Is It Worth Investing in a Personalised Number Plate?

Mercedes car with personalised number plate GOOD

In the UK, the law states that all cars must be fitted with number plates. For some people, though, the standard registration number that their car comes with is just a little too boring. Those wanting to spruce up their vehicles (and show off their status) may opt to purchase personalised number plates instead.

Whether you think they’re a silly extravagance or kinda cool, it doesn’t look like the trend of private registrations is dying any time soon. With this in mind, we decided it was time we really got to the bottom of what purpose they serve and how people get their hands on them.

Join us as we lift the lid on this divisive car craze!

What are personalised number plates?

In a nutshell, personalised number plates are registrations that have been purchased by a car owner to replace their original plates. They often come in the form of letters and numbers that spell out a particular name or word. If you own a personalised reg number, you have the right to assign it to a vehicle that is registered in your name or someone else whom you nominate.

The rules

Although it would no doubt be fun to come up with your own, you can’t just request any old combination of letters and numbers that suit you. In fact, some number plates have been removed from the system for being too rude! The plate must already exist in the DVLA database and not be owned by anyone else (unless that person is willing to sell it on, of course).

Breakdown of what each part of a UK licence plate means

There are 4 different formats of number plate currently in circulation, so these are the styles people are limited to:

Dateless 1234 AB or 1 AB Pre-1963
Suffix ABC 123A 1963-1983
Prefix A123 ABC 1983-2001
Current AB51 ABC 2001-Present

On top of this, all personal number plates must be made from reflective material, with the front plate consisting of black characters on a white background, and the rear plate displaying black characters on a yellow background. Don’t try to jazz it up in other ways, either—any kind of background pattern is against the rules.

Changing cars but want to keep hold of your personalised registration? You can transfer it to another vehicle registered in your name for a small fee.

How do you get a personalised number plate? 

Gold gavel of the type used in an auctions
Photo © Quince Media (cc-by-sa/4.0)

If you fancy getting your hands on a personalised number plate, there are 3 main avenues you can go down:

  • Buy one directly from the DVLA
  • Purchase one from a private dealer
  • Work with a broker to find and put an offer on one you want

The DVLA hosts auctions every few months in locations across the UK, where people can purchase new registrations. No need to work out when they’re taking place somewhere near you—bids can be taken in person, over the phone, online, or in writing. You can also check out a full list of the current plates up for grabs via the DVLA website and purchase them directly from there.

When it comes to private brokers and dealers, you might have to go on a bit of a hunt to find a registration on the market that tickles your fancy. If you do go down this route, be sure to check that any sellers you use are legitimate and working according to the rules set out by the DVLA.

As soon as you have successfully purchased a personalised number plate, the dealer is likely to transfer the number to your car on your behalf. If this does not happen, you will instead receive one of two documents that allow you to assign the new registration yourself.

V750 (certificate of entitlement)

This certificate means that you have a personalised registration that is brand new. In other words, it has never been displayed on a vehicle before.

V778 (retention document)

This document indicates that a personalised registration is not brand new, but has been removed from a vehicle. The holder retains the right to assign it to another.

How much do they cost?

A wise woman once said: ‘flashy things don’t come for free, otherwise they wouldn’t be flashy’. (That’s me, I’m the wise woman.) The prices of personalised number plates vary dramatically, but none of them are cheap. The most affordable options up for grabs from the DVLA come in at around £250.

At the other end of the scale, there’s a bloke selling his ‘F1’ number plate for just shy of £15 million. No, that isn’t a typo.

To give you an idea of the bigger picture in terms of cost, in 2017 people in the UK spent a grand total of £111 million on personalised registrations.

What are the benefits of having a personalised number plate?

Pile of coins with sprouting plant in the middle to symbolise investment
Photo © Pictures of Money (cc-by/2.0)

Let’s start with the superficial stuff. A personalised number plate shows that a driver has a fair amount of disposable income and takes pride in the appearance of their car. It’s also a fun way of customising your car and giving it an individual touch.

Depending on the type of registration you get, a personalised number plate could also give your car a face lift. That is, they can make your car look younger. This is only true of the dateless registrations (made before 1963), which are highly desirable for exactly that reason. As these plates are in demand in certain circles, some people see them as a good investment. You can save them to hand down to family members or sell them on at a higher price.

Personalised plates that do display dates (a number plate that includes the number 51, for example, means that the car was issued in 2001/2002) cannot be used on cars that are older than the year indicated. These styles are not as in demand and so probably shouldn’t be viewed as much of an investment.

You also need to consider the fact that some insurance companies will charge higher premiums for vehicles that have a personalised number plate.

Personalised number plates: FAQs

Cartoon envelope on green background

How can I find out if the registration I want is available?

Perform a search for it on the DVLA’s database, or have a look on private seller sites like Plates4Less or Platehunter. If you have your heart set on a particular one, you may have to wait a few years for it to come back on the market.

Will a personalised number plate make my car more valuable?

If you decide to sell the rights to the registration along with the car, possibly, yes. These kind of extras are only usually attractive to real car fanatics, though. The personalised registration and car do not necessarily come as a package, remember—if you decide to sell your car you can still keep hold of the personalised registration and transfer it over to your new vehicle.

Can I transfer my personalised number plate to a vehicle in another country?

No. Registrations from the UK database can only be transferred to a vehicle that is registered, taxed and used in this country.

How long is my V750/V778 certificate valid for? 

Since March 2015 all V750 and V778 certificates are valid for 10 years. If this time expires and you are still not ready to apply the registration to a vehicle, you can extend the certificate for another 10 years free of charge. There is no limit to how many times you can can renew one of these certificates.

How do I get rid of my personalised number plate?

You first need to apply through the DVLA to take the private registration off your vehicle. The process currently costs £80. You will be given a V778 document which you can then sell or gift to another person. If you get rid of a car that still has the personalised plates, without first obtaining the V778, you will lose all rights to the registration.

At the end of the day, personalised number plates are a bit of fun for those who have the money and enjoy making their cars look extra special. Some people see them in the street and think they’re totally naff, while others are envious and aspire to have their own one day. It’s all down to personal preference and how much money you have to burn! If the funds and desire are there—why not?!

By Isobel Robb

Isobel enjoys the freedom of the open road and loves driving to new places. She's here to offer helpful hints and tips to improve your motoring skills. When not keeping up to date with the latest driving info you can find her discovering new restaurants or exhausting her Netflix subscription.


  1. Reply

    Alistair Bartlett

    I own a private registration plate. It consists of my first initial, my date of birth and the first initials of my sister, my mother and my late father. I chose this combination because as far as I’m concerned family is important. I like it and I couldn’t give a darn what anyone else thinks.

    1. Reply

      Isobel Robb

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Alistair!

  2. Reply

    Tina Keen

    I lost my darling Dad this year & have just bought a personalised plate with his initials he would be so proud xxxx

    1. Reply

      Isobel Robb

      Hi Tina,

      What a lovely tribute!

      Thanks for sharing,


  3. Reply

    Roy Jackson

    My wife got me a private number plate for Christmas with her initials and my initials on it I love it.

    1. Reply

      Isobel Robb

      Hi Roy,

      What a fun and thoughtful gift!

      Happy New Year to you both 🙂


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