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DVLA Retention Certificate

Many drivers choose to use a personalised registration number for their vehicle, and many will keep the same number for years and decades, using it on many cars over a decade or more. Personalised plates – which are also known as private plates or registration marks, can either be bought direct from the DVLA, privately, or through a third-party website.

Some people may hold the rights to a personalised plate for many years before they get around to assigning it onto a vehicle.

Taking a Private Number off a Vehicle

People who have bought the rights to use a private number can apply to take it off a vehicle at any time. This is known as putting the number on retention. The DVLA will send the person who owns the rights to the plate a V778 document which proves they have the rights to use the number, and can be used when they decide they wish to put their personalised plate on another car.

Owners of personalised plates may also decide they no longer wish to use it, and choose to sell it on to someone else. There are lots of websites and ways of advertising your personalised plate for sale. Never share a scan or photograph of your V750 or V778 document though – someone unscrupulous might be able to use the code numbers on the form to “steal” your rights to the plate and assign it to another vehicle.

Transferring a Private Number

Many people who buy a personalised plate use it for several years, transferring it from vehicle to vehicle as they buy and sell their cars. The process for doing this with the DVLA is relatively straightforward. First, you have to remove the plate from the vehicle it is currently on, then assign it to the new vehicle. This can either be done online, or by post. You will need to fill in form V317.

Buying a Private Number from the DVLA

You have a range of options for buying your new personalised number. The DVLA regularly issue new batches of numbers on their website and also have a search function where you can enter key details such as your initials or favourite number, and the DVLA will suggest which plates are available and show you the prices.

The DVLA also runs regular auctions across the UK, or online, for numbers which are more valuable or desirable. You have the chance to bid in these auctions online. The DVLA puts up a list of numbers which will be auctioned online, so you have the chance to view in advance and decide whether you want to buy. When you buy your new personalised plate, the DVLA will send you a V750 certificate of entitlement in the post, which proves that you are the person who has the right to the personalised plate, and then assign it to a vehicle at a later date.

Buying A Numberplate Privately

There is also the option to buy a number from a private individual, or from a specialist dealer in numberplates. Most dealers who are in the business of buying and selling private numberplates will help you through the process of transferring the personalised plate onto another vehicle. If you want to keep the number to use at a later date or do through the assignation process yourself, you should ask the dealer to give you the V750 or V778 certificate.

Once you are ready to put a personalised number on a vehicle, you will need one of:

Rules about Personalised Plates

There are lots of rules about numberplates in the UK. For example, numbers which start with a Q, or NIQ, can’t be taken off one vehicle and assigned to another. Numberplates starting with Q are used for vehicles where the age it unclear, perhaps because it is an import, or a kit car. Similarly, if your existing vehicle previously had a Q registration plate, you are unable to assign a private plate to it.

The other main rule is that you cannot use a private plate to make a car appear newer than it is. So for example, you cannot put a 08 registration number of a car which was first registered in 2002.

Any car which has a personalised plate put onto it must be registered with the DVLA in the UK, not with another body overseas. It must be able to move under its own power – so not something like a bicycle or scooter. Legally, it must also be available for inspection. It’s unlikely that the DVLA are going to want to look at the car, but the law permits them to do so if they wish. The vehicle must also be taxed, or have a SORN in place. If the vehicle has been under a SORN for 5 years or more, it also needs a MOT certificate. Even if your vehicle is a classic car which does not need a MOT, you will still need one to put a new personalised plate onto it.

Assigning A Number

If you have the rights to use a personalised plate and want to assign it onto a vehicle, this is straightforward. Assuming you are the owner – or registered keeper – of the vehicle, you can complete the process either online or by post. Online is going to be quicker. If you’ve just bought a used or second-hand car, you will have to wait for the new V5 document (the log book) with your name and address to arrive in the post. If you are buying a brand new car, then give the V750 or V778 form to the dealer and they can apply for have the personalised plate assigned to the new car.

If you already have a personalised plate on a car and wish to swap it for a new one, remember to take the old plate off first, or you might lose the rights to use it.

Using Your New Registration Number

The most important people to tell about your new registration number are your insurers. There is usually no charge for updating the details on your policy but if you fail to tell them the car is under a new registration number and you have an accident, submitting your claim is going to be much more difficult.

You should also update your account with any automatic payment accounts which you might have which work using numberplate recognition such as the London congestion charging zone, or toll charges for bridges and tunnels. If you don’t update your accounts, you may be landed with a penalty charge.

Selling or Gifting a Private Number

Your personalised numberplate is yours to do with as you please. You can give it, or sell it, to someone else if you wish to do so. You can either sell your number yourself through an auction site like Ebay, or ask a dealer to sell it on your behalf. A dealer will usually take a percentage commission so make sure you understand the charges before you agree to allow them to handle the sale.

Never share a photograph or a scanned image of your V778 or V750 certificate. These numbers can be used to put your private number onto another vehicle without your knowledge. Dealers will take the hassle out of the number transfer and will do the marketing, handle the transaction and deal with the DVLA over the sale.

If you wish to give the number to someone as a gift, this can also be arranged online or by post. The DVLA will then send out a replacement log book to the person named on the V5 as the registered keeper.

Giving Up A Private Number

There is all manner of reasons why you might have the rights to use a private number, but never get around to putting it onto any car. If you have been holding onto the right to use a number for a while and wish to give up that right, you can return it to the DVLA. In some situations you might get a refund.

Refunds can only be given if the number was not assigned to any vehicle after you bought it. You will also need the V778 or V750 form to do this, so if you have lost yours, ask the DVLA to send out a replacement.

On the form, tick the box saying “give up the right to this number” section, and send it off in the post to the DVLA. It goes without saying that once you have sent the paperwork off in the post, you can no longer use that registration number in any way.

There is a separate process to follow if the person with the rights to use the personalised number has died, and there is full information about this on the DVLA website.

Renewing a Personalised Number

If you are holding the rights to use a personalised number which is not assigned to a vehicle, then which must be renewed every 10 years. If you bought your personalised plate before 2015 then you may have to renew more frequently. Expiry dates will be printed on the form. If you do not renew your entitlement to use a personalised number before the expiry date on the form, then the risk is that you lose the rights to the number permanently.

You can go through the process of renewing entitlement to a personalised numberplate up to 28 days before it expires. Any applications sent in earlier than this are likely to be refused. DVLA will send out reminders by post or email if you are holding a private number which is not assigned to a vehicle, and that entitlement is about to run out. When you renew, it is possible to extend the period for another 10 years.

Lost or Stolen Personalised Plate Paperwork

If you have lost the V750 or V778 document, or suspect that it has been destroyed or stolen, then you can apply for a replacement. You can only do with if the certificate has not already expired, and when you are the person who was named on the certificate as the grantee, or the person who has the legal right to use the number.

You can apply for a replacement certificate online, and it should take between 3 and 4 weeks for the DVLA to process the new form and for it to arrive through the post. Go online and manage the process through the account you set up when you originally bought the rights to your plate. If you bought the rights to the number several years ago and do not have a DVLA personal registration account, then you can apply for a replacement certificate in the post instead.

This is straightforward in most cases. If however you have moved house and are at a different address to that stated on the original paperwork, or have changed your name, you will need to send something to support your application and prove you are who you say you are. This is something like a copy utility bill dated within the last three months, a photograph of your driving licence, a bank statement, or a copy of your passport or birth certificate. For a name change, you will need to send the DVLA a copy of the deed poll showing both your old and new names, or a copy of your marriage certificate or divorce decree.

These safeguards are in place to stop scammers pretending to be you, and getting a new document issued in their name, or to their address. Speak to the DVLA if you have any questions about how the process works.