The law regarding car insurance changed in June 2011 and vehicles must be insured continuously unless their owners have guaranteed that they never go on the road by sending a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Association (DVLA).
Basically, if you are not using your vehicle, you should fill in a SORN. And if you are using it, it must be insured at all times.
Failure to abide by the rules could result in a penalty of at least 100, while your vehicle could also be wheel-clamped, impounded, or even destroyed.
This has a big impact on those who have cars and bikes they only use for a few months a year as their vehicle now needs to be insured at all times unless it is declared as SORN rather than just for the time it's on the road. But it also makes it more important to make sure you don't forget to re-insure your vehicle when the current policy ends.
Here we explain the ins and outs of the Continuous Insurance Enforcement (CIE) regulations.
What will happen if I have no insurance?
Under the CIE regime, the DVLA and the Motor Insurance Database (MID) work together to pinpoint drivers who have not insured their vehicles.
The registered keepers of vehicles not listed as insured on the MID will receive letters from the Motor Insurers' Bureau.
These letters will inform the motorist that his or her vehicle does not appear to be insured and will detail the possible implications, which include a fixed penalty of 100, court prosecution with a possible maximum fine of 1,000, and having their vehicle impounded or destroyed.
These measures are in addition to the powers the police already had to seize an uninsured vehicle and fine its driver.
Are there any exceptions?
The main exception to the CIE rules is for those who send off a SORN form to register a vehicle as permanently off road.
If you buy a new vehicle that you do not intend to drive on the road or insure, you therefore need to apply for it to be registered as SORN immediately.
The only other instances in which you can keep a car without insuring it are if your vehicle has been continuously kept off-road since before SORN came into force on January 31, 1998, and if your vehicle is recorded as stolen, between owners, scrapped or permanently exported.
Can I avoid a penalty if I am caught?
The details of all insured vehicles should be on the MID.
If yours is not, but is insured, you can therefore complain to your insurer as it is its responsibility to update the MID with your information (unless you have changed the registration to a personalized one without informing the company).
If, on the other hand, your vehicle is not insured, you must insure it immediately, send off a SORN (if the vehicle is kept off road) or notify the DVLA (if you are no longer the registered keeper) to avoid paying the 100 penalty.
How do I apply for a SORN?
Under CIE, you can only take your vehicle off the road and cancel your insurance if you return your tax disc to DVLA.
It must therefore be returned with a V14 (application form for a refund of a tax disc) and a SORN declaration for your car to be registered as off road and not in need of insurance.
You can do this in person at any DVLA office, online at www.taxdisc.direct.gov.uk or by calling 0300 123 4321.
If you prefer, you can post the necessary paperwork to DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1AR.
Whatever method you choose, you will need the reference number shown on your V5C registration certificate.
What about vintage/classic cars?
Vehicles manufactured before January 1, 1973 often have 'nil value tax discs'.
However, they are still considered as taxed by the DVLA and as such they require insurance unless you return your tax disc with a V14 form and a SORN declaration.
What about vehicles that are only used at certain times?
In the past, owners of motorbikes and motor homes, for example, were able to opt for a short term car insurance policy and insure themselves for just part of the year normally the summer as this was the only time they used them.
However, under the CIE rules, owners of any vehicles that are taxed but not insured face the possibility of a fine of at least 100.
To avoid any issues, you therefore need to return the vehicle's tax disc with a V14 form and a SORN declaration to establish that the vehicle is being kept off road.
This article has been researched and written by whatcar.com's car insurance partner, MoneySupermarket