Drivers who don't insure face £1000 fine – even if they never use the car and keep it off-road.

Got an old car laid up in the garage? Pretty soon, you’ll have to keep it insured – or else risk a fine. New laws will force a key shift in the way that insurance works.

Until now, it has been the driver, not the car that has needed the insurance. So long as a car wasn’t driven and stayed off the public roads, it didn’t need insurance.

Now, in a bid to catch the estimated two million who keep cars on the UK’s roads but don’t insure them, the government is to change the law. It will become an offence to keep an uninsured car, regardless of whether it has valid road tax or if kept on private property.

The only way to stay within the law would be to make a Statutory Off-Road Notification to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). And, to do this, you need somewhere private to keep the car. If you leave it on the road, it could be clamped or even seized.

The worry is though that the changes will do little to deter those who never insure their vehicles but will hit otherwise law-abiding drivers who allow their insurance to lapse by mistake – while they’re on holiday, or if working abroad.

Under the new system, every driver’s insurance details will be checked by the DVLA at least once a month. If a policy has lapsed, the DVLA will send a written reminder. But if the driver fails to respond, a month later, he or she will get a fixed penalty fine – which will reduce to £50 if they pay up within 21 days.

If the fine is ignored – as usually happens with a third of such penalties, the offender would be brought before a court and fined up to £1000. If the car remained on the road despite warning, it would also be clamped, and then seized. That’s tough news for the 43% of households who have neither a drive nor a garage. In London and other major cities, three of four drivers have nowhere to park but the street.