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How to transfer car ownership: what to do when buying or selling

Ensuring a car safely changes hands can be a daunting task - here’s everything you need to know to transfer a vehicle’s ownership to another person

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Buying or selling a car involves a lot of effort at various stages and one task that can prove particularly daunting for the uninitiated or even those who haven’t done it for a while, is transferring the car’s ownership correctly.

In this handy guide, we’ve set out the necessary steps for ensuring your car changes hands smoothly and safely, whether you’re buying or selling.

How to transfer ownership when selling a car

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All cars registered in the UK have a V5C - often known as the vehicle log book or V5. This document shows who the registered keeper of a car is, although it should be noted that it is not proof of ownership.

Within the document is a section called the V5C/2, which is a new keeper supplement. If you’re selling a car, you will need to fill this in, tear it off and give it to the buyer.

Once you've sorted out the V5C/2, it's time to go online. Instead of filling out sections of the V5C logbook and sending it off to the DVLA, you can simply log on to the DVLA website to inform it of the new keeper.

The DVLA will send you email confirmation instantly, which will indicate that the changes have been made, while a follow-up letter will be sent in the post. It's worth noting that if you sell a car back into the motor trade that the procedure is exactly the same as if you were selling the car privately.

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Once you've sold the vehicle, you'll get a road tax rebate on any outstanding VED (Vehicle Excise Duty) - more commonly known as road tax - that you may have paid for that year. That's because, under the current VED system, road tax is no longer transferable with the vehicle.

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After you’ve completed all these steps, the DVLA says you should destroy what remains of the old V5C, as the new keeper will be sent a fresh document.

How to transfer ownership when buying a car

If you’re buying a car and the seller intends to update the information online, then make sure you give them your email address. The seller can then enter this online when making the declaration that you are the new keeper to the DVLA and you will also receive email confirmation that the information has been processed by the DVLA. Whether you provide an email address to the seller or not – it’s not compulsory - a new V5C certificate should arrive through your letterbox within five working days.

Remember too, that the car's road tax doesn't transfer when you buy a vehicle. You must pay road tax or declare SORN (statutory off-road notice) immediately when your new V5C arrives.

Owner vs registered keeper

Remember that the V5C is not proof of ownership it only shows who is the registered keeper. A car may be owned by a finance company, another business or any third party and the details on the V5C can be of the person who uses the vehicle.

Check out the strangest reasons for people requesting a V5C here...

Need a fast, accurate, free valuation on a car? Try our new valuation tool...

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