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When you’re planning to purchase a private number plate, there are multiple things to consider. It is always advisable to do your research on how to appropriately buy and register your plate before thinking about attaching it to your vehicle. Many of these tips will apply to you if you’re planning to purchase multiple plates to build a collection. Use our list of dos and don’ts to ensure you get the best private number plates at the most reasonable price.

Do: Consider How Much You’re Willing to Spend

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Private number plates can be expensive, so estimate your budget and how much you’re willing to spend on this purchase. It’s fine to buy a plate that costs more than the vehicle you own if that’s what you want to do, but some plates can cost upwards of a thousand pounds. Most dealers, like Absolute Reg, can filter a price limit, so you stay within budget. Sometimes it’s worth going out of your budget, though, as some plates will be worth a pretty penny in the future.

Don’t: Assume There’s Only One Style

When researching a personalized plate, drivers are limited to which combinations of numbers and letters they can use. They’re also limited by their budget, as the most desirable combinations are more expensive. However, you aren’t limited to just one style of custom plates. In fact, there are multiple styles. Dateless plates have no date displayed on the plate, while current plates are laid out like modern plates. Prefix plates have the age of the vehicle at the beginning, while suffix plates have them at the end. Know your options to save yourself time and money!

Do: Be Flexible With All Options

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You likely have the perfect private number plate in mind, whether it’s your name, favorite band, or sports team. Know up front that you probably won’t find the perfect plate, or if you do, it may be way out of your price range. There is only one of the proper combination of numbers and letters you’re looking for in existence, and supply and demand is different depending on season or age. Keeping a flexible, open mind will help you avoid overspending or disappointment.

Don’t: Ignore Fees

The price listed on the number plate isn’t what you’re actually going to pay. You will need to pay the DVLA transfer fee of £80, which is the price to assign the plate to your car. Dealers will often add on a VAT fee. You will also need to pay both the assignment fee and a fee to change the registration details on all personalized number plates. It’s a mandatory fee, so ensure you factor these additional costs into your budget. Some dealers will inform you of additional charges, but others won’t. Be proactive and contact the distributor directly for a break down on all additional fees and services to avoid overspending.

Do: Choose a Personally Appealing Plate

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Since a private number plate is expensive and will likely be on your vehicle for many years, it’s in your best interest to find one that appeals to you for more than just the price. Although some collectors are interested in plates for status symbols or their sellability, don’t overlook that your plate could lose its appeal. Think of a private number plate like a tattoo: don’t get your ex-boyfriend name on your arm and only tattoo something meaningful to you. Something sentimental to you will always be worth your money.

Don’t: Try to Make Your Car Look Newer

Making your car more appealing is usually why you’re purchasing a private number plate, but there are regulations in place that prevent you from making your vehicle look too new. Unless you buy a dateless number plate to hide your car’s age, you need to purchase a plate that displays a newer registration date than the original. For example, a registration number of ‘SL56CXN’ must use ’56’ or a date lower than the current year in the plate’s prefix to be legal. Plates also must be legible and not obscured by dirt or snow, and they must be illuminated at night. It’s essential to research the UK’s legal requirements for number plates before purchase to avoid a fine.

Do: Assign the Plate Before Using It

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After buying a new set of personalized number plates, the first instinct is to immediately place it on the vehicle. However, you can’t simply put them on your car and drive. It must be registered to drive on public roads, so it’s incredibly important to assign your plate to your vehicle with the DVLA first.

Most retailers will ask you to pay the fee before purchase, but some may expect you to do it yourself. If that’s the case, ensure that all the necessary paperwork is filled out, and you receive a confirmation that the plate was assigned correctly before you place it on your vehicle. The DVLA will issue you a new V5C document showing that it was assigned correctly, though it may take a week to arrive. You can also check your vehicle record on the GOV.UK website by entering your registration number.

Don’t: Use Unrecognized Brokers

We cannot stress enough how important it is to use a recognized broker. Always buy private number plates from a DVLA recognized broker, so you can confirm the process of purchasing, assigning, and the plate itself is in accordance with the Cherished Numbers Transfer Rules. Start with brokers with over ten years of experience to ensure credibility, but be aware that buying through a broker is always more expensive than the DVLA. However, brokers usually have rarer plates that you may be looking for.

If you’re not confident with purchasing from a broker, the DVLA cuts out the middleman as it has more than 45 million registrations available to buy. Their website has an easy search tool that enables you to enter your criteria (initials, price, type) and browse the selection of plates. You can also participate in auctions, bid in person, or online.


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