How to buy and transfer a private number plate

People often choose to get a private or personalised number plate to make their car look extra special.

However, there’s more to getting a private number plate than simply buying a set of plates and sticking them on your car. Just as when changing your address with the DVLA, you are legally required to register as the owner of the plate and assign it to the vehicle.This is as important as the DVLA change of address.

You also need to notify the DVLA if you sell your car with the plates, transfer them to another vehicle or just stop using them.

So, here’s everything you need to know about how to update the DVLA.

How do I buy private number plates?

If you want to make your car stand out from the crowd, you can purchase a private number from the DVLA or from a private dealer. The DVLA sells private number plates at auctions across the UK, usually about five times each year.

If you want to know when the next personalised number plate auction will be, you can find out on the organisation’s personalised registrations website. Here, you can also see a list of number plates up for sale and their prices.

Once you’ve purchased your number plates, the DVLA will issue you with a V750 certificate. This proves that you are the owner of the places and that you have the right to attach them to your vehicle.

But, this doesn’t mean they’re assigned to your car yet – to do this, you need to apply through the DVLA website or by writing to them. Dealers can help you with this, but if you’re doing it yourself, the car must be registered to you first.

When the DVLA has approved your application, you’re ready to fit the plates to your car. At this point, you can’t legally drive your car on public roads without your new registered plates. You’ll also need to remember to tell your insurance company that your registration number has changed.

You should be sent a new vehicle logbook acknowledging the new plates, but it’s also a good idea to hold onto the originals as you might need to refit them if you sell the car. 

Private registration plates can be fitted to nearly all ordinary cars, but the rules state that the car must be registered with the DVLA and have been taxed. You also need to make sure you’ve completed your DVLA change of address if you’ve moved house recently to ensure your details are all up to date.

How do I transfer private number plates to a different car?

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

The process of transferring your personalised number plates to a different car is similar to assigning the plates to your car in the first place. You can do it via the DVLA’s website or by writing to them directly.

It costs £80 to transfer your plates to your new car and you’ll need the car’s V5C registration certificate to hand. Once you’ve done this, the car’s original registration number will automatically be reassigned, and you’ll need to fit the old number plates before it can be driven on public roads.

Again, the DVLA will send you 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 reference number. This is exactly the same process as applying to put the plates on the new car.

How do I sell my car with private number plates?

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

You can do this by heading to the DVLA’s website and filling out the Assign a Number Online form, or by sending your V778 or V750 form to the DVLA in the post, along with the V5C for the vehicle in question.

It is quite common for owners of private number plates to sell them on their own through a specialist dealer or online. If you choose to sell your personalised plates online, make sure you don’t share a picture of the V750 or V778 documents – someone else could use this information to assign the number plates to another vehicle without buying them.

What happens to your old number plate if you get a private one?

According to the DVLA, you should keep the original registration number even if you purchase new private plates.

This is because you will most likely want to reassign the old number plates to that same vehicle if you decide to take your personalised plate off or decide to sell your vehicle and want to keep your new plates when you do so.

How much does a private number plate cost?

The cost of private number plates vary hugely depending on the registration number you want.

The current record for the most expensive registration plate in Britain, “25 O”, is £518,000, sold to a Bradford businessman back in 2014. However, most private number plates sell for a lot less than that.

The most basic personalised number plates are those that keep the current two letters, two numbers, three letters format, and these tend to sell for around £150 to £350.

The next most expensive private number plates are those where the triple letter combination comes at the beginning, rather than the end, and there is a single letter suffix. These plates substantially vary in price, but are usually in the range of £200 to £600, depending on the popularity of the triple letter combination.

The most expensive and rarest private number plates are those with double letter suffix combinations, with a single preceding number, such 2 FD.

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