The Coronavirus lockdown currently affecting much of the world means that most of us are staying indoors with the car firmly parked up getting very little or no use – but we're still having to keep it taxed and insured. With a lot of the working population struggling financially until government help kicks in, you may be tempted to declare your vehicle SORN and maybe even cancel the insurance - but there are a few things to be aware of.
What SORN means
SORN stands for Statutory Off Road Notification. It tells the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) that your car is no longer on the public road and therefore doesn't need to be taxed.
How do I SORN my car?
You need to tell the DVLA you're doing this via its website. You'll be able to declare your vehicle off road immediately, by inputting the 11-digit number on your vehicle log book (V5C), or you can declare your car SORN on the first day of next month by using the 16-digit number of your vehicle tax reminder letter (V11). You can also call 0300 123 4321 if you're the registered keeper of the vehicle.
How do I declare my vehicle SORN without a V5C/logbook?
What sort of a refund will I get?
If you paid in advance, either for the full year or six months, you'll receive a cheque for any full months left on your vehicle tax. The refund is calculated from the date the DVLA gets your information and the cheque is sent to the name and address on the vehicle log book.
If you pay by Direct Debit, it will be cancelled immediately. However, if you cancel close to the end of the month, there's a chance that the next payment will be taken. This will be refunded in due course.
Note that any queries about refunds or any other DVLA matter will have to be made via email - phone enquiries are currently limited to key workers only.
Are SORN vehicles insured?
Once declared off road, you don't have to keep your car insured. However, bear in mind that if the vehicle is stolen, vandalised or damaged in any way, you won't be able to claim. We'd only really consider cancelling the insurance policy if you can guarantee the vehicle's security. Also remember that many insurance companies charge admin fees when you make changes to a policy, which will eat into any refund you're owed.
If you still decide to go ahead with cancelling the insurance, make sure you're sent proof of the number of years of no-claims bonuses you have, for when you take out insurance again.
Can a SORN car be parked on a road?
No. The car must be kept on your property and not on the road, even if it's halfway up a kerb. If you do leave it on the road and a passing police car or traffic warden is using Automatic Number Plate Recognition tech, you'll get a fine.
Can I drive a SORN car?
Yes, you can drive your car to a garage to have an MOT carried out. However, the MOT will need to have been booked in advance and the vehicle will need to be insured, even if it's just for that day.
You'll need to drive directly to and from the garage. Don't be tempted to stop off at the shops on the way - you risk being clobbered with a massive fine.
How long is SORN valid for?
Indefinitely. There's no need to reapply for a Statutory Off Road Notification and it doesn't cost you anything to declare a vehicle SORN.
Once you decide to use the car on the road again you simply use the DVLA's website to tax the vehicle again. Don't forget to renew the insurance if it was cancelled and get the car's MOT certificate renewed immediately if it expired while the car was off road.
Note that the Department of Transport provided an automatic six-month MOT certificate extension for cars after 30 March 2020. You can check a car's MOT status here.