What is a V5C document and why is it important?

There’s a whole range of circumstances where you might need to know your way around a V5C document. The most common will be when you’re buying and selling a vehicle. But you might also need your V5C when your car has been impounded in order to prove you’re the owner and to get it released.
While it doesn’t do anything handy like granting you free on-street parking or giving you extra driving privileges, without it you’ll get into a load of difficulties. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide to answer all your V5C questions – and to show you why it’s so important to keep it safe.
At the Insurance Factory we can at least take the pain out of finding insurance. If your car has been impounded, we can arrange for specialist impounded car insurance to get you back on the road as quickly as possible. By searching our panel of carefully selected insurers, we can provide you with the right insurance to suit your individual circumstances.

What information does the V5C document include?

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) issues the paper V5C document to the registered keeper of a vehicle as a way to provide proof of ownership and other important details about the vehicle. You can also use it to tell the DVLA about any changes in ownership, changes to your name and address and whether the vehicle has been modified, written-off or scrapped.
While many other parts of life have moved online, the V5C (also known as the log book) looks set to remain as a physical document for years to come.


What is recorded on the V5C?

All V5C documents include the following information:
  • Date of first registration.
  • Current registered keeper.
  • Previous registered keeper.
  • Vehicle details including the model, vehicle tax class, engine size, VIN number, and colour.
  • Forms to fill out and send to the DVLA if the registered keeper or the vehicle itself undergoes a change.
  • Sections to complete if the car is scrapped, or if it’s permanently exported to another country.
A lack of a V5C will make it impossible to tax your vehicle and extremely difficult to sell. Any potential buyer would be very unwise to buy a car without such a key document as it could be a sign the car is stolen.

How to change your details on the V5C

It's essential to keep your details updated on your V5C as you could potentially be prosecuted and fined up to £1,000 for not telling the DVLA about any changes. As well as this potential fine you’re also leaving yourself open to further problems. For example, speeding fines or vehicle tax reminder letters could be sent to your old registered address. If you’re not aware of these then you could soon find yourself in hot water with the authorities.

Your address can be changed either by post using the forms on the V5C itself or online. The online service is free and much quicker than the traditional postal route. Any address change will be completed instantly and a new V5C will arrive within five days. Before you start the process you’ll need:
  • Your V5C along with the 11-digit logbook reference number.
  • The registration number of the vehicle.
  • A UK address and postcode.
  • To check if your vehicle needs taxing in the next four weeks.
If your vehicle needs taxing in the next four weeks, you’ll need to tax your vehicle online using your current V5C before changing your address. Once the change of address is completed, the DVLA will issue you with an email confirmation.

You can also apply by post to change your address. How you do this depends on which style of V5C you have (changes were made to the V5C in 2019). Regardless of which version you have, always fill it out in block capitals with a black ballpoint pen. Also, make sure you don’t tick the box for ‘New Keeper’, or fill in your name before sending it off.

If you need to change your name on the log book then this can only be done by post. To do this enter your new details in the appropriate section of the V5C, leave the ‘new keeper’ box unticked, and include proof that you’ve legally changed your name.

What to do if your V5C is lost, stolen, damaged or destroyed

In view of the pace of modern life it’s no wonder that sometimes things happen to such a comparatively delicate paper document. From moving house to destructive pets there’s a whole range of reasons why you might need a replacement V5C.

If you realise you’ve lost your V5C or it has been stolen or damaged, you can easily apply for a new one by post, by calling the DVLA on 0300 790 6802, or via their email service. As long as your name, address or vehicle details haven’t changed.

It will cost you £25 to get a replacement V5C. Using the phone or email service means a replacement usually takes up to five days to arrive in the post. It can take up to six weeks using the postal route.

What to do with the V5C when selling a car

If you’re looking to sell your car to a private individual, garage, trader or dealership, it’s important you have your V5C close at hand. As once you’ve agreed on a price, you’ll need to inform the DVLA that the ownership of the car has changed.

This is easy to do through the DVLA’s online service available every day from 7am to 7pm. To do this you’ll need the new owner’s email address to give to the DVLA. You’ll also need to give the new owner the green ‘new keeper’ slip from the V5C.

After you’ve completed the online process, you’ll receive an email and letter to confirm the change in ownership. You’ll also receive a refund for any road tax overpayment.

The same process applies if the vehicle changes ownership other than through a sale. For example, a parent giving their adult child a car after they’ve passed their driving test.

What to do if you’re buying a car

In view of the importance of the V5C document, it’s crucial to check if the owner has the V5C before agreeing to purchase the vehicle. Otherwise you’re opening yourself up to a heap of trouble.

If the owner plans to register the change of ownership online then give them your email address. Also make sure they give you the tear-off ‘new keeper’s details’ sheet to temporarily prove your ownership. When the change of ownership is registered with the DVLA you’ll receive an email confirming the fact and a new V5C will be posted to you.

Be aware, you’ll need to tax or make a Statutory Off-Road Notification (SORN) on the car immediately. To tax your new vehicle use the government website or call the DVLA’s fully automated 24/7 service on 0300 123 4321. In order to do this, you’ll need the 12-digit reference number from the green ‘new keeper’ slip. You can pay by debit or credit card, or Direct Debit. The process is very quick and should only take a few minutes.
Remember you must tax your vehicle even if you don’t have to pay anything, for example if your exempt vehicle is being used by a person with disabilities.


Things to look out for when buying a car privately

When buying a car privately it’s important to bear a few things in mind when it comes to the V5C. Follow our top tips on inspecting the V5C and watch out for any red warning flags.
  • Check for watermarks
    Hold the V5C up to the light to check whether the ‘DVL’ watermark is there. If it isn’t, then you might be holding a forgery. The watermark should be found in the top-left corner of the document but also in other places.
  • Check the printing quality
    Some unscrupulous people photocopy genuine V5C documents, amend them and then reprint them. If the print quality seems off then it could be a forgery.
  • Check the name of the registered keeper
    The V5C should display the same name under the ‘registered keeper’ section as the person who is selling you the vehicle unless you’re buying from a garage.
  • View the vehicle at the address on the V5C
    If you can’t do this, ask why. Remember, you’re doing everything you can to check the person selling you the vehicle is entitled to do so.
  • Always ask to see a valid V5C
    If they can’t show you this, ask them why. Don’t buy the vehicle until you’ve seen it. It’s very easy to apply for a replacement, so it’s suspicious if they haven’t done so.
  • Take care with blue V5Cs
    If the seller has a blue V5C with a serial number in the ranges BG8229501 to BG9999030 or BI2305501 to BI2800000, do not go ahead with the sale. Years ago, thousands of blue V5Cs were stolen and are now being used by criminals to create false identities for stolen cars.
  • Check the serial number
    The V5C serial number is in a white circle in the top right-hand corner of the V5C. Never buy the vehicle if you think the serial number has been altered or if part of the V5C is missing.
  • Check the VIN
    Never buy a car if the vehicle identification number (VIN) has been tampered with or is missing. The VIN can usually be found on a metal strip at the base of the windscreen, under the bonnet or beneath the carpet on the driver’s side. Always check that the VIN and engine number match those on the V5C.

V5C documents and buying from a police car auction

There are many ways a car can find itself at a police car auction, and often V5C documents aren’t included. If you decide to grab a bargain car from such an auction and it doesn’t have a V5C then don’t worry. Simply contact the DVLA and ask for a new one, just as you would if it had been lost, stolen or destroyed. There’s a small fee of £25.

If your car gets impounded, stop it from finding its way to a police car auction by contacting the Insurance Factory immediately. We can organise you the right impounded car insurance in no time.

What to do with your V5C if your car is scrapped or written off?

Sometimes accidents happen, and if your car is written-off and scrapped by your insurance company then you’ll need your V5C document. Use the DVLA’s online service, available from 7am to 7pm, to tell the DVLA if this happens.

You’ll need to enter:
  • Your insurance company’s name and postcode in the ‘provide trader details’ section.
  • Your vehicle registration number.
  • The 11-digit reference number from the yellow ‘sell, transfer or part-exchange your vehicle to the motor trade’ section of the V5C.
Don’t delay, you can be fined £1,000 for not reporting your car has been written-off or scrapped.

Impounded car insurance from the Insurance Factory

Hopefully you’ll never find your car impounded, but if you do, we can make getting you back on the road as stress-free as possible.

Our knowledgeable team is able to arrange temporary cover for 30 days, giving you plenty of time to get your documents together and get your car back from the pound. You’ll even get cover on the road up until the end of the policy. Having this policy is crucial, because without proof of specialist impounded car insurance you won’t get your vehicle back.

Take out a policy with the Insurance Factory, and you’ll receive documents to use as proof when you visit the pound.

Having your car impounded is never going to be an enjoyable experience, but we’re here to help lighten the load. With impounded car insurance from the Insurance Factory, you’ll soon be back behind the wheel.

Get a free, no-obligation quote for impounded car insurance today.

Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.