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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.

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By Cazoo editorial team

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) holds all sorts of information about every vehicle registered in the United Kingdom. That information includes the vehicle’s make and model, its registration number (number plate), what type of vehicle it is, the date it was first registered and the name of the vehicle’s ‘keeper’. You can find all that information on your car’s V5C registration document.

When you buy or sell a car, you have to notify the DVLA of the change of ownership, or to use the DVLA’s terminology, the ‘keepership’. Here, we’re going to explain everything you need to know about the process and what you need to do when you buy or sell your car.

What’s the difference between a car’s owner and its keeper?

You won’t actually see the word ‘owner’ anywhere on a vehicle’s V5C registration document. Who the vehicle’s owner is, and who its keeper is, are two separate questions. Indeed, on the front page of the V5C, you’ll see the words: “This document is not proof of ownership.” 

So, what’s the difference between an owner and a keeper? A vehicle’s owner is the person or company who paid for it, while the keeper “is responsible for registering and taxing the vehicle,” as described on the V5C.

In most cases, a vehicle’s owner and keeper are one and the same. But there are circumstances in which they’re not. For instance, if you drive a company car, your company owns the car, but you’re its keeper. And if you lease or subscribe to your car, the lease or subscription company may be listed as the car’s registered keeper.

Now that we’ve established what is meant by a vehicle’s keeper, let’s look at how you notify the DVLA of a change of keepership when you buy or sell a car.

How to transfer car ownership – or keepership

Three sections of the paper V5C registration document deal with transferring car ownership or keepership:

  • 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”.

When you buy or assume keepership of a car, from a car dealer or from a private individual, either you or they must fill out Section 2 of the V5C with your details and post it to this address: DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1BA. Likewise, If you sell your car to a private individual, fill out Section 2 of the V5C and return it to the DVLA. Alternatively, you can complete the same form online – we’ll cover how to do that later.

Section 2 is a notification to the DVLA that the keepership of a vehicle has changed. When the DVLA receives it, the records for the car are updated and a fresh V5C is sent to the new keeper. The process takes up to three weeks, so if you still haven’t received a new V5C after three weeks, contact the DVLA to find out if it has received your Section 2 notification.

If you’re selling your car, post Section 2 of the V5C yourself, or ensure that the online form is completed in your presence. That way, you know for sure it was done and your responsibility for the car has ended. If the buyer tells you they’ll sort it out later, there’s a chance they won’t, in which case you’ll remain the car’s registered keeper and be liable for any fines or penalty notices that the buyer picks up.

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

Here’s an important tip: make sure the car’s new keeper fills out and keeps Section 6 of the V5C. This proves they have rightful possession of the car until they receive the new V5C.

How to transfer keepership 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 scrapyard or a buying service. Like Section 2, it serves as a notification that the keepership of the car has changed. It must be filled out with the buyer’s details and posted to the DVLA; the same form can also be filled out online.

You don’t need to retain any part of the V5C. When the DVLA has processed the change of keepership, 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.

How to transfer your car’s keepership online

To save you the hassle of filling out and posting the relevant section of the V5C, you can go online to notify the DVLA of a change of keepership.

On the site, just press the start button and follow the process. There are a few questions to answer about who you are and what sort of transfer of keepership 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.

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

If you’re the registered keeper of your car, you should have an up-to-date paper V5C for it, with your name and address in the top left corner of the front page.

There isn’t a way of finding out if you’re still listed as the registered keeper on any cars you have sold or scrapped. The DVLA doesn’t make that information publicly available and data protection laws mean it isn’t allowed to reveal the identity of a car’s registered keeper. 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 that happens to you, you can dispute keepership of a car you’ve sold or scrapped. You can write to the DVLA to explain the situation, including proof that a change of keepership occurred. You can find more information about doing that on the DVLA website.

It’s always wise to have a receipt for the sale of your car in case you find yourself in this situation. A dealer or a scrapyard should issue one. If you sell your car to a private individual, write a receipt showing the buyer’s name and address; the car’s details including the registration number; the amount paid and the date of sale. If the buyer pays by bank transfer, ask the buyer to use the registration number as the payment reference. Keep a copy of the receipt for your records.

How to transfer car ownership after death

It’s a sensitive subject, but when someone dies, one of the many jobs to do is sorting out what to do with their car.

Whether you decide to keep or sell the car, you have to transfer its keepership. Complete Section 2 of the V5C with the new keeper’s details, write a letter explaining your relationship to the deceased and when they died and send both to the DVLA Sensitive Casework Team. You can return the person’s driving licence at the same time. You can find more information here.

Once the new keeper has received a V5C for the car, they can do as they wish with it. Note, however, that if the deceased bought their car with finance or got it from a subscription service, you should contact the finance company or subscription service first. That’s because they technically own the car and will have a set process for dealing with such situations.

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