How to transfer car ownership

When you sell your car or simply just transfer ownership to another person, there’s quite a bit more to the process than simply agreeing on the terms with the new owner and handing over the keys.

Unlike other possessions you may have (including ones that may be even more valuable than your car) if you give your car to another individual, the ownership of that car has to be legally registered by UK law. This official process of transferring car ownership is what this guide concentrates on.

Even if no money is changing hands (e.g. you are giving a car to a family member), the transfer of ownership still has to be logged with the DVLA and there’s several important things you need to be aware of when you complete this handover…

a pen and car documents
The DVLA handles the transfer of vehicle ownership

So, how do you transfer car ownership?

  1. Step 1: find out if you are you the owner or the keeper
  2. Step 2: who needs to complete the V5C?
  3. How to transfer car ownership online
  4. Transferring car ownership to a dealer or scrap yard

Find out if you are the owner or the keeper

First, we need to understand the difference between the owner and the keeper of the car. This can be a little confusing. The owner and keeper can be the same person, but they can also be different people or companies.

When we talk about transferring ownership of a car, we are talking about what is legally required in order to be registered as the keeper. The keeper of the car is the person named on the V5C (registration document or logbook).

The keeper is legally responsible for the vehicle, and the person who could potentially be pursued if a motoring law is broken.

Someone else could have paid for the car, but the person who is named on the V5C is the legal keeper. The keeper is responsible for things like insuring and taxing the car, keeping it in roadworthy condition, and obtaining an MOT if it’s more than three years old.

If the car is involved in an offence such as being caught by a camera driving in a bus lane, the authorities will contact the keeper who is named on the V5C registration document.

The keeper may or may not have been driving at the time, but the keeper will be the one held responsible for any fine.

A V5C, logbook or registration document

What do I need to do on the car’s V5C?

Most people outside the motor industry are likely to refer to the car’s registration document or logbook, but the correct name of the legal document that names the keeper is actually the V5C.

Until 2014, the V5C was a blue, cream and green document, but the current V5C is now red, blue and pink in colour.

The document is originally issued by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) when the car is first registered. Every time the car’s ownership changes, the car’s current V5C has to be completed and sent back to the DVLA. A new one is then issued in the new owner’s name.

The current owner’s details are already on the V5C, so you have to complete the section for the new owner’s details. It’s also a good idea to fill in the section for the current mileage to help prevent fraud in the future.

Car buyers
Transferring ownership is more than just handing the keys over

Who needs to complete the V5C?

The person who is currently named on the V5C is the one who is responsible for completing it and sending it to the DVLA to transfer ownership.

Although it is important for both parties, if you are the owner, it’s imperative you fill in the V5C with the new owner’s details and send it off. This will ensure you’re no longer held responsible for a vehicle you do not legally own.

How to transfer car ownership online

The days of endless paperwork is over. You can now apply to transfer the ownership of a vehicle online, which makes the whole process faster and easier. than ever before.

To transfer ownership online you’ll need to complete a form on the DVLA website. To do this you need the details of the new owner, you’ll need the 11-digit reference number from the car’s V5C.

Once the online form is completed and submitted you’ll receive an email confirmation. As long as you’ve included the new owner’s email address too, they will also get an email confirming the transfer.

A new physical V5C will be sent to the new owner within five working days.

How to transfer the ownership of a car to a dealer or scrap yard

On the V5C you’ll see how many owners a vehicle has had since new, and each time it is transferred to a new owner, that number will increase by one – except when sold to a dealer or trader.

In that case, you don’t fill in section 6 as you would do when selling privately. Instead you fill in section 9, separate it from the rest of the V5C document, and send it to the DVLA.

The remaining parts of the V5C should then be given to the trader. The same process is used if the car is being sold for scrap or transferred to a scrapyard.

The importance of completing the correct process for transferring a vehicle to a new owner shouldn’t be underestimated, but it’s not as daunting as you might think.

We hope we’ve covered everything off as clearly as possible in this guide.

Still unsure about car ownership?

Take a look at these related guides to car ownership below: