When it comes to customising cars, a personalised number plate is a stand-out way of putting a personal twist on things. With the industry now worth £2 billion, it’s not hard to see why vanity plates are proving so popular right now.

There’s an undoubted flashiness to driving around with a car that sports custom plates. It’s exclusive, it’s prestigious, and it attracts admiring glances from all onlookers. But as this article will soon make clear, it’s also a bit of a drawn-out process, with expensive costs and legalities to take into consideration before you buy.

In this motoring guide, we’ll take you through the process of buying a personalised number plate, including where you can buy them from, what you can feature on them, and how much they cost. We’ll also look at how you can go about selling personalised number plates to other motorists. Let’s get started…

Where can I buy a personalised number plate?

There are three ways you can go about buying a private number plate, which are as follows:

Through the DVLA

With more than 45 million registrations available to buy, buying directly from the DVLA is a great way of cutting to the chase. And thanks to its in-depth search tool, you can easily enter your criteria and peruse its collection from there.

They also host auctions throughout the year. These can take the form of physical auctions, where you bid in person, online or over the phone, or timed auctions. These timed auctions involve you submitting a maximum bid that cannot be seen by others. The system then automatically bids for you up to your predefined limit.

dvla letter

Through a broker

Can’t find the plate you’re looking for from the DVLA website? Your next best bet is to track down broker websites that buy and sell personalised number plates.

While you may find a plate to your liking, it’s worth noting that they’re far pricier than those sold by the DVLA. Essentially, you’re paying twice: once for the DVLA’s original price, and once for the broker’s markup.

Through a private seller

Your last option is to check the classified adverts in car magazines or newspapers’ motoring supplements. However, since these privately advertised plates tend to be on the rarer side, their price reflects this. Be prepared to fork out if you’re going down this route.

What types of personalised plates can you buy?

Right now, the four basic styles of registration plate in the UK consist of the following:


Example: AB12 ABC

Around since 2001, this is the current style used for new car registrations today. The first two letters indicate the region it was registered, followed by two numbers which indicate the vehicle’s age. The final three letters are random.


Example: A123 ABC

Used between 1983 and 2001, the first letter is an indication of the vehicle’s age.


Example: ABC 123A

Issued between 1963 and 1983, suffix plates start with the letter A and end with a letter indicating its age. So, if the plate ends in B, it’s a car that originates from 1964


Example: 1ABC or ABC1

Used prior to 1963, dateless-style plates can be any combination of up to four numbers and three letters. Since there are no characters used to indicate the age of the vehicle, they’re considered the most desirable which, of course, makes them the most expensive.

How much do personalised plates cost?

There’s no set price for a personalised plate. Depending on a few things, prices can range from a few hundred pounds to a few hundred thousand pounds! And of course, if you’re buying through a DVLA auction, then there’s no telling what the final amount will be – it’s whatever someone is willing to pay on the day itself.

And as we hinted at before, plates sold through classified ads and brokers are generally rarer, so it’s not uncommon for such plates to fetch sums in the region of four, five and even six figures.

That said, the amount of characters on a personalised number plate says a lot about how much it’ll cost. The fewer the number of characters, the more you can expect to pay. Likewise, plates in high demand will go for more too, as is the case for plates that feature popular names.

Buying a personalised plate as a gift

The process of buying a personalised plate for someone, and then gifting it to them later, is surprisingly straightforward.

You’ll go about the process as normal, buying the private plate using one of the three methods mentioned above. Although no vehicle documents are needed yet, you’ll need these for the transfer of the registration, but this can be done by the recipient after you’ve given the plate to them.

The registration number will be added to a certificate, where you’ll be named as the ‘purchaser’ and the recipient will be listed as the ‘nominee’. You can hold onto this certificate for up to a year before gifting it.

If more than a year elapses, the DVLA will charge you £25 to renew the certificate each year. Certain private brokers allow you to hold on to this certificate for far longer than a year, however.

Can I transfer my personalised number plate?

Yes, you absolutely can. If you buy a new car but don’t want to part with your personalised plate, then the DVLA will transfer it for a fee of £80. You can even hold onto the plate for ten years, which is handy if you don’t yet have a new car to transfer the plates to.

How do I sell a personalised number plate?

If you’re looking to sell your personalised plate, then you can do so through a broker who specialises in the selling of personalised plates or by conducting the sale privately yourself. The DVLA does not buy private number plates.

Note that whichever method you choose to sell your personalised plate through, there are a few different prerequisites you’ll need to meet. First, check your paperwork for any mentions of ‘non-transferable’. You don’t want these words to appear, otherwise, you won’t be able to sell.

Secondly, you’ll need to be able to answer ‘yes’ to one of the following questions:

Is the vehicle registered under your first and last name?

Are you the official purchaser or grantee with either Certificate of Retention (V778) or a Certificate of Entitlement (V750)?

If you go for the first option, then the dealer will assist in locating a buyer, arranging and managing the payment, and transferring the registration number to the buyer’s vehicle. If they’re buying on retention, they’ll arrange for the certificate to be transferred over to them.

As for the second option, you’ll need to assign your personal registration plate to their care or transfer the certificate to the buyer if the registration number has been put on retention. You can assign your private number plate to someone else by post or online.

Whichever way you choose, you’ll need either your V778 retention certificate or V750 certificate of ownership, as well as the details found in the logbook or V5C registration document of the vehicle it will be attached to.

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