How to buy and transfer private number plates

Everything you need to know about buying and transferring private number plates...

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What Car? team
08 January 2019

Private number plate

Private or personalised number plates are popular with people who want to make their car look extra special.

There’s more to it than simply buying a set of plates and sticking them on the car, though, as you’re legally required to register as the owner of the plate and assign it to the vehicle. You also have to tell the DVLA if you sell your car with the plates, transfer them to another vehicle or just stop using them.

Here’s everything you need to know about buying, owning and transferring private number plates.

Private number plate

Buying private number plates

Owners who want to make their car stand out can buy a private number from the DVLA or from a dealer. The DVLA sells private plates at auctions, which happen at different locations across the UK about five times a year.

You can find out when the next auction will be and see a list of number plates up for sale and their prices at the organisation’s personalised registrations website.

Once you’ve bought them, the DVLA will issue you with a V750 certificate, which proves that you own the plates and have the right to attach them to your vehicle.

You’ll still need to apply to assign the plates to your car, though. Dealers can help you with this, but if you’re doing it yourself, the car must be registered to you first. You can make the application via the DVLA’s website or by writing to them.

As soon as the DVLA has approved the application, you’ll need to fit the plates to the car (at this point, you can’t legally drive it on public roads without them) and you’ll need to tell your insurance company.

You’ll be sent a new V5C document acknowledging the new plates, but it’s a good idea to hang onto the originals, as you’ll need to refit them if you sell the car but keep hold of the private ones.

Private plates can be fitted to most ordinary cars, but the rules state that the car must be registered with DVLA, be able to move under its own power, either have or eventually need an MoT certificate and, for older models, have been taxed or had a SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) in place continuously for the past five years.

Transferring private number plates to a different car

If you’re buying a new car and want to transfer your private plates to it then you’ll need to apply to take them off your existing car first.

This is a similar to assigning the plates to a car – you can do it via the DVLA’s website or by writing to them. You’ll have to pay £80 and you’ll need the car’s V5C registration certificate handy.

Once you’ve done this, the car’s original registration number is automatically reassigned, and you’ll need to fit the old number plates before it can be driven on public roads. As before, you’ll be sent a new V5C document, detailing the car’s original registration number, a V778 ‘retention’ document – which proves the private plates still belong to you and that you can use them later – and a reference number.

At this point, you can apply to transfer the plates to a different car using the aforementioned reference number. This is exactly the same as applying to put the plates on a new car, and again, you can do it on the DVLA’s website or by writing to them.

Selling your car with private number plates

If you want to sell your car with its private number plates – or just sell the plates on their own – then you’ll need to assign them to the buyer.

To do this, head to the DVLA’s website and fill out the Assign a number online form, or send your V778 or V750 form to the DVLA in the post with sections one and two filled in and the V5C document of the vehicle in question.

It’s quite common for owners to sell private number plates independently of a car via specialist dealers or online. If you’re doing the latter, then make sure you don’t share a picture of the V750 or V778 documents, because someone else could use the information to assign the number plates to another vehicle. 

Full details about buying and transferring private number plates are listed on the DVLA’s website.

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