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Number plates explained

All you need to know about number plates

Collette Shackleton
Written by  Collette Shackleton
Alicia Hempsted
Reviewed by  Alicia Hempsted
5 min read
Updated: 07 Mar 2024

Thinking about a personalised registration plate for your car? It might make your car stand out, but could it impact the cost of your premiums? Read our short guide to find out what car insurance providers make of them.

Why do we have number plates in the UK?

Each vehicle in the UK has a unique number plate to help legal authorities identify the owner of a vehicle if it has been involved in an accident or criminal activities.

A number plate is also used to record whether or not your vehicle has been taxed and to check it is registered in the correct person's name.

girl relaxing in car passenger seat

How can I tell how old my car is from the number plate? 

All cars made after September 2001 follow a consistent format:

  • The first two letters: show where the vehicle was registered. The first letter represents the region and the second is the local DVLA office.

  • Age identifiers: the two numbers after the first letters on a plate show when the car was first registered. New plates are issued twice a year across a six month period. Plates registered between March and August in 2023, for example, will have the numbers 23. Any cars registered from September 2023 to February 2024 will have 73.

  • The last three letters: are generated at random to form the car's unique identity.

What are personalised number plates?

In the UK, it is a legal requirement for your vehicle to have a registration plate fitted. Some drivers choose to pay extra money to have their own choice of numbers and letters on the registration – usually a phrase or slogan that means something to them. This is a personalised number plate.

Where can I get a personalised number plate?

You can buy a personalised registration from anyone who’s selling one, as long as they give you the right documentation. To legally put the new number plate on your car, you need to have either:

  • V750 certificate of entitlement, or 

  • V778 certification of retention

There are many companies who specialise in personalised number plates. So, if you want a particular configuration of numbers and letters it’s worth shopping around to find a company that can help you -  and for the best price.

How do I register a personalised number plate?

You can assign a private number plate to a vehicle on the website.  

You’ll need the V750 or V778 for your new reg number, as well as your car’s VC5 (logbook). The transfer will happen immediately so have your new number plates ready to attach to your car.

You can also make the transfer by post by sending the relevant document to the DVLA however, this can take a couple of weeks to complete.

How much does it cost to register a personalised number plate?

There are a number of costs involved in obtaining and registering a private number plate, including:

  • The private number plate

  • The DVLA fee

  • The physical plates

The entire process could cost from as little as a couple of hundred pounds, right up to hundreds of thousands. Most people will end up paying somewhere between a few hundred and a few thousand in total.

Do personalised or private number plates affect car insurance?

This is dependent on your insurer. Some insurance providers categorise a personalised number plate as a form of modification, which often means more expensive premiums.

However, typically most insurers won’t see your personalised number plate as an issue. It may beworth checking with your insurance provider before buying a new custom registration though.

Do I need to tell my insurer if I get a private number plate?

It’s important to let your insurance provider know you have personalised registration plates. This is because if your car is stolen and you have to make a claim, the insurance provider will become the legal owner of the car and its registration.

If you’ve contacted them in advance to let them know the number plate is personalised, they can help you get it back to put on another car.

Is my personalised number plate covered in my car insurance?

Whether or not your personalised number plate is covered in your policy depends on each individual insurance provider and the type of policy you purchase. If you put a custom plate on your car and it gets stolen or damaged, you will need to check your policy documents and contact your insurer to ask if this is included.

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