Why SORNing your car doesn't automatically cancel your insurance

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SORNing and cancelling
Changing your cover after SORNing
Cancelling breakdown cover
When to cancel
SORNing and no-claims

Declaring your car “off the road” with a Statutory Off-Road Notice (SORN) means it doesn’t have to be insured, taxed or MOT’d. It also means you can’t drive it anymore.

But declaring a SORN doesn’t automatically cancel your car insurance.

You still need to pay cancellation fees after SORNing a car

If you want to cancel your policy, you’ll need to go through the usual channels. That means you’ll (usually) have to pay a cancellation fee – even if you pay monthly for your insurance.

(We don’t think this is the way it should be. So we’re currently building a pay-monthly car insurance policy with zero cancellation fees.)

But what we’re talking about here is the fact is that most insurance providers will charge you to get out early. And if you’ve already made a claim on your policy, you might not get a refund after you cancel.

So it may not actually be worth cancelling your insurance for a SORN car – unless it’s going to be off the road for a long time.

Why your insurance isn’t automatically cancelled when you SORN your car

Your insurance isn’t automatically cancelled when you declare your car off the road because you might still end up needing that cover.

So even though you don’t legally need to insure the vehicle, there’s nothing to say you might not still want to.

Say your vehicle is covered with a third party, fire and theft policy. If it was damaged in a fire or stolen after you’d SORNed it, having the insurance still in place would pay off.

Or you might want to keep your SORN car insured if you plan on working on it while it’s off the road. Especially if it’s a classic car, because they tend to be really expensive to repair.

Changing your insurance when you SORN your car (rather than cancelling it)

You don’t have to cancel your policy or keep it when you SORN your car. There are middle-grounds, too.

Laid up insurance

If you plan on SORNing your car for a particularly long time, you could consider switching your policy to “laid up fire and theft” cover. This is specifically designed for cars that have been declared “off road”.

You normally need to have your car “laid up” for at least 4 weeks before you can get laid up insurance.

There are two levels of laid up cover: one that covers for accidental damage, one that doesn’t.

It’s worth figuring out how much you’re likely to save before you switch your policy over. You might find out that you’re not going to save as much as you thought. And you could end up giving yourself a lot of unnecessary hassle for what’s essentially the same cover.

On the other hand, this might be the perfect solution for your situation. Which brings us onto…

The difference between laid up fire and theft and third party, fire and theft

At first it can be hard to see the difference between laid up cover, and third party, fire and theft cover. In fact there sometimes aren’t many notable ones at all.

But depending on which providers you’re looking at, two of the main ones can be:

1. You don’t get third party cover with laid up insurance

Laid up fire and theft insurance won’t cover you for third party damage or injury. This is because your vehicle will never actually be out on the road. So you don't run any risk of damaging someone else’s car with it.

This should mean that you end up paying less for the laid up fire and theft insurance than for third party, fire and theft.

2. You could get an “agreed valuation” with laid up insurance

People who take out laid up insurance are often doing so for classic cars that they’re restoring.

So, to make sure you get enough of a payout to cover the car if it gets stolen or damaged, you can look at getting an “agreed valuation” policy.

That way, if anything did happen, you’d get the amount you’d agreed at the outset the car was worth, rather than its current market value.

These policies are really specialised, and not many insurers offer it. If you want to get “agreed value” car insurance, the insurer will usually want to send an engineer out to take a look at your car and figure out what it’s worth.

“Agreed value” insurance can also be comprehensive or third-party.

You can downgrade to third-party insurance, too

When you SORN your car, one option is to downgrade your insurance policy so you’re at least not paying as much to keep it covered.

Usually, you’d only want to do this if your insurer won’t give you laid up cover. And that usually happens if you’re not keeping your SORN car in a garage.

You could do this by changing your cover from comprehensive to third party, fire and theft cover instead. But this isn’t always cheaper.

Here’s a quick reminder of the different covers:

Comprehensive: the highest level of insurance you can get – covers your car for damage, fire and theft. It also covers damage to someone else’s car (or any other stuff they own), as well as their injuries. Even if the accident is your fault.

Third party, fire and theft: covers damage to someone else’s car (or any other stuff they own), as well as their injuries. Also covers your car for fire and theft, but not damage or injuries.

Third party, fire and theft can be more expensive than comprehensive insurance because it’s usually taken out by “higher-risk” drivers.

When downgrading your insurance makes sense

As we said above, some insurers do let you downgrade. That means you wouldn’t need to cancel your existing policy, and instead you’d just switch to third-party for a bit. If third-party works out cheaper for you, this might make sense financially.

But there are often fees to downgrade. And when you take those into account, you might not end up saving any money. There could also be fees to upgrade your car insurance again when you want to get your car back on the road.

If you’ve done the maths and it all works out, though, downgrading is a good option for a SORN car. If you want to downgrade, you’ll need to get in touch with your insurance company.

Cancelling your add-ons

Your insurance policy might include a ton of extras that you won’t need now it’s off-road. So you could potentially remove these from your policy. That might include things like breakdown cover.

Some of these add-ons will come with their own cancellation fees. So make sure to work out exact costs before agreeing to anything. If you’re only SORNing your car for a short time, it might not be worth it.

Other add-ons might automatically be thrown in if your insurance is comprehensive, like cover for lost keys, or cover for your stuff. If you switch to a third-party only policy, you might lose this cover.

When you should cancel your insurance after SORNing a car

It might be worth cancelling your insurance if you plan on SORNing your car indefinitely. Especially if it’s not worth much, or if you have a garage you can safely stash it in.

Also, if you’re coming to the end of your insurance policy and want to SORN your vehicle, you can always choose not to renew your policy. If you do that, you wouldn’t have to pay any cancellation fees,

But it’s still really important to weigh up the risks of being uninsured.

In general, it’s probably never worth it to leave a valuable car without any cover. Even if you’re working in another country, and you're SORNing it for months, you’d have to ask yourself if you could afford for anything bad to happen to it while you were gone.

You’ll (usually) lose your no claims bonus for the year if you cancel your insurance

If you do decide to cancel your car insurance, you’ll lose the no claim bonus you built up in that year. You’ll hold onto any previous no claims bonuses for around two years without insurance though.

Getting your SORN car back on the road

When you want to start using your SORN car again, the first step will be to get it taxed. You’ll also need to make sure it’s got a valid MOT, if it needs one.

If its MOT is out of date, you’ll need to arrange an appointment for a new one. But remember – it’s illegal to drive an uninsured car anywhere, even to an MOT appointment. So if you have cancelled your policy, make sure you’re covered beforehand.

It’s also important to remember at this stage that a laid up fire and theft policy won’t actually cover you to drive. This is because these policies are designed for “SORNed” vehicles only, so they don’t cover third parties. In this case, you’ll need to upgrade or change your cover before you take the car anywhere.

Once your tax, insurance and MOT are in place, you’ll be good to get on the road again.

Updated on 2nd October 2020

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