How to declare a car off the road

How to declare a car off the road
Image source: Getty Images

Driving less these days? Maybe you want to know how to SORN your car and take it off the road. But while it sometimes makes sense to SORN your car, it’s not always the best idea.

So, let’s check out when you might declare your car off the road, and what steps you should follow. 

What SORN means

First, let’s clarify what ‘SORN’ actually means.

SORN stands for Statutory Off Road Notification. Basically, it’s a way of telling the DVLA that you won’t be driving your car or parking it on a public road any time soon. In other words, you’re taking the vehicle off the road.  

Here’s what happens when you SORN your car:

  • You can’t drive it at all unless you’re going to a pre-booked MOT appointment. 
  • You don’t actually need a valid MOT certificate while it’s off the road. 
  • It must be kept off public roads at all other times. So, for example, you can’t park your car outside your flat if it will sit on a main road. Check with the DVLA what counts as a public road if you’re unsure. 
  • You’ll get a refund for any full months left on your road tax.
  • It’s illegal to drive your car again until you tax it and un-SORN it. 

Before we look at how to SORN a car, let’s consider when a SORN is a good idea – and when it’s legally required.    

Why you might take your car off the road

The DVLA is pretty clear about when you legally need to SORN a car. SORN is required if you:

  • Don’t have road tax or car insurance (even if it’s only for a day or two)
  • Plan on scrapping your car, but you want to break it down for parts first 

You’ll be fined at least £80 if you don’t have road tax or insurance and don’t SORN the car.

Okay, so that’s when you must declare a car off the road. But when might you choose to SORN it?  

  • Your MOT is due and you can’t afford it (remember, you can still drive the car to a test centre once you’re ready to get the MOT).
  • The car needs multiple expensive repairs and you plan on parking it up for a while. 
  • You want to buy a car but you’re keeping it off the road.

You could also decide to SORN your car because you’re driving less during the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, over 500,000 drivers have done just that. But is driving less a good reason to SORN a car? Well, it depends. Here’s a little word of caution before we consider how to SORN a car.

Coronavirus and SORN

Sure, it’s tempting to say you won’t drive much during lockdown. And maybe you’re still working from home, so you’re not driving every day. You’ll get a road tax refund if you SORN the car, and you’ll save money on car insurance each month. But can you honestly say you won’t drive at all? 

  • Remember, if you SORN a car, it’s illegal to drive it unless you’re going to a MOT appointment.
  • You might need the car for emergencies. But if there’s a SORN in place, you can’t drive – and you could be fined up to £2,500 if you do.

You can’t drive again until there’s valid road tax and insurance in place, either. So don’t make the mistake of revoking the SORN but forgetting to tax and insure the car! 

How driving less affects your car insurance

First, a suggestion: although you don’t need car insurance if there’s a SORN, you should keep some cover in place. Otherwise, you won’t be protected from disasters like fire, theft or damage. 

Still, you could maybe get cheaper car insurance if you’re driving less. Why? Because the less you drive, the less chance there is you’ll have an accident. So if you’re not commuting anymore, this might lower your premium. 

Contact your insurance provider and see what options are available.

How to SORN a car

Okay, so let’s go over how to SORN a car. It’s pretty simple:

  • Apply online at the DVLA. Or, fill out a V890 form instead.
  • Decide when the SORN will start. It could be immediately (you’ll need your 11-digit V5C number), or on a different date (use your 16-digit V11 tax notice number). 
  • It doesn’t cost anything to complete the application. 
  • There’s no need to renew the SORN. It lasts as long as you need it to.

Getting back on the road

It’s easy to un-SORN a car. All you need to do is start paying road tax again. But remember, you’ll need car insurance and a valid MOT certificate in place before you can drive. 

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