What does SORN mean and how to check if a vehicle has a SORN

By Bobatoo
June 21, 2022

Many people believe that if your car is untaxed, as long as it is not on a public road, you are OK. This, although many years ago was the case, is no longer true.

Today you need to declare your vehicle SORN.

In this guide we’ll cover:

What SORN means

Why and when to SORN a vehicle

How to SORN a vehicle

What happens if you fail to SORN

Putting your vehicle back on the road

SORN and car tax refunds

Driving your vehicle when you have made a SORN

What happens if you buy a vehicle that has a SORN?

How to check if your vehicle is SORN?

Do motor traders need to make a SORN?

What is SORN?

SORN means Statutory Off Road Declaration.

You can declare a car SORN if you don’t use or keep your vehicle on a public road i.e. if it is permanently in a garage, a private driveway or on private property.

The Continuous Insurance Enforcement (CIE) regulations state that unless you declare your vehicle as SORN you should have insurance or risk a fine.

Declaring your vehicle SORN means that you can save some money by not having to buy car insurance or road tax.

SORN'd vehicle with cover in corner of garage

Situations when you would SORN a vehicle

During the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw an increase in people declaring their vehicles as SORN. This was mainly due to the general public not being able to travel to work or shops by vehicle outside of their local area. Other day-to-day reasons for declaring your car as SORN can include:

  • Vehicle not being taxed or insured
  • Planning on scraping the vehicle
  • You go travelling or leave the country for an extended period of time

How to SORN a vehicle

If you want to declare your vehicle SORN you can do it by post, by phone on 0300 123 4321 or online by visiting gov.uk/make-a-sorn and there is no cost for the application.

To declare a vehicle as SORN online you will need either:

  • The 16 digit reference number from your tax renewal letter (V11)
  • The 11 digit reference number from your logbook (V5C)
  • By post you can fill in form V890 and send it to the DVLA

It is possible to apply by post up to two months before you wish the effective SORN date to commence, but you will probably need to give an explanation as to why you want to do it so far in advance.

What happens if you fail to SORN your car and is there a penalty?

You will automatically be liable to a fine of £80 and must pay any tax arrears if you don’t make a SORN when you have to.

You may also find yourself with a county court judgement against your name as well as being fined a minimum of £1000 and face prosecution – so failure to SORN a vehicle can be quite serious and fines have been given up to £2,500.

It is worth noting that to tax your vehicle not only will you have to insure it, but you will also have to have a valid MOT certificate as well.

Putting your vehicle back on the road

Your SORN will be valid up until the point you either tax, sell, scrap or permanently export your vehicle.

Therefore, if you want to put your vehicle back on the road and remove the SORN declaration all you need to do is register for road tax, have a valid MOT and car insurance.

In order for your SORN to be valid the vehicle has to remain in Great Britain.

SORN and car tax refunds

When you make a SORN you will be eligible for an automatic vehicle tax refund – which will include any remaining months on your tax.

This will be issued to the address that the DVLA has as the registered owner of the vehicle.

However, the surcharge you were charged if you only paid for 6 months of car tax will not be refunded.

As this effectively negates your vehicle’s tax, you must buy tax again if/when you want to use the vehicle on the road again. When you do this, your SORN will then automatically expire.

Driving your vehicle when you have made a SORN

If your vehicle is declared SORN, you can only drive your untaxed vehicle on a public road if you’re driving it either to or from a licensed station for a pre-arranged MOT, a vehicle identity check, a weight or an emissions test.

What happens if you buy a vehicle that has a SORN?

If you buy a vehicle that the previous owner has made a SORN on, then that SORN will automatically end on the date you purchase the vehicle.

Therefore, if you are buying the vehicle with the intention to keep it untaxed and off the road then you need to make a new SORN as they are not transferable.

How to check if a vehicle is SORN

Use the gov.uk service

Gov.uk provides a easy to use look-up tool that allows you to find out if a vehicle has been registered as off the road (SORN). All you need to use the service is the vehicle registration number (VRN/number plate). You can also use this checker tool to find out if a vehicle has up-to-date tax.

Use askMID to check if the vehicle has insurance

As all vehicles that are registered in the UK are included in the MID (Motor Insurance Database) you can check whether the vehicle in question has valid insurance and check the SORN status through the askMID service. 

If the vehicle is not insured, you will also receive an insurance advisory letter from the DVLA which will also notify you that you should SORN the vehicle if you do not insure it.

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Use the DVLA SORN checker

DVLA SORN check allows you to easily check vehicle information such as the tax and MOT status including its history. 

Do motor traders need to make a SORN?

Motor traders do not need to declare vehicles on their premises as SORN if the following rules are applicable:

  • the vehicle is only temporarily in your possession (until it is sold)
  • the vehicle is always kept on your business premises
  • the registered keeper of the vehicle has told the DVLA that it has been sold or transferred to you

Jobs that are seen as ‘motor traders’ in terms of the SORN rules include – motor dealers, motor auctioneers, vehicle dismantlers, insurers (who are keeping a vehicle while a claim is being dealt with) or a finance company (who are licensed to hold vehicles for repossession purposes).