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How Long Does A Number Plate Stay On Retention?

If you wish to remove a private number plate from the vehicle to which it is currently assigned, or if you have purchased a personalised or cherished number plate but do not yet have a car to register it to, you might want to apply for the number plate to be placed on retention. This means that the number plate is listed by the DVLA as being on hold, to be assigned to a vehicle at a later date, if required. A number plate can remain on retention for up to 10 years unless you decide to remove it from the retention register. After 10 years, you must either renew your number plate retention, or register a vehicle with the number plate.

What happens if you don’t renew your number plate retention after 10 years?

If you have a personalised number plate currently listed as being under retention, you have to fill in and send off the V778 form to the DVLA before it’s expiry date in order to keep its retention status. It’s easy to forget to renew your retention certificate, but failing to do this can result in unfortunate consequences. As of 18th December 2019, anybody who has not renewed the retention on their currently unused number plate will forfeit the right to ever use that plate again.

What will happen to personalised number plates with expired retention certificates?

From December 2019, the DVLA is cracking down on expired retention certificate holders. Any private number plate registration numbers that are not either in use or registered as under retention from this time onwards will simply cease to exist. It will no longer be possible to assign them to any vehicle, and they will lose their monetary value virtually entirely.

Is there any reason your private number plate might be denied a retention certificate?

If a vehicle has been scrapped, it is not possible to apply for the personalised number plate assigned to this vehicle to be either transferred to another car or to be put on retention. Any applications for retention must be made prior to a car being written off or scrapped, otherwise the DVLA will simply refuse the application. In these circumstances, the physical number plate would become useless, and the DVLA would regain ownership of the registration number itself and may choose to resell it via their private registration auctions.

Will a number plate still remain on retention if you sell it?

Should you wish to sell a personalised number plate, it’s advisable to place it on retention first if you have not already done so. You can then transfer the number plate to the new owner by means of sending off paper forms, or via the DVLA’s website. Once the number plate has been registered to a vehicle under the name of the buyer, it will no longer belong to you and the retention will cease to exist.

Other related FAQs

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

If you want to keep or purchase a number plate without assigning it to a vehicle, you can put it on retention. By doing this, you’re essentially retaining the registration to use at a later date of your choosing.

Yes. The most likely reason for this is you've bought a new car and want to move your personal number plate over to your new vehicle. This is a relatively simple process and can be done through the DVLA website.

Number plate retention lasts for 10 years or until you use the plate on a vehicle, whichever comes first. After 10 years, you must renew your retention certificate if you still have no vehicle to assign your number plate to.

To take a private number plate off retention, you need documents including the V778 retention document, the V5 registration document for the receiving vehicle and an MOT certificate if your vehicle requires one.

A retention certificate for a number plate is an official DVLA form confirming that you are the legal owner of that plate. It allows you to keep or purchase a number plate without assigning it to a vehicle.

If you want to sell a private number plate or reserve it for future use, you can do so via the DVLA. As long as certain conditions are met, you can pay to obtain a V778 retention document.