car documents

The important documents you need when owning a car

Getting your first car is a milestone and a life-changing one at that. Few things compare with your new-found independence and mobility, but when you own a car you need to stay on top of a lot of things. Stuff like your car’s MOT, tax and insurance may seem like a hassle you could do without, but if you fall behind on any of these, the long arm of the law will catch up with you.

Which documents will I need to own a car?

Driving licence

You must renew this every ten years, or if you move. It’s free to change the address on your licence, but if you lose it and need a new one, it’ll cost you £20.


Your registration document, or V5C, is a record of your car and it’s owners. It logs the registered keeper – who may be different from the legal owner.

When buying a car, the registered keeper should be the person you’re buying from, and the VIN, or chassis number should match the one on the car. Check the watermark to see if the V5C is genuine. It’s illegal to sell a car without a valid V5C, so don’t accept it’s been lost, as you can easily apply for a replacement.


Vehicle excise duty

Any vehicle must be taxed if it’s used or kept on a public road. If you take your car off the road (keep it untaxed), you must declare SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification), so you can’t keep it on a public road.

Known officially as Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), how much tax you pay depends on the car’s engine size or CO2 emissions, depending on it’s first date of registration (shown on the V5C), although a new system for new cars came into effect in April 2017.

You can pay to tax a car for monthly or in six or 12 months bundles, but if you scrap it or take it off the road you can cash in the tax at any time. When your tax is due the DVLA will send a reminder which explains everything you need to know. You can calculate the tax on a car here at the .gov website.


Once a car reaches three years old it needs an annual road-worthiness test, the MOT. This checks lots of things to see if they’re worn or working properly. As the test costs around £50, you can save cash by making sure your car passes the first time. The MOT takes lots of stuff into account, and while you can’t check everything yourself, there’s lot’s you can do the prepare.