Is my car insurance valid?

Car insurance is a necessary evil. It can make a serious dent in your bank balance, but go without it and the penalties will be far worse. In 2011, the government introduced a new law called Continuous Insurance Enforcement which made it illegal to own an uninsured vehicle. Not only does this apply to cars on the road, but it also applies to any vehicles you've got gathering dust in your garage. This means if your car hasn't seen the light of day for several months and you haven't bothered to renew your insurance, you will still be breaking the law - unless your car is declared officially 'off the road'.

How do I declare my car 'off the road'?

If you have officially declared your vehicle off the road, you won't have to insure it. You can do this by informing the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and making what's called a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). You will need the reference number on your V5C registration certificate, V11 or V85/1 reminder form and you can apply by phone on 0300 123 4321 or apply online. Once your application is accepted, you will receive a letter from the DVLA within four weeks. If you haven't received it by then, it's worth giving the DVLA a ring to check it has been processed. Be aware that SORNs aren't permanent so you'll need to make a note of the expiry date so you remember to renew it. If, as you get closer to the expiry date, you know you'll be away, you can send a V890 form to the DVLA up to two months in advance and explain the situation.

Are there any other exemptions?

If your vehicle has been stolen or recorded scrapped you will also be exempt from insuring your car.

What happens if I get caught without insurance?

If your car is uninsured and you haven't made a SORN, you'll be sent an Insurance Advisory letter by the MIB (Motor Insurers' Bureau – not the Men In Black) with a warning that you'll be given a fine if you don't take action. Tossing this letter in the bin and ignoring it will be a big mistake as you risk being slapped with a fixed penalty of £100 and, if you face court action, you could be fined a further £1,000. And if that's not enough punishment for you, your car could also be clamped, seized and even destroyed!

How can I check my car is insured?

To check whether your car is insured, head to askMID.com and enter your vehicle registration number. This is the Motor Insurance Database and holds information about every vehicle on the road in the UK so it will inform you whether or not your car is insured. There is no fee for the service, which is also used by the police to identify uninsured vehicles. If you discover your car isn't insured, apply for cover immediately to avoid being penalised. Remember: paying for cover will work out to be far cheaper than being caught without it, especially if you are at fault for an accident. Alternatively, if you are no longer the registered keeper of the vehicle, inform the DVLA.

How do I get cheaper car insurance?

By heading over to our car insurance channel, you'll be able to compare quotes from more than 134 companies in less than five minutes. Shopping around in this way will help to ensure you get the right price for your cover. But be aware that cheapest doesn't always mean best – check whether your chosen policy will cover you for everything you need before you apply. There are various ways to lower the cost of your car insurance further. Increasing the voluntary excess, not modifying your vehicle, adding an alarm and immobilizer and parking your car in a locked garage are just some of them. Take a look at our money saving tips page for more ideas.

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