How to declare a car SORN

9 Feb, 2016 2:16pm Chris Rosamond

How do you ‘SORN a car’? Our guide to the Statutory Off Road Notification or SORN explains all

The phrase Statutory Off Road Notification is a bit of a mouthful, which is why even the government uses ‘SORN’ for short when referring to the rules about how your car’s status must be recorded when it is off the road.

Nonetheless, Statutory Off Road Notification is a pretty straightforward description of what the legislation is all about. There is a legal statutory requirement for any vehicle’s keeper to notify the DVLA if that vehicle spends a period of time uninsured, untaxed or both. The implication being that in either case, the law states it must also be off the road.

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Declaring your vehicle SORN is a straightforward process involving an online form, a phone call or a form sent through the post. But you must remember to declare SORN if your car is off the road. Below is everything you need to know to do just that…

Why do you need to SORN your car?

It has always been an offence to keep untaxed or uninsured vehicles on public roads, but the latest rules extended those offences so keeping untaxed or uninsured vehicles on private land is now illegal too – unless you make an official SORN declaration, that is.

DVLA docs

The changes were brought in as part of the Continuous Insurance Enforcement rules designed to tackle the problem of uninsured driving, but the new rules do catch out lots of well-intentioned drivers who either aren’t aware of them or forget to complete the SORN paperwork. 

Declare SORN on time and avoid a fine

If for any reason your car is uninsured or untaxed, you must take it off the road straight away and immediately make a SORN declaration to the DVLA.

Failure to make a SORN declaration will cost you because the DVLA not only knows when your road tax has expired, but also cross-references the insurance database to pick up vehicles that do not have valid cover.

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In either case, the DVLA will assume your vehicle is off the road and that you have failed to declare SORN. (If it isn’t off the road, you are liable to police prosecution for driving

A warning letter should be sent, and if you fail to take action an automatic fixed penalty fine will be issued by post – it’s £80 if your road tax has expired, or £100 if your car is uninsured. 

If you fail to settle-up you’ll be facing court prosecution, at which point magistrates could raise the fine to £1,000 - plus court costs - for either tax or insurance.

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Don’t rely on the DVLA sending you a warning letter though, as they’re not actually obliged to do so. So even if you think you should have had a letter but it hasn’t arrived, you’re still responsible in law for the offence and liable to be fined.

When you must make a SORN declaration

• If you buy a car and do not tax and insure it immediately. (Remember road tax no longer transfers with a car to its new owner, but is refunded to the car’s vendor at the time of sale.)

• If you buy a car that has already been recorded as SORN by the previous owner. (SORN declarations are not transferable, so you must immediately make a fresh declaration as the new owner.)

• If your road tax expires and your car is off the road for more than 14 days.

• If your car does not have valid insurance.

• If you scrap your car, or break it for parts.

How to declare SORN for your car

Fortunately it’s pretty easy to SORN your car – you can do it online, by post or even over the telephone.

Apart from the car’s registration number, and make and model info, you’ll need the 16-digit reference number from your car tax renewal reminder or the 11-digit reference from the V5C logbook.

Online – visit www.gov.uk/make-a-sorn

By post – use form V890 (available from the Post Office) and mail it to the DVLA.

By telephone – call the DVLA on 0300 123 4321

However you declare SORN, you should receive an acknowledgement letter from the DVLA within four weeks. If you do not receive this letter, the onus is once again on you to check that your SORN has been successfully processed.

Is it illegal to drive a car that's SORN?

It may occasionally be tempting to take a SORN vehicle for a spin – for example if it’s been off the road for extended repairs and you want to road-test it, or you’ve just got back from an extended stay overseas. 

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However this is against the law, and if you are caught – or your number plate recorded on an ANPR system - the authorities will take a very dim view. You could face prosecution and a fine of up to £2,500.

The only exception to the rule is when you’re on the way to a pre-booked MoT test.

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