If you decide not to park or drive your vehicle on a public road, you can choose to declare it ‘SORN’ with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). A SORN is a ‘Statutory Off-Road Notification’ – a way of letting the DVLA know that your car does not require insurance, an MOT, or tax.
While insurance isn’t required by the DLVA for a car that’s legally considered to be off the road, many people choose to insure their vehicle anyway. Here, we’ll explore a few reasons you might want to keep an insurance policy in place, some details about specific SORN vehicle insurance policies, and we’ll cover some questions about SORN car insurance rules.
Is my car SORN?
Since your car must either be taxed or SORN, most people remember if they’ve made a Statutory Off-Road Notification. If you’re not sure, you can check your car’s tax status using the DVLA website.
Although some website guides will tell you that your car has to be SORN if it is kept off the road – this isn’t true. In fact, many people keep their car taxed, even if they don’t plan to park it or use it on public roads for a lengthy period of time. Keeping your car taxed, MOT’d and fully insured means you’re able to drive it whenever you wish – without needing to arrange insurance or tax at short notice.
If you buy a car that has a SORN already in place, it’s important to remember that this will not transfer to you as the new owner. You must transfer ownership of the vehicle and declare it as SORN with your details.
Why should you SORN a car that’s off the road?
As we’ve already mentioned, a car that is subject to a SORN doesn’t need to have insurance, an MOT, or any road tax. Since these things could cost a significant sum – the potential savings are one of the biggest benefits of registering a vehicle as being off the road.
What’s more, if you’re applying for a SORN and your car’s tax has already been paid, you’ll receive a refund for any full months you have remaining. For instance, if you’ve paid for a full year’s tax in January, then register your car as SORN in February, you’ll receive a refund for March-December’s tax.
Do you need to insure a SORN car?
It is not compulsory to have insurance for a SORN vehicle. In fact, many SORN vehicles are undergoing restoration – so if your car is in pieces in the garage, you’ll be pleased to hear you don’t need to pay for cover.
Now, it’s important that you don’t mix up SORN and simply ‘off the road’. If your car is off the road but not declared SORN, then you must have insurance in place. This is due to the government’s Continuous Insurance Enforcement (CIE) rule that came into force in 2011.
Insurance companies share information with the DVLA – and if you’re found to be keeping a vehicle without insurance that isn’t SORN, you’ll get a reminder letter outlining the rules. If you ignore this letter, you’ll get a fixed penalty – and the penalty can go up significantly if the matter is taken to court. What’s more, there have been cases where vehicles have been seized, impounded, and even destroyed because there is no insurance in place – so, if you’re off the road and not taxed or SORN – make sure you’ve got the right cover in place.
Off road car insurance
So, what happens if your vehicle is SORN, but you want to keep insurance in place?
There are plenty of reasons you may wish to insure a SORN car – especially if your vehicle is a classic that you’re restoring – or your car’s being kept somewhere private where it might get damaged.
The good news is, many insurers have specialist policies that will fit around your specific requirements. Usually referred to as ‘laid up cover’ or ‘SORN cover’, these policies are designed for cars that are being kept on a drive, in a garage, or in a secure building. You’ll also find that many cover accidental damage – so you don’t need to panic too much if you knock your cup of coffee onto a wiring loom - or a falling toolbox leaves a nasty dent!
What’s more, since these types of policy generally come from specialist insurers – you’ll find you can often include an agreed valuation – since your car is likely to be worth more than a regular insurance company might consider – especially if it requires a lot of work.
SORN insurance costs are generally much lower than you would find if you were insuring the vehicle to be used on the road. After all, you’re very unlikely to cause an accident if the car isn’t moving!
Can you drive a SORN car to an MOT station without insurance?
Quite simply – no. You cannot drive a car to an MOT station without insurance – and if you do, you could be subject to prosecution, fixed-penalty fines – and possibly even have your car confiscated and destroyed.
There is some confusion in this area – but confusion doesn’t mean you can break the law. While it is legal to drive a SORN car with no MOT to a pre-booked appointment at an MOT station – the car must be insured. What’s more, you should check your insurance documents if you plan to drive your car to a garage without an MOT or tax, as some companies declare your insurance void without these. If your insurance is void, you’re effectively driving without any insurance – so it’s vital that you check with your cover provider.
If you find that you’re not insured to drive without an MOT or tax, it’s worth getting a quote for temporary car insurance; finding short term cover from a company who will allow you to deliver your car to the garage.
Driving a SORN vehicle
So, you’ve got a SORN vehicle on your driveway; what happens if you need to use it in an emergency? Or just for a quick journey? Is that okay?
Again, the answer is a definite no. Even if your vehicle is insured, driving a vehicle on a public road when it’s declared SORN is an offence – one that can cost you up to £2,500 if the matter is taken to court.
Can I test drive a SORN car?
While you’re likely to be fully aware if your own car is declared SORN, it’s understandable that you might not know about the SORN status of a car you’re potentially test driving. While dealers and motor traders will usually have ‘trade plates’ that mean you don’t have to worry about tax, private sellers do not – so you need to be careful.
The trouble is, as a driver, you’re expected to be responsible for the vehicle you’re in – even if you’re not the legal owner. So, for example; if you’re driving a friend’s car and it’s got illegal tyres, you’re the one who will face prosecution – not the owner of the car. The same principle is true when it comes to tax – if you’re on a public road and you’re test driving a vehicle that’s SORN, you’re breaking the law.
To protect yourself against this kind of problem, you should check the tax and MOT status of the vehicle using the DVLA’s service. If the car has no tax or is registered as SORN, you won’t be able to drive it unless it’s stored on private ground with adequate test drive space. If the seller is happy to make sure it’s taxed and MOT’d so it can be driven – you’ll be able to track down short term cover that’ll mean you’re insured too.
Getting a SORN car back on the road
In the past, a SORN agreement had to be renewed annually – but, in 2013, the government decided this was no longer necessary. As a result, you no longer need to renew your SORN – and it’ll cancel automatically when you tax the car.
Remember, you can drive your SORN car to a pre-booked MOT appointment with the right insurance – so you’ll be able to fully tax the vehicle immediately before it’s ready to hit the road with an MOT in place. Don’t forget though; if you’ve bought insurance that provides laid up cover, you’ll need to make sure this is upgraded to a full road-going policy before you go anywhere too.