How to tell the DVLA about a change of car ownership

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Buying or selling cars
The DVLA, V5Cs and registered keepers
How to change car ownership with the DVLA
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There’s no buzz like buying a new car! The hunt for the perfect model, the haggling for the perfect deal, and the angle for the perfect post-purchase photo… it’s all part of the fun.

What’s not so fun is the paperwork and admin. Being a grown-up can be incredibly boring sometimes - but that’s why we’re here!

What we on the Cuvva content desk love more than anything (at least, this is what we tell our boss… 👀) is breaking down the nitty-gritty of car insurance and making things clear and simple.

So, if you've ever wondered what the DLVA is, why you need to tell them about a change in car ownership, and how to do it, we've got you covered.

Changing car ownership

If you buy or sell a car, you must make sure the change in ownership is recorded.

Luckily, the DVLA has made it really easy with its online system. (You can still do it the old-school way, by post, but that’s not the quickest or best method anymore.)

Here’s how it all works.

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What is the DVLA, a V5C and a registered keeper?

Let's kick off with some definitions. 🤓 There are lots of words and phrases that come up when talking about changing ownership. Here are some of the main ones.

DVLA: The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency – or DVLA – holds a database of all the drivers and vehicles in the UK. When a car is bought, sold, or transferred to someone else, the DVLA needs to be told so they can update their records.

V5C: The V5C form, also called a logbook or registration certificate, is the official document that contains all the important information about your car. This is the document that lists the car’s registered keeper (not the owner - more on this below!).

Registered keeper: You can drive a car and even pay insurance on it without owning it if you are the car’s “registered keeper”. For example, if you have a company car (nice perk!), your company would be the official owner and you would be its registered keeper. The registered keeper is the person who pays tax on the car and is captured in the DVLA database. So, when we talk about “changing ownership”, we really mean “changing registered keeper”. For more details about registered keepers, check out our ultimate guide.

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How to change car ownership with the DVLA

The DVLA’s online service makes it easy to change ownership – and the results are immediate. As soon as you’ve submitted the form, you’ll get instant email confirmation of the change. Easy!

If you’ve sold your car and told the DVLA, you’ll get a refund for any remaining months of vehicle tax you’ve paid. This gets sent to the address on your V5C registration documents – so make sure your address is correct. If you pay your vehicle tax by Direct Debit, the online system will also automatically cancel future payments.

Buying or selling to a person or business

Once the sale is officially agreed, you need to tell the DVLA.

To complete the online form, you’ll need to have the 11-digit reference number from your V5C registration papers and the name and contact details of the new owner. You should also check to make sure the address on your V5C form is correct to avoid any complications (and get your tax refund money!). If you need to change your address, you can do it online.

If you’ve bought personalised number plates for your car, you’ll need to transfer these before you change the car’s keeper.

Step one: Log onto the DVLA. Step two: Hit ‘start now’ and fill out the step-by-step online form. Be sure to give the full name and address of the new keeper, not just their initials. Step three: Submit your form and check your email for confirmation. Step four: Give the new keeper the green ‘new keeper slip’ (V5C/2) from your VC5 logbook. The new keeper will need this to pay vehicle tax on their new car. Don’t give them the whole logbook – just this part.

The new keeper will be notified right away and get their new logbook within five days.

Buying or selling to a trader or garage

When you sell to a garage or car dealer, the process is slightly different. The DVLA has an online service aimed specifically at car traders. This means they can tell the DVLA you’ve sold them a car, and save you all the admin. All you need to do is give them V5C and ask them to do it.

If you prefer to do it yourself on the DVLA website, you can use the 11-digit reference number on the yellow slip in the V5C (V5C/3), using the same DVLA site above. If your car is scrapped or written off by insurers, you need to follow the same process.

Transferring a car

If you are transferring a car to someone else, you can change ownership to the new registered keeper in the same way.

But if the change in ownership is because of death, the steps are a bit different. First try the DVLA bereavement notification site. If the service doesn’t cover your area, send a letter to the DVLA to tell them about the change. Include the date of their death, personal details, and your relationship to them.

If someone in your family dies, and you plan to keep the car, complete Section 6 of the V5C and send it to the DVLA along with a letter explaining the situation. The address to send to is:

DVLA Sensitive Case Work Team Swansea SA99 1ZZ

The V5C is also called a car logbook
The V5C is also called a car logbook

Changing ownership by post

You can also let the DVLA know about a sale or transfer by post. Unless there’s a good reason to do this, it’s better to use the online service, though – the change is immediate and there’s no risk of delays or post getting lost or undelivered.

To use the postal service, fill out Section 6 of the V5C, making sure to put the date of sale. Then completed the declaration in Section 8 and sign it. The new keeper also needs to sign it. This is the part you send off to the DVLA:

DVLA Swansea SA99 1BN

It takes between seven days and four weeks for the new keeper to get their logbook.

What happens if you’ve lost your car’s V5C logbook?

Oh dear! Not to worry, though. You can still sell your car and change registered keeper if you’ve lost your V5C – it just adds a few more steps and will cost £25 to replace.

Download the V62 logbook application form and post it off to the DVLA address above.

If someone tries to sell you a car without a V5C, this could be a warning sign that the car is stolen.

What happens if you don’t tell the DVLA?

Failing to update the DVLA about a change in ownership is a criminal offence, which means you could end up with a criminal conviction.

As soon as the sale is agreed, it’s important to tell the DVLA because there’s also a chance that you could be made to pay any parking or traffic fines the new owner racks up while the car is still registered to you!

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Updated on 3rd April 2023