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Can You Put A Personalised Number Plate On Any Car?

The selling and buying of personalised number plates is a thriving trade in here in the UK. To many car owners a private plate adds the finishing and personal touch to a vehicle. Available to buy from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and online brokers, personalised plates command prices from a few hundred pounds to many thousands depending on demand.

It’s possible to buy a private registration without even owning a car. Number plates can be purchased and held on retention to use at a later date. Before buying a personalised plate, it’s a good idea to make sure you can legally assign it to your intended vehicle, as there are some exceptions.

You can’t make a car look newer than it is by adding a younger plate

Unlike many other countries across the globe, number plates on UK cars display their age. The third and fourth digits of the current style of number plate indicate how old your car is. Each year there are two sets of plates issued one in spring and the other in autumn.

If your car is registered between March 1st and September 1st your number plate will take the third and fourth character from the last two digits of the date. For example, if your car’s registered between these months in 2019, the two numerals will be 1 and 9, so anyone can clearly see your car’s age. If your vehicle is registered after September 1st, 2019 and before March 1st, 2020 the numbers on your plate are created by taking the date and adding 50, which means you’ll have a 6 and a 9 on your plate.

Using this number plate system, people buying cars can quickly gauge how old a car is to within six months. If your car is registered in 2016, your personal plate must not feature a 19, for example, as this is seen as a misrepresentation of your vehicle’s age and considered unlawful.

The same rules apply to older number plates that feature a letter to indicate the year it was registered rather than numerals, they must not be added to older vehicles to make them appear younger.

Vehicles that don’t require HGV or MOT test certification

It isn’t possible to assign a personal number plate to a vehicle that doesn’t need an annual MOT test or a heavy goods vehicle certificate. Example of such vehicles would be a farm tractor or a machine for road repair like a steam roller.

Q-registered vehicles

Q registration numbers are issued by the DVLA when the agency has doubts about a vehicle’s identity or age. The registration will begin with the letter Q and this DVLA classification on a vehicle forbids it carrying a personalised number plate.

If you’ve got a kit car that’s Q-plated, you can apply to the DVLA to use a private plate if you have evidence of its age.

Vehicles that already have a personalised plate

If you’d like to assign your personalised plate to a car that already has a private plate, you can do this through the DVLA. Your old private plate can be kept on a retention certificate and your new one will be assigned to your chosen vehicle. To do this, you’ll need your car’s V5 registration document (also known as a logbook) and £80 to cover the DVLA fee.

Other related FAQs

Looking for more related content to this? We’ve picked a selection of related topics that you may find helpful

Acquiring a private plate won’t mean your car insurance goes up, but you’ll need to inform your insurer of the plate change and should ask for a letter confirming they have no interest in your private plate.

The process of removing a personalised number plate from a vehicle will differ depending on whether you want to save the number plate for future use, sell it on, or immediately reassign it to another vehicle.

If you want to get a personalised number plate made, you must ensure you go to a registered number plate supplier. This supplier will need to see proof of your identity and proof that you’re entitled to that registration number.

It is fairly simple to fit a replacement number plate to your car in just a few steps. You can either use screws to fix it in place, or opt for double-sided pads to secure it.

To find out the registered keeper of a vehicle number plate here in the UK, apply in writing to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). However, it will only provide these details if you have a reasonable cause.

It’s widely believed that you cannot add a personalised number plate to a leased car, but as long as you liaise with the lease company and take a few simple steps, you are able to change the number plates.

Guernsey number plates are issued sequentially and differ to those in mainland UK. They consist solely of numerals, featuring an oval showing the characters “GBG”. Along with standard white and yellow plates, they can display silver characters on black.

A simple transfer from one vehicle to another can be completed online with the DVLA and you can make the switch as soon as you've finished the process. Organising it by post takes longer – expect two to five weeks.

UK number plates change every March and September, on the first of the month. This is when the year identifier changes, for example from 19 to 69 in 2019/20. The former applies from March, and the latter from September.

You can discover certain information about the vehicle that a number plate is on fairly simply, but to find out who it actually belongs to is a little more tricky. Your best port of call is the DVLA.