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Buying a personalised plate in the UK - The Do's and Don'ts

15th March 2018 Print

The sales of personalised number plates grew 12% between the years 2016 and 2017 and they’re all the rage right now. While the idea of getting a private number plate may seem like a straightforward process, it does require some planning and understanding of the process first. 

Here are some of the do's and don’ts when buying a new personalised plate for your vehicle.

Do Double Check for Quality

Before you decide on a private plate, consider how it looks to others. Will they read that 5 as an S or something else? Will others understand whether or not to read the O as an O or a zero? If it is a custom word, will they understand the intent? If the personalised plate incorporates abbreviations or acronyms, will it be commonly understood? If your personal plate is hard for others to figure out, such that they don’t know what it means, you’ve defeated the whole purpose of having one.

Conversely, if you want the license plate to be edgy, realise that the authorities may not issue it if is too offensive. Check with the DVLA for rules and regulations regarding what is and isn’t allowed. Recognise that you could always use a bumper sticker to the same effect for far less money and hassle, and you won’t have to worry about fitting your message into a few short characters.

Don’t Overpay

If you want a private registration for your car, you should consider what you’re willing to pay. You also need to consider the other options for personalising your vehicle. After all, you don’t want to get into a bidding war for what you consider to be the ideal private car registration to reflect your individuality or dedication to a theme when you may end up paying more than your car is worth. It may also be cheaper to get a custom paint job or collector’s items than to pay a fortune for a personalised number plate. Remember to consider the variations of a name or concept instead of devoting yourself to one particular license plate and bidding more than you initially planned.

Another issue is the appreciation and value of the plate. You don’t want to be pushed into bidding high on a plate that really isn’t worth it. Research several plates that represent the image you want to convey or capture your identity. Then you won’t end up paying too much for a plate because you fell in love with it and weren’t aware of the options. Check out prices across various brokers, too, in case the same or similar plates are actually available elsewhere at a better price.

Record setting sales pop up in the news, such as when someone pays hundreds of thousands of pounds for a private number plate. However, it is a waste of time for you to pay a huge sum in the vain hope that someone else will pay even more for it later.

Do Buy from a Licensed Broker

If you’re buying a private plate through a broker, the broker needs to have DVLA recognition. You can verify this by checking the DVLA website. They should also state this on their website, but unscrupulous sellers may say that they are recognised when they are not. You’ll also want to verify that they’re familiar with the Cherished Marks Transfer Regulations. Another option is going through reputable services like British Car Registrations, since you can guarantee that they’re already licensed and experienced in this area.

Don’t be Inflexible

It’s very common for people to go in to buy a particular number plate only to find out that the exact plate isn’t available or comes at a premium. In some cases, you may still be able to afford it, even if it’s slightly over your budget. If you’re too inflexible and aren’t ready to either make minor changes to the personalised car registration or settle for a higher price, you may soon regret it as private registration plate prices tend to appreciate with time. 

And you can forget waiting it out and wishing someone will let go of the number, registrants get to keep their plate for 3 years up until which is will be subject to renewal. Holders of personalised plates can renew their plates as many times as they please, so it would be better to be prepared with multiple options in case the particular private plate you were looking for ends up being already picked.

Do Understand What is Legal

One of the biggest factors you need to consider is whether or not the private number plate is legal. For example, you could be fined if the paperwork isn’t done right and the plate you buy is still registered to another vehicle. You have to renew your MOT test certificate, too, if the car is more than three years old. The V5C registration needs to be reissued. You’ll need a certificate of entitlement, too. This is critical if you want to do something with the plate other than hang it on your wall as a memento.

You aren’t allowed to use a personalised plate to make an older car seem newer, and the personalised plate shouldn’t be used to try to sell a middle-aged car as a classic. If you’re buying a newly issued personal plate, a V750 or V778 certificate is necessary so that no one else can use that same registration number. If you end up with a number plate without this certificate, you cannot use it on your car; you’ll need to go to the DVLA to have the number registered and run the risk that someone else has already registered it. You should also make sure that the words you’re using are actually permitted by the DVLA in the first place. While the DVLA has been more lax lately and has allowed names that were previously seen as too racy, you should still double check to see if your application will go through. 

Don’t Ignore Extra Fees

There are also many fees that need to be considered when opting for a personalised car registration. If you happen to be buying the plate on a site like eBay, then the fees should be clearly stated. If not, don’t be afraid to ask the seller for their fees up front to avoid any surprises.

Personal plates are a status symbol, a means of personal expression and for some, an investment. Consider why you’re buying it and how much you’re really willing to pay relative to your options. Research the sites and groups you want to buy the plate from so that you only go through legitimate businesses that do all of the legal leg-work for you.