For those who own a vehicle that’s not being driven publicly, they can avoid paying any associated tax and insurance fees – once it is registered off the road with a SORN.
However, what does SORN mean? What happens when you SORN a car? How do you register for this document? The following guide will answer all these questions – and much more – by comprehensively examining SORN and how it functions.
What is SORN?
You already know it helps with vehicle-related tax and insurance fees in some way, but what does SORN stand for exactly? Well, it’s an abbreviation for Statutory Off Road Notification. What this means is that if you apply for a SORN, you’re declaring your vehicle as being off the road.
To begin a SORN declaration, you need to get in touch with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency – known more commonly as the DVLA. Once aware of your intentions, the DVLA will edit your vehicle details on the Motor Insurance Database and show it is no longer allowed on the road.
In fact, that is a very literal statement. Your vehicle cannot even be parked on a public road, let alone driven around. You’re only legally allowed to keep the car in a garage, on your driveway, or on private land.
What are the reasons to SORN a vehicle?
On the surface, it might seem cut and dry as to why you’d SORN your car. In actuality, there are various circumstances where the SORN route is an applicable one. Here are a few examples:
- The vehicle is only used periodically: There are various reasons why someone may only use a car occasionally through the year, from staying in a holiday home over the winter to using a specific vehicle during the summer. During periods of downtime, a SORN will save money.
- No plan to drive the car any time soon: In relation to the previous point, a person might find themselves in a position where they don’t need to use their vehicle for an extended period of time and want to save money because of this.
- It’s not roadworthy: If the car is a wreck and requires extensive work before it’s roadworthy, a SORN is suitable for the situation.
- The vehicle isn’t insured: For instance, if there’s a delay when renewing a policy, a SORN is necessary. This is still the case even if the car remains uninsured for just a small period of time.
- The vehicle isn’t taxed: In the same way as insurance, you may also require a SORN while arranging your car tax. This can be an issue when buying a vehicle, as tax is no longer transferred when sold on.
- Salvage parts before scrapping: Before it is scrapped, you can put a SORN in place to salvage any parts from the vehicle.
- No intention to drive: Sometimes, a car is purchased as a display piece rather than as a means of travel. If a person collects vintage, unique, collectable, or classic cars with no intention of driving them, for example, a SORN will stop any unnecessary fees.
Do I need to SORN my car before I scrap it?
As mentioned above, you might want to consider a SORN if you’re scrapping your car. However, is it mandatory to acquire one if going down this path? After all, the vehicle is going to be ‘off road’ once it is scrapped – it’s easy to understand why people can be confused about its correlation with a SORN car off road declaration.
So, do you need to SORN a vehicle before scrapping it?
Simple answer: ‘No.’ You’re not legally required to SORN a vehicle if it’s heading to the scrapyard. There is an exception – more on that below – but you simply need to follow the normal process of scrapping a car.
If you take the vehicle to an official Authorised Treatment Facility (ATF), you will receive a Certificate of Destruction. This certificate declares the car is off the road and no longer under your name. As the COD is issued by the DVLA, they will update their database with the relevant information about the vehicle’s status. Consequently, there’s no need to go through another channel – aka SORN – to declare the car as off the road.
Why would you SORN a scrap-bound car?
Before the vehicle is scrapped, you might decide to remove some parts. This could be due to them being expensive and more valuable to sell separately, or they could be used in a different car. Whatever the reason, you want to remove parts from the vehicle, and this is when a SORN is needed.
In fact, the SORN has to be in place before you start breaking down and removing parts from the car.
What if a SORN is already in place?
If your vehicle has received a SORN, there’s not much that changes. You can still scrap the car as normal. The only difference is transportation. You won’t be able to drive the vehicle to the scrapyard. Instead, you will have to arrange for the car to be moved via a legal transportation service.
Generally, you will be able to organise for the scrap dealer to pick up the vehicle – often free of charge.
How much does SORN cost?
Here’s the good news: it is completely free to apply for – and receive – a SORN. This means you don’t have to worry about spending money before you can start saving it.
With that said, there could be one small expense involved depending on the situation. If you require a new vehicle log book (V5C) to complete the application, this costs £25.
How does SORN affect insurance and tax?
The main reason you will go down the ‘SORN my car’ road is due to the tax and insurance omissions. It’s true these payments can cease with a SORN – but there’s more to consider than just that. Here’s a breakdown of how the two are affected.
When you apply for a SORN, your car insurance doesn’t automatically stop, of course. You will have to go to your provider and arrange for it to be cancelled or paused. When doing this, check SORN is in effect. If it isn’t, your vehicle – regardless if you drive it or not – will be classed as strictly uninsured, and you could face the following penalties:
- A fixed £100 penalty fine
- A court prosecution, followed by a potential fine of up to £1,000
- Your vehicle clamped, impounded, and possibly even destroyed
- An automatic fine of £80 for not possessing a SORN
There’s also the question of if you actually want to stop paying for insurance. When this is done, it’s no longer covered against damage or theft. You might not believe anything will happen to the vehicle when stored away in a garage or on a driveway, but having no insurance is still a risk.
With that in mind, you still have the option to insure your car. Plus, with the difference in how you use the car, the policy will be updated and likely cheaper as a result.
When it comes to vehicle tax, it’s essential you’re not too hasty in stopping your payments. Simply putting in an application for a SORN isn’t enough to cease paying the tax. You have to continue covering outgoings until the DVLA specifically notifies you otherwise. If not, they will typically consider it an attempt to duck your legal tax obligations.
Stop before the SORN kicks in, and you could be hit with an £80 fine if caught. This fee can rise to £1,000 if it remains unpaid.
However, don’t think you will lose out on any money. The DVLA will provide a car tax refund, which will cover any full months of outstanding tax. Following your application, this refund will be sent to you in the form of a cheque within six weeks.
How long does SORN last?
Essentially, a SORN has an indefinite length. There’s no worry about having to arrange renewals – it lasts for as long as you need it.
At one point in time, however, this wasn’t the case. A few years ago, a SORN had a restricted expiry date of 12 months. That meant that each year, you had to go out of the way to renew the SORN to keep it valid. Thankfully, the SORN rules have since changed to eradicate that inconvenience.
How to SORN a car: a guide
When it comes to getting a SORN from the DVLA, there are three options available. These are:
- Apply by post - done by completing and sending a V890 form
- Contacting them by phone and making the most of their 24-hour service available at 0300 123 4321
- File an application online via the DVLA website
When not registered as the car’s keeper, the only choice available is sending an application by post. The SORN application form, aka the V890 SORN application form, can be downloaded from the DVLA website. An appropriate part of the vehicle logbook (V5C) also needs to be filled in and sent alongside the V890. Missing the V5C? In that case, you can apply for a vehicle registration certificate (V62) for a fee.
If you’re wondering how to SORN vehicle online, this can be done by visiting the “Register your vehicle as off the road (SORN)” page on the DVLA website. If you have your V5C, you can use the 11-digit number to get the SORN immediately. For those curious about how to SORN without V5C online, you will require a vehicle tax reminder letter (V11) and enter the unique 16-digit number found. When using V11, the SORN will start the first day of next month.
Are you allowed to drive a vehicle with SORN?
No. There’s only one exemption to this rule and that’s if you drive the vehicle to a pre-booked MOT. When doing this, it’s also essential to have proof you’re on the way to an MOT – if stopped by the police, you could be hit with a fine of up to £2,500 and even face court prosecution.
Those punishments are also the same for anyone caught on public roads with a vehicle that has a SORN declaration.
Back on the road: how do you change the SORN status?
There are four occasions where SORN changes and is no longer in effect. These are:
- The vehicle changes ownership
- The vehicle is scrapped
- The vehicle is permanently exported
- The vehicle returns to the road
For the latter point, you might be wondering what needs to be done to have the vehicle roadworthy and free from SORN. Do you have to cancel SORN online? Do you require a specialist document that needs sending to the DVLA? The answer to those two questions is ‘no.’ Assuming you have driving insurance and a valid MOT, all you need to do is tax the vehicle. If you want to know how to tax a SORN vehicle, it’s as simple as visiting this Gov.UK link and applying.
When that’s done, the SORN is lifted.