New To Private Registration Numbers? The Legal Implications You Need To Be Aware Of

Private registration numbers can be an excellent way to customise your vehicle and showcase your personality. Whether you’re buying one for yourself or a loved one or considering selling or transferring an existing registration number, it is crucial to know what the law says and how to stay on the right side of it. There are specific guidelines and rules set in place by the government and DVLA about the characters, colours, and styles available for a personalised registration number.  

The laws surrounding private registration numbers and registration plates are not complex, but they are specific and need to be strictly adhered to. Before buying or selling a personal registration number, it is best to do your homework and learn exactly what the rules are and what kind of personalisation you could get – it may also help to have a look at some existing private plates for inspiration.   

Steer Clear Of Two-Tone 3D Effect Lettering  

3D effect lettering using two tones of black or grey was very popular for a few years. The use of two different shades on the lettering of a registration number plate has now been outlawed in the UK, though people can gain the same effect by using raised lettering on their registration plate. This must be made in extra-durable materials, in a single colour and with the raised lettering well secured to the plate itself. The reason for this is that two colours in lettering on a licence plate makes it hard for number plate recognition cameras to correctly read the licence plate – a major concern for policing the roads.   

Understand The Legal Materials  

While there are no specific rules regarding what material your number plate should be made from, there are rules about what it should look like. The material must be reflective and able to withstand common wear and tear from extended periods of driving. Anything that might chip or wear away will not be suitable for your personal number plate. If you are having a number plate made up, it is vital to ask questions of your supplier on the materials they use and if they will be suitable for the requirements of the DVLA.

Be Aware Of The Differing Rules For Classic Vehicles

Cars registered before 1980 are allowed to display different number plates than current vehicles. They are allowed to show white, silver or grey letters and numbers on a black background. You can put a more current style of licence plate on your classic vehicle, but many classic car enthusiasts prefer to keep their cars looking as close to original as possible. If you buy a classic car made before 1980 that has more modern plates, you could also look into purchasing a replacement classic plate.

Get The Colours Right

For modern licence plates, the colours must be correct for the front and back of the vehicle. The front plate should be white with black lettering, and the rear plate should be yellow with black lettering. As mentioned above, classic cars may use white, grey or silver letters with a black background. Fully electric vehicles may also use green plates but can also use the standard black and yellow backgrounds if they prefer. You must not choose any other colours for your licence plates – anything else would be illegal to display. 

Buy And Sell From Reputable Number Plate Specialists 

When buying or selling registration numbers and number plates, it is vital to use a reputable specialist who has private plates for sale or to list your number plate. You should look for a business that specialises in private number plates and has a wealth of experience vetting and creating listings for them. If you plan to sell a private number plate, this type of directory can be invaluable. Regtransfers is an excellent example of what you should look for when buying or selling your private number registration number plate.

Keep Up To Date With Changes To The Law 

The laws around licence plates change fairly regularly, so it is worth keeping in the know about possible changes. In some cases, existing plates will be allowed to remain as they were before the law changed, such as classic vehicles being allowed to use black backgrounds for their plates. In other cases, such as the ban on two-toned lettering, you will have to replace your plates to remain on the right side of the law. This can present a bit of a headache to private plate owners – but it is still infinitely more desirable than a hefty fine if found to have no-longer-legal plates. 

Pay The Correct Charges  

In addition to the cost of buying a private licence plate, which can vary significantly depending on the plate you hope to buy, you will need to pay an assignment fee to the DVLA. This is normally £80, and many private plate dealers will include it in the price of the plate itself, meaning you won’t have to pay extra when it comes to transferring the plate to your vehicle. You should ensure that this is included in the price and always double-check the fine print of your agreement.   

Get Your V750 Before Switching Or Transferring Your Private Plate  

When buying or selling a private number plate, you must ensure you have the legal entitlement to use it. This means filling out a V750 and having it officially assigned. You must have the plate assigned before you start using it, or it will not be valid, and you could end up in trouble with the police. You can do this either online or by filling out your V750 and sending it in the post. You must have your physical V750 to fill out the form online, or you will need to replace it before you can transfer the registration number and plate.

Ensure The Letter-Number Format Is Correct  

There are several formats that your private registration number can read. You might want to consider the benefits of each when deciding what you want your number plate to read – for instance, the length of the phrase or word you want and whether you can use numbers to replace letters effectively. The four main formats for registration numbers are:  

  1. Current – two letters, followed by two numbers, followed by three letters, with the numbers signifying the year the car was made.  
  2. Prefix – the same format as current, but the first letter shows the year in which a car was made.  
  3. Suffix – the final letter in this format denotes the age of the vehicle and was in use from 1963 to 1983.  
  4. Dateless – used before 1963, these plates are most commonly seen on classic cars. They use up to four letters and numbers in any combination.


There may be more to getting a private registration number than you think, but the rules and laws surrounding them are not too complex once you understand them. For one-time buyers and sellers of personal registration numbers, the process should be fairly straightforward. If you plan to trade regularly in private registration numbers, you may need to gain a deeper and more thorough understanding of the regulations and be mindful of any upcoming changes to the rules. 

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