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Staying Home During COVID-19 - Declaring Your Car SORN

Bradley Jando | Tuesday 31st March 2020 12:31pm


As working-from-home has become the new norm for many UK workers, some, especially those who are having to self-isolate for long periods of time, may find themselves in a position where they no longer need to use their car for the foreseeable future. The upside of this is that there are clear savings to be made if the vehicle is no longer in use, from not needing to refuel to cancelling road tax and insurance, and even the reduction of general wear and tear on the vehicle that naturally occurs when putting miles on the clock.

But if you are considering not renewing your car insurance or even cancelling your existing policy, itís important that you register the vehicle with a SORN (Statutory Off-Road Notification). Failing to do so could land you in hot water. You must insure and tax your vehicle if you donít have a SORN. If you donít, youíll automatically receive an on the spot £80 fine for not having a SORN.

And while the Coronavrius lockdown measures will likely result in a surge of insurance-related offences, an increasing number of drivers have been flouting this law in the past few years even before the outbreak.

We recently analysed government figures that revealed that in 2018, more than 73,500 drivers in England and Wales were taken to court for keeping a vehicle which does not meet insurance requirements1. This is a 78% increase on five years earlier and works out at over eight drivers every hour of the year. While drivers committing this offence will first receive a fixed penalty notice of £100, the average fine for drivers going to court was £205, meaning that fines for this offence totalled more than £12.4 million.

One of the main reasons why drivers face this penalty is for keeping a car off road but not registering it as such. A vehicle must either be insured or registered with a SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification). If the DVLA doesnít have a SORN recorded for a vehicle then it has to be insured, even if it is not being used, parked on a street or driveway or in a garage, or even if it is only used on private land.

However, many drivers are either ignoring or are simply unaware of this law as 95,000 cases were brought against motorists in 2018 for using a motor vehicle uninsured against third party risks Ė up 4% compared to 2013. In total, offences relating to insurance made up almost a quarter (24%) of all vehicle offences in 2018.

When broken down by gender, Kwik Fitís analysis found that men account for almost two thirds (63%) of insurance offences, compared to women who account for 18% (the remaining 20% comprises companies or unknown). This is in spite of the fact that 47% of full driving licence holders are female.

Many drivers may assume that the offence of not meeting insurance requirements is due to making unapproved modifications or not maintaining their car properly, but in the majority of offences this is not the case. Drivers who decide not to use their car and take it car off road temporarily, be it because they are in lockdown or are self-isolating during the Coronavirus outbreak or for any other reason, must ensure that they register a SORN with the DVLA. Registering a SORN is free, and as we have seen from our analysis, failing to do so can prove very costly.

Only declare your car as SORN if you wonít be using the vehicle

On the flipside, it is illegal to declare your car as SORN if you are still using it for any journey, no matter how short. You should only proceed to cancel your insurance and apply for a SORN if you are prepared to go without your vehicle until such time that you wish to reinstate each. There are no exceptions (unless you are a motor trader) so if you urgently need to use your vehicle you will have to find other means of transport.

1 - Ministry of Justice data focusing on courts proceedings for motor offences in England Wales, published 16 May 2019

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