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 that is being used or parked on a public highway is required by law 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.  

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. 

UK car insurance groups explained

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.

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. 

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.

How to avoid a flat battery

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.

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. 

• 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.

• How to value your car: the complete guide

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. 

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. 

New V5C log book rules: full guide for car buyers and sellers

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. 

Recommended

Vehicle thefts down 14.5% last year
Police car
News

Vehicle thefts down 14.5% last year

Police data shows fewer vehicles were stolen in 2020 than 2019, with lockdown keeping drivers at home with their cars
9 Jun 2021
Locking wheel nuts explained: types, removal and lost keys
Ford Tourneo Custom wheel detail
Owning a car

Locking wheel nuts explained: types, removal and lost keys

We explain how locking wheel nuts work, and what to do when you lose your locking wheel nut key...
19 May 2021
Best cars to modify 2021 - our top options for DIY car mods
Best cars to modify - header
Owning a car

Best cars to modify 2021 - our top options for DIY car mods

If you have the itch for aftermarket parts and making your ride unique, these are the best cars to go for
25 Apr 2021
Engine remapping and car chipping: does it work?
Watchdog: Engine remapping
Tips & advice

Engine remapping and car chipping: does it work?

Everything you need to know if you're considering engine remapping or chipping work on your car
19 Apr 2021

Most Popular

Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox
Dacia Duster gear lever
News

Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox

With more drivers learning in autos and electric cars, the DVSA is looking to update the driving test so people can still drive manuals in future
16 Jun 2021
UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars
Electric car charging
News

UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars

Analysis reveals lithium refining takes 65 per cent of Chilean region’s water, while 40,000 child miners dig for cobalt in DRC
14 Jun 2021
Fiat 500 vs MINI Electric vs Honda e
Fiat 500 vs Honda e vs MINI Electric
Car group tests

Fiat 500 vs MINI Electric vs Honda e

The new Fiat 500, MINI Electric and Honda e are three retro-inspired electric superminis - but which is best?
19 Jun 2021
New Audi Q4 e-tron 2021 review
Audi Q4 e-tron 2021  front
Audi Q4 e-tron

New Audi Q4 e-tron 2021 review

We get involved with the new all-electric Audi Q4 e-tron SUV on UK roads for the first time
17 Jun 2021
Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review
Ineos Grenadier prototype
Ineos Grenadier 4x4

Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review

Can the Ineos Grenadier really fill the mud-splattered void left by the old Land Rover Defender? We take a first drive in a prototype to find out...
15 Jun 2021
Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition revealed
Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition
Ford Puma

Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition revealed

Ford unveils a special edition Puma ST, with a black and gold colour scheme chosen by Ford fans over social media
18 Jun 2021
New Nissan Qashqai 2021 review
Nissan Qashqai 2021
Nissan Qashqai

New Nissan Qashqai 2021 review

We get behind the wheel of the larger, more comfortable and higher-tech Nissan Qashqai SUV in the UK
16 Jun 2021
New 2021 Vauxhall Astra to offer plug-in hybrid power
Vauxhall Astra render
Vauxhall Astra

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra to offer plug-in hybrid power

The new Vauxhall Astra will get a plug-in hybrid powertrain and a more premium image - here’s how it could look
17 Jun 2021
New 2021 Hyundai Tucson N-Line hybrid and PHEV on sale now
Hyundai Tuscon N Line - front
Hyundai Tucson

New 2021 Hyundai Tucson N-Line hybrid and PHEV on sale now

Hyundai names price for new Tucson N-Line hybrid duo with plug-in offering 38 miles of electric running
18 Jun 2021
New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review
Skoda Enyaq iV 80 Sportline - front
Skoda Enyaq

New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review

The new Skoda Enyaq iV is the Czech firm’s first bespoke electric car and we've tested the full range on UK roads
10 Jun 2021
Tesla Model 3 police car all set for evaluation by UK emergency services
Tesla Model 3 police car - front
News

Tesla Model 3 police car all set for evaluation by UK emergency services

Tesla hopes to offer UK police forces a new zero-emission emergency responder option with the Model 3 police car
17 Jun 2021
'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'
Toyota Mirai opinion
Opinion

'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'

Mike Rutherford says hydrogen-powered cars could still be a frequent sight on UK roads
13 Jun 2021
Motorists think they can get away with driving offences due to lack of road police
police speed gun
News

Motorists think they can get away with driving offences due to lack of road police

Lack of road traffic police officers in the UK is making it easy for drivers to break the law, according to a survey of 15,500 British motorists
16 Jun 2021
New Mercedes-AMG S 63 spied in minimal camouflage
Mercedes-AMG S 63
Mercedes S-Class

New Mercedes-AMG S 63 spied in minimal camouflage

AMG will soon launch a tuned version of Mercedes’s flagship limousine, probably powered by a 603bhp twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine
18 Jun 2021