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What are Q plates?

What are Q plates? How to get Q plate insurance

Collette Shackleton
Written by  Collette Shackleton
Saarrah Mussa
Reviewed by  Saarrah Mussa
5 min read
Updated: 21 Feb 2024

Q plates are issued for specific type of cars in the UK, including kit cars and radically modified vehicles. In this guide, we discuss everything you need to know about owning a Q plate vehicle.

Every vehicle in the UK has a unique number plate, which helps identify them. Certain types of cars require a specific type of registration plate; a Q plate.

This useful guide will help you understand whether or not you need a Q plate, how to obtain one from the Driver, Vehicle and Licensing Agency (DVLA), and how to get the right insurance for this type of number plate.

What are Q plates?

A Q plate is issued to a car if any aspect of its history is unknown, such as age, date of manufacture, or where it was originally registered.

Cars with a Q number plate might lack the most basic information such as a Vehicle Identity Number (VIN). This is a unique number that is stamped onto the chassis and helps identify each individual car.

Despite popular believe, it doesn't stand for anything like 'queried' or 'questionable' but was chosen at random because it is one of few letters that isn't already used in standard vehicle registrations.

Are Q plate cars safe to buy and drive?

In the past, cars with a Q plate were heavily questioned, with many people doubting the safety and build quality.

However, since 2009, Q plate cars are now required to have an Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) test, whereby it must pass a number of strict safety, security, and environmental standards to be safe to use on the road.

What types of vehicles need Q plates?

There are certain types of cars that are more likely to require Q plates, including:

  • Radically modified vehicles: If your car has been significantly altered from its authentic specification, e.g. adding alloy wheels, suspension and exhaust system changes, and even changing to tinted windows, then you'll need to apply for a Q plate

  • Kit cars: This is you've built yourself - if all the parts are from one manufacturer, you'll be able to apply for a normal plate, but if you've sourced parts from different places, you'll most likely need a Q plate

  • Self-imported vehicles: Any car imported to the UK from outside the EU will most likely be issued a Q registration if any details such as age or history are in doubt

  • Former military vehicles: If a car was previously used by the military or the Ministry of Defence for example, it may still be classified or require modifications, and would need Q plates

  • Reconstructed classic vehicles: Your classic car may need a Q registration plate if it includes new or replica parts

  • Vehicles without a VIN: If your vehicle doesn't have one, or has lost its VIP through modifications or replacement parts, you'll need to get a Q plate

How do I get Q plates for my car?

To apply for Q-plates, your car will need to pass an IVA test. This is a test conducted by the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) who carry out an inspection on your car to ensure it meets safety and environmental standards.

Visit the GOV.UK Vehicle Approval site to download the necessary forms and choose a test centre to take your vehicle to. You'll need to answer a few technical details about your vehicle e.g. maximum engine power and pay a fee for the DVSA inspection.

The cost of the inspection depends on:

  • Whether you’re using the standard or voluntary version of the scheme

  • The type of inspection

  • Category of the vehicle

  • Class of the vehicle

You can choose a test centre to take your vehicle to, fill in the necessary forms for your type of vehicle (they’ll include technical detail questions, like maximum power of the engine) and pay a fee for the DVSA to inspect it.

Once you have submitted your form and paid your application fee, you should receive an inspection date within 20 days of the DVSA receiving your correctly completed application.

There are two types of IVA inspection:

Basic IVA inspection

A basic inspection involves a visual inspection and other tests to make sure the vehicle meets the necessary standards. You will not usually need to provide any documents relating to the vehicle.

This inspection often sufficient enough for cars such as left-hand drive vehicles, personal imports, amateur built vehicles (kit cars) and rebuilt vehicles.

Normal IVA inspection

Normal IVA involves a more detailed inspection. Vehicles that need to undergo this type of inspection will have to meet extra standards and you’ll have to provide documentary evidence for your car.

If your vehicle passes all the safety checks, you’ll be issued with an individual approval certificate (IAC) and will be issued a Q plate.

If you have any queries about applying for IVA, contact the DVSA:

After you’ve been assigned a Q plate, you must remove your original vehicle registration number that came with the vehicle and never display these again, as these plates are no longer valid.

You can find out more in the Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) scheme guide.

Why are Q plates more difficult to insure?

A Q plate car can be tricky to insure, as insurers don't have as much information about your car to help them calculate your premium.

Usually, insurers get all the information they need on your vehicle based on your number plate. Uncertainties over the age, specification, and origin of your Q plate vehicle make this difficult for them to assess aspects such as vehicle road safety and value of the car.

You may find that there are less mainstream insurers to choose from, as most won't offer insurance for Q plate cars.

What makes Q plate insurance so expensive?

As a result of Q plates being difficult to insure, any insurers that do offer insurance will charge higher premiums. You may even need to approach specialist providers who cover rare and unusual vehicles, which will also come at a higher cost.

Either way, insuring a Q plate is going to cost more than standard car insurance. It's a good idea to shop around and compare quotes to make sure you're getting the best deal for your budget.

When submitting a quote for a Q plate, you'll need to be very specific and provide insurers with details such as:

  • The make and model of the car

  • Any modifications and enhancements that have been made to the bodywork, engine, wheels, suspension or brakes

  • A detailed breakdown of all parts used on the car

  • Any relevant paperwork and photos of your vehicle

  • Full specification and performance information

  • Valuation of the car

How can I get cheaper Q plate car insurance?

While Q plate insurance is more expensive there are a few ways you can reduce the cost:

  • Pay your insurance annually: paying for your insurance all in one go means you avoid paying monthly interest

  • Get a mileage discount: Insurers tend to offer discounts to drivers who keep mileage under a certain limit, so if you don't drive your vehicle often, let them know

  • Keep your Q plate vehicle secure: Keeping your car in a garage and installing alarms and immobilisers will help prevent theft and reduce your premiums

  • Become a car club member: Some insurers offer discounted rates to members of car clubs, e.g. official kit car or classic car clubs, as they acknowledge that you're more likely to take better care of your vehicle as a dedicated club member

Can Q plate cars be tax exempt?

Some vehicles are exempt from paying road tax, e.g. certain electric cars and classic cars older than 40 years and haven't been modified in the last 30 years. Check the full list of tax exempt cars on the GOV.UK guidance site.

If your car falls into one of these categories, you'll need to apply to the DVLA to stop paying vehicle tax.

You can take your logbook (V5C) and a tax reminder letter (V11) if you have one, plus your MOT certificate to your nearest Post Office that deals with vehicle tax. They send it off to the DVLA on your behalf and you'll receive an updated logbook back in the post.

Do Q plate cars need an MOT?

Yes, cars with a registered Q plate need an annual MOT test, just like regular vehicles.

Can I change my Q plate?

No, once your vehicle has been issued a Q plate, you cannot change it for a standard or personalised number plate. You must keep it and display it on your vehicle. You also cannot transfer your Q plate to any other vehicle.

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