24 January 2020

SORN – taking your vehicle off the road

According to Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) statistics, nearly 2.75 million vehicles in the UK were declared ‘SORN’ in 2018.

So what is SORN and how do you go about registering your vehicle off road?

What is a SORN?

SORN stands for Statutory Off Road Notification.

It’s a legal requirement to register a vehicle as off road if it is not taxed or insured for use on the highway (we’ll come to SORN insurance later). When we say on the highway, this doesn’t just mean driving, but parking your car on the road.

If it’s on a public road, moving or static, you must pay tax (or Vehicle Excise Duty as it’s properly known) and have road car insurance.

You must also SORN your vehicle if you intend to cannibalise it for parts prior to scrapping.

You can only drive a SORN registered vehicle on the public highway if you are taking it for a pre-booked MOT or another official government test or check. However the vehicle would require road insurance as opposed to SORN insurance for this journey. If you have any questions or concerns you should contact your broker or insurer.

Why SORN a vehicle?

Sorn bike insuranceThere are many reasons you might want to declare your vehicle off road.

You might own a classic motorcycle or car which you only use during the summer months or show season.

You could be working on a restoration or customisation and have your car, van or bike stowed in a garage.

You might own a motorhome which you hammer whilst the summer sun shines, but which you keep under wraps as winter sleet, snow and rain falls.

Then, of course, it might just be a matter of economics. Sometimes keeping a motor on the road can pull just a little too hard on the purse strings.

What if I don’t SORN my vehicle?

Under Continuous Insurance Enforcement rules your vehicle must either be insured or declared off road. These rules, which were introduced in 2011, are actively enforced.

If your fail to declare your vehicle off road you will face a £100 fixed penalty notice. According to research by Kwik-Fit in 2018 well over 73,000 people were taken to court and £12.4 million paid in fines for failing to correctly register their vehicle.

According to this data, the number of offenders and fines increased by more than 70% over a mere five years.

Of course if your vehicle is found on the public highway without tax or insurance – a minimum of third party cover – you will also be in breach of the law. At best driving without insurance earns a £300 fixed penalty and six points on your precious licence. If you end up in court the potential fine is unlimited and you could be disqualified.

SORN insuranceIf you do not declare your vehicle SORN and it is uninsured for 14 days or more, you should be contacted by the Motor Insurance Bureau which hosts the Motor Insurance Database. Its letter will advise you of procedures and penalties. Remember though that regardless of whether you receive an advisory letter from the MIB, it is your responsibility to ensure your vehicle is either insured or registered SORN.

How do I SORN my car, motorcycle, motorhome or van?

Thankfully this is a pretty straightforward process. You can either:

  • apply to register your vehicle as off road online 
  • tick the SORN box on your V11 tax renewal form and take it to a participating Post Office
  • complete application form V890 and post it to the DVLA in Swansea
  • Apply by phone on 0300 123 4321. This automated service is available 24 hours but check with your phone service provider to see if charges apply.

The vast majority of people choose to register online – it’s a quick and easy process.

One incentive for registering your vehicle SORN is that the DVLA will refund tax you may have paid. This is done automatically and will see you getting back the cost of any full months remaining on your tax.

Do I need SORN insurance?

If you have declared your vehicle off road then legally you are not required to insure it.

However, just because your vehicle is registered SORN, that does not mean it is not at risk. It could be stolen. It could be damaged by or lost to fire.

Precisely because of these risks SORN insurance – also known as ‘laid up insurance’ simply offers fire and theft cover.

There’s no third party protection or more comprehensive cover because, as your vehicle is not being used on the road, you really don’t need it. As a result SORN insurance will be cheaper than road cover.

Who offers SORN insurance?

Given where you’re reading this, you’ll not be surprised to hear that Principal Insurance is among brokers offering specialist SORN insurance!

Our cunningly named SORN Insurance brand provides off road cover for cars, motorcycles, motorhomes and vans. You can get a quote online or by calling 0330 053 6844.*


* Calls may be recorded for training and monitoring purposes. Calls to the number cost no more than a national rate call to an 01 or 02 number and may count towards any inclusive minutes in the same way as 01 or 02 calls. 

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