stands for Statutory Off Road Notification. The purpose of a SORN means the government has an accurate idea of what vehicles are on the road.

This is to ensure all vehicles being used are taxed.

It also helps with longer-term policy decisions around emissions and infrastructure.

Once a motorcycle has a SORN you can’t ride it  on public roads. So, before taking the SORN plunge and filling out DVLA form, there’s a fair bit to weigh up.

If your motorbike’s registered in your name, the DVLA assumes its still in use – unless you tell them its not.

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to push your bike or car into a garage or shed and simply not use it.

This could catch out the enthusiast biker rather than the person who relies on their machine daily.

So, if you dont want to pay vehicle excise duty (VED) for a bike you don’t use, it could be worth getting a SORN.

There’s still a smidge of leeway left though. You can ride your motorbike with a SORN on a public road if you’ve got a pre-booked MOT.

But you must have a valid motorbike insurance policy in place. 

Oh, and your SORN should be automatically cancelled when your machine is taxed again or sold.

It’s straightforward to check if a bike has a SORN or has valid tax. For more information, visit GOV.UK.

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How do I SORN my motorbike?

You can SORN your bike online with the DVLA. You’ll need your 11-digit logbook or V5C reference number as well as your reg plate details.

You should then be able to SORN your bike immediately.

If you’d prefer to SORN your bike from the first day of the following month, you’ll need the 16-digit number from your vehicle tax reminder letter, called the V11.

To avoid tiresome logbook complications further down the line, do make sure you’ve the right address in your logbook. If you’ve recently moved house, now’s the time to update.

If a bike isn’t registered in your name then you can still make those log book adjustments via a V890 form.

If going online simply isn’t possible you can call the DVLA direct on 0300 123 4321.  


How long does a SORN last?

A SORN lasts up to 12 months or until you decide to tax it again. Or, when you decide to sell and there’s a change of ownership.

If your motorcycle is declared SORN and not taxed, you still might want to insure it. The fire and theft risk is still there for many riders, even when their bike is laid up.

A good halfway house for some is to SORN your bike for half the year. This leaves you free to look at fire and theft protection policies for this period.

But think carefully. While some bike insurers offer special SORN insurance, most won’t offer you any accruing no-claims bonus.

If you’re not actively out on the road regularly, this could be held back.   

There’s also temporary insurance to consider, but it’s normally pricier overall.

It’s also weighing up the cost vs how much use you might get. Does it cost that much more to keep it insured and taxed for the full year?

And would it be useful to be able to jump on your bike at a moment’s notice? That’s up to you to decide.


What are Continuous Insurance Enforcement (CIE) rules?

The CIE rules stretch back to February 2011. Continuous Insurance Enforcement means the government won’t allow you to let your insurance lapse, whether you own a bike, motorhome, car or HGV.

It means your bike must always be insured, even when it’s not being ridden or just parked up. In a nutshell? CIE means that if you don’t SORN your bike you’ve still got to keep insuring it.

Even if you don’t use your bike on public roads you could still be found out.

That’s because DVLA knows if your bike’s insured or not from regular cross-checking against the Motor Insurance Database (MID).

And if your bike hasn’t gone through the SORN process you could be prosecuted – or at the very least fined.

Most motorbike insurance policies should be set to auto-renew, so there’s no lapse in cover.

But auto-renewing your insurance policy could be bad news for your pocket. It’s the reason we’re so hot on comparing motorbike insurance quotes.

If CIE feels a bit Big Brother to you, it was brought in to address the soaring numbers of riders and motorists without insurance.

At the time it was estimated this cost the insurance industry £500 million a year.


How do I un-SORN my bike?

You don’t need to ‘un-SORN’ your motorbike. The SORN comes off automatically when you tax or sell your bike.

To tax your motorbike, you’ll need full details of your logbook or V5C plus your insurance details and MOT paperwork – which will need to be up to date.

If you’re getting the MOT sorted out, always pre-book it and go straight there. If your bike passes, go straight home without stopping. You could then sort your tax online, or at the post office.

But don’t make this trip on your bike if you’re nipping to the post office!


What happens if I dont SORN my bike?

You could be fined and could even be prosecuted.

So, what are the penalties exactly? The below table gives several every-day scenarios. We’ve summarised these but the government has published more detail on this area, if you need it.

Scenarios Possible outcome Penalty
If you're the registered keeper of an untaxed bike.
The DVLA's data service claims you haven't paid tax or declared your bike SORN.
80 fixed penalty cut to 40 if you pay it within 28 days. If you don't pay it then it could be referred to a debt collection agency.
Using an untaxed bike without going through the SORN process.
Your untaxed bike is caught by the police or an ANPR camera.
An Out of Court Settlement (OCS) is put in motion at 30 plus 1.5 times the outstanding vehicle tax rate. If it goes unpaid it's deemed a criminal offence. The penalty could be 1,000 or up to five times the amount of tax liable whatever's bigger. Your bike might be clamped.
Still using and keeping an untaxed bike on a public road with SORN in force.
Your untaxed bike is identified by the police or authorities, possibly via an ANPR camera or a police check.
The OCS is set at 30 plus twice the outstanding vehicle tax owed. If unpaid it would be a criminal offence and may be taken up via the Magistrates Court. The penalty is the greater of 2,500 or five times the amount of tax chargeable. Your bike might also be clamped.

Is SORN free?

Yes it is! There’s not even an admin fee.

For SORN you simply go online and apply. Hopefully you’ll get a refund for any full months’ of tax owed to you.

SORN can start immediately, or you can postpone it until the first day of the next month – whatever suits you. If you don’t have the logbook you can apply for a replacement.


Keeping motorcycle insurance costs down

Trying to keep costs wallet-friendly is never ending. And there are a number of factors that go into how much you pay for your motorbike insurance. Here are some ideas on how to keep your costs down:


Re-check your cover

Are you still regularly riding to work on your bike? Following the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic many people now work from home. If this is you, you could be paying more than you need. Could you limit your cover to just riding socially in future?


Downgrade your ride

If your biking life has changed, how about looking at a smaller, less expensive machine? Even an electric motorbike, possibly?

You must have passed your CBT or have a full licence to ride one. The switch to electric might change your insurance costs but also your overall bike running expenses.


Consider advanced rider training

An advanced riding course could help snip your premium.

Organisations like IAMroadsmart and ROPSA offer training course, check with your insurer first on what courses they recognise.


Avoid that modding itch

Some changes might dramatically increase your costs. Because there’s no established modding standards it means there’s less clarity about what hits your premium

So, try and keep it plain and original if you’re anxious about the costs. Not modding also means it could be easier to sell your bike on later. 


Upgrade your motorbike security

A good quality lock and chain could deter a casual thief, as may a bike cover. Check with your insurance company about what brands of locks they might prefer.


Look at your policy add-ons

If you’re insured for trips to Europe then you’re likely to be paying for it - even if you’re not going anywhere near Europe!

So, double-check those ‘extras’. If you don’t need additional legal cover, or pillion cover, think about taking them off the policy.


Trim your annual mileage

The 2020-2021 global public health crisis saw all of us travel less.

This might change in future but for some of us it may not. So don’t pay for extra mileage if you don’t use it. Are you still paying for 7,000 miles a year when its closer to 3,000 miles?

At the same time, allow yourself a bit of a margin. You don’t want to be misleading, which could see your insurer refuse a future claim.

For more information, check out our guide on cheaper motorbike insurance.