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How to transfer car ownership

When you buy or sell a car, you have to notify the DVLA of the transfer of ownership. Our guide explains how you go about it.

Graham King Cazoo

By Graham King

Updated: 5 May 2023

When you’re buying or selling a car you’ll need to tell the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) about the change of ownership – or a change of keeper, as they call it. All the important details about a car, from the name of its current keeper to the dates of registration or the make and model, are contained in the car’s registration document, officially known as the V5C.

Official paperwork can feel a bit daunting, but the process is actually straightforward. Here we’ll explain everything you need to know about how to transfer ownership of a car you’re buying or selling.

How to transfer car ownership: the basics

Hopefully you’ve found your paper V5C registration document and are now ready to look at the sections dealing with the transferral of the car’s keeper. They are:

  • Section 2: “selling or transferring my vehicle to a new keeper (not a trader)”

  • Section 4: “selling, transferring or part exchanging this vehicle to a motor trader”

  • Section 6: “new keeper slip – must be given to the new keeper”

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What’s the difference between keeper and owner?

The first thing to note is that you won’t see the word ‘owner’ on a V5C. 

Although a car’s owner and keeper are often one and the same, there are circumstances in which they’re not. If you drive a company car, for example, your company owns the car, but you are its keeper. And if you lease it or pay for it by  subscription, then the company may be listed as the car’s registered keeper.

In practice, the keeper “is responsible for registering and taxing the vehicle,” as stated on the V5C. The owner is the person or company paying for it.

 How to fill in the V5C form

When you become the keeper of a car that you’ve bought from a private individual, either you or the seller needs to fill in Section 2 of the V5C with your details and post it to DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1BA.

If you’ve sold your car to a dealer then the process is similar – although you’ll need to fill out Section 4 of the V5C and return it to the DVLA (see below). That said, it’s increasingly common for people to complete the forms online instead – more on that later.

Section 2 of the V5C is a small but important portion of the document that notifies the DVLA that the car has a new keeper and their records need to be updated. The DVLA will then send the new keeper a fresh V5C – a process that can take up to three weeks. If you’re the new keeper and it hasn’t arrived in that time then drop the DVLA a line.

If you’re selling your car, you’ll need to complete the Section 2 of the V5C yourself, or have the online forms completed in your presence. That way you can be sure that it was done and that your responsibility for the car has ended. The buyer may tell you that they’ll sort it out later, but as a keeper or driver you can be liable for any fines or penalty notices until you’ve officially informed DVLA of the change of keeper’s name. Get them to complete it while you’re with them.

What happens after I send off the updated V5C?

When the DVLA has processed the Section 2 notification, you’ll receive a letter confirming that the records have been updated and that you’re no longer listed as the car’s keeper.

An important tip: make sure the car’s new keeper fills out and keeps Section 6 of the V5C. This small section of the V5C proves that they have rightful possession of the car until they receive the new car registration document.

Can I transfer the keeper to a dealer or a scrapyard?

We mentioned Section 4 of the V5C earlier. This is the section that must be filled out when you sell your car to a dealer, a scrap yard or a buying service like Cazoo. Similar to Section 2, it serves as a notification that the car’s keeper has changed. It must be filled out with the buyer’s details and posted to the DVLA or submitted online.

You don’t need to retain any part of the V5C. When the DVLA has processed the details you’ll be sent a notification confirming that the official records have been updated and that you’re no longer listed as the car’s keeper.

Can I change ownership of a car online?

Increasingly, people are deciding to notify the DVLA of a change of keeper online rather than filling in paper forms. It’s a really simple process.

Once you click on the link above, press the start button. There are a few questions to answer about who you are and what sort of transfer is happening. You’ll then be asked for the car’s registration number (the number plate) and the new keeper’s name and address.

The whole process takes about five minutes. When completed, the DVLA updates its records with the new keeper’s details and sends them a fresh V5C. The DVLA will also send emails to both the buyer and the seller confirming that it’s all gone through.

Whether you’re buying or selling a car, this transfer must be done before you or the buyer takes the car away. That way, everyone knows that the DVLA has been notified of the change of keeper. Also, make sure the new keeper has Section 6 of the paper V5C.

What happens if my details aren’t changed on a V5C?

If you’ve sold your car, there isn’t a way of finding out if you’re still listed as the registered keeper because the DVLA doesn’t make this information publicly available. You may only find out that you’re still listed as the registered keeper on one of your old cars if you get speeding tickets or parking fines for it.

If this happens, you can dispute the keeper. Write to the DVLA to explain the situation, including proof that a change of keeper has occurred. You can find more information about doing that on the DVLA website.

It’s helpful in case of situations like this to get a receipt for your car when you sell it. A dealer or a scrapyard should issue one. If you sell your car to a private individual, create your own receipt showing the buyer’s name and address plus the car’s details including the registration number as well as the amount paid and date of sale. If the buyer pays you by bank transfer, ask the buyer to use the registration number as the payment reference. Keep a copy of the receipt for your records.

Can I transfer my car to a new keeper without a log book?

The short answer is yes – but the sale process is much quicker if you have your V5C. If you don’t have a V5C, you could potentially scare off buyers as it could indicate that the car has been stolen. Some buyers may even use it as an excuse to haggle with you to get a lower price for your car. A replacement V5C currently costs £25, so getting one before you sell the car can be a good investment.

If you decide to go through with the sale without a V5C, be upfront about it when advertising your car for sale.

If you sell your car without the V5C, you’ll need to let the DVLA know in writing. You can do this online, giving them the following information: your name and address; the vehicle registration number; its make and model; the exact date of sale; and the name and address of the new keeper.

How do you transfer car ownership after someone dies?

It’s a sensitive subject, but when the keeper of a car dies, a family member or friend will need to work out what to do with the car.

Whether you decide to keep or sell, you’ll have to transfer the name of the keeper to someone else. You’ll need to complete Section 2 of the V5C with the new keeper’s details, write a letter explaining your relationship to the deceased including the date they died and then send both to the DVLA Sensitive Casework Team. You can also return the person’s driving licence at the same time. You can find more information here

One important detail to add here – if the deceased bought their car with finance or had a subscription contract for the car, you should contact the finance company or subscription service first. That’s because they technically own the car and will have a process for dealing with these situations.

Can you transfer car tax between cars?

In a word, no. You can’t transfer Vehicle Excise Duty (car tax) between owners of a car, even if they’re a family member. This means that to legally drive off with the car that you’ve bought, you’ll need to pay tax on it. 

If you’ve bought the car from a dealer, they can usually sort this for you. If you've bought it privately, you’ll need to fill in the new keeper section of the V5C online in order to pay for the tax on the car immediately. You can do this either at gov.uk, by phone (lines are open 24 hours a day) or at a Post Office that deals with vehicle tax.

An easier way to find or sell a car

You’ll find lots of used cars for sale at Cazoo, all available to buy through our trusted dealers.

Cazoo makes selling a car just as easy – just enter a few details for an instant online valuation. If you accept the offer our partners will get in touch to arrange payment and collection of your car at a time that suits you.

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