New compulsory car insurance laws: how to stay legal

Motor insurance laws changed in 2011, and you need to be careful that you are not caught out. Here is what you need to know.

Updated on 18 May 2015.

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Do you have to have car insurance?

Any vehicle that is driven on Britain's roads needs to be covered by third party insurance as a minimum.

Years ago, motor vehicles that were not being used could sit uninsured without issue.

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However, legislation introduced in 2011 means this is no longer be the case.

What has changed?

Any vehicle registered for use on the road now needs to be insured. This applies to all cars, vans, motorbikes, motorhomes and trucks, even if they are not in use.

Responsibility for insuring a vehicle registered as roadworthy (and taxed accordingly) will sit with its registered keeper so even if you are not a vehicle's main driver you will need to make sure it is insured.

Fail to do this and you will face a fixed penalty of 100 at the very minimum, fines of up to 1,000 and court prosecution will be used in a worst case scenario.

Notifications are now being sent out with tax disc renewal reminders and the DVLA will also be writing to registered owners whose vehicles are neither insured nor declared SORN, with warnings from now on.

Will I need to insure my vehicle?

If you are the registered keeper of a motor vehicle - albeit one that is sitting in a garage unused - you need to make sure it is insured.

This applies equally to classic cars (even those that have a nil value tax disc), motorhomes and motorbikes that are only used a couple of times a year. Even if temporary insurance has sufficed previously this will no longer be the case./p>

The only way to get around insuring a vehicle you are not using is to officially declare it off-road by registering it as SORN. Doing so will exempt it from the compulsory insurance requirement.

The only exception to this is if your vehicle has not been taxed, insured or driven since before 31st January 1998.

How do I declare a vehicle SORN?

Declaring an unused vehicle SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) is relatively straightforward, and it can be done free of charge.

You simply need to notify the DVLA by completing a form on their website - you will need to be the registered owner to do this.

You will be asked for a reference number which you will find in your vehicle's logbook, or on a tax disc or SORN renewal reminder form (V11) that you will have been sent by the DVLA.

Once you have completed the SORN declaration form you will receive confirmation that your vehicle is officially classed as unused (and therefore exempt from the insurance requirement) within 4 weeks. This declaration will last for 12 months after which you will be asked to renew the SORN.

What if I want to use the vehicle again?

Driving a vehicle that is been declared SORN is illegal. However, reinstating its roadworthy status is simple. All you need to do is tax and insure it and you will be entitled to drive it on public roads.

If you only want to use the vehicle temporarily you will need to ensure it is roadworthy, tax it, compare and take out temporary insurance then declare it SORN once you stop using it again.

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Whatever car you drive, make sure you find insurance that covers everything you need as cheaply as possible by comparing all of the policies out there.
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Further reading...

Can I insure a car if I'm not the registered keeper?

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