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What is a Q plate?

November 23, 2022 by

Quizzical about ‘Q’ plates? No need for qualms: quell your questions here

Every car on the road is required to have a registration plate, and no two are the same. That’s because each plate is unique to the car it is fitted to, and the letters and numbers are its unique identifiers. If you spot a Q plate on a car, then this indicates that its history or exact identity isn’t fully known.

You may assume that branding a car with a Q plate isn’t a desirable thing, but that isn’t always the case. Read on to find out all you need to know about Q plates and what they mean when it comes to buying, registering and selling a car with these plates.

Q plate meaning

Q plates are used on vehicles where their history is unverifiable. Some people think that the Q stands for questionable, but it is more likely that this letter was used because it is not allowed to be specified on a standard registration plate.

While regular registration plates have information like the area the vehicle was registered in and the year of its first registration, a Q plate will simply denote that the car’s history isn’t fully known.

What cars use Q plates?

Q plates were introduced in the 1930s, but they remain a relatively rare sight on the roads. They are ascribed to vehicles where verifying their exact history isn’t possible.

These include:

Kit Cars – cars sold as a set of components to be assembled by customers

Heavily Modified Cars – this includes comprehensive engine, suspension, transmission and chassis changes

MOD Vehicles – Ex Ministry of Defence vehicles use Q plates as their exact history is classified

Reconstructed Classic Vehicles – classic cars that have been reconstructed from new or replica parts

Personal Imports – Cars that have been imported from overseas

Cars Without VIN numbers – Vehicles without a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)

There are some instances where a standard registration plate may be used:

Kit Cars

If a kit car has been built from all new parts supplied by a manufacturer it may be eligible for a regular registration plate. This is also applicable if only one part is reconditioned – but it must be to an ‘as new’ standard and not be the chassis, bodyshell or frame.

Radically Altered/Modified Vehicles

A points system is applied to determine whether radically altered vehicles may retain their original registration plates. The chassis must be original or a new and unmodified one from the manufacturer, and it must retain some of the original components such as the engine, transmission axles and suspension.

Reconstructed Classic Vehicles

Classic cars that have been reconstructed from genuine period components all over 25 years old and that have been inspected by a relevant vehicle owners’ club may be assigned with an age-related registration plate.

Can I get insurance for a Q plate car?

Yes, you can get insurance for a Q plate car. However, an insurance premium is based on complex risk calculations that are trickier to assess with a Q plate vehicle. Most insurers have lots of data on common or popular makes and models but may not have the same sort of info for obscure vehicles or one-off kit cars.

This means that getting your vehicle insured for the correct amount and at a reasonable premium may take a bit more effort and potentially a physical assessment of the vehicle by the insurance company.

It can help your case if you collect as much information about the value of your car as possible. Get an independent valuation from a car club if you have imported a vehicle not originally sold in the UK or have installed a whole host of modifications to it.

Will a Q plate car be difficult to sell?

The value of anything is based on its desirability, if your Q plate car is very specialised it may only appeal to a small group of potential buyers. The difficulty to insure it can also be a stumbling block for some.

That might make it more difficult to sell a Q plate car, but then again there are usually only a handful of Q plate cars for sale at any one time, and promoting them on specialist platforms will make it easier to find a buyer.

How to get a Q plate

You have to register a vehicle as soon as you have bought, built, imported or rebuilt it.

Vehicle Registration Application With The DVLA:

  • New vehicles are usually registered by the dealer and you should receive your V5C logbook within 4 weeks.
  • For new imported vehicles and newly-built kit cars a V55/4 form will need to be completed.
  • To register a rebuilt vehicle, used imported vehicle or older vehicles that have never been registered before, a V55/5 form will need to be filled in.
  • A copy of your photocard driving licence or two separate documents proving your name and address need to be sent in with these forms.

Additional forms, payments and documents required:

  • Vehicle tax payment
  • £55 new registration fee
  • Current MOT certificate for vehicles more than 3 years of age
  • Any relevant documents pertaining to vehicle – i.e.: kit car plans

If you are registering an imported vehicle there will be additional forms to fill out. 

If you have rebuilt or significantly changed a vehicle you will need to fill out a V627/1 form.

If there is no V5C for your vehicle you will need to fill out form V62 and send it to the DVLA along with a £25 payment.

If your car isn’t eligible for a regular registration plate you will need to get a Q plate. Depending on the vehicle, the procedure to get a Q plate from the DVLA will vary.

Vehicle Type Approval

To get your Q plate, your vehicle will have to pass a type approval process. A vehicle inspection will be carried out. These categories of vehicles will require vehicle type approval:

  • Rebuilt or newly built vehicles
  • Radically changed vehicles
  • Rebuilt classic vehicles
  • Imported vehicles

If the vehicle does not have a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), you will first need to apply to the DVLA to get one. Once this is done you can use the Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) scheme to get your vehicle type approved.

The IVA process is only for passenger and light goods vehicles that are less than 10 years old, which require first licensing and registration in the United Kingdom.

Basic IVA

This is for vehicles that only require a visual inspection to ensure that they meet the required standards. Rebuilt vehicles, personal imports, vehicles manufactured using parts from a registered vehicle and kit cars fall into this category.

Normal IVA

This is a more comprehensive assessment for vehicles that do not fall into the above category. Additional standards will have to be met and documentary evidence will need to be provided in certain cases.

Once you have been assigned your Q plate, you must not display any original registration numbers that came with the vehicle.

In summary:

  • Apply for vehicle registration
  • Complete Vehicle Type Approval
  • Replace any original vehicle registration plate with new Q plate
  • Remember to insure and tax your vehicle before using it on the road

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