Q: I have seen a cherished numberplate that I would like to buy for someone as a gift, but it's not his birthday until November. Can I buy it now so I don't miss out and use it later, then swap it to different cars as the years go by?
A: Good news - you can buy the registration without registering it straight away.
Once you've bought the numberplate, you will receive a 'certificate of entitlement' (V750) from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). You then have until the expiry date printed on this form to transfer the registration to a vehicle.
If the expiry date is before the birthday, you will need to apply for a certificate of retention (V778/1). This allows the plate to be held for a further 12 months before being transferred to another vehicle.
It will cost you, though. An initial 'assignment' fee of 80 is payable to the DVLA, as well as a 25 retention fee. If you later decide to retain the plate for longer than 12 months, it will cost you another 25 for each additional year.
When you decide to transfer the plate to your car, you'll need to complete the appropriate section of a V778 retention form.
After that, every time you change cars and need to transfer the plate, you'll need to complete a 'registration number transfer form' (V317). You'll have to pay again to do this - 80 at today's rate.