How to Unsorn a Car: Complete Guide to Reverse SORN a Vehicle, Tax, and Insurance Online

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Declaring your vehicle off the road, or “SORN” (Statutory Off Road Notification), is a process many car owners undergo when they don’t intend to use their vehicle for an extended period. But what happens when you want to get back on the road? Unsorning your car is straightforward but involves several key steps to ensure you comply with legal requirements and your vehicle is roadworthy. This guide will walk you through every aspect of how to unsorn a car.

1. Understanding SORN

What is SORN?

A Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) declares to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) that your vehicle is not being driven or parked on public roads. This means the car is exempt from vehicle tax and insurance while off the road.

Why SORN a Vehicle?

  • Cost Savings: You don’t need to pay vehicle tax or insurance while the vehicle is SORNed.
  • Storage: If you’re storing a vehicle for restoration, or it’s a classic car you only use seasonally, SORN prevents unnecessary costs.
  • Legal Compliance: If your vehicle is not roadworthy, SORNing it legally prevents its use on public roads.

SORN Eligibility Criteria

  • Private Storage: The vehicle must be kept off public roads, such as in a garage, private driveway, or on private land.
  • Non-Use: The vehicle cannot be driven or parked on public roads.
  • No Need for Immediate Repairs: Vehicles undergoing long-term repairs that are not roadworthy can be SORNed.

2. Preparation for Unsorning

Evaluate Your Car’s Condition

Before unsorning your car, assess its condition. Here’s a comprehensive checklist:

  • Battery: Check if the battery needs charging or replacement.
  • Fluids: Inspect oil, coolant, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and windshield washer fluid.
  • Tires: Ensure tires are inflated and check for any signs of wear, dry rot, or damage.
  • Brakes: Test the brakes to confirm they are functional. Look for signs of rust on brake discs.
  • Lights: Check all lights, including headlights, indicators, brake lights, and interior lights.
  • Belts and Hoses: Inspect belts and hoses for cracks or signs of wear.
  • Rust and Corrosion: Check for rust, especially in critical areas like the frame and underbody.
  • Wipers: Ensure windshield wipers are in good condition and replace if necessary.

Legal and Financial Preparations

  1. MOT (Ministry of Transport Test):
    • In the UK, vehicles over three years old require an MOT to ensure they meet road safety and environmental standards.
    • If your car’s MOT has expired while it was SORNed, you’ll need to book a test before you can legally drive it. You can drive to a pre-booked MOT appointment even if the car is not taxed.
  2. Insurance:
    • Arrange insurance before you drive on public roads. Even if your vehicle was previously insured, you might need to update or renew your policy. Consider shopping around for quotes to find the best deal.
    • Ensure the coverage is appropriate for your current needs, considering factors like mileage and usage.
  3. Tax:
    • Vehicle tax must be paid before you can legally drive the car. This can be done online via the DVLA’s website, over the phone, or at a Post Office. Be sure to have your V5C registration certificate handy.

Administrative Steps

  • Documentation: Ensure you have all necessary documents, including your V5C logbook, MOT certificate (if applicable), and proof of insurance.
  • Contact DVLA: Have the DVLA’s contact details available in case you encounter issues during the process.

3. Steps to Unsorn a Car

1. Vehicle Maintenance

  • Charge or Replace the Battery: If the car has been SORNed for a long time, the battery might be flat. Charge it fully or replace it if needed. Test the battery using a multimeter to ensure it holds a charge.
  • Top Up Fluids: Check all fluid levels (oil, coolant, brake fluid) and top up as necessary. Look for any leaks that might indicate deeper issues.
  • Inspect Tires: Inflate tires to the recommended pressure and inspect for damage. Use a tread depth gauge to ensure tires meet legal requirements.
  • Brake Check: Ensure the brakes are responsive. If they’ve deteriorated, replacing brake fluid or pads might be necessary. Also, a visual inspection for rust or wear should be performed.
  • Light Test: Verify that all lights are working. If necessary, replace any bulbs and clean the lenses to ensure maximum visibility.

2. Book an MOT

  • If the car’s MOT has expired, book an appointment with a local test center. Remember, you can drive to a pre-booked MOT test even if your car is untaxed.
  • Preparation: Ensure your vehicle is prepared for the MOT by checking common failure points, such as lights, tires, and emissions.

3. Obtain Insurance

  • Contact your insurance provider to reinstate coverage or set up a new policy. You’ll need proof of insurance to tax the vehicle.
  • Types of Coverage: Based on your needs, decide between third-party, third-party fire and theft, or comprehensive coverage.

4. Pay Vehicle Tax

  • Online: Go to the DVLA’s vehicle tax service. You can pay using a debit or credit card.
  • Phone: Call the DVLA’s vehicle tax service line for assistance.
  • Post Office: Visit a Post Office that handles vehicle taxes. You must bring your insurance certificate and MOT (if applicable).

5. Notify the DVLA

  • Once the vehicle is insured and taxed, the DVLA automatically updates your car’s status from SORN. No separate notification is required.
  • Confirmation: You will receive a confirmation of the update, usually via mail or email, depending on your preferences.

4. After Unsorning: Ensuring Road Readiness

Initial Drive Checklist

  • Short Trip: Take a short drive to ensure the car runs smoothly. Listen for any unusual sounds, and pay attention to the car’s handling.
  • Listen for Noises: Attention unusual sounds, such as knocking, grinding, or rattling, that could indicate mechanical issues.
  • Check Handling: Ensure the vehicle handles well, including steering and braking. Test the car in a safe area to ensure all systems are functioning correctly.

Routine Maintenance

  • Service: If the car is off the road for an extended period, consider getting a full service. A service can identify potential issues that might not be immediately apparent.
  • Regular Checks: Check fluid levels, tire pressure, and battery health regularly. Establish a maintenance routine to keep your vehicle in good condition.

Reintegration Tips

  • Drive Smoothly: Avoid sudden accelerations or harsh braking, as your car might need time to re-acclimate to regular use.
  • Monitor Performance: Monitor your car’s performance over the first few weeks to catch any issues early.

5. Common Mistakes to Avoid

Neglecting MOT and Insurance: Driving without a valid MOT and insurance is illegal and can result in fines and penalties. Always verify that your paperwork is up to date.

Skipping Maintenance Checks: Failing to check the car’s condition can lead to breakdowns or accidents. Don’t assume your car is ready to go without a thorough inspection.

Ignoring Tax: Ensure vehicle tax is paid; failure to do so can result in fines or impoundment. Keep track of your tax renewal dates.

Forgetting to Update Details: If your personal or vehicle details have changed, ensure the DVLA is updated to avoid legal complications.

6. Advanced Tips and Considerations

Use Diagnostic Tools

  • OBD-II Scanner: Use an OBD-II scanner to check for any diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) that could indicate issues with your vehicle’s systems. This tool can help identify problems that might not be immediately visible.

Battery Care

  • Maintenance: If your car has been SORNed for a long period, consider investing in a battery maintainer to keep the battery in good condition. Also, regularly clean the battery terminals to prevent corrosion.

Fuel System

  • Fuel Quality: Old fuel can degrade over time, leading to poor performance. Consider draining old fuel or adding a fuel stabilizer before storing your vehicle again.

Rust Prevention

  • Protective Coatings: Apply rust prevention coatings to vulnerable areas like the underbody and wheel arches to protect against rust, especially if your vehicle was stored in a damp environment.

7. FAQs About Unsorning a Car

1. Can I drive my car to an MOT test if it’s SORNed?

Yes, you can drive to a pre-booked MOT test, but it’s advisable to have insurance in place even for this journey.

2. Do I need to inform the DVLA after taxing my car?

No, once the vehicle is taxed and insured, the DVLA automatically updates its status.

3. What if I want to SORN the car again?

If you decide to take the car off the road again, you can SORN it through the DVLA online or by phone. The process is similar to the initial SORN declaration.

4. How often do I need to renew SORN?

SORN remains in effect indefinitely until you tax the vehicle, sell it, or scrap it. There’s no need to renew it annually.

5. What should I do if my car fails the MOT?

If your car fails the MOT, you can only drive it to a place where repairs will be made or to a pre-booked retest. Address the issues highlighted in the MOT report promptly.

6. Can I sell my car while it’s SORNed?

Yes, you can sell your car while it’s SORNed. Ensure that the new owner is aware of the SORN status and understands the process to unsorn it if they intend to use it on public roads.

7. Are there any penalties for driving a SORNed vehicle?

Driving a SORNed vehicle on public roads can result in fines, penalties, and possible prosecution. Ensure all legal requirements are met before driving.

8. Additional Resources


Unsorning a car involves more than just notifying the authorities. It requires thorough preparation to ensure the vehicle is safe and legally driving. You can confidently get your car back on the road by following the steps outlined in this guide. Conduct regular maintenance checks and comply with all legal requirements to enjoy a smooth driving experience.