Almost 280,000 British cars have been taken off the road during the coronavirus pandemic, according to new analysis of government figures. The research by garage chain Kwik Fit found a 277,859-vehicle increase in the number of cars on Statutory Off Road Notices (SORNs) between the end of 2019 and the end of 2020.

Vehicles can be registered with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) as ‘off the road’ if they are not going to be used on the public highway. When a vehicle has a SORN, it no longer needs road tax, but it cannot be used on the public road.

Motorists have many reasons for applying for a SORN, but common justifications include putting older, classic cars away for the winter. Putting the vehicle on a SORN while it’s tucked away in the garage means the owner can recoup any full months of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED, or ‘road tax’) outstanding, saving them some money on a car they won’t be using.

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Whatever the reasons for SORNs, Kwik Fit’s analysis of DVLA data showed there were 2,984,042 cars registered off the road during the final quarter of 2019. At the same point in 2020, a year in which the coronavirus pandemic had a huge impact on our way of life, that number had risen to more than 3.26 million.

That represented a nine-percent increase across the country, but some areas saw SORN numbers rise much more dramatically. The Surrey town of Guildford, for example, saw the number of SORNs rise by more than 27 percent over the 12-month period. That was followed by Watford, which saw a 12.5-percent increase in SORNs.

At the opposite end of the scale, East Central London, the area with an EC postcode, saw SORNs rise by just four percent, while the Yorkshire town of Doncaster saw SORNs grow by 4.6 percent. Kwik Fit says the decision to SORN a vehicle would make sense for many motorists during the pandemic, but it warned drivers to check their car’s roadworthiness before returning it to use.

“It was clearly a sensible move for many owners to save money on tax and insurance during the pandemic by taking their cars off road and registering a SORN,” said the company’s director of communications, Roger Griggs. “However, we anticipate that many of those SORN registered cars have now been brought back on to the road as the country has opened up and traffic volumes have returned to normal levels.

“We know that there are still many cars which should have had an MOT which have not been tested so we remind any driver who registered a SORN for any length of time to check the status of their MOT. It is legal to drive a car with a SORN on a public road if you are going to a pre-booked MOT test appointment, so it is possible for owners to get a valid MOT certificate before removing the SORN.”

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