SORN is one of those acronyms which many of us use without really understanding what it’s all about. SORN is, in very basic terms, a way of officially letting the authorities know that you won’t be driving it for a while, and that it is off the road. There are various advantages to having this status, but also lots of rules about who can apply, and in which circumstances.
The SORN system isn’t about short periods when you’re not using the car, because you’re perhaps on holiday, or working away for a couple of months. SORN is intended for situations where your vehicle is going to be off the road for several months or longer. This could be because it’s unroadworthy and you’re saving for expensive repairs, you’re doing up an old classic, or for a whole host of other reasons. When you register a SORN with the authorities, you’re not asked the reasons for the declaration. Everyone has their own reasons for taking a car off the road.
If a car is declared as SORN, it can’t legally be used on the public road. That includes parking up as well as driving. Cars and other vehicles can only be declared SORN if they are parked on private land, such as a driveway, garage or field. If a car is off the road, then it doesn’t need to be taxed, insured or to have a MOT test. However, if you want to start using the car again, you must go back onto the DVLA site to tax it, arrange a MOT test, and get it insured. If you don’t you are committing an offence and the police may well stop you.
If you’ve just bought an old banger which you’re planning on doing up over the next couple of years, or have a car which you’re just parking up in the garage for a year, you can’t just park it up, cancel the insurance and hope for the best. There is an official process to go through in order to declare a car as SORN. Most people apply for the SORN status online. There is no charge for applying. The website you’ll need is https://www.gov.uk/make-a-sorn - click on the “start now” button at the bottom of the page and simply follow the instructions.
If you don’t want to fill in an online form, then there are other options. Call the DVLA helpline, and an operator can talk you through the process over the phone. Alternatively, print off the V890 form from the DVLA website, fill in all the details and send the form off in the post.
To make a SORN request to the DVLA the one key piece of information you need is the vehicle’s V5C form, also known as the log book. The SORN form requires the 11-digit number from the form rather than the car’s registration number. If you don’t have the log book, then you’ll have to apply for a new one from the DVLA at a cost of £25. If the car you wish to declare as SORN isn’t registered in your name, then you can’t apply online and will have to go through the postal route with the DVLA.
You have a couple of options about when the SORN on your car starts. If you fill in the form online or send it through the post, using the 11-digit number from the V5C form, the SORN will begin immediately. Alternatively, if you have already received the annual car tax reminder from the DVLA and want the SORN to start on the first day of the following month, use the 16-digit reminder letter number instead.
If you have paid road tax for the year and then declare your car SORN, you are entitled to a refund for the unpaid element of the car tax. When the DVLA process the application, they will calculate how many months’ worth of car tax you are due back, and will send you a cheque in the post. If you pay your tax by monthly direct debit, you won’t get a refund but the direct debit will be cancelled and no further payments taken out. It might take about six weeks for your cheque to arrive in the post, and of course you’ll need a bank account to pay the refund into.
When you’re ready to get your car back on the road, you have to let the DVLA know that you plan to start using it again. If you don’t, and just start driving again, it will be flagged by the police as untaxed, uninsured and possibly without a MOT too. Get stopped, and you’ll be landed with points on your licence and a hefty fine too.
SORN is a permanent status and doesn’t need to be renewed on a monthly or yearly basis. There is also no real official method for cancelling the SORN on a car. All you need to do if you want to start using a car again is to log into the DVLA website, and hit the button to pay the tax. You will also need to call your insurance company or go online to organise a new cover policy, and book the car in for a new MOT if the current one has expired during the time the car has been off the road.
If on the other hand you decide that your car isn’t ever going to go back on the road, and you sell it or scrap it, the SORN will automatically be cancelled. The problem then transfers to the new owner, and it’s up to them whether they apply for another SORN, or just take the car. If the car is permanently scrapped, then the scrap merchant will complete the relevant section of the V5 form and send it off to the DVLA to permanently de-register the vehicle from the system.