What does SORN mean? How to declare your vehicle as off the road

What does SORN mean? How to declare your vehicle as off the road
If you own a vehicle that you no longer want to drive on a public road, you can avoid paying tax - but only if you complete a SORN.

With many of us using our vehicles less at the moment, now is a good time to explore this option and possibly save some money if you have no plans to drive.

This guide will look in more detail at the SORN definition, provide more information on when it can be used, how it works, and how to stop a SORN if circumstances change and you need to use the vehicle again.

What does SORN mean?

SORN stands for Statutory Off Road Notification.

It is used to inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) that you are registering a vehicle as off the road.

This means the vehicle cannot be driven on a public road when it has been registered with a SORN.

Do I need to declare SORN?

If you have a vehicle and no intention of driving it on the road, you must inform the DVLA by officially registering the vehicle as being off the road.

Registering a SORN means the car's owner can avoid paying vehicle tax.

You cannot just stop paying tax. Motorists can be fined £80 for failing to tax a car if it hasn't been registered with a SORN.

While this fine can be reduced on appeal, it can also increase up to £1,000 in a court settlement if left unpaid.

Once you have successfully registered for a SORN, you will receive a refund for any full months of tax remaining on the vehicle.

When do I need to declare a SORN?

sorn car no wheel

You can declare a SORN under the following circumstances:

  • If you intend to keep the vehicle in question on a driveway, in a garage, or on private land for a period of time. It cannot be parked on any kind of public road.
  • If the vehicle is uninsured (even for a short time) because of a delay in renewing a policy.
  • If you plan to salvage parts from the vehicle before it is scrapped.
  • If you are buying a car and plan to keep it off the road.
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If I buy a car does my SORN transfer over?

No, you can't transfer a SORN from a previous owner.

Even if there is one in place, you must complete a new SORN in your own name as the new legal owner of the car.

If you're selling a car which is registered as off road, it is no longer under a SORN until the new owner either applies themselves or re-taxes and re-insures it.

How to apply for a SORN

If you're already registered as the vehicle's legal keeper or owner, you can apply for a SORN by contacting the DVLA vehicle service on its 24-hour service telephone number: 0300 123 4321.

You can also make contact online at gov.uk or apply by post – complete a V890 application form and send it to DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1AR.

In some situations - including if you're not yet registered as the vehicle owner - you can only apply for SORN by post.

You'll need to complete the applicable section in the V5C log book. If you don't have that yet, then you'll need to fill in a V62 to apply for a log book.

When does my SORN start?

When applying for a SORN you can choose when the off-road period starts.

For a SORN to start on the first day of the next month, you will need to have the 16-digit number that is displayed on the V11 document - otherwise known as the vehicle tax reminder letter.

This is advisable if you have received notification of tax being due and have taken the decision to keep the vehicle off the road.

If the car is not roadworthy - for example, if it requires repairs that you cannot afford - you can register a SORN immediately.

You'll need to quote the 11-digit number that can be found on the V5C - the vehicle log book.

What happens to your insurance when you SORN a car?

Once you've declared your car off the road, you won't need insurance. However, your car insurance won't be automatically cancelled. You will need to contact your car insurance provider to cancel your policy. There may be fees that you are liable to pay by cancelling. 

Do I need to renew my SORN?

A SORN declaration does not need to be renewed. It remains in place indefinitely or until the vehicle is sold, scrapped or permanently exported outside the UK.

Getting back on the road after declaring SORN

Returning your car to the road is a straightforward process.

You just need to get it taxed again - which can be done online or over the phone by contacting the DVLA.

Again, you'll need that 11 digit reference number on the V5C.

You can also tax your vehicle and pay for it at some Post Office branches.

Don't forget that as well as being taxed, the vehicle must also be insured again. Make sure you have a valid car insurance policy in place before getting behind the wheel.

Finally, the vehicle must have an up to date MOT, so if the SORN was applied because it failed a test, or if the test expired while it was off the road, the car will need to be tested again.

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Can I drive my car with a SORN to a garage for an MOT?

mot test centre

Yes, you will be able to drive the car to a garage for an MOT appointment - even with a SORN in place.

However, it's important that the MOT has been booked because if you are stopped en route by police and questioned, you can explain the situation and the garage can verify your appointment.

Be warned - you can only drive a vehicle with a SORN on a public road to attend a pre-booked MOT, or another testing appointment.

In any other circumstances, driving a SORN vehicle on the road risks a maximum fine of £2,500.

Where can I keep a SORN car?

Car ParkX
Private Road*X
*Although you won’t face the same prosecution or fine of up to £2,500, you could find yourself in trouble with the road owners.

SORN mythbusting

The number of vehicles declared as SORN increased dramatically with the outbreak of coronavirus.

In June 2021, and in response to a rise in rumours about declaring cars off the road, the DVLA set out to separate the fact from the fiction:

1. You can keep your vehicle on the road as long as you don’t drive it.

The clue's in the name. When you SORN your vehicle, it can’t be kept on a public road – it must be kept on private land, this can include a garage or a driveway.

2. SORNs can be transferred to the next vehicle keeper.

In the same way vehicle tax isn’t transferred to new keepers when you buy a vehicle, SORN status is also not transferred. So, if you’re buying a vehicle and want to keep it off the road, remember to make a new SORN request with the DVLA.

3. You need to make a SORN annually.

A SORN lasts until the vehicle is re-taxed, sold, permanently exported or scrapped. That means you don’t need to renew a SORN at all.

4. You can’t drive a SORN vehicle to an MOT test.

Incorrect. If you have a pre-arranged MOT test you can drive a SORN vehicle to its appointment.

5. Registering a vehicle as SORN is expensive and involves lots of admin.

Actually, it’s free to make a SORN – and takes just a few minutes online. You’ll need your vehicle’s registration certificate (V5C) and will receive instant confirmation from DVLA.

If you don’t have your V5C you can order a replacement, quickly and easily using DVLA’s new online service – your new certificate should arrive within five working days.

6. There’s no need to SORN an electric vehicle as they don’t incur vehicle tax.

Wrong. Although it costs nothing to tax an electric vehicle or your exempt from paying as a disabled driver, you still need to make a SORN. You’ll also need to tax your vehicle before you return it to the road.

7. If you SORN your vehicle you can’t get a tax refund

Registered keepers get an automatic refund for any full months of remaining tax when they make a SORN. To receive your refund you should keep your address up to date with DVLA using its online service.

8. You can’t make a SORN in advance

You can tell the DVLA up to two months in advance of when you want to declare a car off the road. You just need the 16 digit number on your V11 reminder letter.

9. It’s really difficult to ‘unSORN’

There is no such thing as ‘unSORNing’. When you want to start using your vehicle again simply tax it online in minutes and you’re good to go.


  • How much does it cost to apply for a SORN?

    Applying for a SORN is completely free. However, if you need to purchase a new vehicle log book in order to complete your application, this will cost £25.

  • How long does a SORN last?

    Once registered, SORN lasts indefinitely. There is no need to renew or update a SORN until you intend sell your car, scrap it or return it to the road.

    It is also worth remembering that SORN does not transfer between owners. If you sell your car while a SORN is applied, the new owner will need to re-apply if they intend to keep the vehicle off the road.

  • How do you apply for a SORN?

    Applying for a SORN is a straightforward process. Apply online at gov.uk, by phone or by post. You will need to have your V11 tax reminder number or V5C log book to complete your application.

  • Can I drive a SORN-registered car home?

    Once registered with a SORN, a car can only be driven to a pre-booked MOT appointment. If stopped by police, you will be expected to provide proof of this appointment, or face a fine of up to £2,500.

  • Can you sell a SORN-registered vehicle?

    Yes, however your car’s SORN status will not transfer between owners. If the new vehicle owner wishes to keep the vehicle off the road, they will need to re-apply for a SORN.

  • Should I buy a SORN-registered vehicle?

    As long as you carry out all the necessary vehicle checks, there is no reason why you should not buy a car with a SORN. Remember that the vehicle will need to have a valid MOT and be fully taxed before you can take it out on the road.

  • Does a SORN cancel the vehicle’s MOT?

    No, your car’s MOT will remain valid until the end of the MOT period.

    However, if the MOT on your vehicle expires while under a SORN, you will need to renew the MOT before you return the car to the road.

  • How soon after a SORN can I tax a vehicle?

    You can remove the SORN status from your car at any time, you just need to tax it. There is no minimum period that a car can be registered as SORN.

  • How do I cancel a SORN?

    SORN status expires when the car changes ownership, gets scrapped or is returned to the road.

    If you wish to take your vehicle back on the road, you simply need to tax it. You will also need to have a valid MOT and driving insurance for the vehicle.

  • Can I keep a SORN-registered car in a residential car park?

    No, once a car has been registered with a SORN, it can only be parked or driven on private land. You may park a SORN-registered car on a driveway or in a private garage.

  • Can you register a SORN with a new keepers slip?

    If you are the new keeper of a SORN-registered car, you will need to re-apply for SORN status in order to avoid paying vehicle tax.

    You can do this using the vehicle V5C log book. If you do not yet have the V5C, you can apply using the reference number on the new keeper slip provided by the previous owner.

  • Can I register for a SORN online without the logbook?Can I register for a SORN online without the logbook?

    In order to register a SORN online you will need to have a V11 tax reminder number or V5C log book to hand. If you are the new owner of the car, you may also use the V5C/2 new keeper slip to register.

  • Can I report a SORN or untaxed vehicle used on the road?

    In short yes, you can anonymously report untaxed vehicles on the DVLA website.

    If you suspect a car has been abandoned you can report the vehicle here.

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