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What Is A SORN And When Do You Need To SORN Your Car?


Posted on 11/12/17

Between tax, insurance, fuel, maintenance and other costs, running a car is expensive. If you’re a cash-strapped student in particular, it can be hard to justify paying so much and you might be tempted to stop using your car for a bit until you’re better able to afford it.

But what many drivers mightn’t realise is that if you’re taking your car off the road and cancelling your insurance even for a bit, you need to apply for a Statutory Off-Road Notification – otherwise known as a SORN.

Not having one can be a costly mistake. It could make it more difficult for you to get insurance in the future and could even result in you being prosecuted in court. Fear not though, as we have all you need to know about SORNs below!

What is a SORN and when do I need to get one?

A SORN is a declaration that you’re officially taking your car off the public roads. By applying for one, you’re officially informing the authorities that your vehicle is registered but is going unused for a period of time.

ALL cars need to be taxed, insured and have a valid MOT even if they’re permanently off-road, sitting in your garage or on your driveway and otherwise unused unless you have a SORN.

So, whether you’ve got a classic car that you’re repairing in your spare time or you’re just making the decision not to drive for a while, you need to apply for a SORN.

If you’ve just bought a car and are waiting to save up enough money to pay for the insurance, you need a SORN. If you’re going back to uni and no longer need your car during term time, you need a SORN. Likewise, if you just can’t afford to run your car anymore and want to cancel your insurance policy, you need a SORN.

Do note that SORNs only last for a year at a time; if you’re planning on keeping your vehicle off the road for longer than that period, you’ll have to re-apply again.

What’s so important about a SORN?

SORN a vehicle

A SORN is so important because it’s the only way you can legally stop paying for tax and insurance on your vehicle.

Police and authorities regularly check for uninsured cars, and if your vehicle comes up as being uninsured and without a SORN, you can face fines or even legal action.

If you’re found to have not declared your car off-road with a SORN, you could face a fixed penalty notice of £100 and risk your car being clamped, seized or even crushed. In some cases, you could even face prosecution with a maximum fine of £1,000.

How do I apply for a SORN?

Needless to say, nobody wants that to happen to them. Luckily, it’s easy to get a SORN and it’s completely free as well!

The most straightforward way to apply for one is to visit the government website and fill in the details. You can choose when the SORN date starts, and if you have any outstanding tax on the car you’ll get a refund for it.

Alternatively, you can apply by post or over the phone. For more information, check out the website.

Is it illegal to drive a car with a SORN?

You bet. Driving on the public road with a car that’s been declared off-road is very much illegal, and if you’re found to be doing it you’ll face prosecution and a fine of up to £2,500.

The only occasion when authorities will permit a SORN vehicle on the public road is if you’re on your way to a pre-booked MOT test. However, you must be able to prove that the test was booked ahead of time.

How do I get my car back on the road after a SORN?

SORN Northern Ireland

If you’ve declared your car off-road but want to get back behind the wheel, all you need to do is tax and insure your car and make sure that it has an up-to-date MOT.

The SORN notification will automatically expire as soon as you apply for your tax. Then, once you’ve got your insurance and your MOT in place, you’re all ready to rock!

If you’ve bought a vehicle that was declared off-road by a previous owner, the SORN will expire when you buy it. Do bear in mind that if you’re buying a vehicle that previously had a SORN and you want to still keep it off-road, you’ll have to re-apply for another SORN.

Can you insure a SORN car?

The problem is that even if your car is declared off-road, it could still be stolen or damaged. If that’s a worry, you can get insurance for SORN cars, which is often known as either SORN cover or laid-up cover.

Typically, it costs less than normal car insurance given that it’s designed only to protect your unused vehicle, and can be worthwhile particularly for people who own vehicles that are expensive or with a lot of sentimental value like classic cars.

I didn’t apply for a SORN but I want to re-insure my car, what do I do?

If your insurance ran out or you cancelled your insurance policy and you didn’t declare your vehicle off-road with a SORN, getting it re-insured can often be tricky depending on how long it’s been without insurance.

Typically, if your car has been uninsured for less than 30 days insurers can cover it with a ‘break in cover’ letter – a short covering letter explaining why it went without insurance.

However, if your car has been uninsured without a SORN declaration for longer than 30 days, you’re likely to find it difficult to get insurance at all, or at least not without insurance providers putting up your premium.

As a result, it’s important you’re aware of what a SORN is, why you need one and when you need one. After all, it’s free, easy to do and could save you a lot of trouble in the long run!

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