What are DVLA number plates, and why are they important? Find out exactly what these vehicle registration numbers are, and why they play a crucial role in the UK.
DVLA number plates are the unique identifier for a vehicle in the United Kingdom. They are issued by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and must be displayed on the front and rear of a vehicle. The number plate must be made of reflective material and be easy to read. The format of DVLA number plates has changed over the years, but the current format consists of two letters followed by two numbers followed by three letters. The letters on a DVLA number plate represent the local office where the vehicle was first registered. The numbers indicate the age of the vehicle, with the last two digits being the year of manufacture. The letters on the end of the plate are random and have no meaning.
DVLA number plates are crucial to the running of the UK. They allow the Motor Insurance Regulatory Authority (MIR) to identify if a vehicle is insured and who its owner is. These plates are also used by police officers to identify vehicles involved in crimes. If a vehicle is stolen, police
There are several different types of DVLA number plates and each of them serves a specific purpose.
How to find dvla number plates for sale
If you are looking to buy used number plates, especially more unusual ones such as vanity or personalised number plates, then you should definitely check out Online Number Plates. We have a huge range of used number plates for sale, including personalised number plates and DVLA number plates that are transfer able. You can search for used number plates by vehicle type, year of registration and price. Alternatively, take a look at our inventory of vanity number plates or personalised number plates, including those that are no longer transferrable as they are no longer registered to a vehicle.
Looking for a specific prefix number plate, such as an ES (East Sussex) or PO (Portsmouth)? You can find out what prefix number plates are available for sale in a particular area by using our Prefix Number Plate Finder. Simply choose the area that you are interested in, then select whether you want standard or personalised/DV LA number plates and whether you want them transferable or not. You will then be shown a list of all the available prefix number plates that you can buy.
If you are buying a vehicle that has an Irish number plate on it, then you will also need to check that the vehicle has valid NCT (New Car Testing) and Tax and Proof of Ownership documents. You cannot register a vehicle with an Irish number plate in the UK without these being valid.
Transferable or non-transferable number plates
Most personal number plates are non-transferable, which means they can only be used on the vehicle on which the number plate was registered. These are shown as N in the prefix (e.g. N13LS).
If you are buying a number plate to use on more than one vehicle (for example if you use it when riding your motorcycle and when driving your car), then you will want a transferable number plate (e.g. T13LS). These are shown as T in the prefix (e.g. T13LS).
Personalised number plates cost more than standard number plates
As well as being able to buy transferable or non-transferable standard number plates, you can also choose to have your personalised number plate customised in a variety of ways – from the colour to the layout and additional characters, at additional cost of course.
If you are buying a personalised number plate to use on a car, van, motorbike or other vehicle in the UK, then you will need to register the plate with the DVLA in Swansea.
If you are ready to buy a personalised number plate, then simply enter its prefix (e.g. 13) and select the range you want (e.g. LS), then click on the Buy Now button. You’ll then see all the versions of the number plate beginning with 13LS, and you can select the version you want. You can also have the number plate customised in terms of colour, layout and additional characters at this stage if you want.
If you want to find out how much a private number plate is worth, then visit any of the free valuation tools online. Simply enter the number plate you’re interested in into the tool and it will automatically evaluate it for you, giving you an idea of what you could expect to pay if you were to buy it.
You can also sell number plates through our auction, where you can expect bidders to be highly motivated given that the number plates on offer are either rare, unique or have great value given their history. You can also expect a high price if the plate is likely to cause conflict (e.g. political number plates are in high demand given many bidders enjoy expressing their opinion on what is displayed!).
Finally, you may have seen personalised number plates for sale online, in which case you should be wary as these are likely to be counterfeit and the owner may not have the right to sell them. For this reason, we recommend using our service rather than purchasing from a third party.
Using personal number plates is entirely legal provided that:
You can buy DVLA private registration plates by:
Selling dvla number plates is easy using our auction service – simply:
Enter the vehicle details including: make, model, colour, year and the current DVLA registration number (if available).
Enter the private number plate details including: size, colour and font.
Pay the seller a fee to sell your private plates through us (this ensures the legitimacy of the transaction and that you are the legal owner of the plates)
Sit back and wait for buyers to make auction or fixed price offers for your plates!
DVLA private registration number plates are popular for a number of reasons:
They are unique and so make a great gift (whether for a birthday, anniversary or Christmas)
They make a great investment as they continue to rise in value.
Personalised number plates UK
They show your individuality (particularly special and rare DVLA number plates)
They add value to your car or bike and can make it more saleable in the future
They can be a way of showing support or commemorating a person, place or event
They can be a great shortcut to getting noticed (and for celebrities this can be a vital necessity!)
They can make you laugh (we have seen some hilarious private number plates over the years!)
They can be a form of secret code for your friends and family (my private number plates spell out MUM, for example)
They can provide a form of security by making your vehicle more difficult to steal or clone
There are a number of companies that have been approved by the DVLA to sell private number plates and personalised car registrations.
All four of these companies will sell personalised car registration number plates as well as DVLA number plates.
Put a DVLA Number Plate on a New Vehicle
If you are buying a new vehicle it is possible to have your car registration number added to the vehicle at the factory. All you need to do is contact the manufacturer and they will pass your details on to the DVLA.
This means that when you come to register the vehicle, you can do so with your new number plate attached and avoid the need for a transfer.
This can save you time and money. However, it is worth noting that some manufacturers will charge you for the service and you may not be able to choose your own number plate (this is down to the manufacturer and the DVLA rules)
If you are already registered at the DVLA and have bought a new car or motorbike, you can change your private number plate or car registration number in the following ways:
Use a professional service to do it for you (this will probably be the easiest and most hassle free way to go)
Select your new number plate and tell the DVLA yourself what you have chosen
Tell the DVLA what you want your new number plate to be and they will do the search for you (this will probably take the longest)
The DVLA ensures that there is some control over car registration numbers in the UK and that they are distributed fairly. All new number plates must follow the following rules set out by the DVLA:
Number plates must be 18 inches high by 6 inches wide
Number plates must be made from reflective material
Characters must be 1.6 inches high
Standard number plates are 7.5 inches wide and can contain 34 characters whilst private number plates are 5.5 inches wide and can contain 27 characters
Character size does vary for L plates, personalized number plates and number plates for vehicles used by the emergency services
What are the Different Number Plates?
As well as standard number plates and private number plates, you may want to know a bit more about the different types available…
Do you want to keep your cherished registration when you change your car? This is when the DVLA number plate starts with ‘AA’, such as AA123APC. These are incredibly hard (almost impossible) to retain if you are buying a new car as the manufacturer usually choose this. However, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to increase your chances of keeping it…
Ask the current owner to put the registration back on once you have bought the car – most people are happy to do this and it means you don’t have to pay any renewal fees until you sell it
Put the registration on Auto Trader and see if anyone will buy it as a change of number plate sale
Put the registration on ebay and see if anyone will buy it there
If you do manage to retain your cherished registration, be careful when buying a new car as you don’t want to lose it…
How to transfer your number plate when buying or selling a car
When you buy a car, you either sell your old car or dispose of it in some other way. The seller should transfer the registration (and the VAT deduction if the registration is private) to your name. Similarly, when you sell a car, the buyer should take over your registration either directly or via a transfer.
The process for doing this is managed by the DVLA (the Department of Transport, Wales, in our case). You can check the guidance on how to do it on their website or call them for assistance.
It’s important to note that you don’t get to choose the registration when you buy or sell a car. The new owner does (by right, anyway). This is to stop people buying and selling number plates for a profit.
When you’re buying a car, your new seller has three days to inform the DVLA of the change of ownership. They do this via their online service or by calling the DVLA.
When you’re selling a car, you have to inform the DVLA of the change within twenty-four hours. You do this by sending them a letter or fax informing them of the change. The new owner must also inform the DVLA of the change within twenty-four hours.
The new owner will select a new registration from the next available range. You can use the Vehicle Enquiry Service on the DVLA website or call them to find out what’s available. The cost is £0.20 per day of the plate (minimum of £12). You pay for the new registration you choose directly to DVLA.
DVLA will then send a new registration notice to both the old owner and the new owner. It’s the old owner’s responsibility to forward the notice to the new owner. You can do this by deleting your details from the notice and adding the new owner’s. Then send it on directly or add your name to the envelope and post it.
When the new owner has taken ownership of the registration, they’ll send the plate and notice to the previous owner (you). You should destroy the plate(s) or pass them on to another car of yours that’s still on the road.
If you’re buying or selling a car with a personalised number plate, it’s important to know how the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) number plate transfer works. When you buy or sell a car, you’ll either be given or buying the registration (usually) and the plates attached to it if the car has them. These plates contain the registration number, the letters ‘FP’ and a code followed by up to seven numbers (e.g. ‘FP0XY123’).
When you sell the car, you need to inform the DVLA of the change in ownership so that they can update their records.
You’ll have to pay a transfer fee (usually around £110) for the DVLA to check the new owner’s details and confirm that they are the legal owner of the car.
You can ask the new owner for proof that they own the car, such as a copy of the V5C registration certificate. You shouldn’t go ahead with the sale without checking this.
Once the transfer has been completed, the new owner will get a new vehicle tax label (usually pink) with their name on it and a valid expiry date. They don’t have to take the old one off.
It should take the DVLA two to three weeks to update their records and confirm that the car has been registered to the new owner.
Once they do this, the transfer is complete and the car will show up on the old owner’s driving licence record with a ‘P’ for ‘purchased’
If the number plates on your car are stolen, you’ll need to inform the police and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) so that they can be deactivated.
You’ll then need to buy new plates and pay another £66 tax (as of March 2021) to renew them. If the thief has already registered the plates to their name, they’ll need to hand them back and you’ll need to tell the DVLA that you’ve recovered them.
This is when a thief copies the number plates of a more expensive car and uses them on a cheaper vehicle of the same brand and colour (e.g. Ferrari plates on a Fiat 500).
When police spot the car, it will appear to be what it’s pretending to be, but security cameras or experienced police officers might spot the difference.
The owner of the legitimate car will get fines and might even get a criminal record for not having valid tax or insurance, so this is a serious offence.
How to prevent number plate theft and cloning
The best way to avoid problems is to make sure that:
The numbers and letters on your plates are clear and easy to read
The letters are not too wide, as this can cause the plate to stretch across and cut off parts of the text
The colours stand out against the background on which they’re displayed
The material is sturdy enough to withstand weathering and theft
You should also make sure that your expiry date is valid
DVLA Retention Certificate (Form V778)
You can keep your cherished number plates for life
If you don’t want to pass your plates onto your children, you can sell them on a website like Platefinder or Luxurydb.
But if you don’t keep your retention certificate, you’ll have to buy new plates and pay tax all over again, which will wipe out the money you made (if you even managed to sell them at all).
Standard UK number plates cost £245 (as of March 2021) plus an annual £60 fee to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) to ‘ret hold’ them.
That means it can take up to seven years to break even on your purchase, and longer if you buy plates that have a higher resale value.
If you’re buying a retention transfer, make sure the seller shows you the certificate to prove that they were allowed to hold the plate in the first place
Don’t pay more than 40-50% of the current market value (see below for how to work out market value)
You’ll also need to pay vehicle tax for the period in which you’ll hold the plate
Number Plates – Market Values
As we’ve said, the market value of number plates depends on:
The first letters and numbers
How many characters there are and what they spell out
The colours used
The expiry date
Where the plates are being sold
Here’s a rough guide to working out what any particular UK number plate might sell for (these figures are just a guide: don’t pay anything like these amounts unless you do your research):
£1,000-4,000: Classic or unusual plates that can still be retained, such as DVLA-issued personalised plates (PPS)
£5,000-20,000: Rare retained personalised plates, or fancy PPS plates
£50,000+: Rare vintage UK number plates