Last updated January 11, 2023
When it comes to selling your car (or scrapping the vehicle), simply handing the keys to the new owner is not sufficient to transfer ownership in the eyes of the law.
In order to legally transfer car ownership, you must notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) – even if you are gifting a car to a family member and no money has changed hands.
In this guide, we will explain the various processes to follow for transferring car ownership. We’ll also cover how a vehicle’s ‘registered keeper’ and ‘owner’ are defined by law – and how the two terms differ from one another.
A V5C, also known as a vehicle registration document or logbook, is a document issued by the DVLA when a car is first registered with them. Each time a car’s ownership changes, the current V5C must be completed appropriately and returned to the DVLA, who will proceed to issue a new one in the new keeper’s name.
The outgoing keeper’s details will already be present on the V5C. When transferring ownership, you should detach the ‘New Keeper’s Slip’ section and give this to the new keeper to complete with their details.
There is also an optional section to record the car’s current mileage, which can help to prevent future mileage fraud.
If you require DOC (car insurance to drive other cars), you should contact your car insurance provider (or log in to your account to see whether this option is available).
It is the responsibility of the vehicle’s registered keeper to complete the V5C and send it back to the DVLA to transfer ownership.
However, this is an extremely important part of the process for both parties. If you are the outgoing keeper, it’s crucial that the V5C is filled in with the new keeper’s details to ensure that you are no longer held responsible for a vehicle that you don’t legally own.
The registered owner and keeper may seem like the same thing (and they can apply to the same person). However, they can also be completely different people or companies, so you need to work out which one you are before proceeding.
The keeper of the car is the person named on the V5C registration document or logbook. This person is legally responsible for the car. Even if someone else paid for the car, the person who is named on the V5C is the legal keeper.
A keeper is also responsible for making sure the car is taxed, insured and MOT tested in accordance with the law. In other words, they need to make sure that the car is kept in roadworthy condition at all times.
Additionally, whenever the authorities suspect that a motoring law has been broken, the keeper of the car will be their first point of contact, regardless of who was driving at the time.
Even if you’re scrapping your car or selling it to a car dealership, it’s important to complete the transfer of ownership process as thoroughly as you would if you were selling to a private individual.
Your V5C will state how many owners your car has had since it was new. Each time the owner changes, this number will increase by one - except when the vehicle is sold to a dealer or trader.
When transferring to a dealer, you shouldn’t fill in section 6 as you would when transferring ownership to an individual. Instead, you must detach section 9 from the rest of the V5C, complete the form and send it by post to the DVLA’s headquarters in Swansea.
You should give the remaining parts of the V5C to the trader. The process is the same as highlighted above if you’re selling the car for scrap or it is being transferred to a scrap yard.
The easiest way to transfer ownership of a vehicle to a car dealer, car buying service or a scrapyard is by completing an online form on the DVLA website. You’ll need to provide details of the new owner and the 11-digit reference number from your vehicle’s V5C logbook.
Once you have completed the form, you should receive an email confirmation (and so will the new owner, so long as you have provided their address). The new owner should also receive a new V5C logbook by post within five working days.
To transfer car ownership by post:
If you wish to permanently export a vehicle, you must detach section 5 from your V5C logbook – and provide the date of export and a signed declaration before sending it to DVLA at the following address:
DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1BD
This cannot be done online.
You should give the remainder of the V5C logbook to the new owner, as they will need this to legally drive the vehicle in the country of export.
Ownership of a vehicle can only be transferred by its registered keeper. You should only transfer ownership if you intend to sell or give your car to another individual, car dealer or scrapyard.
You can transfer car ownership to a family member by completing a form on the DVLA website. Select ‘sold it’, for step 2, even if no money changed hands – and provide the 11-digit reference number in your V5C – and the new owner’s name and address when prompted.
A UK-registered car can technically only have one registered keeper.
However, while the DVLA intended the process to be limited to just one keeper, there is currently no validation in place for a vehicle’s registered keeper. Therefore, it is entirely possible for a single vehicle to be registered to multiple individuals if all the relevant names are listed. For example, a small business’ vehicle may be registered to all its directors in this manner.
If you sell (or give away) your car without a V5C document, you will still need to notify the DVLA by post. Read our guide to selling without a V5 for a more detailed explanation of this process.
However, if your V5 is missing, we would always recommend obtaining a replacement through the DVLA, as without this document, your car’s value will be reduced – and finding a buyer may also prove more difficult.
To find out how much your car may be worth with a replacement V5C, run its registration number through our free car valuation tool.
No, you cannot transfer unused road tax to the new owner. You should notify the DVLA immediately once you have sold your car, so that you can receive a refund for any full months’ unused road tax.
You can request details of the registered keeper of a vehicle (i.e. the person who is legally responsible for the car) from the DVLA by completing a V888 form. When filling out the form, you must state a ‘reasonable cause’ for requiring this information.
There is currently no limit to how many vehicles an individual can own in the UK.
If you fail to notify the DVLA when changing the owner of your car, you may receive a fine of £55 (reduced to £35 if paid within 17 days). If you fail to pay within this timeframe, the case may be processed by a magistrates’ court – and you could receive a penalty of up to £1,000.