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Changing licence plates
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Everything you need to know before changing number plates

Whether you are tempted by a new number plate for your own car or want to buy one for a loved one as a gift, upgrading a licence plate is a wonderful step for all car lovers. Not only does it add a more personal touch to the car if you choose to use a plate with significant letters or numbers, but it can also make your plate easier to remember and make your car stand out from the crowd.

However, before you change number plates, there are a series of things you must ensure. In this article, we look at a range of information about changing plates, from what the legal requirements are, to what you need to do to change them. Read on to find out everything you need to know before changing number plates.

Everything you need to know before changing number plates

Where can I get a new number plate?

So, first things first, where can you get a new number plate from? Well, there is a range of popular ways you can get a new licence plate.

Buying a plate from the DVLA

The main place to buy a new licence plate within the UK is from the DVLA. Through their personalised registrations site, you are able to buy licences both traditionally and via auction. They have a great range of plates at different price points and popularity. You’re more likely to find the more in-demand plate styles in the auctions, which take place around five times a year online.

Once you purchase the right to the plate (and you have your V750 Certificate of Entitlement), you’ll then need to get your plates made up through a registered supplier.

Buying a plate from a private dealer

Alternatively, you can buy a plate through a private dealer. What stock is available on a private site is up to the dealer, but many will combine the current DVLA stock with private stock not available through the DVLA. If you are looking for something very specific that you can’t find on the DVLA, searching a private dealer could help you find it.

Once you have purchased the rights to the plates, you may need to get the plates made up yourself or, depending on the dealer, you may be able to buy the physical plates in the same transaction to be made up and sent to you.

Using a plate you already own

Another option that people may want to go with is transferring private plates from an old vehicle to a new vehicle. For those that have already bought a private plate but are now upgrading their cars, you can reassign your private plate to your new car.

Personalised number plate Ninja

If you are looking to purchase a new number plate, there are some legal requirements you’ll have to ensure it adheres to or else you could face a fine, an MOT failure or even a registration confiscation.

You cannot make a vehicle appear newer than it is

One of the most important legal requirements when it comes to purchasing and using personalised plates on any vehicles is a matter of dates. Registration plates contain an age indicator, and, as per DVLA regulations, you cannot use a plate that indicates a car is newer than it actually is.

Mark from SwiftReg explained this in detail when we spoke to him: “When purchasing a personalised registration, it is important you take into consideration the age of the vehicle you want to assign the registration to. As per regulations, you cannot make a vehicle appear newer than it really is. You can, however, make the vehicle appear older, or even better – use a dateless number registration to hide the vehicle age completely.

Mark explained how the age identifiers work on issued plates: “Every registration number has an age identifier depicting the year it was issued. The current format since 2001 is two numbers in the registration which identify the year the registration was released. Prior to this, the DVLA used Prefix (letter at the beginning of registration) and suffix (letter at the end of a registration) to depict the registration number age/release date. Dateless registration numbers on the other hand have no common way to identify the year of release, and therefore can be assigned to any vehicle.”

Mark suggests that people: “check your vehicle V5C document before purchasing a registration to confirm its vehicle age. This can be found under the ‘First Registered Date’ within the V5C document itself.”

Ray from Plates4Less explains that they are sure to highlight this to their customers: “The main thing we’re careful to ensure people know is that not all registration marks are suitable for all vehicles. Some registrations (most, in fact) have an age-identifier and the law states that you can’t make a vehicle appear newer than it is, so you can only use the registration on a vehicle which was registered at the same time or after the registration’s date of issue.”

Ray told us that they even “have a tool on our website to help customers check their vehicle age first, as well as ensuring each registration states the earliest year vehicle it can be used with.”

Your plate must follow design restrictions

It’s not something you may have realised, but all registration plates in Great Britain follow the same design and display parameters. You may be aware that you shouldn’t drive with a dirty licence plate, but did you know that having a plate that uses non-standard typefaces, for example, will get you a fine also?

The team at Absolute Reg explained “Something people often don’t realise is that you can’t change the layout of a registration mark on the number plate. In fact, there can be quite a hefty fine – £1000! – if a driver is caught displaying their registration mark illegally.

Ricky from Reg Transfers went into more detail about these restrictions: “You may not display non-standard character spacing, fonts, emblems etc, and you may not alter the appearances of characters by the placement of screws or bolts. Incorrectly displayed number plates may earn a fine, an MOT failure and confiscation of your registration number.”

Fiat 500 with personalised plate

What do I need to do to use a new registration plate?

So, once you’ve purchased a new number plate through the DVLA or through a private dealer, what do you need to do before you can use it?

Update the DVLA

The first thing you should do once you have purchased a new number plate is update the DVLA that you plan to change plates on your vehicle. This transfer will need to be completed before you start using the plate, but once completed you will no longer be able to use your old plate on that vehicle.

Ricky from Reg Transfers spoke to us about this, saying: “You must complete the formalities and have DVLA assign the new registration to your car in their records. Make sure the registration transfer is complete and the new registration is shown on your new V5C document, or you have received confirmation of transfer from DVLA, before changing the plastic number plates on your car. You may not just change the number shown on your plates without first completing the formalities.”

The team at Absolute Reg explained the process: “The quickest way to complete a transfer for your private number plate is via the DVLA online assignment system. The online service is open from 7 AM until 7 PM and you should have your V5C details to hand along with the V750 or V778 details for the registration mark. The vehicle will need to have valid tax and a valid MOT (if required) for the assignment of your new personalised number plate to your vehicle to be processed.”

Update your insurance company

As well as updating the DVLA of the change, you’ll also need to update your insurance company. Just as if anything else on your policy changes, any insurance policy will need to be changed to ensure it’s covering the new plate, and not still attached to the old one. As with updating the DVLA records, this should be done before the plate is put on, but not so early that you will be using the outdated plates.

Absolute Reg highlighted this, telling us: “The final thing we’re always sure to remind customers to do is update their insurance records once the change has been made. Changing a registration mark should not affect their premium at all, though some companies may charge an admin fee for updating the records.”

If you are coming to the end of your annual car insurance policy and are just waiting for your new plates to be made up, why not bridge the gap between policies with temporary insurance instead of having to go through the process of changing a policy just after it’s begun. With our car insurance for a week (or longer if you need) you’ll be able to be insured in as little as 15 minutes and, once your new plates arrive, you can set up an annual insurance policy.

So, whether you want to add your initials to your plate to really personalise your vehicle or want to gift a plate to someone you know, by following these steps you are ready to do so.

For more guides, tips, and advice, make sure to head to our news page.