Can I buy a number plate from a scrapped car? Answered

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Learn the rules and options for buying a number plate from a scrapped car, what the law prohibits, and workarounds for private number plates.

Whether you're scrapping your current car and want to preserve the number plate or particularly like the number plate on another car, you may be wondering how to purchase a number plate from a scrapped car. The reality is: there are some instances where it's allowed, and others where it's not.

If you want a private number plate, you'd normally have to go through the DVLA to have it assigned to your car.

However, there are other ways to find a personalised number plate. Number plate dealers and brokers, who purchase plates to sell on to buyers, have a selection of previously registered plates that can be assigned to a vehicle. You can also find a private seller who is willing to part ways with theirs.

These options are perfect for those who want a specific number plate that someone else has already taken.

If the number plate comes from an already-scrapped car, you're probably wondering if you can buy it from the scrapyard directly.

The answer is: No.

But there are a few workarounds.

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Is it legal to use a number plate from a scrapped vehicle?

In the UK, it is illegal to use a number plate from a scrapped vehicle on another car. When a vehicle is scrapped, its registration number is effectively retired along with it, as it is permanently associated with that specific vehicle. Using a number plate from a scrapped vehicle can result in fines up to £1,000 and potentially other penalties.

Why can't I buy a number plate from a scrapped car?

You cannot buy a number plate from a scrapped car because the number plate is permanently associated with the specific vehicle to which it was originally assigned.

There are a few key reasons why this is not allowed:

Permanent association

When a vehicle is manufactured, it is assigned a unique registration number (i.e., the number on its number plate). This registration number is linked to the vehicle's identity in official records maintained by the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency).

Once the vehicle is scrapped, the registration number is retired along with the car and cannot be reused or reassigned to another vehicle.

Legal restrictions

UK law prohibits the use of number plates from scrapped vehicles on other cars to prevent issues related to vehicle identification, fraud, and the illegal use of number plates. The DVLA has strict regulations to ensure that each registration number remains tied to its original vehicle to maintain the integrity of vehicle registration records.

Vehicle identity and fraud prevention

Allowing the reuse of number plates from scrapped cars could facilitate various forms of fraud, including cloning vehicles' identities, evading taxes, and bypassing legal and safety inspections. By retiring the number plate with the scrapped vehicle, authorities can prevent such misuse and ensure that every registered vehicle has a unique and traceable identity​.

Personalised number plates are the EXCEPTION. While standard number plates are retired with the vehicle, vehicle owners can retain their personalised number plates if they follow the proper procedures (more on this below).

Do I have to scrap my personalised number plate along with my car?

If you're going to scrap your car, you do not have to scrap your personalised number plate along with it. You can retain your personalized number plate and transfer it to another vehicle or place it on retention for future use.

Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Apply for number plate retention. Before scrapping your car, you need to apply to retain your personalized number plate. This involves filling out a V317 form, which you can obtain from the DVLA website. You must pay a fee of £80 for this service​.
  2. Fill out a V317 form. The V317 form allows you to either transfer the number plate to another vehicle immediately or place it on a retention certificate. If you choose the latter, the number plate will be held on a retention certificate until you are ready to assign it to a new vehicle​.
  3. Gather your vehicle documentation. Ensure you have the V5C logbook of the car from which the number plate is being removed. You will need to provide this documentation to the DVLA as part of the retention process​.
  4. Notify your insurance company and the DVLA. Tell your insurer and the DVLA about the retention of the number plate. This ensures all records are updated and prevents any potential issues with vehicle identification and insurance claims​.

Update relevant applications. You might need to change records that use the vehicle's registration number, like parking apps or toll payment systems, to prevent discrepancies.

Can I transfer a car’s number plate to another vehicle?

Using the steps outlined above, you can also transfer a car's number plate to another vehicle. A seller can do the same when selling a car by retaining the number plate and assigning it to their new vehicle.

If you plan to do this, or you're working with a seller to secure their number plate, be sure to finish the entire process before scrapping it. Otherwise, you will lose the rights to that number plate.

Can I reserve a number plate from a scrapped car before it's dismantled?

You cannot reserve a number plate from a scrapped car unless you take action before the vehicle is officially scrapped. The number plate is permanently linked to the vehicle it was issued to and is effectively retired along with the car when it is scrapped.

Once you have successfully applied for retention and paid the £80 transfer fee, the number plate will be held on the retention certificate for up to 10 years. This certificate allows you to assign the number plate to another vehicle whenever you are ready.

The bottom line

While you cannot buy a number plate from a scrapped car, there are options for retaining and transferring personalised number plates. These safeguards help the DVLA prevent fraud, maintain accurate vehicle registration records, and ensure each vehicle has a unique identifier.

If you're thinking of scrapping your car, make sure to follow the proper procedures for retaining or transferring a personalised number plate to avoid losing the rights to it. And when you're ready to scrap it, use our free service to get an instant quote, arrange a free collection, and get on-the-spot payment.