We explain each step of a simple process that could save you money and keep a car legal while it's off the road

Do we always need to keep our cars road-ready, while paying full whack for tax and insurance? Or could there be times when our pride and joys are temporarily redundant, perhaps due to you working from home, or because repair work is needed that may take months to complete?

Whatever the reason, if your car is not going to be driven for two weeks or more, then you can apply for the DVLA’s SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification), saving you money, but keeping your car legal. Obtaining a SORN for your car is also free and takes just a few minutes to process if you’re online.

Why do I need to apply for SORN if I’m not using my car?

All cars need to be taxed (officially known as VED, or Vehicle Excise Duty) and insured if they’re parked or driven on the public road. However, if the car is not being used for an extended period of time, and it can be stored in a garage or on private land, then it does not need VED or insurance (although we would still recommend maintaining basic fire and theft cover, even when it’s off the road). While the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency) permits this, it is also a legal requirement that owners obtain a SORN.

What happens if I take my car off the road but don’t apply for a SORN?

If you let your VED expire and do not apply for a SORN, even if you’ve stopped using your car and are storing it on private land, the DVLA will issue an initial warning letter, closely followed by a fixed penalty fine of £80 (reduced to £40 if paid within 28 days) by post. The DVLA can also cross-check your car’s insurance status with the National Insurance Database, and if it has expired, the DVLA will issue you with a further £100 fine. If you ignore everything to this point, you could be taken to court and fined up to £1000, plus costs.

It’s also worth noting that the DVLA is not obliged to issue reminders if your VED expires, so make sure that you keep a record of when it’s due if you wish to keep your car on the road.

So how do I apply for SORN?

There are three ways.

Online, by going direct to the DVLA website (https://www.gov.uk/make-a-sorn). You will need your car’s make, model and registration. If you wish to SORN your car immediately, then you will need the 11-digit reference number from your vehicle’s V5C document. If you can plan ahead and SORN your car from the first day of a calendar month (financially, a better option, since the DVLA will only refund you for a whole month), you will need the 16-digit reference number from your V11 tax reminder.

NB. Unless you want to pay a third-party company to carry out this simple process on your behalf, make sure you go directly to the above link. An internet search for ‘SORN my car’ may introduce you to companies that charge for the service.

By post. You’ll need to either go to the DVLA’s website and download form V890 or collect one from a post office. Once completed, this needs to be sent to: DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1AR.

By phone. Have your car’s details and one of the reference numbers above to hand, and call the DVLA directly on 0300 123 4321.

If applying by post or over the phone, the DVLA should issue an acknowledgement letter within four weeks. If you do not receive one, make sure to call them. Don’t assume that your car’s SORN is in place.

How long does the SORN last? Do I need to renew it?

A SORN does not have to be renewed and will automatically cease when you apply for VED once again. However, if you sell your car with a SORN, and the new owner wishes to maintain this, they will need to apply for a fresh SORN. This is the same principle as a new owner applying for VED on a car they’ve just purchased.

Can I drive my car on the road when it has a SORN?

Essentially, no. It will be assumed by the DVLA (and picked up by any ANPR cameras) that your car is not taxed or insured, and is therefore being driven illegally. For this, you can be fined up to £2500. The only time you can drive your car on the public road with a SORN is if you are travelling directly to a pre-booked MOT – and even then, you must check that your insurance company has issued you with appropriate cover.

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