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

Your guide to understanding the V5C log book and the rules around it, whether you're buying or selling a car

New V5C document

All cars and other vehicles that are legally entitled to drive on the road in the UK have a Vehicle Registration Certificate, called a V5C. This is also commonly referred to as the ‘log book’ or by its old name ‘V5’.

The V5C is a vital piece of paperwork because it contains an array of information regarding who the registered keeper of a vehicle is, their address and various vehicle information. The V5C is often filed away until the time comes to sell your car, and below we explain what you must do with this important document when that time comes.

What’s on the V5C?

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. Included is the make, model, colour, fuel type, chassis number and engine size of your car, as well as the type of vehicle it is. All vehicles have the same style of V5C, whether it’s a moped or 44-tonne truck. A number of other fields will or will not be filled out according to the type of vehicle the V5C relates to. The document also includes information on the number of past keepers.

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 or wrap 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, you can either fill out the relevant section on the V5C and post it to the DVLA, or you can inform them online. The online system is straightforward to use, so amending and updating the information is quick and simple. 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. 

The V5C will have all the information about the car that your potential buyer will want to know. Once you’ve been through the negotiating process and the deal is done, it’s time to inform the DVLA that the owner of the vehicle has changed. Thankfully this is a simple process and can be done online between 7am and 7pm daily. 

Once the buyer has bought your car, you will need to fill out the V5C/2 new keeper supplement of the V5C. You then tear it off and give it to the new keeper. You can also complete this process online. You will receive an email confirming the change of keeper, followed by a letter in the post. This will then prompt the government to return any vehicle tax (VED) overpayment, as tax can no longer be transferred between owners. If you are unable to complete the V5C online, you can still fill out the V5C by hand and post it to the DVLA.

Owner vs registered keeper

It’s important to remember that the V5C is not proof of a car’s ownership but it just states who the registered keeper is and who will be responsible for any motoring offences related to the vehicle. 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?

Many other government departments operate online these days but 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 compared to 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?

Losing, damaging or destroying your V5C isn’t ideal but these things can happen. Thankfully, there’s a straightforward process in place 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’s common knowledge that you need to update your V5C when buying or selling a car. However, it is also important to update your vehicle's V5C whenever you change your address or your name. Failing 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?

Yes, 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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Content editor

Ryan is responsible for looking after the day-to-day running of the Auto Express website and social media channels. Prior to joining Auto Express in 2023, he worked at a global OEM automotive manufacturer, as well as a specialist automotive PR and marketing agency.

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