Should I buy a car without a V5 logbook? 

A reader asks if it is legal to buy a second-hand car from someone who has lost the logbook...

Toyota Yaris Hatchback (03 - 05)

I’m thinking of buying a car from an elderly woman who has dementia and has lost the V5 for her car. Her son is selling the car on her behalf. It is a 2004 Toyota Yaris with only 41,000 miles on the clock.

The woman has owned it from new and appears to have looked after it really well. I have all the service history and it was given an MOT test every year until 2015, when it was put on a statutory off road notice (SORN) and was left in her garage because her illness meant she could no longer drive. 

Her son recently had the car fitted with four new tyres and took it for an MOT test, which it passed. 

It looks like a great car, but I’m concerned that it might not be legal to buy a car without the V5 registration document, or that I might have a problem because of this in the future.  

George Burns

What Car? says…

The advice from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is that you should never buy a car without a V5 logbook, because the car could have been stolen, written off or have finance owing on it, or the seller might not legally be entitled to sell it. If the car turns out to be stolen, you could end up paying for it twice, because you would have to pay the real owner for it too. Similarly, if there is finance outstanding on it, you’d also have to pay this.  

Online updates for logbooks proposed

There is a standard form, called V62, which you can get from a Post Office or download online, and this can be used to obtain a replacement logbook for a £25 fee. Our advice would be to ask the lady’s son to complete this and get a logbook before you buy the car from him. Although the DVLA is operating slower than usual due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the new logbook should arrive in less than six weeks. 

There are a number of other things you can do to check that the car and seller are legitimate. You can check the MOT history of a car at using the car’s registration number. This will show you the date, mileage and results of all MOT tests done on the car, including information on any items that caused it to fail or ‘advisories’ that might need to be addressed before the next MOT is due. This is a good indicator of how well a car has been looked after; one with a string of clean test passes will be a better buy than one with a list of failures due to lots of worn or broken components. It’s also a useful way to check that the mileage is correct. 

If you have the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN), you can also find out where the MOTs were done using the same website. If the same garage or one in the same area has done all of the tests, this is also a good indicator that the car is genuine and has been owned by the woman since new. The VIN is a 19-digit number that can usually be found on a plate in the engine bay or elsewhere on the car’s chassis. 

We’d also advise you to get a comprehensive online history check done on the car. This costs around £20 and will let you know if it has been stolen or written off or has outstanding finance.

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Best used small cars 2020

Small cars are the jack of all trades. They can be a hoot to drive, they can be compact premium vehicles – ideal for congested city streets – and they can be reliable, good-value transport serving as a second family car.

Deciding which one is best can be daunting due to the diversity of what’s available today. You could go for an evergreen such as the Ford Fiesta or splash out on something more fashionable such as the Audi A1 or Mini. Rest assured, there’s something for everyone and our list aims to reflect this. Take a look at our top 10 to see what takes your fancy.

10. Audi A1

Audi A1

The Audi A1 has proven very popular thanks to its ability to pack the build quality and upmarket feel of Audi’s more expensive models into a smaller package. It isn’t quite as spacious as some rivals, but the pay-off is a smart interior and the same strong range of engines as the Volkswagen Polo. The downside, of course, is that it’s expensive to buy, although with the launch last year of the second-generation version, you might find some cheaper cars on the forecourts. 

Vauxhall Corsa front three quarters

You can’t have a top 10 list of small cars without mentioning the Vauxhall Corsa; rarely out of the best sellers list, there are examples of them everywhere. It doesn’t seem to matter that there are many rivals that beat it in key areas; the Corsa’s appeal is that it manages to provide a practical, well-built car at an affordable price. Indeed, for this budget, you’ll be able to find numerous nearly new Corsas with plenty of kit, making it a tempting proposition. There's a sleek-looking new version out now, so look out for nearly new bargains too.