Declaring a car SORN (Statutory Off-Road Notification) is a simple way to save money. It means you can stop paying tax on the car and you don’t have to insure it for the public road. But there’s a good chance you will have to unSORN it at some point so that you can once again drive it. Here’s how you go about doing that.
How do you unSORN a car?
It’s simple: all you do is go to the Gov.uk website and apply to tax your car. As soon as you tax your car, it lifts the SORN automatically. You can then drive the car again immediately, assuming you’ve got insurance in place.
To SORN a car is free
If you do a web search on SORNing a car you will doubtless come across some helpful websites saying they will do it on your behalf for a small fee. Declaring your car SORN from the government is free. It’s also very quick and easy.
One thing to remember if you do it is that you will only be refunded whole months of tax. To get your money’s worth from the vehicle tax you’ve already paid for, it’s best to declare your car SORN at the end of the month.
Can you drive a car on a SORN?
Once a car has been declared SORN, it can’t be parked on a public road, even if it’s never driven. You can keep it on a private driveway or on private land.
It’s illegal to drive a car on a SORN. With their Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras it’s easy for police, the DVLA and Motor Insurance Bureau to see whether a car has been SORNed or not. And there are plenty of cameras out there waiting to enforce the law.
Driving a SORNed car attracts a hefty £2500 fine and a court appearance. The only time you can legally use a SORNed car on the road is going to and from a pre-booked MOT appointment.
If you are caught driving a car that isn’t taxed, there’ll be no warning letters; an £80 fine will be dispatched immediately. Pay this within two weeks and the authorities will halve it. If you fail to pay and the case goes to court, you could be fined up to £1000.
Why is this relevant?
After the government-imposed lockdown at the end of March 2020, a huge number of drivers declared their car SORN. This was to save on tax and insurance. A Freedom of Information request by This is Money revealed that 544,887 requests were made between 23 March and 19 April 2020. Over the same period 12 months previously, 252,820 SORN requests were made – fewer than half.
The government eased lockdown restrictions in mid-May 2020. Car owners can now drive an unlimited number of miles to beaches and beauty spots. A large number of drivers who SORNed their car will want to tax them so they can use them legally again.
What are the rules about SORN and classic cars?
You must still register classic cars for tax, even though you don’t have to pay anything. As with other cars, the moment you tax your car, the SORN will automatically be cancelled.
Most vehicles that are 40 years or older are exempt from car tax (meaning you don’t pay anything) because they are considered to be Vehicles of Historical Interest (VHI). As an aside, VHI doesn’t just mean your classic car is car-tax exempt; it’s MOT exempt too.
To declare classic cars as a VHI, take the log book (V5C) to the post office along with a valid MOT certificate or the MOT exemption form and your vehicle tax reminder letter. Once you’ve done this you can register the car for tax. This will enable you to insure your car and drive it on the public road.
Contact the DVLA if you’re not sure whether your vehicle is a VHI or not.