SORN: a guide to insuring your car if it’s off the road

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Learn more about how and why you might want to declare a car off road in this handy guide.


If you own a vehicle but no longer want to drive or park it on a public road, you must legally declare it 'off road' with a Statutory Off Road Notification, or SORN.

Failure to SORN a vehicle with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), could result in a fine and other penalties for being uninsured or untaxed.

If you're not sure how to SORN a car, we've listed all the options and and detailed the process below for you.

Why would I need to declare SORN?

There are many reasons why you might want to declare SORN on a car. For instance, you may have bought a classic car and wish to restore it in your garage, on your driveway or on private land. Or you might be going away for a long period of time, but don't want to sell your car.

Here are some other reasons:

  • If you buy a car and don’t tax and insure it immediately (road tax no longer transfers with a car to its new owner)
  • If your car doesn’t have valid insurance
  • If you’re buying a SORN car (ie a vehicle that has already been recorded as SORN by the previous owner) because SORN declarations are not transferable
  • If your road tax (sometimes also known as car tax) expires and your car is off the road for more than 14 days

Benefits of SORN – does a SORN car need insurance?

If you SORN your car you don't have to insure your vehicle, pay road tax (another term for Vehicle Excise Duty or VED) or have a valid MOT – potentially saving you hundreds of pounds.

Additionally, if you SORN your vehicle you’ll be refunded any full months of unused tax you’ve already paid for.

It may also be possible to reduce your (comprehensive) car insurance cover to Third Party, Fire & Theft, or you might be able to get a refund on part of your motor insurance if you suspend the policy.

No SORN, big penalties

You can only drive a vehicle with a SORN on a public road to go to or from a pre-booked MOT or other testing appointment. You could be prosecuted in court and fined up to £2,500 if you use it on the road for any other reason.

Also, under legislation called Continuous Insurance Enforcement (CIE), it’s an offence to be the registered keeper of a vehicle without insurance unless you’ve notified the DVLA that it’s SORN.

CIE was introduced in 2011 to combat the rising number of uninsured motorists on our roads. It’s thought uninsured drivers are more dangerous than insured drivers and cause a higher number of accidents.

The DVLA and Motor Insurance Database (MID) can cross-reference data and records, making it easy for them to identify and take action against uninsured drivers who haven’t declared SORN.

If you’re caught without insurance, you’ll get an Insurance Advisory Letter (IAL), notifying you with a warning that you’ll be fined unless you act in the given time period.

If you don’t, you could be hit with a fixed penalty of £100, have your vehicle wheel-clamped, impounded or destroyed, or face a court prosecution, with a possible maximum fine of £1,000. Figures released by the MID in 2020 revealed that over 137,000 uninsured vehicles were seized across the UK in 2019.

Additionally, it’s illegal to drive a vehicle without a valid MOT. Possible punishments include a fixed £60 penalty notice, a fine of up to £1,000, or your car could be impounded. 

The only exception to driving without an MOT is if you’re on your way to a garage to MOT your vehicle. If you’re stopped by the police, you must prove you have a pre-arranged appointment.

It's also worth remembering that it's an offence to drive an untaxed vehicle on the road, in which case your car could be clamped or impounded and you could be fined £80 (this can be reduced on appeal or it could increase up to £1,000).

If you have a classic car, take a look at our quick guide to classic car MOT changes that came into effect in 2018.

SORNing a car

You can make a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) to the DVLA by phone or by post, or you can SORN a vehicle online.

The DVLA SORN form online is pretty straightforward if you have the right information handy. You’ll need:

  • Your car’s registration number
  • Make and model details
  • 16-digit reference number from your V11 road tax renewal reminder or the 11-digit reference from your car's V5C logbook

Otherwise, use form V890 (available from the Post Office) and mail it to:

SA99 1AR

You can also phone the DVLA on 0300 123 4321.

Getting back on the road

Unlike road tax, you don't need to renew a SORN declaration every year but it's automatically cancelled when you tax your vehicle again.

It's possible to drive your car to the MOT station, even if it doesn’t have a valid MOT certificate, as long as you have a pre-booked test, you have the correct insurance to cover your journey and your car is roadworthy.

It’s also an offence to drive a vehicle on a public road in the UK without road tax, but again the exception to the rule is if you’re taking your car to a pre-booked MOT test.

Can you insure a car without tax?

No, you can’t insure a car without tax. But the only time your car is allowed to be uninsured is when it’s declared SORN – otherwise, it's a criminal offence for your car to have no insurance.

Is my car SORN? How to check

It’s possible to find out if any vehicle has up-to-date vehicle tax or has been registered as off the road (SORN) via the GOV.UK website – all you need is the number plate (registration number) of the vehicle.

I'm an experienced journalist, digital editor and copywriter, now specialising in motoring. I’m editor of Automotive Blog and have worked across the media in newspapers, magazines, TV, teletext, radio and online for household names including the BBC, GMTV, ITV and MSN. I’ve produced digital content in the financial sector for Lloyds Bank, Nationwide and the Money Advice Service. I'm married with two children and live near Bath in Somerset.

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