What to Do With Your Car When You’re Not Driving It
Have a vehicle you’re not driving? Perhaps it’s a car that requires repairs, a classic car mostly for display, one that’s on blocks rather than a wheels, a car you were using before your licence was suspended due to a medical condition such as epilepsy or a stroke, or a car you intend to pass down to your teenager after he passes his driving test.
Continuous Insurance Enforcement (CIE) regulations, introduced in June 2011, require that even if the vehicle is undriveable and stored in a private garage, you either need to insure it, or legally declare it off road, with a Statutory Off Road Notice (SORN). You also might want to insure the vehicle anyway, as being off road and laid up isn’t a protection against damage and theft. In that case, insurers offer specialised laid up cover for vehicles that aren’t being driven.
If your vehicle isn’t insured and you haven’t procured a SORN from it, in almost all cases you’re in violation of the law. If your car does not appear on the Motor Insurance Database (MID), a record of all insured vehicles in the UK that can be accessed by any police office, you’ll receive an Insurance Advisory Letter, informing you you either need to tax and insure your vehicle or obtain a SORN for it. Failing to do so can lead to you facing a fixed penalty of £100, a court prosecution with a maximum fine of £1,000, and/or having your vehicle clamped, impounded, or destroyed.
Statutory Off Road Notice (SORN)
You must insure and pay tax on each vehicle you own, unless you obtain a statutory off road notice (SORN) for it and keep it off all public roads. (A small exception: some older vehicles have been grandfathered into compliance. If your vehicle has been kept off public roads since before 1 February 1998, you won’t need a SORN to keep it uninsured and untaxed).
You can make a SORN declaration online, via phone or by posting an application form to the DVLA. The DVLA will confirm the SORN status of your vehicle within four weeks of receiving your application.
When your application is approved, you’ll receive an automatic refund for any full months that remain on your vehicle tax. These refunds will be sent by cheque to the name and address in the vehicle’s log book, within four to six weeks of your car being declared off road.
A car that has been declared off road must be kept on private land, such as in a garage or your driveway, and cannot be driven again until it’s been insured and taxed.
SORN doesn’t transfer between owners of vehicles, so you’ll need to obtain a SORN for any vehicle you purchase, even if the previous owner had already declared it off road.
You won’t be eligible for SORN if you’re keeping your vehicle on a public road, for instance, parking it in front of your house. In those cases, you’ll need cover, whether you’re actually putting keys in the ignition of not. Read on for more information about cheap car insurance for unused vehicles.
Laid Up Cover
If you’re parking your unused vehicle on a road or in another public place, you’ll need at least third-party cover for it. And even if your car is being safely stored in a garage or on private land and you’ve obtained a SORN to exempt it from tax, if you want to drive it again someday or if it’s worth anything, you should consider insuring it. Theft, fire, and damage can still strike an idled vehicle.
To minimise costs, consider laid up cover for unused vehicles. Laid up cover will pay for the repair and replacement of an unused vehicle if it’s lost or damaged due to theft, fire, flood, and other accidents. It’s not a legal requirement, but it’s a sensible precaution—especially if the unused vehicle is a classic car.
Keeping Unused Vehicles in Good Condition
In addition to keeping your unused vehicle in compliance with the law, you’ll need to perform regular checks on it to ensure it’s still in good condition, and not simply rusting away in your garage. If you’re leaving your car for more than a month, disconnect the car’s battery to prevent it going flat. If you have access to power, for instance in your garage, consider using a smart charger, which charges the battery as needed and eliminates the need for you to disconnect it. You should also regularly check the vehicle’s tyre pressure, check the anti-freeze concentration, lubricate locks, and occasionally clean the outside of the vehicle.