Displaying number plates
Number plates (also known as licence plates) should show your vehicle registration number correctly. You can't rearrange letters or numbers, or alter them so that they're hard to read.
You could be fined up to £1,000 and your car will fail its MOT test if you drive with incorrectly displayed number plates.
The current vehicle registration number format was introduced in 2001. It consists of:
• 2 letters (these refer to the region in the country where your vehicle was first registered)
• 2 numbers (these tell you when it was issued)
• 3 letters chosen at random
You can get theft-resistant number plates - these make it harder for someone to remove them from your vehicle quickly and reuse them. Ask your local car dealer or registered number plate supplier for more information.
Private (personalised) number plates
You can buy a private (personalised) number plate for your vehicle from DVLA or from a private dealer.
Take a private number off (retention)
If you don't want to use your private number anymore you can apply to take it off your vehicle, You can hold on to it until you want to use it again in the future - this is sometimes called putting it 'on retention'.
You'll get a V778 certificate proving you still have the right to use the number.
Selling a private number
You can also sell your private number if you don't want to use it anymore.
If you're selling your private number online, don't share a scan or photograph of the V750 or V778 certificate. Someone other than the buyer might use it to put the private number on another vehicle.
Assign (put on) a private number to a vehicle
If you have the right to a private number that isn't currently being used, you can apply to assign it to a vehicle.
Transfer a number from one vehicle to another
To transfer a private number from one vehicle to another, you need to:
• Take it off the vehicle you're transferring it from.
• Assign it to the vehicle you're transferring it to.
Buy a personalised registration number
You can buy a personalised registration for your number plates from DVLA online or at auction. Search online to see which numbers are available and how much they cost.
You'll need a debit or credit card to use this service.
Personalised registration numbers can only be used on a vehicle registered (or about to be registered), taxed and used in the UK.
You can't make the vehicle look newer than it actually is. For example, you can't put an '07' registration number onto a 2003 registered vehicle.
When you buy a personalised registration number, you're buying the right to assign this number to a vehicle registered in your name or someone else's name (the nominee).
Find your nearest number plate supplier
You can only get a number plate made up from a registered number plate supplier.
Find your nearest number plate supplier at the link below
The supplier will need to see original documents that:
• prove your identity (eg your passport)
• show you're entitled to the registration number (eg the V5 vehicle registration certificate)
Put a registration number on a vehicle
You can use this service if your vehicle:
• is registered with DVLA
• can move under its own power
• has been taxed for the last 5 years without any gaps (or a SORN has been in place for that time)
You might need to take your vehicle to DVLA for an inspection. You'll be told if you need to do this.
The registration number will need to be put on your vehicle straight away if you apply online.
This service is available from 7am to 7pm.
Take a registration number off a vehicle
You can apply to take a registration number off a vehicle to:
• transfer it to another vehicle
• hold on to it until you want to use it again in the future
The registration number will be retained in the name of the registered keeper. You'll need to remove the number before you sell or destroy the vehicle, or you'll lose the right to use it.
Your registration number will be removed straight away if you apply online.
It costs £80.
This service is available from 7am to 7pm.
• the 11 digit document reference number from the latest V5C vehicle registration certificate (logbook)
• a valid credit or debit card
'Q' registration numbers
You can't retain a registration number starting with 'Q'.
Vehicle registration schemes for the motor trade
There are 3 vehicle registration schemes for the motor trade. They are:
• the non-secure registration scheme
• the secure registration scheme
• the Automated First Registration and Licensing (AFRL) system
You can use these schemes if you're a:
• vehicle manufacturer
• sole or multiple import concessionaire
• VAT-registered motor vehicle trader
Using the schemes
When you apply to use the secure registration scheme, your application is assessed by the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA). You'll have to answer a questionnaire designed to test your knowledge of the vehicle registration process.
When you first start registering vehicles, you have to use the non-secure scheme. The other 2 schemes are designed to speed up the vehicle registration process.
You can apply to the secure scheme when you've been using the non-secure scheme without irregularities or issues for 6 months.
You need to have used the secure scheme for 3 months first if you want to use the AFRL scheme.
The Vehicle Register
This is maintained by DVLA. It's based on the information provided on the V55 registration form or by the AFRL system.
Trade licence plates
Trade licence plates can save you time and money if you're in the motor industry - you won't have to register and tax every vehicle temporarily in your possession.
You need to apply to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) for a trade licence to be able to use trade plates.
Who is eligible
You can apply for a trade licence if you're either a motor trader or a vehicle tester.
• dealers, manufacturers and repairers of vehicles (including those involved in collection and delivery)
• manufacturers of trailers
• valets and accessory fitters
You're eligible if you test other people's vehicles on public roads.
How to apply
Trade licences last for 6 or 12 months and expire on 30 June or 31 December. First-time applicants can get 7 to 11 month licences.
Download and complete the form you need:
• VTL301 to apply for your first trade licence
• VTL318 to renew your trade licence
• VTL308 to surrender your trade licence (refund of duty)
• VTL310 to apply for a duplicate or replacement trade licence (or plates)
You'll also need to provide one of the following if you're renewing your licence or applying for your first one:
• your Companies House registration number
• a copy of a public liability insurance certificate in your name
• a copy of a motor trade insurance certificate in your name
DVLA can't return copies of your documents.