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Number plate retention guide

September 06, 2022 by

If you’ve splashed out for a personalised number plate, the chances are you’ll want to keep it when you scrap or sell your car. This guide will walk you through how to retain your private plate.

There are a few ways you can put your number plate on retention, whether you want to put it on a different car or not. You’ll just need a few documents and there is a fee to pay as well.

Am I able to retain my number plate?

In order to retain your private plate, you need to have your car’s V5C logbook. If you’ve lost this, you can apply to have a new one sent to you. There are few other conditions to meet before you’re eligible to retain your number plate:

  • The car must be registered with the DVLA in the UK
  • It must be drivable under its own power
  • The car has to be eligible for an MoT certificate (although it doesn’t have to have one at the time you apply to retain your plate)
  • The DVLA may need to inspect your car, so it has to be available for this
  • The vehicle has to have been taxed or declared SORN continuously for the last 5 years
  • It must be taxed currently or be declared SORN. If it’s been SORN for over 5 years, you’ll need to tax and MOT the car.
  • If you have a classic car which is usually exempt from MOTs, you still need a valid MOT certificate for it to retain the number plate

Something worth bearing in mind is that if your car is written off, you need to tell your insurance company that you want to keep your private plate or you’ll lose it. Once the insurance company has paid out for your car, the registration number becomes its property. You need to be quick as well, as once the car is scrapped you can’t get the plate back.

How to put a number plate on retention

You can either put your number plate on retention by post or online. It will be quicker and easier online, but the fee is £80 either way.


You can apply to retain your number plate online quickly and easily using a form on the website. You’ll just need the reference number from your V5C logbook.

If your online application is successful, and if your vehicle doesn’t require inspection, you can assign the number plate to a new car using the reference number they give you.

By post

Applying by post adds some steps and will take longer, but it’s still pretty straightforward. You’ll need your V5C logbook, or the green ‘new keeper’ slip and a completed V62 form if you recently bought the car and don’t have a V5C yet.

You’ll also need a V317 ‘transfer or retain a vehicle registration number’ form. Once all this paperwork is filled out, you need to send it to the DVLA. The address for this is on the form.

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What happens once I’ve contacted the DVLA?

If your application is successful, your original number plate will automatically be reassigned to the vehicle straight away. The DVLA will contact you if your vehicle needs an inspection and arrange for it to be looked at.

You’ll be sent an updated V5C with your car’s original registration number, this can take between four and six weeks to arrive. You will also get a V778 retention document.

The V778 proves that you have the right to assign the private number plate for the next 10 years. You have to renew this before it expires if you wish to keep it on retention for longer. You can also give up your right to the number if you don’t intend to use it again.

Once you have changed your number plate, you need to inform your insurance company of the change. You will also need to update the plate on any automatic payment accounts as well for things like the London Congestion Charge or the ULEZ charge. You’ll also need to display the original number plates on the car if you wish to drive it.

Number plate retention FAQs

Can I keep my private number plate without putting it on another car?

Yes. Once you’ve got the V778 retention document then you have the rights to that personalised plate for 10 years. Just bear in mind that, even if you’re not using the plate, you still have to renew the V778 after 10 years.

Can I gift or sell my private number plate?

As long as you own the number plate, you can let someone else use it by either giving it to them or selling it privately. You can do this online or by post using the V5C of the car you want to transfer it to.

If you’re doing this by post, you’ll need to send the V5C of the car you wish to transfer the private plate to, along with either your V750 or V778 to the DVLA. In both cases you just need to fill out and sign sections one and two.

Can I put a private number plate on a car I’m leasing or financing?

You can arrange to have your private plate fitted to your lease car. You’ll need to speak to your leasing company about it, and it’s a lot easier to transfer the plate after the car has arrived. We advise that you transfer the plate off the car again around two months before the agreement ends.

It’s more straightforward to put a private plate on a car you own through finance because, unlike with leasing, you are the registered keeper of the car. You can do this yourself online or by sending your V788 to the DVLA as previously mentioned.

If your car is on PCP finance, and you don’t plan to make the final payment to own the car outright, you should arrange to transfer the plate off the car around two months before the agreement ends.

What happens if my retention certificate expires?

All retention certificates only last for have an expiration date, and while it is possible to renew if before this comes up, if you forget to do so it is not possible to renew it, meaning you will lose any claim to the plate.

Is there any reason why my private number plate might be denied a retention certificate?

The DVLA will renew a retention in most circumstances, but there are a couple that could seem them refuse. If your personalised plate could be interpreted as being offensive, it can retrospectively be added to the list of banned number plates. Plus the DVLA has a ‘two strikes’ rule, which means drivers who use non-standard spacing, fonts, or other design aspects on their number plate will have the plate rescinded if they are stopped twice for the offence by police.

How can I check if a number plate is on retention?

If there’s a particular number plate you would like and you want to find out if it is in use on a car, or on retention, a quick search on the DVLA’s personalised registrations page should point you in the right direction. You could also use the DVSA’s MoT checker to see what car a specific number plate is on.

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