Car Ownership Transfer Guide: How To Change Owner of a Car

Written by Danny Collins
Last updated: September 21, 2023

Buying a car privately can be quite a complicated process, and first-time buyers can easily miss the transfer of ownership step (or unscrupulous sellers might try to avoid it!).

The DVLA is responsible for keeping records of car ownership in the UK, and you must inform them whenever they need to change their records – regardless of whether a car is sold privately or through a dealership.

The seller is responsible for notifying the DVLA of a car ownership change, with very few exceptions. Selling a car to a broker or dealership is one of the few times you might not need to handle the process yourself, as they fill in a different series of forms to show they intend to sell the car again.

In this guide, we’re going to take you through the process of transferring car ownership step-by-step. We’ll also include some top tips for protecting yourself from common car ownership scams so that you can buy and sell with confidence!

Are you a registered keeper or car owner?

You might think the registered keeper and the car’s owner mean the same thing, but it’s not always the case!

  • The registered keeper is the individual who drives and is responsible for the vehicle. This is the person who will appear in the V5 logbook.
  • The owner is the person who has the legal right to sell it.

The registered keeper and owner of a vehicle are usually the same person. But they don’t have to be, and it’s important to understand the difference before buying a used car.

One of the most common reasons the registered keeper and owner of a vehicle will be different is when a person is driving a company car. In this situation, the vehicle owner will be the company, but the registered keeper (the person who has day to day responsibility for the car) will be the person driving it.

Another common reason for the owner and the registered keeper to differ is if the car has been bought through certain types of finance or hire purchases. In these cases, the person who drives the car will be the registered keeper, but the dealer or finance company will legally own it until it is fully paid.

You can check the registered keeper’s name against the V5 logbook kept with the vehicle, but finding out the owner can be more complicated.

The DVLA is responsible for registering the ownership of the vehicle. However, they will only give out personal details such as the name or address of the owner for a few reasons – none of which is that you’re thinking of buying the car!

Although you can’t find out details of the current owner, a car reg check will tell you the number of previous owners the vehicle has had and whether it has any outstanding finance. If any of this information conflicts with what the seller has told you, there’s a good chance they don’t own the car! Our page on finding car owners by registration plates might be useful.

How to change car ownership when selling a car?

Even though it doesn’t contain details of the owner, you will need the V5 logbook to transfer vehicle ownership and complete the change of keeper process. Both must be completed when buying/selling a vehicle.

To change car ownership, you’ll need to follow these steps:

Step One: The second page of the logbook, known as the V5C/2, is perforated and should be filled in by the seller before being torn off and given to the buyer.

Step Two: The seller informs the DVLA of the change in car ownership using the 11 digit code at the top of the V5C and the new owner’s name and address. This can be done online or by returning the V5 logbook through the post.

Step Three: The DVLA will record the change in ownership and send confirmation to the email and postal addresses of the seller. They will also refund any remaining road tax on the vehicle to the seller, as tax is non-transferable.

Step Four: A new copy of the V5C (with the V5C/2 section intact) is sent to the new owner, and the seller can destroy the old copy. The buyer will also need to ensure they’ve taxed the car before driving it.

Seller Checklist:

  • Fill in the V5C/2 form on the second page of the logbook and give it to the buyer.
  • Inform the DVLA of the change in ownership online or by post.
  • You can destroy the V5 when you receive confirmation of the transfer.

Buyer Checklist:

  • Ensure you have the V5C/2 document; this will act as proof of sale until you receive a new logbook.
  • Make sure your details are correct with the DVLA and wait for the new copy of the logbook.
  • Make sure your new car is taxed before driving.

Is it necessary to transfer a personalised number plate?

Personalised number plates won’t be transferred to a car’s new owner in most instances. It’s much more common for the seller to keep their plates for their next vehicle or sell them separately through a specialised broker.

If you’re buying a car with personalised plates, the seller will need to assign the plates to you when they transfer ownership. This can be done online or by returning some additional forms through the post with the V5 logbook.

If the previous owner keeps their personalised plates, they should have notified the DVLA before selling. The DVLA will then assign a new licence plate.

An unscrupulous seller might simply remove their personalised plates and reattach the old ones. However, if their personalised plates were registered correctly, this number will have already been reassigned to another vehicle. It’s essential to be aware of this, as it can cause problems down the road if you’re driving a car with an unregistered or incorrect licence plate.

If you have any suspicions about the plates, run the registration number through a reg check and make sure the details match the vehicle you’re looking at.

Related: Full Guide To Private Registration Plates


Because of the DVLA’s data protection rules, it’s not always clear who the vehicle’s registered owner is. But you can protect yourself from many common frauds by running a full background check on the car to make sure the things the seller is telling you match the official records. These results will highlight any inconsistencies in the seller’s story.

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Buying a Car Without a Log Book: Everything You Need To Know

The V5C Logbook: How To Check If It’s a Genuine Copy

Where Can I Find My Vin Or Chassis Number?