Whose Number Plate Is This?

If you have your heart set on a particular private number plate, you may have discovered that it isn’t available for purchase. This is likely to be because someone else is using the private number plate you want. So, is there any way of finding out whose number plate it is?

DVLA Vehicle Enquiry Service

The DVLA’s Vehicle Enquiry Service allows anyone to make a simple check on a registration number. You can input the registration you’re interested in, then you will see a screen full of information. This information relates to the vehicle, however, rather than the owner. While you will easily discover what kind of car the number plate is in use on - including the make, model, engine size and fuel type, as well as whether or not it has tax and an MOT - you can’t find out anything about the owner by doing this.

DVLA Information about another vehicle or its registered keeper

The DVLA also offers a more in-depth service. Via its “request information about a vehicle or its registered keeper from DVLA” page, you can access V888 form to ask for further details.

There is a caveat, however. To make this request, you need to have what the DVLA class as “reasonable cause” for your enquiry. What the DVLA categorises as a “reasonable cause” is listed on the page, and includes discovering who caused an accident, who owns a vehicle that is being kept on private land or appears to have been abandoned, and who is responsible for paying a parking fine or penalty charge. If suspected fraud is involved, such as insurance fraud or someone who has driven away without paying for something - such as fuel - then this will also be considered a “reasonable cause”.

There are various versions of the V888 form. V888 is for individuals, while V888/3 is for organisations who issue parking or trespass penalty notices. There are also forms V888/2A or V888/2B, for requesting information about the registered keeper or vehicle itself.

Finding an alternative

As detailed above, it’s not exactly straightforward to find out who owns the plate you want, so you may need to consider the alternatives.

One of the quickest ways to discover whether a number plate is available to buy is to search online at one of the many companies dealing in personalised plates - even the DVLA sells them. If the plate is available, you should immediately see a listed price and then if you wish, you can go ahead and purchase it.

If the plate you want is taken, this is also an easy way to find an alternative, as the search function will return a list of similar plates for you to peruse. You may find that there is something you like equally on the list, or perhaps a plate that is available at a far better price than you expected, so it’s definitely worth a look.

Many of the companies dealing in private car registrations have very sophisticated search functions. This means that instead of inputting the precise plate you want, you can enter your initials, first name or surname, age, car, occupation, interests or anything you can think of, and the search function will come up with a list of private plates available to buy. The prices will also be listed, so you can easily compare the choices on offer.
 

Other related FAQs

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

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.

You must inform the DVLA if you wish to remove your personalised number plate and replace it with the car’s original plate. It costs £80 to remove personalised plates and this can be done online or by post.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Having an illuminated number plate is a legal requirement, so it's important that you replace your number plate bulb if it fails. This a simple process which anyone can complete, and replacement bulbs are readily available in shops and online.

Personalised number plates can be a good investment as they nearly always retain their value and often increase in price. Investing in these plates is not risk free though, so it shouldn’t be undertaken without careful research.