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What does it mean if a number plate is on retention?

Private registrations are usually accessible for anyone (depending on how sought after the plate in question is). But is it just a case of buying the plate? Or are further processes required in order to use them on the road?

In this blog, we will show you how to register a private registration plate.

Bespoke Plates is a renowned and legally certified registration platemaker and installer, with options of 3D Plates, 4D Plates, Show Plates, and regular / Electric Vehicle Plates and more. We are the one-stop shop for all things registration plates!

Whether it’s a Private Plate, Gel Plate, Standard Registration Plate or plating accessories, we have you covered.

As a certified and experienced team of plate fitters and makers, our plates are installed to the specification of UK law, provided alongside the appropriate paperwork you require. (The only exception to this is show plates.)

Private plates explained

Private plates explained

A private plate is an optional variant on the standard issue number plate that came with your vehicle. Private plates are unique in the sense that they have a unique combination of characters that don’t conform to the standard character groupings of a regular number plate.

The result is a number plate that can spell out words or commemorate a cherished memory, or even just spell out the name of the owner. The possibilities are far-reaching.

Are private plates unique?

Yes. Every private plate is unique, once the unique set of characters is established, there can not be another number plate in the country with the exact same characters, just like a regular number plate.

The unique aspect of a private plate is a major contributor into their varied prices. With the most sought after plates having the potential to go for thousands of pounds up to hundreds of thousands!

How to register a private registration plate

What Happens to a Private Number After the Owner Dies

Before you register a private registration plate, you first have to buy it from a legal vendor, whether this be from a private seller, or the DVLA. Below is a brief explantation of the process, before registration, and how to register the plate to your vehicle. 

1. Buy the private plate

  • When buying from the DVLA, you can search for available plates and participate in auctions for cherished registrations.
  • Private dealers offer a wider selection of plates, but prices may vary. With either option, prices can be dramatically high if the plate itself has a unique combination of characters.

2. Assigning the private number plate to your vehicle:

  • Once you have the right to display the plate (proven by a V750 certificate of entitlement if bought new or a V778 retention document if transferred from another vehicle), you can assign it to your car.
  • This process is done through the DVLA website, you’ll need your V5C registration document (vehicle log book) and the certificate/reference number for the private plate.

Important points to consider:

  • There’s a mandatory £80 transfer fee charged by the DVLA for assigning the plate to your vehicle.
  • You cannot simply display a private plate without completing the transfer process. It’s illegal to have a registration number that doesn’t match your V5C.
  • After acquiring the right to display a private plate, you need to renew that right every 10 years.
  • When assigning the plate to your vehicle, you’ll need to get new number plates made according to regulations from a registered supplier.

Remember, it’s always best to refer to the official DVLA guidance for the latest information and any regulation updates.

Is a private plate available for any vehicle?

No. Private plates can not be used on every vehicle on UK roads. Here is a list of vehicles that can not use a private plate:

  • Vehicles exempt from MOT tests: This includes things like tractors, agricultural machinery, and some older vehicles. These types of vehicles won’t have a current registration system compatible with personalized plates.
  • Vehicles with Q registrations: The DVLA issues Q registrations when they have doubts about a vehicle’s identity or age. These vehicles typically require further investigation before being eligible for a standard registration, and so private plates wouldn’t be allowed.

However, if you have evidence to prove the vehicle’s age (for example, with a kit car), you can apply to the DVLA for permission to use a private plate.

  • Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) and trailers: These require a specific registration system for weight and licensing purposes, and private plates wouldn’t be compatible with that system.

Can a private plate be similar to a normal number plate?

How Do I Find Out if a Private Number Plate Is Available

Yes, to a certain extent, a private number plate can be similar to a regular number plate. Here’s why:

  • Format: Private plates generally follow the same format as standard plates issued by the DVLA. This format typically consists of:
    • Two letters
    • Two digits (age identifier)
    • Three letters
  • Appearance: Private plates must also adhere to the same size, font, and color regulations as regular plates. They need to have black characters on a white background (front) and black characters on a yellow background (rear).

However, the key difference lies in the chosen combination of letters and numbers.

  • Regular plates: These are randomly assigned by the DVLA and may not hold any specific meaning or sequence.
  • Private plates: These allow for customization. You can decide letters and numbers that have personal significance (initials, birth year), create a word or abbreviation, or aim for a specific sequence (all the same numbers, for example).

Can a private plate be customised?

Yes! As long as you have the relevant documentation, you are able to create a custom version of your private plate, which can include 3D/4D characters etc.

Bespoke Plates makes the hassle of getting yourself a brand-new number plate easy and efficient. This is regardless of whether you’re after a standard replacement number plate, or a gel plate. Here is the process.

By following these steps, you will also have the option to see the plate before making a decision.

Visualising how your plate can look in real-time, with the characters from your actual registration plate, saves time and makes it easy for you to know what you want before you get it. Let us walk you through the process of choosing your plate through us.

  1. Head to the Bespoke Plates website
  2. Select the plate style you want under the “Build Your Plate” tab. Alternatively, you can follow this link.
  3. Enter your registration (You can press ‘preview’ to see your registration with all the modification options you have selected.)
  4. When selecting your chosen plate, you can opt for 3D/4D options, a Hex plate, and whether you want a legal plate or a show plate.
  5. Select preferred optional accessories.
  6. Decide if you are collecting with installation, or if you want it to be delivered.

Installing through Bespoke Plates ensures the best service & secure installation for your number plate, along with guidance for any questions you may have.

Browse private plates today

In this blog, we have highlighted our plate options, and the information you need in order to obtain our stylish customisation options for your vehicle. We aim to have shown you how to register a private registration plate.

We hope that we have provided all the right answers and options for all of your plate modification needs.

Bespoke Plates has all the options you can ask for, as an approved registration vendor we can guarantee your modification abides by the DVLA rules whilst offering same-day collections and full fitting service.

To get in touch and discuss the full fitting service we offer with our plates, you can talk to one of the members of our team by:

Email info@bespoke-plates.co.uk

Phone 0333 006 7878

Visit in-store

36A Broughton Street,


M8 8NN

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