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Our Guide to Buying and Selling a Private Number Plate

The DVLA, or Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, are the official government body responsible for distributing registration numbers to British vehicles. The DVLA started to offer certain combinations of numbers on registration plates after the option of personalisation became a popular idea around 1989. Currently there are millions of DVLA private plates for sale online and some of the most popular combinations are only available at special auctions held by the DVLA throughout the UK.

In this comprehensive guide you will discover all you need to know about personalised plates and how to buy them successfully and sell them effectively.

Private plates

Private registration plates. Photo credit: muffinn via flickr.com / CC BY 2.0

What combinations of letters and numbers can I have on my personalised plate?

There are four different types of number plates on sale from the DVLA:

  • Since September 2001 a personalised plate comprises of two letters followed by two numbers classifying the age of the car, followed by three letters. All new vehicles are issued with these DVLA private plates.
  • Issued to new cars between August 1983 and August 2001, prefix number plates consist of one letter which recognises the age of the car which is followed by one, two or three numbers, and three letters at the end. They are called prefix number plates due to the age identification at the beginning of the private number plate.
  • The suffix private registration plates end with the age-identifying single letter. This type of number plate was dispensed to vehicles between February 1963 and July 1983, comprising of three letters, followed by one, two or three numbers.
  • Private reg plates issued after February 1963 were also available without an age signifier. They would comprise of up to four numbers followed by up to three letters with the maximum allocated characters at a total of six. These dateless number plates are generally the most expensive option to choose from.

Where can I buy a private number plate?

Private number plates are readily available across many dealer websites such as plates4less, as well as the DVLA, but eBay is growing in popularity when procuring a private number plate for you and your vehicle. It is always advisable to be wary about using eBay however. You need to make sure that the seller has also listed the accompanying paperwork needed for the registration number, including the V750 document of entitlement, or the V778 for those registrations that have been put on retainer, so that you don’t lose out on a cherished plate. If you find that the seller has not made any mention of the necessary paperwork for the DVLA, the registration plate is completely worthless. Even a delay in the necessary paperwork could cause the DVLA to refuse your private reg plate.

Private Plate Prices

You can expect to pay a lot for highly sought after private registration plates, depending on which you format you choose and the amount of characters used on the personalised plate. Finding a truly personalised number plate for sale is very rare so it’s important to keep your options open when coming to a decision on your personalised plate. Generally the most sought after personalised plates are sold at DVLA auctions for hundreds, maybe even thousands of pounds. The most expensive personalised plate sold by the DVLA was the “25 O” plate, sold for £518,000 by a Ferrari trader this year.

Of course, this kind of personalised plate is very rare and extortionately priced. However, personalised reg plates sold at auction often turn up again on eBay at a fraction of the cost, so it is worth putting in the leg work to find your cherished number plate.

The DVLA will charge a fee to assign your requested personalised plate to your vehicle, so it’s important not to forget about these! Transfer fees may apply which will cost approximately £80 but an additional payment of £20 to £30 may be needed if the registration is going to be held on retention with an accompanying certificate.

What paperwork do I need to get my personalised plate?

If the private number plate is still in use, then it needs to be accompanied by a V750 document of entitlement. If, however, the number plate is not being used then it should come with a V778 retention document. Both of these documents should be signed by the named person on the documents. You must also have a V5C application that sanctions the sale of a vanity number plate. It is also necessary to have your MOT certificate if your car is older than three years.

How do I transfer a private number plate to another car?

You can apply to transfer a privately registered number plate through the DVLA by completing a V317 application form, and posting it to the DVLA along with an £80 transfer fee. You must also include the registration certificate as well as an MOT test certificate, if your vehicle is more than 3 years old. Once this has been done, the DVLA will notify you of the transfer within a couple of weeks.

Private Plate Laws

Some motorists attempt to make their vehicle look newer than it actually is by using letters that look like numbers, but the DVLA frown upon this. The year of the car must be displayed on the personalised plate unless it is a dateless plate. So don’t try to disguise it, otherwise you could end up wasting a lot of money on a personalised number plate that you can’t actually use.

If you have a car that is exempt from tax, the DVLA requires that you have the letter Q in the prefix of your registration. Unfortunately all vehicles that have a Q prefix cannot, under any circumstances, apply for a personalised plate. This includes vehicles that have been registered abroad.

It is also very important that characters used on your number plate are not dramatically altered so that they can be clearly visible at all times. This means that italic or decorative fonts are not permitted. The alteration of characters is also illegal, for example, placing a bolt in between the number 11 to make it look more like an H can make it more difficult to identify the registration from afar, and is therefore illegal. Background designs as well as logos and symbols are not permitted, again, due to the fact that it may hamper the visibility of the registration plate. The height and width of characters on personalised plates is also restricted. On vehicles that were made after 1973, the recommended height for number plate characters is 79mm, whilst the recommended width is 50mm. These measurements differ slight for motorcycles.

How much is my private plate worth?

If you’re looking to sell your cherished number plate, you will find a number of online services that will carry out a private plate valuation for you, such as the almost instantaneous valuation service from National Numbers. Normally these registration plate online dealers will carry out the whole process for you, but if you don’t want to lose out on a small profit, eBay is definitely the best option. If you are straightforward about the documentation within your listing description, you are sure to find someone out there with similar personalised number plate ideas to you! If you have any issues with selling your registration number online you will find that the DVLA can contact the owner of the registration for you, although this service will cost £5.

Once you have searched eBay for the formatted number plate for you, filled out the necessary forms and paid any necessary fees to the DVLA, all you need to do is to purchase (or sell!) your new personalised plate from a registered supplier, who will fit your private number plate to the correct standard.

If you’re looking to surprise a car enthusiast with a birthday gift, why not choose private plates from the DVLA, for a personal gift that will put a smile on your car-loving partner’s face!

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