Cheapest source for millions of number plates
The UK’s fastest number plates search engine
Fast & secure online purchase
Professionally managed services & options

What Is A Retention Certificate For A Number Plate?

If you have a personalised number plate and buy a new car, you may want to keep the personalised number and transfer it to your new vehicle. Alternatively, perhaps you own a personalised number plate and want to sell it, or you wish to purchase or keep a number plate without assigning it to a vehicle. In any of these cases, you need to apply for a retention certificate to show that you legally own the plate. 

You can apply for the certificate online or by post from the DVLA. There is a one-off fee for this, and you can retain a number plate for up to 10 years. You can renew the certificate after this period on an ongoing basis for as long as you like.

If you’re transferring a plate from one vehicle to another, you will need the vehicle log book (form V5C) to show that you are the registered keeper of the car from which you want to remove the licence plate. You can also use the DVLA website to assign your number to another vehicle. You will have to complete a V317 form, which is used to apply for the retention of a number via a postal application. You also require the log book and MOT certificate, if applicable. If you are a new owner of the car and do not have the full log book, you will need to wait for a new V5C to come through in your name. The DVLA will check that the car is insured and taxed.

Whether you apply by post or online, you will receive either a retention document (form V778) or a replacement log book with the vehicle’s new registration.

It can take up to six weeks to receive a retention certificate. If you change your mind about retaining the number plate, you can apply for a refund of the retention certificate fee but you will lose entitlement to the number plate.

As long as you have the correct documents, obtaining a retention certificate is not difficult, especially if you apply online at the DVLA website.

What rights does a retention certificate give you?

You have the right to retain the number and not assign it to another car if you wish. This right expires after 10 years but can be renewed. 

Should you wish to sell your personalised number plate, you will need to show the buyer that you have a retention certificate. After you have sold the number plate, the new owner will need the retention certificate number so that they can apply to the DVLA to transfer ownership of the number. 

You can assign a number to a leased car with the cooperation of the lease company. You need to apply to the DVLA to have it removed at around two months before the lease ends. You can also assign your number to a car bought on a finance deal.

With a retention certificate, you can sell a number plate to an individual in a private transaction, or you can use a firm that will find a buyer for you and arrange the sale. They will charge a commission, which is typically around 30 per cent.

If you wish to find out more about retention certificates, you can visit the website of the DVLA. Making sure you understand the paperwork required to retain a personalised number plate will help you to avoid any unnecessary problems.

Other related FAQs

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.