SORN myths busted: from keeping your car on the road to claiming back tax

DVLA clears up confusion around declaring a car off the road

Thursday, 24th June 2021, 2:00 pm
Making a SORN declaration is quick and free
Making a SORN declaration is quick and free

Drivers who have declared their vehicle off the road or are considering doing so have been urged to make sure they understand the rules around the SORN process and avoid a hefty fine.

Every year around 3.4 million vehicles are declared off the road via a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN), and last March saw the biggest monthly number of declarations as half a million drivers took their cars off the road to save money as the first national lockdown hit.

A SORN exempts a vehicle from car tax but means it cannot be used on the public roads. Using a SORN’d car on the road leaves drivers at risk of a £2,500 fine.

Even if your car is tax exempt you still need to apply for tax or make a SORN

While the process to make a SORN or return a car to the road is straightforward, a number of myths and misconceptions have grown up around the process and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has now issued a guide debunking some of the most common ones.

You can keep your vehicle on the road – just don’t drive it

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

SORN is transferrable to the next vehicle keeper

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

You need to make a SORN annually

You only need to tell DVLA once when you SORN your vehicle, and you don’t need to renew this every year. The SORN lasts until the vehicle is re-taxed, sold, permanently exported or scrapped.

You can’t drive vehicle to have an MOT if it’s SORN

You can drive to a pre-arranged MOT appointment under SORN.

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

The registered keeper will automatically get a refund for any full months of remaining tax when you make a SORN.

There’s no need to SORN a tax exempt car

Even if you don’t need to pay anything to tax your vehicle, for example because you’re exempt because you’re disabled or you drive an electric or historic vehicle, you still need to tax it each year. If you take a vehicle off the road and don’t intend to tax it, you’ll still need to make a SORN – even if there is no tax to pay. You’ll also need to tax your vehicle before you return it to the road.

You can’t tell the DVLA in advance if you want to make a SORN later

If you know that you’ll soon want to keep your vehicle off the road, you can tell DVLA up to two months in advance. If you want the SORN to start on the first day of the next month, you just need to go online and use the 16 digit number on your V11 reminder letter.

There’s a lot of admin and cost to make a SORN

It’s free to make a SORN – and takes just a few minutes online. You just need your vehicle’s registration certificate (V5C) to hand. You will receive instant confirmation from DVLA. If you don’t have your V5C you can order a replacement online.

It is difficult to ‘unSORN’

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

DVLA chief executive Julie Lennard said: “Myth busting aims to help motorists understand what they need to do with a vehicle when it is declared SORN, including taxing it before using or keeping it on the road again. It’s really easy to check online if a vehicle is taxed. And motorists can even check by asking Amazon Alexa or Google Home. It takes just a matter of minutes to tax it.”

RAC spokesman Rod Dennis added: “Before the pandemic, it’s likely the ‘SORN’ acronym meant very little to most people but within weeks of the first lockdown hundreds of thousands of extra drivers had already stopped using their cars and made a SORN application to the DVLA.

“Now, with restrictions lifting we’d urge every driver who uses their car – no matter how infrequently – to make sure it is taxed, insured and ready for the road. It’s vitally important drivers remember that SORN status only applies to vehicles that are unused and parked off public roads.”