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How to SORN your car with the DVLA

Taking your car off the road? You’ll need to abide by the 'SORN’ laws. We explain what it means and why it exists.

Any car which is being used or parked on a public highway has to have road tax, commonly called Road Fund Licence or Vehicle Excise Duty. If you aren’t using the car for a while and are storing it off the road somewhere, such as in a garage or on your driveway, you need to tell the government or they will automatically fine you.  

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Luckily, it’s really easy to do, and is called declaring a vehicle SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification). Once a car is declared SORN there is no need to pay road tax or have an insurance policy in place. If you are found driving it on the road after saying your car is off the road though, you risk big fines and could have your car seized. 

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Fortunately, all you need to do to declare a car ‘SORN’ is a few minutes on the DVLA website, which you can do at any time. You no longer have to queue at the post office or fill in reams of forms, and if you don’t have access to a computer, you can also carry out the process by post or over the phone.

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Once your car is SORN'd, the DVLA will send you a cheque to refund any Road Fund Licence fee you are owed for unused months. But don’t be tempted to make the declaration if the car is still parked or being driven on the road. If you are spotted (by the police, DVLA or by a camera) then it is likely to be seized. 

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To qualify for SORN, the car must be kept on private land or in a garage before it can be declared SORN. You can then un-SORN the car easily when you need to use it again. All is explained below. 

Why do you need to SORN your car?

If you own a car that is in regular use, it's against the law for it to be untaxed and uninsured. To help make sure no-one slips through the net and all cars are accounted for, the government changed the rules so that owners must legally declare that they won’t be using a car on the road if it is not taxed and insured.

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

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If you fail to make a SORN declaration, then the DVLA not only knows when your road tax has expired, but the organisation can cross-reference with the national insurance database to find out which vehicles do not have valid cover.

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Either way, the DVLA will assume that your vehicle is off the road and you have failed to declare SORN. 

A warning letter will 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 (reduced to £40 if you pay within 28 days), 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.

Don’t rely on the DVLA sending you a warning letter though, as they’re not actually obliged to do 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. (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 are breaking a car for parts. When it is scrapped, you must declare this too.

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 V11 car tax renewal reminder or the 11-digit reference from the car's V5C logbook. The DVLA website will tell you where to find these and guide you through the process. Make sure you read the rules though, so you know what you are promising. 

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• 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• Whichever way 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.

How long does a SORN last and how to cancel it

Unlike road tax you don't need to renew a SORN declaration each year, and the SORN declaration is automatically cancelled at the time when you tax your vehicle again.

How to un-SORN a car and get it back on the road

Taxing a SORN’d car is easy, you simply follow the same procedure you would for a car that is running out of tax. You can do it online, at a post office or over the phone.

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If your car has been off the road for a long time, it will, at the very least, need an MoT, but probably a good service, too. Once both of these are done, your car should be safe to go back on the road. 

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Cars built more than 40 years ago won’t need an MoT test officially, but we would recommend you get it professionally checked anyway to make sure it is safe to be used on the road.

It’s worth noting that if you are driving to the MoT test station (you are allowed to drive an unMoT’d car to a pre-booked test), make sure you have the correct insurance to cover your journey and have checked that your tyres, brakes, steering and lights are still in working order before heading out on the road.

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, unless you are on your way to a pre-booked MoT or other government checks, this is against the law. If you are caught – or your number plate recorded on an ANPR camera system - the authorities will take a very dim view. You could face prosecution and a fine of up to £2,500. 

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