A family member has just purchased a car from an entity that was purporting to be a car dealer, and the V5C(W) (part of the document that defines the registered keeper) with which they were provided has the name and address of the current registered keeper obscured by black marker pen. It looks like this but much more effectively obscuring the address. Is it legal to alter this document in this way?

I had thought that the document remains property of the DVLA, and as such defacing it would be illegally damaging others property, but I cannot find anything online to confirm this.

  • It's not generally necessary to resort to property laws to find a criminal prohibition against defacing official documents of this sort. There could be a law explicitly prohibiting the alteration of vehicle registration certificates, and there is certainly a law prohibiting fraud, so if the alteration is an attempt to commit fraud then it is illegal on that basis.
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 9, 2021 at 16:54
  • can you please expand " V5C(W)" for those who do not know what it is? Commented Nov 9, 2021 at 17:06
  • @DavidSiegel I am afraid I am not aware of exactly what it is, beyond that is is part of the document that defines the registered keeper of a vehicle and looks like the document I have linked to. I edited in what I do know.
    – Dave
    Commented Nov 9, 2021 at 17:13
  • @Dave I think that is fine, in makes the purpose and nature of the document clear. It seems to be quite similar to what in the US is called simply a "registration" or "certificate of registration":. Commented Nov 9, 2021 at 17:24
  • 1
    It's basically a document that states officially that you are the owner of a car as far as the state is concerned. When you sell your car, you inform the government that you sold it, and they send a new V5C(W) to the new owner, and send you a paper that your old one isn't valid anymore.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Nov 9, 2021 at 17:25

2 Answers 2


Is it legal to obscure the address on V5C(W)1 ?


The V5C remains the property of the previous keeper, not the DVLA, and notwithstanding the government's advice to destroy it, they can deface it in any way they wish - especially if they are concerned about protecting their personal information and have given it the new keeper in error:

What should happen is the new keeper just gets the tear-off slip V5C/2 with only the vehicle's details thereon. The previous keeper should inform the DVLA of the changes who then issues a new V5C to the new keeper. (If for whatever reason one isn't issued, the new keeper can use the details from the V5C/2 to apply for one themselves.)

Note that if the dealership had the car "in trade", they are not obliged to re-register it in their name, and presumably they obliterated the previous keeper's details to protect their personal information. This is very likely the case even if they weren't applying the "in trade" procedures but bought and sold the car without re-registering it (a fairly common practice among some dealerships that avoids an official paper-trail and lessens the number of recorded previous keepers which can affect the price).

1 the W suffix denotes the document is the Welsh version.


This is more than dodgy. Clearly someone doesn't want you to contact the previous owner. The only rational reasons are: 1. The dealer is lying about the care, like stating it has done 50,000 miles when the previous owner would tell you it's done 120,000 miles. 2. The previous owner went on holiday, someone broke into their home, stole car keys, log book, and car, and they don't want you to call the previous owner so this doesn't all come out. 3. There's something seriously wrong with the car, and the previous owner didn't know, so they erased their address.

On the other hand, I assume that DVLA should know the contact details of that previous owner anyway. I think you might be able to get that information for £3.50 from the DVLA.

  • Presumably they should receive a new copy of the V5C from the DVLA with that address on it. The reason why they may do this, and what to do about it if you finds yourself in this situation, are perhaps different questions than if it is illegal.
    – Dave
    Commented Nov 9, 2021 at 18:55
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    Or it's Occam's razor and not dodgy - they were just concerned about distributing personal information to someone who was probably not entitled to receive the V5C in the first place
    – user35069
    Commented Nov 10, 2021 at 23:39

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