How to Change Ownership of a Car

It’s all about the V5C.

Wondering how to change ownership of a car? Look no further. 

In this article, we’ll take you through all the steps involved in transferring car ownership from one person to another—whether you’re buying or selling a car, or giving it to a family member or friend. 

When do you need to transfer car ownership?

There are a few reasons why you might need to change the ownership of a vehicle. They include:

  1. If you’re buying or selling a vehicle, including privately, at an auction, to a dealership, or for scrap
  2. If you’re giving the vehicle away (even if no money changes hands) 
  3. If the vehicle’s owner has passed away

In all of these instances, you have to inform the DVLA. Technically, when you tell the DVLA about transfer of ownership, you’re actually giving them the new details for the “registered keeper” of the vehicle. 

Failing to notify the DVLA of changes to the keeper, whether you’re selling the car privately, through a dealer or for scrap comes with financial penalties, so it’s always worth checking things are all up to date.

Am I the registered owner or keeper of my car?

The ownership of a vehicle lies with the person who bought it originally—this could be an individual or a company. The registered keeper of the car is often the same person as the owner, but not always. It’s the person who drives the car, or the main user. 

Although it might sound strange that the registered owner and keeper can be different, it’s actually a scenario that occurs quite often. Driving a company car is a good example where the registered owner and keeper of the vehicle aren’t the same person. In this case, the company is the registered owner of the vehicle, but the employee using the car is the registered keeper and is responsible for tax, insurance, and making sure it has a valid MOT

Who can transfer ownership of a car?

This might sound a little counter-intuitive, but it’s the registered keeper of the vehicle, not the owner (if they’re not the same person) who has the legal right to transfer ownership. 

That’s because when “ownership” of a car is transferred, it simply means that a new keeper of the vehicle is registered with the DVLA. It’s the keeper of the car who is named on the V5C log book and who’s legally responsible for the car.

What do you do when transferring car ownership?

The first step in transferring car ownership is finding your vehicle’s V5C log book. This paper document is also known as the V5C, the V5, or the V5C registration certificate.

The V5C is a very important document as it shows who’s responsible for registering and taxing the vehicle. But it’s not proof of ownership. 

The V5C form changed substantially in April 2019, and all of the details below refer to the latest version of this form. 

Transferring car ownership if you’re the seller

If you’re transferring your vehicle to a new keeper (who’s not a trader) then you need to fill in section 2 of the V5C and send it by post to the DVLA. Alternatively, you can complete the same form online

Section 2 of the V5C contains a section where you can fill in the car’s current mileage. Completing this section is optional, but doing so can help protect against mileage fraud in the future.

Whether you submit section 2 of the V5C online or by post, you’ll still need to give the physical copy of section 6 of the V5C, the “new keeper slip”, to the new keeper with the date of sale or transfer. 

You’ll then be sent a letter with confirmation that you’re no longer the keeper of the vehicle and a cheque with a refund for any full months remaining on your vehicle tax (more on this in a moment). 

If you’ve lost the V5C

If you can’t find the vehicle’s V5C, or it’s been damaged, you can replace your log book by applying for a new one from the DVLA. You’ll need the car’s registration number, VIN/chassis number, and the name and postcode the V5C was registered with. 

The V5C currently costs £25 to replace. 

Transferring car ownership if you’re the buyer

If you’re the buyer of the vehicle, then it’s a good idea to give the seller your email address. They’ll provide this to the DVLA when they tell them that you’re the new keeper. The DVLA will then email you with confirmation of the transfer once it’s been processed. 

You should get a new V5C from the DVLA within a few weeks of them receiving your details from the former keeper of the vehicle. If not, you’ll need to complete a V62 form (and send it along with your “new keeper slip”, if you have it) to the DVLA. 

What if I’m giving my car to a family member or friend?

If you’re transferring ownership to a family member or friend (including if you live at the same address) then the process is very much the same as if you were selling the vehicle privately. 

The DVLA still needs to have all the details of the new owner, even if no money actually changes hands. 

Do I need to transfer ownership to a car dealer or scrap yard?

Yes—there’s a specific section of the V5C registration certificate for these purposes. 

You’ll need to complete section 4 of the V5C form if you’re selling, transferring, or part exchanging the vehicle to a motor trader. The V5C defines a motor trader as a motor dealer, auctioneer, vehicle dismantler, salvage dealer, finance and leasing company, insurance company, or car buying service.

There are instructions on the form about which section to send to the DVLA, and which parts you need to give to the motor trader. You can also inform the DVLA that you’ve sold your vehicle using its online service.

What happens to the road tax when I transfer ownership of a vehicle?

Once you’ve informed the DVLA that you’ve sold or transferred your vehicle, they’ll cancel the tax and any active direct debits. You’ll also get a refund (a cheque delivered to the address registered on the V5C) for any full months left on your vehicle’s tax. According to the website, the refund should come through in eight weeks. If it takes longer, contact the DVLA. 

It’s worth being aware that the DVLA won’t refund you for: 

  • The 5% surcharge payable on certain direct debits
  • Credit card fees
  • The 10% surcharge payable on a six-month single payment 

Can I transfer ownership of a car without a V5C? 

Yes. It’s possible to transfer car ownership without the V5C log book, but it’s not generally advised. 

There are several for this, including: 

  • A car that’s sold without the V5C log book may indicate that it has been stolen
  • The car may have been previously written off

Any potential buyer might be put off if the V5C isn’t available, and some dealers may refuse to purchase the car outright. It’s therefore worth replacing your vehicle’s V5C, which you can do online for a small fee if none of your details have changed.

A missing V5C can be less of an issue if you plan on scrapping your car—for example, if it’s SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification). But the DVLA still needs to be notified that you’ve sold your car for scrap. 

In summary: how to change ownership of a car

When it comes to transferring ownership of a car, it’s all about the V5C—or the vehicle’s log book. That’s the document the DVLA uses to register who’s responsible for registering and taxing the vehicle. 

Whether you plan on buying, selling, or giving away your vehicle, you need to inform the DVLA of the change in keeper using the V5C. And, while it’s possible to sell or buy a car without this document, it can make things more complicated down the line. 

Also read: