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

V5C close up

As with so many things, the Internet has made transferring ownership of a car considerably easier. Although you can still use the traditional method of filling in the ‘new keeper’ slip in your car’s logbook, or V5C, which is ideal for those without computer access, the online service is likely to be the most convenient option for most people.

Every vehicle on UK roads is issued a Vehicle Registration Certificate, which is also known as the 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

Now that the new keeper has driven away, they can use the green new keeper’s slip as proof of ownership if they are stopped by the police. However, just because the car has physically left you, you still have a responsibility to notify the transfer of ownership to the DVLA. If you fail to notify the DVLA you are liable for a penalty in the form of an Out of Court Settlement letter demanding that you pay £55, reduced to £35 if you pay within 17 days. If you ignore this letter, the case could be taken to a magistrate’s court, and the potential fine increases 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 www.gov.uk/sold-bought-vehicle on your smartphone or computer and click the big green ‘Start Now’ button.

The next steps are very simple and are mostly multiple-choice questions. Firstly, you must click ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to declare whether or not you are a motor trader. Then the following options will confirm whether you have sold or merely transferred the vehicle, and who you sold it to, whether an individual or a trader.

Questions to ask when buying a used car

After confirming who you and your buyer are, you’ll then need to confirm the car’s details. You will need to confirm that registration number and vehicle details are correct. After this, the full name, postcode and address of the new owner and the date of sale will need to be entered. Again, these steps are very clearly laid out and simple to follow. If you enter your email addresses, you and the new buyer will both receive a record of the changes.

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 1BA, 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, they are 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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