Selling a deceased person’s car

June 13, 2022 by

If you’re looking to sell a car that was owned by someone who’s passed away, this guide is here to help take you through the process

Dealing with the passing of a loved one can be incredibly emotional and difficult, but amongst the sadness and memories there are fiddly administrative details to sort out. What to do with the car of the person who has passed away is one of the more common of these.

Some will want to keep the car within the family or transfer ownership to a friend, while others will want to sell it; you may also not be able to find the car’s V5C logbook.

This guide will outline what to do during these and other processes.

Important information to bear in mind

We must preface this article with a few important considerations:

  • If you need to drive the car in the immediate aftermath of your loved one’s passing and the vehicle was insured in their name, contact the insurance company to check if you will be covered – even if you were a named driver on the policy. Most insurance policies automatically terminate if the main policyholder dies, so if the car was insured in your loved one’s name you may not be insured to drive it. Even if you don’t want to drive the car, if the insurance is terminated the vehicle will not be covered against fire or theft.
  • Your relationship to the person who has passed away can impact how their car can be dealt with; a spouse would have a different legal status to a cousin, for example, so various elements of this guide may or may not apply to you. Speak to a solicitor for clarity on this area.
  • This guide presumes you are legally entitled to sell or transfer the car. If you are in any doubt about ownership of the car, who it will pass to, who has the right to sell it or any other detail, you should seek legal advice. This guide does not constitute legal advice, and the process of selling the car of a loved one who has passed away can vary depending on your circumstances.

We’ll outline the stages that can be involved in selling or transferring a loved one’s car here, then go into more detail on each individually.

  1. Notifying the DVLA of the person’s death
  2. Transferring ownership of the car using the V5C logbook
  3. Selling a deceased person’s car to a private individual
  4. Selling a deceased person’s car to a trader
  5. Selling a deceased person’s car: what to do if you don’t have a V5C logbook

1. Notifying the DVLA of the person’s death

This step applies to anyone dealing with the passing of a loved one who held a driving licence and/or owned a car.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) needs to know when someone has died so they can cancel their driving licence; they will also be removed as the registered owner of the vehicle, and the car’s road tax will be cancelled.

You can contact the DVLA directly to notify them, or use the government’s Tell Us Once service – this will perform similar processes with organisations including the Passport Office, HM Revenue and Customs, and your loved one’s local council.

The Tell Us Once service is available in most parts of the country but if you can’t or don’t want to use it, write a letter to the DVLA sharing the following information:

  • The name, address and date of birth of your loved one
  • The date they died
  • Your relationship to them

If you have it, you should include the deceased person’s driving licence with your letter, but do not include the death certificate.

Send the above to:

DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1AB.

Note that when you take this step, the car will become untaxed. It must be retaxed if you or someone else wants to drive it, or you can make a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) if you want to keep it but not drive it on the road; you should take either of these two steps as soon as possible – don’t wait to hear back from the DVLA.

2. Transferring ownership of the car using the V5C logbook

The V5C, or logbook, changed format in April 2019, so make sure you know which kind you have before filling out any sections

A common misconception about the DVLA form known as V5C, or logbook, is that it shows who owns a car – it does not, instead only indicating to whom a vehicle is registered.

As a car cannot be registered to someone who is deceased, so you need to tell the DVLA if you want to keep it or transfer it to a friend or family member.

To transfer ownership of the car, fill in section 2 of the V5C (section 6 if you have the old-style V5C, which were issued up to 15 April 2019).

Tear the green new keeper slip off, and retain this yourself.

Write a letter to the DVLA setting out:

  • Your relationship to the person who has passed away
  • The date they died
  • Who should be paid any road tax refund, as this cannot be transferred with a vehicle

Send this letter, together with the V5C (excluding the new keeper section you’ve torn off), to: DVLA Sensitive Casework Team, Swansea, SA99 1ZZ.

The green new keeper section will allow you to tax the car, which you should do before you receive the new V5C; this will arrive in the post.

3. Selling a deceased person’s car to a private individual

It is possible to transfer the car’s registration to yourself and then sell it, but this may not be desirable as a) the car may be worth less if it has an additional keeper and b) it can take time for a new V5C to be issued, delaying the process.

If you wish to sell the car without first transferring it to yourself, the process is different depending on whether you are selling privately or to a car dealer.

If you are selling the car privately, you need to write to DVLA’s sensitive casework team explaining that you are selling the car, while also detailing your relationship to the person who has passed away, the date they died, and to whom any road tax refund should be paid.

Along with this, you need to complete section 2 of the V5C – ‘selling or transferring my car to a new keeper’ (this is section 6 for the old-style V5C).

You then fill out and give the green new keeper section to the car’s buyer, and send the rest of the V5C to the DVLA’s sensitive casework team, alongside your letter.

4. Selling a deceased person’s car to a trader

From the point of view of the DVLA, selling the car of a loved one to a trader or car buying service is relatively straightforward.

You need to write a letter with the same information detailed above, and get the trader to fill out the section of the V5C headed: ‘sell, transfer or part-exchange your vehicle to the motor trade’. You should tear this section out and send it with your letter to the DVLA’s sensitive casework team, while the trader keeps the remainder of the V5C.

While selling a car is straightforward from the DVLA’s perspective, a trader or car buying service may want to see evidence that you are entitled to sell the vehicle before they buy it, while the nature of the estate may affect what documentation they want to see.

Things that can affect what a trader or car buying company wants to see before buying a car that belonged to someone who died include whether the estate is worth less than £10,000, and whether a solicitor is managing the estate, or the family is doing this itself.

It is possible to sell a car before probate has been granted, but you may not be able to sell the car to a trader without a death certificate.

Some typical things a trader may want to see before buying a deceased person’s car include:

  • The deceased person’s death certificate
  • A letter or email from the solicitor of the estate granting authority for the car to be sold, and stipulating to whom payment should be made
  • Photo ID of the next of kin or the executor of the estate

5. What to do if you don’t have a V5C logbook

The above presumes you know where the car’s V5C logbook is, and this isn’t always the case after someone has passed away.

What to do in this situation depends on if you’re transferring the car or selling it.

If you’re transferring the car

If you’re transferring the car and can’t find the V5C, you need to fill out DVLA form V62 in order to obtain a replacement. There is a £25 fee for this, and you can pick up a V62 from a Post Office, or download one.

You should complete the V62 with your details, and send it together with a letter containing the same information as detailed above, to the DVLA’s sensitive casework team.

If you’re selling the car

If you don’t have a V5C and want to sell the car, the process is similar, but the letter you write to DVLA’s sensitive casework team should include the V62, as well as the following information:

  • The date you sold the car
  • Your relationship to the person who has passed away
  • The date they died
  • Who should get any road tax refund
  • The buyer’s name and address