Or Paying road tax is a nuisance under any circumstances. It is an outright waste of money, however, if you’re not even using your car. Thankfully, you can take your car off the road and stop paying VED right now. The only thing you need to do is register your car as SORN.

In this brief overview, we’ll show you, how this works.

Reasons for taking your car off the road

Taking your car off the road is easy. But it does come with consequences. So it’s not a decision you should take lightly. Once you’ve changed the status of your vehicle to SORN, you are no longer allowed to drive it, not even in an emergency. So make sure you’ve thought this through.

Possible reasons for a SORN include the following:

  • You bought a new car and plan to replace your old one with it.
  • You no longer feel physically fit enough to drive. (Do read our guide to driving with glasses and contacts to see if there are ways to improve your eyesight, though)
  • The car has broken down and repairing it would be too expensive.
  • You can no longer afford to pay for the cost of using the car.
  • You want to use public transport and/or a bike for ecological reasons.
  • Or you plan on spending some time abroad, but are not taking your car with you.

In all of these cases, you’re no longer using your car on a public road. This qualifies you for applying for SORN.

SORN: The solution

Road tax (VED) is one of the biggest sources of income for the state. This is why there are so few exceptions to it. Even if your car is just parked on the road outside your home and never moves, you will have to tax it.

However, the government does recognise that paying tax on a car you never drive is unfair. So, by simply applying for SORN and sticking to a few rules, you can avoid unnecessary costs.

SORN is an intermediate status between a regular, taxed car and a car that’s wrecked and stripped for body parts. Technically, the car is still yours and potentially functional. In practise, however, it is treated as though it no longer exists.

How to apply for SORN

You don’t need to fight to register your car as SORN. In fact, it is extremely simple and straight forward.

All you need to do is let the DVLA know you want to apply for SORN. You can do this by phone, online or by snail mail. In some cases, you will need to apply in writing. But these are not very common, so we won’t even get into them here.

The DVLA will then process your information, which will take about four weeks. Once they’ve granted your application, you will receive a letter or an email (if you applied online).

What are the costs of SORN?

The great thing about SORN is that it is entirely free. So there is, as confused.com rightly argue, “no reason not to do it if you need it.”

In fact, if you’ve already paid your road tax and are now awarded SORN status, you will automatically receive a refund for the time you’ve already paid tax but will no longer be using the car.

Do note, however, that SORN is not transferred from one owner to the next if the car is sold. So if you’ve bought a car with SORN status, you need to register it as such again.

What to watch out for


SORN means taking your car off the road. You need to take this very literally. Once you’ve received confirmation, you can no longer:

  • Park your car on the road outside your home. The public road extends to your boundary and may include the verge.
  • Use the car under any circumstances, not even in an emergency such as a medical issue or pregnancy.
  • Drive your car to an MOT inspection, unless you’ve made an appointment for it in advance.

There are next to no exceptions to these rules. You won’t need to apply for a SORN if:

  • the car is only temporarily in their possession.
  • the car is being kept at their business premises or if
  • the registered keeper has notified DVLA that the vehicle has been sold or transferred to you.

You also need to be aware that you can not apply for SORN in the UK and then drive your car to mainland Europe (or anywhere else). If you intend to use your car, it will have to be taxed, regardless of its whereabouts.

Penalties for non compliance

It is easy to see how you could run into trouble with SORN. Maybe you want to sell your SORN car and drive it to an MOT inspection without making an appointment. Maybe you want to put it up for sale and park it on the road in front of your house with a ‘for sale’ sign attached to its windscreen. Or maybe you want to rush someone to the hospital because it seems like the fastest option.

In all of these cases, you’re not using the car within the limits of the SORN regulations.

This is how a possible SORN penalty procedure could look like:

  • “Out of Court Settlement (OCS) letter issued.
  • OCS set at £30 plus one and a half times the outstanding vehicle tax rate.
  • If settlement is not paid, as a criminal offence the case may be pursued via the Magistrates Court.
  • Penalty is the greater of £1,000 or five times the amount of tax chargeable.
  • Vehicle may be clamped.”

As we said: SORN is a helpful instrument. But once you’ve taken your car off the road, it really needs to stay off the road.