How can I check if my car insurance is valid?

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You only need to insure a car or van if you drive it on the road, right?

Wrong. Motor insurance laws have changed, and even an unused vehicle that is sitting in your garage gathering dust must now be covered by insurance – unless you have registered it as officially “off the road” with the DVLA.

This isn’t something to take lightly. You could face a fine of up to £1,000 or, worse still, have your vehicle destroyed if you fail to comply with the Continuous Insurance Enforcement (CIE) rules.

These were introduced in 2011 in a bid to stop the growing problem of uninsured drivers – and they have actually caught out quite a few innocent motorists in the process.

How it works

Here’s a way to get hot under the collar.

Think about the fact that, every time you fork out for your car insurance, you’re paying around £30 more than you need to precisely because of the cost of funding the damage caused by uninsured drivers.

Accidents involving uninsured drivers cost the car industry a massive £500 million a year – and ordinary law-abiding motorists like you and me are the ones who end up paying the bill via higher car insurance premiums.

The aim of CIE is to make it harder for uninsured drivers to get away with it by clamping down on stationary vehicles without insurance – as well as those caught on the roads.

The Motor Insurance Database (the UK's central record of motor insurance) and the DVLA are working together to achieve this, comparing their records to identify offending vehicles.

So the only way to avoid being charged if you do not actually want to take a car or van on the road is to register it officially as “off the road” by sending a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) to the DVLA.

If SORN is not for you, it’s worth taking a few moments to make sure your vehicle is properly insured.

Otherwise, you could end up paying an immediate fine of £100 as well as facing court proceedings and further penalties.

How to check your car is insured

The good news is that it’s easy to check if your car is insured or not.

All you need to do is go to the Motor Insurance Database website – – and enter your vehicle registration number.

The database, which is the same one used by the police to identify uninsured vehicles, will then throw up the relevant information.

So if all is as it should be on this site, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

How to register your car as SORN

To avoid having to insure a vehicle that you do not plan to drive on the road, you must return your tax disc to the DVLA with a V14 form and declare it as SORN at the same time.

How to avoid a CIE penalty

As explained above, owners of uninsured cars now face a fixed penalty notice of £100 and the possibility of their vehicle being clamped, seized and disposed of along with a court prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000.

However, anyone caught in this position will first be sent an Insurance Advisory letter from the Motor Insurers' Bureau.

This letter will include a warning that a fine will ensue. However, you may still to be able to escape a penalty by acting fast.

Ways to do this include either insuring your vehicle immediately, notifying the DVLA that you are no longer the registered keeper, or registering it as SORN as soon as you can.

How to find cheaper car insurance

The high cost of insuring a car or other vehicle can be off-putting.

It’s no excuse for being uninsured, but it’s undoubtedly a problem in a lot of cases.

The smart move is therefore to get the cover you need at the lowest possible cost.

And MoneySupermarket is the perfect place to shop around to make sure you're getting the best deal.

We have over 100 insurers competing for your business, and it only takes a few minutes to run a quote – and you could save upwards of £350 a year, or even more.

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