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How to Buy a Personalised Number Plate from the DVLA – 2024 Guide

In the UK, number plates or registration numbers are controlled by the DVLA.  If you are thinking about buying a personalized number plate then you can only use this on a vehicle that is registered in the UK.

How does it actually work?

When you buy a personalized registration number, you buy the number and the right to assign it to a vehicle either registered in your name or in someone else’s name.  This third party is known as ‘the nominee’ and this situation can apply when you are buying the plate as a gift for someone.

If you are buying it for yourself, the plate can be assigned to more than one vehicle which means you can put the plate on different cars that you own either at the same time or sequentially (you can create plates at Show Plates Direct.

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Buying from the DVLA

There are two ways that the DVLA offer personalized plates for sale:-

  1. Direct purchase – just trawl the website with their handy search tool and you can view thousands of registrations.  Key in different permutations to see what is on offer if you are after something specific.  Prices start at around £250 but are usually well over £1,000 for anything really desirable e.g. a name. The price of the plate is clearly listed and each registration plate attracts a standard sale fee of £80
  2. DVLA auctions – the DVLA holds several auctions every year with anywhere between 1,000 and 2,000 plates for sale at each one. There are two types of auction:-
  • Traditional – this is an actual physical auction that you can attend and they are held throughout the UK. Just like a standard auction room, if you can’t attend in person then you can bid by telephone or online
  • Timed – this is a virtual auction with no actual live sale. Bidders send in their maximum bid which other bidders can’t see using the reserve price as a benchmark.  Essentially the highest bid at the end of the specified timeframe claims the registration plate.  The system is quite clever in that it will let an under bidder know if their maximum bid has been outbid in case they want to raise their bid again
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The timed auctions mainly sell plates which are towards the lower end of the price range, the select and unusual plates tend to appear at the traditional auctions and attract a higher price tag.

There is plenty of information online about how the timed auctions work and there are organizations that offer a service to bid on your behalf.

There are rules surrounding the display of all number plates whether they are a standard allocation or a private or personalized one.  All registration plates must be made from a reflective material, the law since 1973. The front one must be black lettering on a white background and the rear plate, black characters on a yellow background.  There can be no other colors or patterns.  The formatted display is always the same, two letters, two numbers followed by a space and then three further letters.

A personalised plate must not create a false impression, i.e. you can’t make the vehicle appear newer than it actually is through the clever use of numbers.

About Henrietta Milanovska