How difficult is declaring a vehicle SORN?

sorn. Image of two classic Jaguar Mk2s

SORN stands for Statutory Off-road Notification and is a legal way of keeping a car without taxing, insuring or getting an MOT for it. It is a simple way to save money if you don’t drive a car and they’re easy to get and to cancel. But if you’re buying a car with a SORN there are some things you should look out for.

How to SORN your car when it’s just been bought

If you own a car that you want to SORN, you just contact the DVLA by phone, online or post. You need to complete a V890 form and send it to the DVLA.

If you don’t own a car yet, the only way to apply for SORN is to do it by post. If you’ve just bought the car, you must complete the relevant part of the V5C logbook, quoting the 11-digit number.

Once a car has undergone a statutory off-road notification, it must be kept off the public road, on private land, a drive or in a garage.

You don’t need to renew a SORN on a car or reapply for one. It is in force until you decide to cancel it. If you are declaring a taxed car SORN when its tax runs out, you need the 16-digit number on the V11 tax reminder document.

To SORN a car is free

Do a web search on a statutory off-road notification and you will doubtless come across some helpful websites saying they will do it on your behalf for a small fee. The government actually charges nothing to declare your car SORN. It’s also very quick and easy.

One thing to remember if you do it: the DVLA will only refund you whole months of tax. To get your money’s worth from the vehicle tax you bought, declare your car SORN at the end of the month.

Declaring vehicles off-road is a completely free service. However, there are companies that will happily take your money for doing it on your behalf. The thing is, they can’t do it without the information you supply them with. By the time you’ve done that, you might as well have done the SORN yourself. And saved yourself the £30-plus they charge in the process.

sorn. image of datsun 280z in a field
OK so you might not be taxing or driving this any time soon. But you still need to SORN it if you’re the registered keeper

How to tax SORN cars

This couldn’t be easier: go to the 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 insure it.

If you want to declare a vehicle SORN or remove one (ie. tax it), remember that car tax is now done in whole months. You’ll get the most out of your tax if you SORN a car at the end of a month, or tax it from the very beginning of a month.

Is SORN transferrable?

A statutory off-road notification is very similar to car tax. You deal with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) to get and cancel one. And they’re not transferrable. As with tax, if you buy a car with a SORN, you have to apply to the DVLA for another one in your own name. And you must do it from the moment you buy the car or you could be in line for a fine. Not continuously taxing or putting a car on SORN attracts an £80 fine.

You can find out if a car is declared SORN easily. Simply go to the DVLA website here. Input the registration number and it’ll tell you if the car is taxed, on a SORN, and whether it has an MOT.

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 must keep it on private land.

It’s illegal to drive a car on a a statutory off-road notification. With their Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras it’s easy for police, the DVLA and Motor Insurance Bureau to see whether cars are SORNed or not. And there are plenty of cameras out there waiting to enforce the law.

What is the fine for driving a SORN car?

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; the authorities will immediately dispatch an £80 fine. Pay this within two weeks and they will halve it. If you fail to pay and the case goes to court, they could fine you up to £1000.

When NOT to declare SORN

If you’re planning on driving the car at all, a SORN isn’t for you. The only time a car that’s been declared SORN can driven on a public road is when it’s insured and being taken to a pre-booked MOT, as above. If the police stop you, check with the garage, and you haven’t got an appointment, you can be fined up to £2500.

What are the rules about SORN and classic cars?

sorn. Classic mercedes
A classic Merc like this might be a vehicle of historic interest now. Maybe…

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.

How to declare a car classic

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.

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