How do I License an Unregistered Vehicle?

When you first buy a car, you may imagine yourself driving off into the sunset without a care in the world. In reality, though, there are a surprising amount of forms and permits to acquire before you can do any driving legally. Two of the most notable examples are getting your vehicle licensed and registered, but what’s the procedure for getting all this done? When do cars have to be registered and can you license an unregistered vehicle?

Once a change in ownership has occurred, vehicles must be both licensed and registered within 21 days, this is done simultaneously at a relevant registering authority and involves filling out and submitting an Application for Registration and Licensing of Motor Vehicle (RLV) form. In other words, once you buy a car, either new or used, you can license and register it at the same time.

If you find yourself in possession of a car that is either unlicensed, unregistered, or both, it’s probably in your best interest to fill out an RLV form as quickly as possible as it is a finable offence to operate a car either without a vehicle license or without proper registration after the 21 day period.

Once a car has been licensed and registered you’ll need to renew your license every year, although, this process is much simpler as it can normally be done at your local post office.

Ok, so, now we’ve established that you have to get your car registered, but how is this done and does the state of your vehicle change the process?

How do I License an Unregistered Vehicle?
How do I License an Unregistered Vehicle?

How do you Register Different Vehicles in South Africa?

Regardless of the type of vehicle you have, you’ll need to go to a registering authority and fill out one of the aforementioned RLV forms.

That said, the documents you’ll need to submit will differ depending on the vehicle in question.

Vehicle TypeRequirements
New Vehicle  ID
Proof of Residence
Official Date Stamp from Ward Councilor if you live in an Informal Settlement
Manufacturer’s Certificate with relevant vehicle details   Certificate of Roadworthiness (RTQS for heavy load vehicles)
RLV Form    
Used VehicleSeller of the car must submit a Notification of Change of Ownership form (NCO)
Proof of Residence
Official Date Stamp from Ward Councilor if you live in an Informal Settlement
Vehicle Registration Certificate (in seller’s name)

Certificate of Roadworthiness if the current one is older than 60 days
Proof of Purchase
Valid Motor Vehicle Licence
RLV Form  
Vehicle Built up from PartsID
Proof of Residence
Official Date Stamp from Ward Councilor if you live in an Informal Settlement
Form SOA (Confirmation of Parts and Process)
RPC (Request for Police Clearance)
RPI (Request for Police Identification)
De-Registration Certificate (if it was de-registered)  
Weighbridge Certificate
Proof of Title Ownership
Letter of Authority (if applicable)
RLV Form  
Modified Vehicle  ID   Proof of Residence
Official Date Stamp from Ward Councilor if you live in an Informal Settlement
De-registration Certificate
Weighbridge Certificate
Proof of Title Ownership
Roadworthy Certificate
Letter of Authority
Manufacturer’s Certificate or Previous Registration Certificate or Affidavit
RLV Form  
How do I License an Unregistered Vehicle?

How does Registration Work if my Car has been Written Off?

Once a vehicle has been damaged to the extent that it is considered permanently unfit for use on a public road (in other words, once you’ve crashed into a tree, traffic light, or a particularly sturdy old lady) the registration is voided and you must apply for deregistration. This must also be done if the vehicle has been stolen or demolished.

To deregister a vehicle you must once again go to a registering authority with –

  • Your ID
  • Proof of Ownership
  • Vehicle Registration Certificate

Lastly, you’ll need to complete an Application for Deregistration of Vehicle form (ADV).

How do you Change Vehicle Registration when Buying or Selling a Car in South Africa?

When transferring a vehicle from one owner to another, each party must make sure that they complete the following procedures –


  • Complete and Submit the NCO form
  • Transfer the Registration Certificate to the New Owner
  • Provide a Mass Measure Certificate if the Tare Weight was changed


  • Complete and Submit an RLV form
  • Submit the Vehicle Registration Certificate if the Car was Registered in the Country

This process must take place within 21 days of the purchase and must include a roadworthiness certificate. It is up to the buyer to ensure the vehicle’s roadworthiness.

How do I License an Unregistered Vehicle?
How do I License an Unregistered Vehicle?

Can you Receive Tickets for a Car you No Longer Own?How do I License an Unregistered Vehicle?

Yes, this is a possibility if the registration process is not properly completed. It is for this precise reason that car owners are encouraged to fill out and submit the correct forms when transferring ownership as speeding tickets and the like will be sent to you if the vehicle is still registered in your name.

This is also why the deregistration process is vital once a car has been stolen.

Luckily, fines can be challenged if you show adequate evidence of the transfer and prove that the car no longer belongs to you.

How do you Register Imported Cars?How do I License an Unregistered Vehicle?

To register an imported vehicle from a foreign country, you will need to go to the local registering authority with the following documents

  • A SAPS Clearance Certificate
  • An MVR1A or RLV form
  • South African ID
  • If you do not have an RSA ID you can use a foreign ID or a Traffic Register Number Certificate
  • Licensing and Registration Documents from the foreign country
  • Letters of Authority (LOA)

How do you Register a Vehicle that you have Inherited in a Will?

How do I License an Unregistered Vehicle?
How do I License an Unregistered Vehicle?

If you wish to register a vehicle that you have inherited from a deceased person you will need

  • A MVR1A or RLV form
  • ID
  • Evidence explaining how the vehicle was acquired. This can normally be acquired from the executor of the will.

Can your Vehicle Registration Expire?

Yes, it can. If your vehicle has not been properly licensed for a period of 4 years, your car’s registration will be automatically invalidated. This is perhaps the best incentive to renew your license, although it is supposed to be done every year.

Additionally, if your car has been repossessed for more than 31 days, the registration will again be invalidated.

How much does Vehicle Registration cost in South Africa?

The price of registering a vehicle will vary depending on the location. Different provinces charge different amounts for the service. At the end of the day, you shouldn’t expect to spend more than a few hundred rands, but people in the Western Cape might end up spending almost twice as much as someone from KZN.

In Conclusion – How do I License an Unregistered Vehicle?

When you come into the possession of a vehicle in South Africa you will be able to license and register it at the same time by completing and submitting an RLV form at your local registering authority.

You will need to bring along different documents depending on the vehicle in question, for example, vehicles built up from parts require many different types of clearance, authorization and affidavits. For most people, however, you will simply need an ID, proof of residence and any relevant vehicle certifications.

How do I License an Unregistered Vehicle?
How do I License an Unregistered Vehicle?

When buying or selling a vehicle, documentation must be completed by both parties to ensure that the vehicle is registered to the new owner. If the ownership of the vehicle is not formally transferred, any fines incurred when driving the car may be sent to the original owner, likewise, when a vehicle is stolen it must be deregistered or violations will again be attributed to the registered owner.

Licensing and registration must take place 21 days after you acquire the vehicle, if you are caught operating a vehicle that has not been licensed or registered after that period, you could incur penalties and fines.

Vehicles that have been inherited via a will require special documentation that can be obtained by the executor of the will. This information specifies how the car was obtained and validates the claim.

Registrations can expire in certain situations such as when the vehicle licence has not been renewed in over 4 years or when the car has been repossessed for over 31 days.

Disclaimer LAW101: All of our posts are for research purposes only. Law 101 aims to assist its readers with useful information on the laws of our country that can guide you to make decisions in line with the South African Governmental Laws currently in place. Although in many instances, our posts cite the constitution, they are intended to assist readers who are looking to expand their knowledge of the law. Should you require specific legal advice we advise you to get in touch with a qualified legal expert.

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