How to Check if a V5C Logbook is Genuine

Your car’s registration document, or V5C logbook, is a summary of its history along with its previous keepers owners. It’s a printout of what information is held on your bike or car at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (the DVLA) – basically the government organisation for motoring.

The V5C (also called the Logbook or Log Book) is one of the most important documents when buying or selling a vehicle but bear in mind it logs only who is the registered keeper – and they may be different from the legal owner. Not a lot of people know this but since 2002 it has been illegal to sell a car without a valid V5C, so don’t ever accept this as an excuse – the seller can apply for a replacement  on the DVLA website for free and there is no reason not to as it only takes 30 seconds.

If you buy a new vehicle from a garage, then they’ll usually tell the DVLA about the change of keeper and you’ll be sent a new V5C in a few days by post. If you’re buying a bike or car privately though, there are a few extra things to bear in mind:

Check for watermarks

Hold the V5C up to the light to check the ‘DVL’ watermark is there. If it isn’t, the document may be a forgery.

The watermark is in the top left corner of the document but it should also be visible across the entire document at various places. If you’ve never seen a V5C before, you might struggle to tell the difference between a genuine document and a forgery. A V5C is one A3 sheet of paper folded in half to give four A4 sides.

As such it’s not difficult to photocopy a genuine document, amend it then reprint it using a decent home printer on regular paper. However, the official paper is watermarked with lines of large text from top to bottom, repeating the letters ‘DVL’ throughout – that’s “DVL” not “DVLA”. If there’s no sign of this watermarking the registration document is a fake, so make your excuses and leave, then let the police know so they can stop somebody else being taken in by this deception.

Check that VIN

Don’t buy the vehicle if the vehicle identification number (VIN) has been tampered with or is missing: it’s usually on a metal strip at the base of the windscreen, under the bonnet or beneath the carpet on the driver’s side. Before buying a vehicle, check that the VIN and engine number match those on the V5C carefully.


Meeting at the Same Address!

The V5C should display the same name under the ‘registered keeper’ section as the person who is selling you the vehicle. And you should expect to be able to view the vehicle at the address on the V5C. If this isn’t possible, ask why!

If the seller can’t show you a valid V5C, ask them why. If they can’t produce a valid V5C, don’t buy the vehicle from them! Remember: being the registered keeper of a vehicle is not the same thing as being the owner. The registered keeper is the person responsible for taxing the vehicle, not necessarily the person with a legal claim to ownership.


Look out for Stolen V5Cs.

If the seller has a blue V5C with a serial number in the ranges BG8229501 to BG9999030 or BI2305501 to BI2800000, don’t go ahead with the sale. (The serial number is in a white circle in the top right-hand corner of the V5C.) Contact the police when it’s safe to do so. Don’t buy the vehicle if you think the serial number has been altered or if part of the V5C is missing.

On the topic of stolen V5Cs, as you probably know the V5C is now red but it used to be blue – see below.

The “New” red V5C


This is how they used to look – the older, blue style one. Be careful of these!

If the car you’re looking to buy comes with a blue log book still, you need to make sure the document isn’t stolen. Around 400,000 blue V5Cs were stolen, enabling thieves to create a false identity for nicked cars; it’s a practice known as cloning and is extremely prevalent.

Just a quick word – our vehicle checks will flag up any cloned plates, so if you’re looking to buy a used vehicle, order or get a free report now.

Bearing in mind the thefts happened a decade ago you would think everything would have sorted itself out by now, but unscrupulous thieves are still using these blue registration documents, safe in the knowledge that some buyers won’t smell a rat. The serial numbers of the affected V5Cs are:

  • BG9167501 – BG9190500
  • BG9190501 – BG9214000
  • BG8407501 – BG8431000
  • BG9282001 – BG9305000
  • BG8229501 – BG9999030
  • BI2305501 – BI2800000

The blue V5s that got stolen have a different background colour on the Notification of Permanent Export (V5C/4) tear off slip on the second page. On the legitimate documents that weren’t stolen, they should be mauve on both sides but on the stolen forms they appear mauve on the front but slightly pink on the reverse.

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