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How to buy a personalised number plate

Are you FR11 ANK, DRE 5W, or C47 THY? Or maybe you drive a JA66 UAR or just fancy a HUG 60S 1? Whatever your motivation for wanting a personalised number plate, here’s our guide to getting your hands on one.

Personalised registrations are growing in popularity 1 with just under 6 million bought in the UK since the DVLA started selling them 30 years ago. 

A recent DVLA survey 1 showed that 69% of respondents would buy a private number plate because of a personal connection, name or initial. But where should you look for that cherished number plate? And do you know what’s allowed and what’s not?

How to buy a personalised number plate

The most expensive number plate, “S1”, sold by the DVLA at auction went for nearly £400,000, but they are often much more affordable.

There are 60 million currently for sale online through the DVLA, with an average cost of £342. You can also buy a personalised number plate at auction, from a private dealer or another individual – bear in mind costs might creep up depending on mark-up and rarity of the number plate.

How to transfer a number plate 

All number plates are allocated to vehicles (not the registered keeper) as part of the registration and taxing process. When you buy a number plate or use one from another vehicle you own, you need to assign it to a vehicle. You can do this using one of the following 2

  • A V778 retention document
  • A V750 certificate of entitlement
  • An online reference number

Check out the DVLA to find out how to obtain these forms. 

What personalised number plate can I have?

There are some rules around what you can and can’t do with a personalised plate. For example, you can’t use a registration number that makes your vehicle look newer than it is or assign a number starting with Q or NIQ. The DVLA provides further details on eligibility.

If you don’t assign the personalised plate to a vehicle, you must renew your right to use it every 10 years.

Does a personalised number plate add to the cost of insurance?

You won’t need separate cover for the plate but you must tell your insurance provider if you change your registration number or your car. 

Nick Gibbs, Aviva’s Digital Propositions Manager, explains: “It’s a legal requirement to let your insurance company know if you change your number plate or the car assigned to it. If you don’t you could well be driving around in a car that could appear to be uninsured.”

How easy is it to clone a personalised number plate?

Cloning tends to be more about opportunity than targeting particular number plates. You own the plate so if someone steals it you can simply get another one made.

What happens if your car is involved in an accident?

If your car is written off by your insurance company, the number plate is held until you are ready to put it on another car. There is a fee involved but it’s the same as transferring the plate from one car to another. 

What’s legal and what’s not?

If you have a personalised number plate, it is your responsibility to ensure it is displayed correctly. You can’t rearrange or misrepresent the numbers and letters on a number plate to form names or words. For example, you can’t use bolts to change any of the letters or numbers.

If your vehicle was manufactured after 1 January 1973, its number plate must:

  • Be made from a reflective material
  • Use standard ‘Charles Wright’ font
  • Display black characters on a white background (front plate)
  • Display black characters on a yellow background (rear plate)
  • Have no background pattern

The DVLA has produced a leaflet that provides more guidance on the sizing and lettering of number plates.

Nick adds a note of caution: “If you’re getting new number plates made you must go to a licensed number plate manufacturer and get road plates. Lots of people think they can use show plates made up on the internet but these are not road legal.”

You could be fined up to £1,000 and your vehicle will fail its MOT test if you drive with incorrectly displayed number plates. You could also lose your initial purchase money so it’s worth getting the basics right to start with. 

Flying the flag

If you’re feeling patriotic, you can display the following flags on the left-hand side of the number plate with the identifying letters:

  • Union flag
  • Cross of St George 
  • Cross of St Andrew 
  • Red Dragon of Wales 

A numbers game

And finally, if you’re thinking of buying a personalised registration as a gift, three out of four motorists 3 would want their name or nickname on a number plate. You can see what’s currently available on the DVLA’s Personalised Registrations website.

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