Are drivers taking cars off the road in the cost-of-living crisis?

A new report has linked the rising cost of living to a huge jump in the number of drivers taking their cars as off the road.

Around 2.7 million vehicles were officially declared as SORN in the UK during 2022. 

By doing so, owners cannot drive their vehicles and must store them on private land –  in turn, they avoid having to pay motor insurance and tax on them. 

Records show that October – the month when inflation soared to a 41-year high – saw a huge 77 per cent jump in SORN applications. Experts believe Britons opted to take cars off the road to save money as the squeeze on household finances intensified.

SORN to save money: DVLA figures show that October saw a huge jump in the number of vehicles being declared off the road. It was also the month inflation hit 11.1% – the highest for 41 years

SORN stands for a Statutory Off Road Notification and is a legal process between a driver and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).

Rules stipulate that by applying to SORN a motor you are committing to not keeping or using it on a public road.

This means it must be in a garage, on a drive or on private land, to avoid having to pay for insurance premiums, Vehicle Excise Duty or to require an MOT certificate.

The last time there was a significant increase in SORN applications was at the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, as drivers opted to take their cars off the road while travel restrictions were in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19. 

However, new DVLA data obtained by comparison website shows there was a major jump in SORN applications in October, with some 297,770 recorded in the month.

That compared to just 167,383 in July – a monthly increase of 77 per cent. 

This is the greatest increase seen on record in the past four years, the DVLA’s historical data shows.

It came in the same month that UK inflation jumped to a 41-year high of 11.1 per cent, exceeding expectations as food, transport and energy prices continued to squeeze households and businesses. 

While declaring a car off the road can save motorists up to £400 a month (according to, if you're caught using the vehicle you could face court prosecution and a fine of up to £2,500

While declaring a car off the road can save motorists up to £400 a month (according to, if you’re caught using the vehicle you could face court prosecution and a fine of up to £2,500

Naturally, Confused says the link between the rise in SORN applicants and the surge in living costs is more than a coincidence and polled 2,000 UK drivers about their attitude towards taking their cars off the road to save cash.

According to the survey, one in 10 motorists said they’ve considered declaring their car as SORN, with the biggest reason – accounting for 53 per cent of the vote – to save money. 

This was followed by not being able to afford payments (34 per cent) and not driving enough to justify using the car (30 per cent). 

When you must SORN a vehicle 

You must make a SORN in any of the following situations: 

  • your vehicle is not taxed your vehicle is not insured (even for a short time, for example because there’s a delay renewing your policy) 
  • you want to break a vehicle down for parts before you scrap it 
  • you buy or receive a vehicle and want to keep it off the road (you cannot transfer a SORN from the previous keeper) 

The poll also revealed that more than one in five (23 per cent) have previously declared their car off-road. 

The data suggests that financial uncertainty in recent years might have been the biggest drive for applications, especially during the wake of Britons losing jobs and being put on furlough during the Covid pandemic. 

Some 43 per cent of those who said they had applied to SORN a vehicle had processed it between 2020 and 2023.

The comparison website said the savings from taking a car off the road can amount to as much as £400 a month – a huge sum for those who are struggling financially.

For those who do try to cheat the system and think they can get away with driving a SORN motor, if caught they could face court prosecution and a fine of up to £2,500.

Commenting on the link between the rise in vehicles taken off the road in October and the cost-of-living squeeze, Louise Thomas, car insurance expert, said: ‘The number of SORN applications has hit record-breaking figures since the Covid-19 pandemic. And with 2.7 million applications registered last year, it’s clear that some drivers are facing financial burdens due to the cost-of-living crisis.’

She adds that a SORN application should be a ‘last option’ to save money, especially for those who are reliant on having a vehicle for chores and commuting. 

‘Although declaring your vehicle off-road might seem like a cheaper alternative, it might not always be the best solution. 

‘Once a car is registered as SORN, you can’t drive it, and the consequences of doing so could be costly. That’s why drivers should weigh up all options before going through the legal process with the DVLA.’