Expert reveals everything you need to know about private number plates
Find out everything you need to know about private number plates; from the buying process to what you need to do to avoid a £1,000 fine.
When we think of private number plates, we likely imagine flash celebrities zipping around in luxury cars with their name or initials on the yellow plaque. This includes famous faces such as David Beckham, Harry Styles, and Robbie Williams.
But what happens when the average Joe wants to purchase one? Are we allowed to have a private number plate even though we're a stay-at-home parent or have a standard job?
Well, as a matter of fact, yes! Few people realise that private number plates are more affordable than ever and readily available for anyone and everyone, regardless of employment or social status.
Of course, there are some things you need to be aware of to ensure you don't carry out the process incorrectly and therefore get on the wrong side of the law.
Michelle Rigler, Head of Portfolio at car finance company First Response Finance, said: "As industry veterans, we've seen a lot of mistakes made from people who personalise their registration plates, and the consequences can be dire.
"It's a fun and quirky task for sure – but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taken seriously and via the legal routes. Failing to play by the rules could see you hit with a £1,000 fine."
Here, Michelle explains everything you need to know about private number plates.
Some number plate registrations are banned
While it's easier than ever before to get your hands on a personalised number plate, not every combination of letters and numbers are available. As a rule, the DVLA prohibits any registration numbers that could be seen as 'too rude' or 'too offensive.'
The registrations are issued twice a year, in March and September, but before this happens, the DLVA team searches through 100s of 1000s of letter and number combinations to determine which could cause offence, pulling them from the system. In March 2022, the team removed 343 combinations, including 'YE22 WAR', 'B22T CHY' and 'TU22 URD'.
The buying processes
Of course, it goes without saying that you must obtain your private number plate the right way, or that £1,000 fine could come your way. Although you can freely personalise your plate, it's still a particularly important component of your car and should be treated as such; it gives your vehicle its own distinctive identity and provides information and history.
First, you need to buy your private number, either directly from the DVLA, at a DVLA auction, or from a private dealer or person. If you choose to go through an independent seller, it's your responsibility to ensure that all the relevant documentation is genuine, including the Certificate of Entitlement (V750) and/or the retention document (V778).
Once you've successfully secured your number, you must then assign your new private number to your vehicle (if you have one and you want to put it there, but more on that below), and then get the number plate made from a registered supplier.
You don't have to be a driver or vehicle owner to get one
Even if you don't have a vehicle, or perhaps don't know how to legally drive, you can still purchase a personalised number plate. Some people do this because the iconic plate makes for interesting wall art or as a form of decoration. Others go through the buying process to give a loved one a unique, customised gift.
So, not only is it possible to buy a private registration number even if you aren't a celebrity, it's also possible even if you aren't a driver! No fine here. Use the search function on the DVLA personalised registration page to see what's currently available, or keep your eyes peeled for upcoming auctions.
Let your insurance company know about the change
You should always declare any policy changes to your insurance company, and this includes swapping your original number plate for a personalised one. Because it's unlikely that they'll increase the cost of your policy due to the plate change, you may think it's just not worth telling them – but Michelle insists that this would be a mistake.
"Failing to inform your insurance company about your change in registration could lead to your car insurance being invalidated," she revealed. "Not only would it make it harder to get car insurance in the future, but it could also make it more expensive for you. It's just not worth it, so make sure you let them know."
In a similar way, if your vehicle is financed, you should update your finance company about any changes to your number plate so that the necessary details can be updated on their system.
Remember to renew your right to use
So, the number plate has been successfully received and is now on your vehicle or displayed proudly in your home. Now what? To keep yourself on the right side of the law, you must remember to renew your right to use your personalised number plate after 10 years, or perhaps sooner if you received it before 2015.
If you're unsure, check your V750 or V778 document to see which applies to you. Failing to renew your right before its expiration date will lead to you permanently losing the right to use the number, with the DVLA refusing applications beyond the specified date.
Do things the right way
You should feel free to go ahead and organise your personalised number plate if this is something you've wanted to do for a while now. Just remember, it's still a consequential process that must be taken seriously, so please follow the advice and guidance to avoid that £1,000 fine!