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Statutory Off Road Notifications

What is SORN and how does it work?

published: 03 September 2021
Read time: 5 minutes

You can use a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) to declare your car ‘off road’ if you don’t use it and don’t want to insure it. Here’s how

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Every car on the road needs to be taxed and insured – but if you aren’t using your car at the moment, this could be a waste of your money. Luckily, there’s a way to avoid these expenses. Getting a SORN is an easy way to legally take your car off the road, so it won’t cost you a penny until you start driving it again.

Our guide gives you a quick rundown on everything you need to know about how to SORN your car, and what the rules are while your car is off the road – plus, we’ll let you know how you can get your car back on the road again.

What is SORN?

SORN stands for Statutory Off Road Notification, and it’s a way of telling the government you’ve taken your car off the road. This means you don’t have to pay for vehicle tax or keep your car insured. 

As long as your car has a SORN, you can’t drive it on public roads. It’s also illegal to park a SORN car on the street – so your car will have to be in a garage or driveway before you can get a SORN.

There might be some other situations where you need a SORN. For instance, if your car insurance expires and there’s a delay with your new policy, you’ll need to SORN your car until it’s fully insured, or else you’ll be breaking the law. 

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How do I SORN my car?

Getting a SORN couldn’t be simpler. There are three main ways to SORN your vehicle:

There are a few pieces of information you’ll need when making a SORN. To declare your car off the road, you have to provide one of the following:

  • The 16-digit reference number from your V11 reminder – that’s the letter the government sends when you need to renew your vehicle tax

  • The 11-digit reference number from your VC5 – that’s your car’s logbook

It’s still possible to SORN your car without a VC5. If you’ve just bought the car, you might not have a full logbook yet, but you can use the reference number from your VC5/2 – that’s the slip the seller should have given you when you made the purchase. Otherwise, you can apply for a new one through the government’s website – although this does come with a £25 fee. 

How long does it take to SORN my car?

Getting a SORN doesn’t take long – but it depends on exactly how you’ve made your application.

  • If you’ve used your VC5 reference number, your SORN should start immediately

  • If you’ve used your V11 reference number, your SORN starts on the first day of the next month

  • If you’ve sent a form by post, your SORN starts from the date you put on the form

Just remember that you can’t backdate a SORN, so your car needs to be fully taxed and insured right up until it’s officially taken off the road.

Do I have to pay to SORN my car?

No, getting a SORN for your car is completely free. 

If you get your SORN over the phone, calls should be charged at your normal rate – or, if you prefer, you can simply fill out a few details online.

What’s more, if you’ve already paid for a year of vehicle taxes, you’ll get refunded as soon as your SORN takes effect. 

How long does a SORN last?

Once you’ve got a SORN, it lasts as long as you need it to – there’s no need to renew or update it as long as you’re keeping your car off the road. 

One thing to keep in mind though: SORN doesn’t transfer between owners, so if a SORN car changes hands and you still don’t want to use it, you’ll need to take it off the road again. 

Why do I need to SORN my car?

Getting a SORN for your car is strictly optional – if you’ve mostly stopped using it but you think you might want to take it for a drive at some point in the future, it might be more convenient to keep it on the road. The benefit of getting a SORN is that you no longer need to pay taxes and insurance.

If you do stop insuring your car, though, getting a SORN is absolutely essential. The law says that every car on UK roads needs to be taxed and insured, whether or not you’re actually driving it. As far as the government’s concerned, keeping an uninsured car in your driveway is just as illegal as driving uninsured – that is, unless it has a SORN.

You’ll also need to get a SORN if you’ve decided to scrap your car or break it down for parts – obviously you won’t want to keep paying for a car that no longer exists, but as far as the government’s concerned, you’re simply not paying your taxes. Getting a SORN simply lets them know that the car won’t be on the road any time soon.

What happens if I don’t SORN my car?

If you stop paying vehicle taxes without getting a SORN first, you’re breaking the law - and you’ll have to pay a fine. You’ll also be charged the tax you owe, at 50% above the normal rate. These days, it’s almost impossible to get away with not paying road taxes: government keeps a record of all untaxed vehicles and sends out fines automatically every month.

Can I drive a SORN car?

It’s illegal to drive a car once it’s been taken off the road. If you’re caught driving a SORN car, you could be charged up to £1,000, or even prosecuted. There are only two exceptions to this rule:

  • You’re allowed to drive a SORN car on private property – but not on public roads

  • You can drive a SORN car to a prebooked MOT appointment

How do I get my SORN car back on the road?

Putting your SORN car back on the road is even simpler than taking it off – all you need to do is get it insured, start paying vehicle taxes again, and you’re good to go.

If your car’s been off the road for a while, its MOT might have expired. You’ll need to have a valid MOT before you can legally drive again – but you’re allowed to drive your car to a registered MOT centre to get it checked while it’s still in SORN. Just make sure you book your appointment in advance, and keep some record of your appointment with you. That way, if you get pulled over, you can prove you haven’t been driving illegally. 

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