How to transfer ownership of a vehicle
A guide to legally updating your car's title
When you and your vehicle have come to the end of the road together, there’s a little more to it than just handing over the keys to its next owner. As a vehicle has to be legally registered in the UK, you need to notify the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency), to let them know that the owner is changing from you to someone else.
This isn’t just in the case of selling your vehicle; even if you are generously giving it to a friend or family member as a gift, it needs to be done officially.
So how does transferring ownership of a vehicle work?
Why is it important to transfer ownership of a vehicle?
Sometimes, the DVLA may need to contact the owner of a vehicle about a number of matters, ranging from routine reminders about Vehicle Excise Duty (commonly known as road tax), to speeding penalties if you’re caught going too fast. If the DVLA can’t get in touch with the right person, it complicates the process, which can end in a fine.
You must transfer ownership of a vehicle before you tax and insure it.
What’s the difference between the owner and the keeper of the vehicle?
The key to a successful transfer of ownership is the understanding of what it means to be the keeper or the owner of the vehicle (or both) — we know, it’s a little confusing!
To put it simply, the transfer of ownership largely refers to the person keeping and driving the vehicle, as ownership could be held by somebody different, for example, a company. The name of the keeper of the vehicle is the one on the official documentation, known as the V5C (more on that later).
The keeper is the person pursued in the event of an offence involving the vehicle, such as speeding. After all, if they are the keeper, they’re likely to have been the ones driving. The keeper is also responsible for taxing the vehicle, insuring it, and ensuring it’s got an up-to-date MOT, all of which are legally required.
What is a V5C?
Also referred to as the vehicle logbook, the V5C is a certificate of vehicle registration, showing essential information about the vehicle such as the registration number, registration date, its size, and even its colour.
It also has a section that refers to the registered keeper of the vehicle, which is what will need to change if ownership transfers to someone else - this includes the address at which the vehicle is kept. Even if this changes but ownership hasn’t, the DVLA needs to be notified, and a fresh V5C issued.
How you can transfer vehicle ownership
Transfer of vehicle ownership really depends on how you’re going about giving or selling the vehicle to another person. There are three main ways you can transfer vehicle ownership:
As with most official processes these days, you’re able to transfer ownership of your vehicle online. Head to this GOV.UK web page and follow the instructions based on the circumstances of your vehicle transfer. In order for online transfer to be successful, you’ll need the 11-digit reference from the V5C, and the new owner’s details.
Section 6 of the V5C will leave space in which new keeper details can be written in, before that slip is separated from the rest of the certificate and then sent to the DVLA. A new certificate will then be issued by post to the new keeper. Providing you include your email address and that of the new keeper, you should both get confirmation of the transfer.
At a dealership or scrap yard
Instead of filling in section 6, you’ll fill in section 9 if you’re selling your vehicle to a dealership, or scrapping it. This means that the V5C only shows the private keepers of a vehicle, not the dealerships it’s been sold through. You should send off section 9 to the DVLA, and give the rest of the V5C to the dealer or scrap yard.
What happens if you fail to transfer ownership of a vehicle?
Failure to correctly transfer the ownership of a vehicle can result in fines and inconvenience being brought to the door of the old keeper, as they are essentially responsible for the ownership transfer.
For example, parking tickets and speeding fines could end up being sent to the previous vehicle keeper, which could get pretty complicated — and there’s no guarantee that the fines will be dropped.
If you fail to update your V5C if your name or address changes, you could be landed with a fine of up to £1000.