How to transfer ownership of a vehicle

Last updated June 21, 2021

If you decide to sell or scrap your car, there’s a lot more to the process than just handing over the keys. Under UK law, giving your car to another individual means that ownership of the car must also be legally transferred. Even in instances where no money is changing hands, such as if you’re giving the car to a family member, the transfer of ownership must be logged with the DVLA.

The process of transferring ownership of a vehicle can seem like it’s complicated when you first approach it and there are a few important things you need to be aware of. We’re here to guide you through the steps you need to take.

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Work out whether you are the keeper or the owner

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 taken for an MOT test 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, in instances where motoring law is broken, the authorities’ first point of contact will be the keeper of the car, regardless of who was driving at the time.

The owner is simply the person who owns the car, whether from buying it themselves or receiving it as a gift.

V5C transfer process

A V5C, also known as a registration document or logbook, is a document originally 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.

To find out how to add DOC to your policy, you should contact your provider or log in to your account to see if it is an option.

The current keeper’s details will already be present on the V5C, so a new section will be filled in to add the new keeper’s information. Additionally, there may also be a section for the current mileage of the car which can be filled in to help prevent any fraud in the future.

Who should complete the V5C?

It is the responsibility of the keeper to complete and send it back to the DVLA in order to transfer the ownership.

However, this is an extremely important part of the process for both parties. If you are the 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.

Can you change ownership of a vehicle online?

You can apply to transfer the ownership of a vehicle online, making the process much quicker and easier than when it needed to be done by post. To transfer ownership online, you need to complete a form on the DVLA website. You’ll need the details of the new owner and the 11-digit reference number from the car’s V5C.

Following the completion of the form, you should receive an email confirmation and so will the new owner (providing you have included their address). A new physical V5C document will be sent to the new owner within five working days.

Transferring ownership to a dealer or scrap yard

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 your car to an individual.

On the V5C you will see how many owners the car has had since it was new and each time the owner changes this number will increase by one, except when the vehicle is sold to a dealer or trader.

In this case, you shouldn’t fill in section 6 as you would when transferring ownership to an individual. Instead, you must fill in section 9, separate this from the rest of the V5C and send it manually to the DVLA’s headquarters in Swansea. The remaining parts of the V5C can then be given to the trader.

The same process is used if you’re selling the car for scrap or it is being transferred to a scrap yard.