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New penalties for motor vehicles without insurance

Since 1930 it has been illegal to drive a car on a road in Britain without, at the very least, third-party insurance. Since early 2011 this is been extended; it is now illegal to own a car, which is not covered by an insurance policy, unless the DVLA have been informed via a SORN (Statutory off Road Notification) that the car is not currently being used on the road. So how will that affect you?

If you own a vehicle which is not being used regularly, and you have not got it insured, it must be kept off the road and you must make a SORN declaration, which is free and can be done very quickly online. If you wish to drive it again however, for short periods, which often happens with classic cars, motorcaravans, motorcycles etc, then all you have to do is insure it using a short term car insurance policy and tax it then you can legally use it on the roads again. However, when the insurance runs out you have to take it off the road again and make another SORN declaration. Once it has been taken off the road you can apply for a refund of the car tax; it will only be refunded from the start of the month following the month in which you make an application (in other words, if it was insured until December and you applied in October, you would be refunded for November and December) but you will only be refunded the proportion of the sum you would have paid if you had insured it for 12 months. If you had instead taxed it originally for just six months you would have paid an extra 10%, and this extra will not be refunded. In addition, you should send back the old tax disc; failure to do so will mean that £7 will be deducted from your repayment. There is nothing to say that you cannot keep the car taxed all year, and merely take it out from time to time after having first of all taken out temporary car insurance to cover the time that you intend to drive it.

To recap then; if your car is not insured, and you do not intend to insure it in the near future, you must make a SORN declaration, which you can do online, and there is no charge for this.

If you wish to drive the vehicle after this has been done, you can legally do so merely by insuring it, and taxing it if it is not already taxed. This will automatically entitle you to use it on the roads, provided that it is in a roadworthy condition.

Once your insurance, tax, or both have expired you must then either renew them are make a SORN again.

The police are able to use the Motor Insurance Database to find out which cars are insured, and which are not; so spotting offenders is easy. A fine for failing to make a SORN would probably be about £100 for a first offence with a maximum of £1000; if of course someone was caught driving a vehicle for which they had no insurance the car could be seized and taken to a pound; the maximum penalty would be £5000 with eight penalty points. Set against this, you may feel that the cost of short term car insurance is a drop in the ocean.

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