Private number plates, also known as cherished or personalised plates, have been on sale in the UK since 1989. During this time, hundreds of thousands of drivers have been personalising their cars with registrations that feature initials, wordplay or simply disguise the vehicle's age.

The most expensive cherished plate is simply '25 O'. It was sold in 2014 to John Collins, a Ferrari dealer, for an eye-watering £518,000. Fortunately, not every plate is this expensive. You can buy a private number from DVLA Personalised Registrations from just £250.

Certain registrations are available to purchase instantly. Alternatively, the DVLA holds five live and four timed auctions each year where you can bid in person, online, via the telephone or by using absent bidding facilities. If you want to know what registration numbers will be coming up for sale, you can view the auction catalogue online.

Once you've paid for the personalised number, you'll receive a V750 certificate of entitlement which proves you have the right to assign it to a vehicle. Certain cherished plates can also be purchased from dealers or private sellers which may be cheaper than the DVLA Personalised Registrations.

A V750 is a pink A4 size piece of paper that is only issued for brand new registrations - the number has never been displayed on a vehicle before. Previously issued registrations will have the rights assigned to them by the V778 retention document which can be obtained from the DVLA. This must be applied for by the registered keeper of the vehicle holding the plate.

The V778 is a green A4 size piece of paper that is issued when a personalised registration has been separated from a vehicle and placed on retention.

Whenever you purchase a private plate, it's important that you receive either a V750 certificate or V778 retention document to prove you have the right to use the number. Both of these pieces of paper allow a cherished plate to be owned whilst not assigned to a vehicle.

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TRANSFER A PRIVATE PLATE TO ANOTHER CAR

Buying a personalised plate can be viewed as an investment, both in a financial and an emotional sense. When buying a new car, most people with a private plate want to transfer it from their old vehicle to the new one.

The process involves putting the plate on retention first which costs £80. This enables you to get a retention certificate and reference number to assign the number plate on a new vehicle.

Before starting the process, you should check that the vehicle is eligible to have the private plate transferred to it.

Eligibility

You cannot:

  • Assign a number starting with ‘Q’ or ‘NIQ’
  • Put a private number on a ‘Q’ registered vehicle
  • Use a private number that makes a vehicle look newer than it is - for example, an ‘07’ registration number on a 2003 registered vehicle

The vehicle must:

  • Be registered with DVLA in the UK
  • Be able to move under its own power
  • Be of a type that needs a MOT or heavy goods vehicle (HGV) test certificate
  • Have been taxed or had a SORN in place continuously for the past 5 years
  • Be taxed currently (or have a SORN in place - if it’s had a SORN for more than 5 years, it must be taxed)
  • Be available for inspection*

If you meet the above criteria, you're able to apply to assign a private number to a new car. If you're buying a brand new car, give the dealer your V750 or V778 and ask them to apply. Alternatively, if you're the registered keeper of the new car and the V5C (log book) is in your name, then you can apply to transfer your personalised plate online or via post.

Online

Visit the gov website to take a registration number off a vehicle which will enable you to retain the rights for your personalised plate. You will need:

  • Registration number you want to take
  • Old vehicle's V5C (with you as the registered keeper)
  • Postcode of the registered keeper
  • Debit/Credit card (to pay the £80 retention fee)

Once you've filled in all the relevant details, you'll receive a certificate reference number which you need to make a note of. The V778 retention document will also be sent to the postcode supplied.

DVLA will assign the old car with a replacement registration (normally the original one it had when it was first registered) and send you a new V5C within 4-6 weeks.

To assign the private plate to your new car, you need to visit the gov website to put a registration number on a vehicle which will assign your personalised plate to the new car. You will need:

  • New vehicle's V5C (with you as the registered keeper)
  • Postcode of the registered keeper
  • Certificate reference number or V778 retention document

Once you've filled in the relevant details, DVLA will send a new V5C which can take between 4-6 weeks.

Post

If you're not the registered keeper of the vehicle, you have to apply for the transfer via post. First, you need to download the V317 form from the gov website.

Tick 'Option A' and fill out Sections 1-5 on the front page. You will need:

  • Registration number you want to take
  • Old vehicle's V5C
  • New vehicle's V5C (or V5C/2 with a completed V62 application form)
  • Postcode of the registered keeper
  • Cheque, banker's draft or postal order made payable to 'DVLA Swansea' (to pay the £80 retention fee)

Alongside the completed form, you will need to send payment for the £80 retention fee and both V5Cs to:

DVLA Personalised Registrations, Swansea, SA99 1AR

The private number will be assigned to the new vehicle within 2 weeks if it doesn't need to be inspected. DVLA will assign the old car with a replacement registration (normally the original one it had when it was first registered) and send new V5Cs for both cars within 4-6 weeks.

After A Private Plate Has Been Transferred

Once the personalised plate has been assigned to the new car, you need to attach new number plates with your cherished registration before you can legally drive it. If you need to order new plates, this can only be done from a registered supplier to ensure they adhere to the strict regulations. It's advisable to keep the old registration plates for the new car for when you come to sell it.

You also need to update your insurance company with details of your new registration number.

CAN I KEEP MY PRIVATE PLATE WITHOUT PUTTING IT ON ANOTHER CAR?

Yes, you can retain any cherished plate for up to 10 years at a time without registering it to another vehicle. You just need to go through the process of putting the plate on retention.

If you're doing this online, you can follow the steps outlined in the relevant section above. It will still cost £80 to retain the plate's usage rights.

Alternatively, if you want to retain your personalised plate via post, you need to download the V317 form from the gov website.

Tick 'Option B' and fill out Sections 1-4 on the second page. You will need:

  • Registration number you want to keep
  • Vehicle's V5C
  • Name and address of Grantee (i.e. the person receiving the V778)
  • Cheque, banker's draft or postal order made payable to 'DVLA Swansea' (to pay the £80 retention fee)
NOTE: You can also add a Nominee in Section 4.2 which allows you to retain the usage rights of the private plate until it's put on a vehicle registered in the Nominee's name. This is particularly useful if you plan to sell the plate and you're waiting to be paid.

Alongside the completed form, you will need to send payment for the £80 retention fee and the V5C to:

DVLA Personalised Registrations, Swansea, SA99 1AR

DVLA suggest it will take between 4-6 weeks for the application to transfer a private number plate from a vehicle to a retention to be completed. The vehicle will be assigned with a replacement registration and a new V5C will be sent.

If you're looking to buy a new car, it is advisable to start this process before you agree to part exchange or sell your car. If the vehicle is sold before you apply to retain the cherished plate, you no longer have the right to retain it. Similarly, you lose all rights to the plate if you don't remove it from the car before it gets scrapped.

CAN I SELL OR GIFT MY PRIVATE PLATE TO SOMEONE ELSE?

Yes, but this has to be done using the V317 form. As above, tick Option B and fill out Sections 1-4. In this instance, instead of putting your own name and address in Section 4, you put the name of the private buyer, family member or friend you're gifting it to.

Once the application has been processed, the new owner will receive the V778 retention document from the DVLA confirming their ownership of the plate and their right to use it on a new vehicle.

CAN I PUT MY PRIVATE PLATE ON A LEASE OR FINANCED CAR?

Yes, personalised plates can be added to both leased and financed cars.

Lease Car

The easiest way to put your private plate on a lease car is to wait until it's been delivered to you. At that point, you can then get in touch with the leasing company to arrange naming them as the Nominee on Section 4.2 of the V317 form. They will then be able to transfer the plate to your lease car.

Remember to arrange the retention of your personalised plate around two months before the end of the lease to ensure you don't lose usage rights.

Financed Car

Unlike a lease car, when you take out a PCP (Personal Contract Purchase) or HP (Hire Purchase) agreement, you will be the registered keeper so you can apply to the DVLA directly either online or by using the V317 form.

With a HP agreement, you will own the car at the end of your agreed term. However, if you have a PCP deal and you don't intend to pay the balloon payment to become the owner, you'll need to arrange the retention of your personalised plate around two months before the end of the agreement.

HOW DO I TRANSFER A PRIVATE PLATE AFTER SOMEONE PASSES AWAY?

In the unfortunate event that someone passes away while being the registered owner of a private plate, you'll need to send a form to the DVLA whether you want to:

  • Keep the private plate
  • Transfer it to another vehicle
  • Put it in someone else's name
  • Give up the right to use the number

You must prove you have the right to use the number by sending the death certificate (either an original or certified copy) with the relevant form and at least one of the following:

  • A certified copy of probate
  • A copy of the will
  • A letter from the solicitor confirming who the executor or next of kin is

If you want to keep the personalised plate, transfer it to another vehicle or put it in someone else's name, the form you send depends on whether it is currently assigned to a vehicle.

The Private Plate Is Already Assigned To A Vehicle

You will need to fill in the V317 form and Section 2 of the new style V5C (with multi-coloured numbered blocks on the front cover) or Section 6 of the old style V5C. Don't forget to include the details of the person the private plate is going to be transferred to.

The process will cost £80 which can be paid via cheque, banker's draft or postal order made payable to 'DVLA Swansea'. Alongside the payment, you will need to send the completed form and the V5C to:

DVLA Personalised Registrations, Swansea, SA99 1DS

The Private Plate Is Not Assigned To A Vehicle

You need to send the V750 or V778 signed by the executor alongside a covering letter from the executor saying if you want to keep the private plate or give it to someone else to:

DVLA Personalised Registrations, Swansea, SA99 1DS

If you don't have the V750 or V778, you need to send documents that prove you have the right to use the number and a covering letter signed by the executor explaining what you want to do with the plate and confirming you don't have either of these forms.

Give Up Your Right To Use The Private Plate

By giving up your right to use the private plate, you might be able to get a refund of the £80 retention fee if:

  • It wasn't assigned to a vehicle after the fee was paid
  • You have the latest V750 or V778 - if you've lost it and it's still valid you can get a replacement from the DVLA

To get a refund, tick the 'Refund of the assignment fee' section of the V750 or V778 and get the executor to sign it. Send this alongside the documents that prove you have the right to use the number to:

DVLA Personalised Registrations, Swansea, SA99 1DS

If you don't have the V750 or V778, you need to send documents that prove you have the right to use the number and a covering letter signed by the executor explaining what you want to do with the plate and confirming you don't have either of these forms.

*DVLA will check your application and contact you if your vehicle needs an inspection.