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Ownership transition: A guide to changing vehicle ownership in the UK

Change vehicle ownership

In the UK, around 15% of cars change ownership every year. Owning a vehicle is a journey filled with memories, road trips, and, sometimes, a change in direction. Whether you’re the registered keeper or the proud owner of a car, there might come a time when you need to transfer car ownership. This process involves a few essential steps, ensuring a smooth transition of responsibilities from seller to buyer.

In this guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of changing vehicle ownership, providing valuable insights for sellers and buyers.

Are you a registered keeper or a vehicle owner?

The registered keeper is responsible for the vehicle’s day-to-day use and upkeep, while the owner is the legal entity listed on the vehicle’s logbook (V5C). Legally, the keeper assumes responsibility for the car and is subject to potential pursuit if any motoring laws are violated. 

However, keeper status is held by the person named on the V5C, who is the one who paid for the car. When a vehicle is over 3 years old, the keeper must arrange for an MOT, obtain insurance, and pay taxes.

In the event of an offence, such as a traffic violation caught by a camera, the authorities will contact the keeper designated on the V5C registration document. It is immaterial whether the keeper was driving at the time of the incident; the designated keeper assumes responsibility for any ensuing fines or legal consequences. 

How do you find out if you are a car’s owner or keeper?

To determine if you are the owner or keeper of a car, check the vehicle’s (V5C) registration documents. The owner is typically listed on the certificate of title, and their name will appear in the ownership section. The keeper is responsible for the vehicle’s day-to-day use and care. While the owner and keeper are often the same, there can be exceptions, such as in lease agreements. 

Ensure the registration details match your information, and contact the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or relevant authority if there are discrepancies. They can provide specific data based on your jurisdiction’s regulations.

How do you change car ownership when selling a vehicle?

If you find yourself in the position of a seller, transferring car ownership involves a series of steps to ensure a seamless transition. 

First and foremost, gather all the necessary documents, including the V5C logbook, service history, and MOT certificates. These documents will play a crucial role in facilitating the ownership transfer process. 

Next, complete the “new keeper” section on the V5C, providing the buyer’s details and the date of sale. Be sure to tear off and hand over the “new keeper” slip to the buyer while retaining the rest of the logbook.

How do you transfer car ownership online?

Transferring ownership of your vehicle to a car dealer, car buying service, or scrapyard is a straightforward process through the DVLA website. Simply fill out the online form, including details of the new owner and the 11-digit reference number from your vehicle’s V5C logbook.

After submitting the form, you can expect to receive email confirmation, and the new owner will also be notified if you’ve provided their address. Within five working days, the new owner should receive the updated V5C logbook by mail. 

This ensures a smooth transition of ownership and complies with the necessary documentation requirements.

How to change car ownership if you’re a buyer

For prospective buyers, the journey begins with verifying the seller’s credentials and inspecting the necessary documents. 

Ensure the seller provides the V5C logbook, service history, and MOT certificates. Once satisfied with the vehicle’s condition and documentation, complete the “new keeper” section on the V5C. 

Remember to ask for the “new keeper” slip from the seller. With these steps accomplished, you’re on the road to becoming the proud owner of your new vehicle.

How do I inform the DVLA I’ve sold my car?

Informing the DVLA of the sale can be done online or by post. The online method is often quicker and more convenient, allowing you to update the information promptly. Visit the DVLA website to Tell DVLA you’ve sold, transferred, or bought a vehicle and follow the step-by-step instructions for updating the vehicle’s information. If you choose the postal route, send the necessary documents and fees promptly to avoid delays in the ownership transfer process.

Note: Online DVLA service is available from 7 am to 7 pm.

 Transferring car ownership by post

If you opt for the postal route to inform the DVLA of the change in ownership, start by obtaining the correct form, available at most post offices or downloaded from the DVLA website. Fill out the form with accurate information about the sale, including the buyer’s details. Enclose the completed form, the V5C logbook, and any relevant fees in the provided envelope. Be sure to send it to the address specified on the form. This method ensures a paper trail of the ownership transfer process.

Should I pay the fine if I forgot to tell DVLA to sell my car or the new keeper change?

If you forget to inform the DVLA about the sale of your car, There isn’t a direct fine for failing to notify the DVLA about selling your vehicle. Still, it leads to a penalty for an existing owner if the new owner is involved in any driving offenses.

According to the law, When transferring car ownership, it is a legal obligation to notify the DVLA of this change. If you forget to do so, it may result in penalties for late information. In the event of non-compliance, you may receive a Court Settlement letter from the DVLA, requiring a payment of £55 or £35 if settled within 17 days. Ignoring this letter could escalate the matter to a magistrate’s court. You could face a fine of up to £1000.


Transferring car ownership involves more than just passing along the keys. It requires careful documentation, communication with the DVLA, and a commitment to fulfilling legal obligations. Whether you’re a seller or a buyer, understanding the process and adhering to the necessary steps ensures a smooth transition of responsibilities.

Running an online car history check is advisable to know about its previous owner history.

By following the guidelines outlined in this comprehensive guide, you can navigate the road of car ownership transfer with confidence and ease, ensuring a positive experience for all parties involved. Remember, the key to a successful transfer is diligence, communication, and a genuine passion for the road ahead.