What does SORN mean?

What does SORN mean?

SORN may be a phrase you’ve heard thrown around in conversation when you’ve been researching your car, and no, it’s not some new road tax or insurance you need, no need to worry about that.

What SORN does stand for, though, is “Statutory Off Road Notification.” There are a few situations where you may need to declare a vehicle (usually a car) as off-road with the DVLA. This includes instances where the car may still be in use, but is in use solely on private roads and private property, or stored in a private garage.  

Keep in mind, though, that once you declare SORN, you can typically only legally drive your car on public roads in one instance — when going to or from a pre-booked MOT or another testing appointment.

Like you typically need to inform your Home Insurance provider of a renovation rather than just assuming your Home Insurance cover will continue uninterrupted, you also need to tell the government you’re taking your car off the road — you can’t just stop paying road tax. Again, like with renovations, there are potential consequences if you don’t declare your car SORN.


When do I need to declare a car SORN?

You may need to declare a car SORN when:

  • Your car isn’t taxed (road tax is a requirement)
  • Your car isn’t insured, even for a small period of time, like driving it off the lot
  • You want to sell it’s parts before you scrap it
  • You buy a car and want to keep it off-road

To make a SORN, you can apply online, by phone to 0300 123 4321 or by post using form V890. You’re not typically able to backdate a SORN, so if it’s something that needs doing immediately, there isn’t really any wiggle room. Before you make a SORN, it’s worth checking that the address in your logbook is correct, that the car is registered in your name, and that, well, you have a logbook. If any of those things need updating, it’s likely worth doing before declaring a car SORN.  

If you want your SORN to start immediately, you want to use your 11-digit number in your logbook (the V5C) when applying online or over the phone. This is probably the best course of action if the car isn’t driveable, like if there are repairs required after an MOT you aren’t able to get done at the moment.

If, on the other hand, you want your SORN to start on the first day of the next month, you want to use your V11 reference (the 16-digit number on your car tax number) when applying online or over the phone. You’ll usually time out the SORN like this if tax is due and you’ve decided to take the car off the road.

If you declare a car SORN, you should get a refund for any full months of remaining road tax, typically as a cheque.


How much is it to SORN a car?

It’s usually free to declare a car SORN, and most of the time you end up getting a bit of money back from outstanding months of pre-paid road tax. It doesn’t help that for most of us declaring a car SORN means we may end up needing to buy a new one, unfortunately.


How long does a SORN last?

A SORN is in place indefinitely once you apply for SORN for a particular vehicle, unless one of these conditions is met, at which point it’s automatically cancelled:


How do I check if a vehicle is SORN?

The easiest way to check if a vehicle is SORN is to check the SORN status online, at the same portal that tells you about MOT expiry, car model and details, as well vehicle tax. In order to check, you’ll want to have the car’s registration number (number plate) handy.


Where can I keep a SORN vehicle?

You can usually only park a SORN car on private property. If you drive or even park the car on public roads or garages you could be fined.


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

To get your car back on the road after it’s had a SORN, you’ll have to pay road tax. More broadly, to bring a car back from a SORN, it needs to meet the legal obligations of drivers in the United Kingdom, which is 5 main criteria:

  • The car should be registered with the DVLA
  • The car should have current vehicle tax
  • The car should have a current MOT certificate
  • The car should be roadworthy
  • The car should have insurance that covers your use

Being “roadworthy” may sound subjective, but with an MOT and other checks, there are specific requirements for being roadworthy. This includes, but isn’t limited to:

  • Clean and undamaged windscreen, windows and mirrors
  • Working lights
  • Working brakes
  • Regular checks of: engine oil, water in the radiator, brake fluid, battery, windscreen washer fluid, tyres
  • Tyre tread deep enough for safe driving; for cars typically 1.6mm.

When a car is SORN, then, you’ll want to pre-book all your checks and get all the requirements lined back up, including any repairs needed to make the car roadworthy. Pre-booking is important, becasue if you’re stopped by the police on the way (likely because of the SORN), you’ll be able to call the garage and get them to validate your appointment.  


A few final thoughts…

Each year, about 3.5 million cars are declared as SORN, compared to the about 40 million cars licensed in the UK at the end of 2021. So there’s about a one in ten chance of someone declaring a car SORN — not terribly common.

If you’re in a situation that declaring a car as “off the road” makes sense, the process is relatively straightforward and we’ve laid out the most common process and answers to questions here for you. So hopefully the process is minimally frustrating and as straightforward as it can get when you go through the process of declaring a car SORN.

Urban Jungle is not a financial advisor and information in this article should not be taken as advice or recommendation.