How does car registration work?

One of the topics we get asked about quite a lot at OSV is car registration. How does it work? Who is responsible for it? How do I know if my car is registered?

And all of these questions are completely valid. Out of all the things related to cars, leasing and buying, car registration is a topic that tends to be forgotten or ignored. Until now, of course.

In this article, we’re going to talk you through everything to do with car registration. From how it’s done, what happens if you can’t find it registered, to how to put a private plate on a car.

What does car registration mean?

Firstly, what does it even mean when we talk about car registration?

Every single car from the UK driving on the roads today is in one big database, the DVLA. The DVLA is the Driver Vehicle Licensing Authority and contains all the information on all cars in the UK both on road and off road. It also collects points and issues your licence.

Registering your car simply means putting the car onto the DVLA database and that’s it. All cars must be registered on the DVLA database.

Who is responsible for car registration?

So, who registers the cars onto the DVLA database?

Who is responsible for registering a brand new car?

The dealership is the one responsible for registering your car on the DVLA database. No car should leave the dealership without being registered on the DVLA database. Sometimes the dealership will need extra information from you in which case it is your responsibility to provide this otherwise they can’t register it. But, generally, it’s down to the dealership.

Who is responsible for registering a used car?

When you buy a used car then you have to make sure it is registered to you. This is fairly straightforward, the person selling the car must;

  • Complete section 6 of the V5C registration certificate (or the log book)
  • Sign the declaration in section 8 – you must do this also
  • Fill in section 10 which they will then give to you
  • Send the V5C off to the DVLA

After this, the DVLA will send out a new V5C registration certificate to you. This usually takes 2 to 4 weeks.

It is important to note that we recommend you check that the seller has the V5C before you buy the car. If the seller cannot produce the registration certificate then you should not buy the car. 
So, that’s who is responsible for car registration.

Why isn’t my car showing on the DVLA website?

If your car registration isn’t showing on the DVLA website then there are a few things that could have happened.

If you are buying a brand new car then this is very unlikely. However, it does happen so we’re going to talk you through the possible reasons why.

Dealerships are allocated the registration of a car between one and two weeks before it is delivered. But, they will not register it on the DVLA until the day of delivery. They don’t want to register and tax a car only for the order to be cancelled so that’s why they wait until the day of delivery.So one of the reasons is that it might not be on the DVLA because the car hasn’t been registered yet. Another reason could be that, due to the sheer volume of car registrations the DVLA get daily, it might not have been put up yet.

We would recommend waiting a few days and then checking again to see if it’s been registered. If it is still not there then don’t panic, this can easily be rectified.

You need to contact your vehicle broker or dealer immediately, if the dealership are in the wrong then they will sort it and that will be that. If they have done everything right then you need to contact the DVLA.

If you are leasing the car, it is at this point that you need to contact the finance house as well, as they are the registered keepers (read more on registered keepers here) and will have the log book. It will then be the finance houses job to rectify things with the DVLA.

The only problem that you may encounter is that you may want to get yourself insured on the car before it appears on the DVLA. Many insurance companies now get their quotes via an automated system where you simply put in your registration. But, if you don’t know your registration, how can you get an insurance quote?

We recommend that our customers ring the insurance company and explain the situation. They should then be able to give you an insurance quote using the P11d value and the specification.

However, if you have a used car, then there could be other reasons why your car is not showing on the DVLA website. For example;

  • If the car is a kit car
  • If it has been imported
  • If the vehicle has been rebuilt or altered radically
  • The car is an old or classic vehicle

In which case, you will need to register it yourself. This can be done no problem and we recommend you go to the Government page dedicated to car registration for more information on how this is done.

Car registration and private plates

If you want a private registration plate then we do recommend you go through the DVLA. They do it for £80 plus VAT and you know that they are a trustworthy source.

But what happens when you get your plate?If you buy a personalised plate online through their website, you will receive an email confirmation within 24 hours. Within two weeks, you will receive a Certificate of Entitlement (V750) in the post to the address you gave. This is your proof of entitlement and will contain the application form you must use to assign the personalised registration to the vehicle. Then, you have to apply to the DVLA to assign the registration number to the car. You can’t put the registration number on the vehicle until you have received a Registration Certificate (V5C) in the new registration number.

Unfortunately, you cannot put a registration number onto a ‘Q’ registered vehicle, nor can you make a vehicle look newer than it is. There are a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to private registration plates, so for more information you can read about it here. 

Car registration and private plates on a lease car

If you have a private plate that you want to put on a lease car then here is what you do;

When you take the plate of the existing vehicle you should get a retention document. This will show the owner of the plate as the grantee. There will be a ‘nominee’ section of the document where the owner of the plate can nominate the registration plate to go on a car registered by someone else or a company. You need to fill this document out and send it to the DVLA. They will then amend the retention and put the name of the finance house.

This is a DVLA process and it should take between 6 to 8 weeks but during busy periods such as March and September, it can take longer. If you are in doubt about this, we recommend you ring your leasing company.

So hopefully that has cleared a few things up about car registration. It might seem a bit overwhelming, particularly if you have to register your car yourself but we can assure that it’s not. If you are in doubt, however, you can ring us on 01903 538835 and one of our team will be happy to talk it through with you. 

Fed up with looking for your next vehicle?

Need advice from an experienced Vehicle Specialist on what vehicle is right for you?

Book your FREE consultation now