Tips and advice

How to transfer car ownership

Buying or selling a used car? The easiest way to legally transfer a car to its new owner is via the DVLA website

Before the Internet was invented, transferring ownership of your car was a bit of a faff. It typically involved leaning on the roof of the car in question and trying to scribble the new owner’s details legibly into the right coloured box on the logbook with a biro. Then you had to tear off the correct part to hand to the new owner/keeper and remember to post the remainder of the document to the DVLA. Some weeks later, a new logbook would plop onto the doormat of the new owner.

You can still do it that way, and we’ll explain the process below for anyone who doesn’t have access to a computer or likes to keep the Post Office busy. For everyone else, the obvious option is to use the DVLA’s online service for transferring ownership.

Every vehicle on UK roads is issued a Vehicle Registration Certificate, which is also known by its official document number, V5C, or more commonly as ‘the logbook’. The latest examples are red, blue, pink and yellow in colour, having taken over from the previous blue, green and cream style by late 2014. Your car will have been issued with its first registration certificate soon after its original owner took delivery.

Even when using the online service you’ll still need your logbook to transfer ownership because the DVLA website will require you to enter the 11-digit Document Reference Number into the system as part of the process.

You will also still need to tear off the green New Keeper Slip for the new owner, which is section 6 of the V5C on the bottom right hand side of the third page. Fill out the box marked Date of Sale/Transfer and make sure you hand only this slip to the buyer. Make a note of their full name, address, postcode and hopefully their email address before they drive off.

Fines for failing to notify DVLA of a transfer

That’s the new owner taken care of, but while they can use the New Keeper Slip to demonstrate ownership if stopped by the police, you as the previous owner still have a duty to record the sale or transfer of ownership with the DVLA. If you fail to do so, you are likely to be issued with a penalty in the form of an Out of Court Settlement letter demanding that you pay the DVLA £55 – reduced to £35 if you cough up in 17 days. Ignore such a letter at your peril, as the case is likely to be transferred to the magistrate’s court and they can hit you with a fine of up to £1,000.

How to use the DVLA online transfer system

Fortunately, recording a transfer of ownership with the DVLA couldn’t be simpler. With your logbook/V5C to hand (now minus its New Keeper Slip), look up on your smartphone or computer and click the big green ‘Start Now’ button.

The next steps are very simple. First you must confirm that you are not a motor trader using Yes or No buttons, then select the options to confirm you have sold or transferred your vehicle, and state whether the sale or transfer was to a private individual or a motor trader.

In a series of easy to follow steps, you’ll be asked to enter the car registration number and confirm the vehicle details are correct, and then to enter the full name, postcode and address of the new owner and the date of sale. There are simple options to enter your own email address – and that of the new owner if desired – so the system can confirm receipt of your changes and provide you with an immediate record.

The final page is a declaration that the details you have entered are correct, and then it’s simply a matter of hitting the ‘Confirm’ button.

That’s it, job done. You’ve successfully transferred ownership of your car and fulfilled your legal obligations to record the change with the DVLA. A new logbook/V5C will be issued automatically, and you are advised to tear up and dispose of the old V5C (yes, really – it may sound drastic, but that is the official advice).

Transferring car ownership by post

If you prefer to use the V5C document to notify the DVLA of a transfer of ownership by post, you must enter the new owner’s name and address into the boxes on section 2 of the document – the green panel on the bottom left hand side of page two.

You must then tear off the New Keeper Slip, fill out the Date of Sale/Transfer, and hand the slip to the new owner. The remainder of the V5C, including section 2 which you have just completed, must be posted to the DVLA, Swansea, SA99 IBA, as directed on the form.

Who is allowed to transfer car ownership?

The V5C is created by the DVLA as soon as it is first registered, and may be sent directly to the owner's home address. It's worth remembering, too, that the name on the registration certificate isn't necessarily the vehicle's owner but the vehicle's keeper. Essentially, the keeper of a vehicle is the person legally responsible for it, even if another party actually paid for it.

Only a vehicle's registered keeper can legally transfer a car and its logbook into another name. Although the keeper of a car isn't necessarily its owner, he or she is responsible for its legal use, including insurance, tax, registration and roadworthiness. As the keeper's name is the only one to appear on the registration document, it is they who could face legal proceedings in the event of a motoring law being broken.

Whether selling your car or giving it away, you should inform the DVLA of a change of keeper, and that should be done immediately at the point that the vehicle changes hands.

Whether you inform the DVLA online or by post using the V5C, you’ll find a space to enter the car's mileage: this is optional but enables future owners to verify the car's mileage. There's also a space for the driving licence number of the new keeper, but this is not required by law.

Selling or transferring your vehicle to a motor trader

If you are part exchanging your car or selling it to a motor trader, dismantler or scrapyard, you can do this simply by selecting the relevant options on the DVLA online system. If you prefer to do it by post, you will need to fill in section 4, separate it from the rest of the V5C and send it to the DVLA at the address above. The rest of the V5C must be given to the trader, dismantler or scrapyard.

Permanently exporting a vehicle

Section 5 of the V5C is concerned with permanently exporting a vehicle, so that it no longer appears on UK roads. It requires only that the date of export is entered and a declaration signed. This section must then be removed and sent to the DVLA at the address above – you cannot do this online.

The remainder of the V5C should be given to the exporter, who will need to use it in the country to which it is being exported.

For more information on buying and selling a car, read our guide to the V5C logbook, or our hints and tips for the best way to sell a car. 

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