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 sell it or drive it again. Here’s how you do that.
How do you unSORN a car?
It’s simple: 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 insure it.
To SORN a car is free
Do a web search on SORNing a car 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.
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 you have 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; 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.
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.
I’ve been writing about cars and motoring for more than 25 years. My career started on a long-departed classic car weekly magazine called AutoClassic. I’ve since pitched up at Autosport, Auto Express, the News of the World, Sunday Times and most recently the Daily Telegraph. When I’m not writing about cars and motoring, I’m probably doing some kind of sport or working in my garden.