What is a V5C vehicle log book? Rules for car buyers and sellers

Understanding the V5C log book and the rules around it, whether you're buying or selling a car

New V5C document

Cars on the road in the UK have a Vehicle Registration Certificate. This is called the V5C and it shows that you're the registered keeper of the car and your address for any correspondence relating to the car (it doesn't need to be where the car is kept). The V5C - which can also be known as the log book or by its old name, V5 - is a vital piece of paperwork that is often forgotten about in the back of a drawer until it comes time to sell your car on. Here we explain what you must do with our V5C when you sell your car.

The V5C contains all of the important information about your car that is held by the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) on its database, and it proves that you are the registered keeper, although not necessarily the owner. This information includes the make, model, colour and chassis number of your car, the engine size, the type of vehicle it is (all vehicles have the same style of V5C, whether it's a moped or a 44-tonne truck), and a number of other fields of information that will or will not be filled out according to the type of vehicle the V5C relates to. Also included is information on past keepers of the vehicle.

While VED (Vehicle Excise Duty) - more commonly known as road tax - and the driving licence have both switched to a digital system, the V5C vehicle licence largely remains a paper-based system. If you need to make amendments to the car's details, then the V5C features a number of sections that you need to fill out and send back to the DVLA's head office in Swansea. However, if you sell the car on, you can now let the DVLA know there's a new registered keeper online.

It's important to keep this information up to date, so if any changes occur, whether you scrap it, move house, repaint the car or replace the engine, then you need to fill out the relevant section of the V5C and post it back to the DVLA. There's no excuse for not knowing where to send it, either, because the DVLA's address is on the V5C, and if you fail to keep the information up to date, you could face a fine of up to £1,000 if it comes to light that the information on it is incorrect.

If you sell your car, then you can inform the DVLA online, so there's no need to post the V5C back to the DVLA. The online system is straightforward to use, so its simple to amend the information, and means the information is up-to-date as soon as possible. All you need is access to a computer or mobile device that’s connected to the internet.

Scroll down for more details of how to notify the DVLA of a change of ownership, without sending off the DVLA V5.

What you need to do with the V5C when selling a car

When you sell a car, either online, through a dealer or at an auction, it's useful to have a service history and other documentation about the car's life. But the most vital piece of paperwork is the V5C logbook. It will have the information about the car that your potential buyer will want to know. Once they have bought your car, you will need to fill out the V5C/2 new keeper supplement of the V5C. This section then tears off as a slip that you give to the buyer.

Owner vs registered keeper

It's important to remember that the V5C is not proof of a car's ownership, it says so in large letters on the document so it's hard to forget. The V5C shows the car's registered keeper, the person who will be responsible for any motoring offences related to the vehicle, and the vehicle's keeper is not always the owner. When you buy or sell a car you must complete the V5C paperwork so it's part of the ownership transfer process but don't take it as proof that the registered keeper owns the car. 

A car could be owned by a finance company, a fleet operator or by another third party and the V5C would name the person who uses the car as the registered keeper. It is not advisable to buy a car that doesn't have a V5C document but the presence of the V5C is no guarantee that the seller is actually the owner. 

Your V5C questions answered

What happens if you don’t have internet access?

If computers aren’t your thing, the DVLA still accepts changes to the V5C document by post, although this will take longer to process and transact than with the electronic system.  

What happens to the old V5C?

Once you’ve exchanged the V5C/2, informed the DVLA electronically of the registered keeper changes, and received confirmation of the change, the DVLA advises you to destroy the old V5C document. We'd recommend shredding the old V5C just to be sure it won't get into somebody else's hands. 

What if you've lost your V5C log book?

If your car's V5C logbook document has been lost, damaged or destroyed, there's a straightforward process for getting a new one. Applying online is the quickest route to getting hold of a replacement and should take around 5 days. Alternatively, you can fill out a V62 form and send it to the DVLA, although this process can take up to six weeks. Don't forget - there's also a fee of £25 to pay.

When should I update my V5C?

It is common knowledge that you need to update your V5C when buying or selling a car. However, it is also important to update your vehicles V5C whenever you change your address or your name. If you fail to inform the DVLA that you have moved house or are now married then you could be liable for a fine of £1,000. 

Can I change the address on my V5C online?

The DVLA does allow drivers to change the recorded address for their V5C online. It takes less than two minutes for motorists to inform the DVLA of a change of address using the online system, and a new log book will be sent out within five working days - down from the six weeks drivers previously had to wait.

All a driver needs to use the online system is their vehicle registration number, log book document reference number and their postcode.

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