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How To Put A Number Plate On Retention

If you want to take a private number plate off a vehicle in preparation for selling the registration or placing it onto a different vehicle, then it is usually possible to do so. One of the few exceptions is if your number begins with “Q” or “NIQ”, in which case it cannot be retained. These are reserved for vehicles whose year of origin is unknown.


There are a list of conditions the DVLA requires to be met before it will issue a V778 retention document:

  • The vehicle must be capable of being moved by its own power
  • The vehicle must normally require an MOT or heavy goods vehicle (HGV) test
  • The vehicle should already be registered with the DVLA
  • The vehicle must be available for the DVLA to inspect, should they choose to do so
  • You must hold the V5C, or log book, for the vehicle
  • The car or van should either be taxed or have had a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) in place for the past five consecutive years. It must be taxed at present or hold a SORN. If it has been subject to a SORN for over five years, then it must be taxed before applying for the V778.

How to apply for number plate retention

You may make your application online or by post. If the vehicle is not in your own name, then you can only apply via post.

Online applications

The number will be removed with immediate effect, so you can assign it to another car or van straight away if you wish. You will need the reference number given in order to do this.

Postal applications

Assuming your vehicle does not require a DVLA inspection, then the number will be removed from it within a fortnight.

You need to send a specific set of documents to the DVLA, as follows:

  • A completed V317 “Apply to keep a vehicle registration number and put it on another vehicle” form
  • The log book
  • You also need to pay the DVLA transfer fee, which is currently £80

Untaxed vehicles

As stated above, you may need to tax your vehicle. You can do this at the same time by sending a completed V10 “Apply for vehicle tax” form and payment for the tax due.

What happens next?

It can take up to six weeks to receive all the documentation you need from the DVLA. They should send back your amended V5C, which will now show the new registration number. Usually, this will be the car or van’s original registration number. You should also get your V778 retention document, and your MOT certificate should also be returned to you. If the private number belongs to another person, then the V778 should be sent directly to them.

How long is the retention for?

Your V778 is proof that you have the right to reassign the registration within 10 years of its date. You must not dispose of or sell the vehicle before you receive the V778, or you could lose your right to use that registration elsewhere. It is free to renew the V778, which must be done every 10 years before the current document expires.

Other related FAQs

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

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.

Current DVLA guidelines state that a number plate can stay on retention for a maximum of 10 years before needing to be renewed. The retention fee is £80, but renewals are free and don’t take long to process.

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.

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.