How to Keep a Private Number Plate (2023)


Learn how to retain your private number plate after selling your car in the UK. A comprehensive guide on the requirements, process and potential issues.

How to Retain a Private Number Plate After Selling Your Car

If you have a custom licence plate, you probably want to keep it when you sell your car or trade it in. The good news is, doing so isn't difficult. At most, it's one additional step in the sales process.



A private number plate is one of the most common and practical ways to personalise your car. But that plate has a unique meaning and character (meaning that won't matter to your new buyer, anyway). So we definitely don't blame you for wanting to retain it.

Since you have to send your V5C logbook to the DVLA when you sell your car, you're probably wondering how that works with personalised registration. The regular ownership transfer system isn't designed for private number plates.

Follow our in-depth guide to learn:

  • what your options are
  • requirements for keeping your private number plate
  • how to remove a private number plate from your car
  • how to keep your personalised registration
  • how to transfer it to another vehicle when the time comes

We'll also discuss what your options are if your car is written off and what circumstances might raise red flags to the DVLA.

Can I keep my private number plate when I sell my car?

The short answer is yes. Most of the time, it's possible to retain your private number plate after selling your car.

To keep your private number plate, you have to apply to the DVLA. They will authorise you to remove the licence plate from your car and re-register it on another one at some point in the future.

If the DVLA approves your retention application, they will send you a V778 Retention Document. This certificate authorises you to keep your private number plate, so it can be used on another vehicle sometime in the next ten years.

They will also send you a new V5C logbook in the post. The new V5C will confirm your updated registration.

Usually, you can expect to retain the same registration number when you move the plate from one vehicle to another. There are some cases where this isn't possible due to certain regulations.

If I want to keep my private number plate, what are my options?

The good news is you don't limit your options for selling your car when you have a private number plate. It's a process most businesses and private buyers are happy to cooperate with.

Whether you're selling your car online, at a dealership or to a private buyer, the sale process is exactly the same. Private number plate retention is an undertaking you handle yourself.

What if I want to keep the plate for myself?

If you want to keep the plate for yourself (i.e., without assigning it to a new vehicle), the process is quite similar. All you have to do is apply for a V778 document with the DVLA.

If you want to hang it on your wall or put it in a frame, you still have to get approval. But if you have no plans to use it on your next car, you might be entitled to an £80 refund from the DVLA (which you paid to have the right to use it).

To get refunded, you must formally relinquish your right to use the number before ever assigning it to a vehicle. If you’ve applied the V778 to a vehicle since the DVLA granted you permission to use your number plate, you will technically have used what you paid for.

What if I'm selling a salvage car?

When selling a salvage car with a private number plate, the process is a little more complicated.

You need to tell your car insurance provider first. If you don't, you will lose your right to keep it once your car is written off. After the insurance company pays you out for the car, the plate number belongs to them.

The procedure for dealing with written-off cars varies from company to company. Usually, they'll sell your car for scrap. Once they scrap your car, your personalised number plate is gone for good.

Requirements for retaining your number plate

To qualify for a V778, the DVLA requires you to meet a few prerequisites:

  • Your vehicle must be registered with the DVLA
  • It has to be able to start and move using its own engine/battery
  • It must be the type of car that needs an MOT certificate (sorry, classic cars!)
  • If it's a Heavy Goods Vehicle, it also needs a valid HGV certificate
  • You and your vehicle must be available for DVLA inspection (if the request it)
  • You must have taxed it or declared it a SORN every year for the last five years

If you have declared your car a SORN for more than five years, the DVLA will probably ask to inspect it before approving/denying your V778 application. After five years, you will also need to tax it even if it's a SORN.

Putting your number plate on retention

You want to put your number plate on retention when you're selling your car or scrapping it but don't have a car to transfer it to yet. Since many sellers take the cash from their previous car and put it towards a new one after the sale, this is a common scenario.

When you carry out the process, you have the choice between doing so online or by post.

The DVLA's online service is easy and takes care of the process in mere minutes (this is what most people do).

In both cases, your V778 will cost you £80 and be valid for ten years. You can hold it indefinitely, but you'll need to renew it before that ten-year expiry.

Applying online

The DVLA's online service is easy and takes care of the process in mere minutes (this is what most people do).

  1. Grab your V5C logbook and verify you're the registered keeper.
  2. Navigate to the DVLA's 'Take a private number off a vehicle' web page.
  3. Scroll, read through the eligibility requirements and click 'Take off a number online' once you reach the bottom.
  4. Fill in the registration number and the 11-digit V5C reference number.
  5. Enter your postcode exactly as displayed in your V5C.
  6. Certify you're the registered keeper by clicking 'Yes I am'.
  7. Pay your £80 fee via the secure payment portal.
  8. If your application is accepted, you will receive a new V5C and green V778 Retention Document through the post.

Applying by post

Some people prefer the post method because it's a more tangible process. You would also send it through the post if the car's V5C isn't in your name or you want the V778 document to be in someone else's name.

  1. Download a copy of the V317 form.
  2. Indicate you want to choose Option B by drawing an 'X' in the box on the upper right-hand side of Page 1.
  3. As directed on the form, navigate to Page 2. Complete Section 1 with all the information from your V5C logbook (make, model, VIN/chassis number).
  4. For Section 2, fill out the vehicle checklist by marking 'X' inside any or all of the four boxes pertaining to you.
  5. Write in your name (first/last), address, 7-digit postcode and preferred phone number.
  6. Complete Section 4.1 if someone else will be the new owner of the registration number. Fill out Section 4.2 to appoint a nominee, such as a dealer acting on your behalf. Leave it blank if you (the registered keeper) plan to keep the plate for yourself.
  7. With your application, enclose your V5C logbook or green 'New Keeper' slip (V5C/2) and a completed V62. Include your cheque for £80, made out to 'DVLA, Swansea').
  8. Address your stamped envelope to the Personalised Registrations Department.

Keeping your number plate on retention

If you do have to renew your V778, the process is quite simple:

  1. Fill out Section 5 and Section 6 in your V778 document
  2. Put the vehicle registration number (the private plate) in Section 6, not the original number
  3. Send your certificate to the DVLA (you won't have to pay the fee a second time)
  4. The DVLA will send you an updated Retention Document (V778) in about 4 to 6 weeks
  5. You can use this updated version to transfer the number to another vehicle

When you renew your V778, it's good for another ten years. If you don't renew it, your private number plate will be cancelled after ten years.

What happens after you send the V778 application?

If the DVLA approves your application, they'll send you a fresh V5C logbook, which you can expect within a two-week turnaround. If they want to inspect your vehicle in person, they'll let you know and give you details for arranging this.

The 'Vehicle details' section of your V5C (above Section 1) will display your vehicle's new registration number. Usually, this is the number it had before you applied for a private plate. The typical registration number consists of:

  • Area code (first two letters indicating where it was first registered)
  • Age identifier (two digits, e.g. '16' for 2016)
  • Random three letters

In addition to a new V5C, you'll receive the V778 Retention Document, certifying your car's private plate is on retention. You'll need to have this document when transferring it onto another vehicle.

Once you have your Retention Document, you can start shopping for your next car with the intention of putting your personalised number plate onto it.

Can the DVLA deny my V778 Retention Document application?

Although you shouldn't have anything to worry about, there are a few reasons the DVLA might reject your application.

  • You disclosed the wrong information in the form (mistakenly or otherwise).
  • You were unavailable or uncooperative with an inspection, after they requested one.
  • You didn't include your V5C logbook when applying by post.
  • You failed to renew the personalised registration before its expiry date.
  • You didn't contact your insurer for your number plate before they scrapped your vehicle.
  • Your car hasn't been on the road for more than five years.

Once you've made sure you meet all the guidelines, your application should be accepted and processed within no time.

What happens if my V778 Retention Document expires?

Since your V778 retention certificate is valid for ten whole years, it's unlikely you'll run into the problem of expiration.

That said, you definitely don't want to. If it expires before you assign it to a vehicle or send an application to the DVLA for another 10-year extension is rejected, you can kiss your cherished number plate goodbye.

Since it's such a long time between approval and expiry, it's easy to forget about it before it expires. To avoid this from happening, make sure you keep an eye on the expiry date by setting a reminder somewhere.

What documents do I need to retain my private number plate?

To retain your number plate, you need to have your V5C logbook. Unfortunately, there are no exceptions to this — if you're selling a car without a V5C, you're out of luck.

When you apply online, the form will ask for your 11-digit V5C reference number. You'll also need your postcode exactly as it appears in the V5C.

For a post application, you'll need to send the entire logbook with your payment and application.

What if I don't have my V5C logbook when applying?

If you lost or damaged your V5C, getting a new one is easy. You can use the DVLA's online service ('Get a vehicle logbook'). Unfortunately, you'll have to pay a £25 fee to replace it, but we think that's a small price to pay for keeping your beloved personalised number plate.

You will most likely receive your new V5C in the post in no more than two weeks.

If you're trying to assign a private plate to someone else's vehicle, they'll be the one who needs the V5C logbook. Since it's their logbook, you won't be able to replace it yourself — only they can do that through the DVLA.

Can I sell my car while I'm still waiting for my transfer?

You cannot. If you complete the sale, you'll have presumably transferred ownership to the new buyer using the green 'New Keeper' slip in your V5C. If that happens, they will be the new registered owner of your private number plate.

So you don't accidentally lose your cherished number plate, it's better to list your car for sale only after completing the number plate transfer.

Can I sell my car after I remove my private number plate?

Once the plate is removed and you have the V778 in your hands, you're all set. You can now transfer ownership to the new buyer, and they'll be the vehicle's new registered keeper with its original registration number.

At that point, all you'll have to do is prepare your car for sale and start looking for potential buyers. If you're selling a car on finance, you'll also have to pay off the remaining loan balance.

Wrapping up

Your V778 Retention Document will keep your personalised number plate on hold until you transfer it to another vehicle.

Again, remember to fill in the application correctly and keep an eye on its expiry date. And keep your V5C logbook safe, as you'll need it to apply for a new retention certificate or transfer the plate to another vehicle.

Once all that is taken care of, you're all set to list your car and connect with potential buyers!